Original Source Press Release:
Sony announces successor to the F717's throne (UPDATED)|
(Friday, August 15, 2003 - 07:00 EDT)
Sony has today announced its new Cyber-shot DSC-F828 digital camera at a press conference in Berlin, Germany.
The company has done quite a good job of keeping plans for its new model under wraps, at least until a French magazine broke its embargo and published a photo and brief details on the camera yesterday, and a German website blew the NDA this morning by publishing full specifications. The F828 improves on its predecessor in a number of areas - the most immediately obvious of which is the new visual styling. More important is what's been changed under the hood though, with a whole ramp of changes aimed at making the F828 the class-leader and a camera that will really appeal to the serious photographers amongst us.
As you'd expect, Sony's recently-announced "RGB+E" CCD image sensor makes its debut in the company's new flagship digicam. If you're not familiar with Sony's "RGB+E" sensors, they're aimed at increasing color accuracy by fine-tuning the color arrays to more closely match the quirks of human color perception. For more info on "RGB+E", read our coverage of the announcement, and take a look at the sample photos Sony provided us with. (Note that these sample photos weren't represented to us as being captured by an F828, just by an "RGB+E" sensor). In JPEG or TIFF modes, the camera will still yield the RGB images that users are familiar with (and that their software works with), but those who want the most control will be very pleased to hear that the camera will also offer an RGB+E CCD-RAW file mode. Software will be included for RAW image processing, both as a minimal standalone editor and a Photoshop plugin.
The particular sensor used is a 2/3" type and offers a whopping resolution of 8.3 megapixels (8.0 megapixels effective, 3264 x 2448 pixels). Since the sensor size is the same as the F717's 5.2 megapixel sensor was, you might expect a corresponding increase in image noise due to the smaller cell size. Sony tells us that this won't be the case, and that the F828 should offer noise levels as low as any of the previous round of 5 megapixel cameras.We won't know for sure until we get the chance to test for ourselves, but it is certainly a weighty claim.
Also brand new for the F828 is a Carl Zeiss T* Vario-Sonnar 7x optical zoom lens with 12 elements in 9 groups, in place of the Zeiss 5x zoom of past models. Sony says that consumers have reported the Zeiss lens as second only to resolution when giving the reasons why they bought the Sony DSC-V1 and DSC-F717. The "T*" designation indicates that the lens uses Zeiss' anti-reflection coatings that aim to reduce flare and increase contrast and sharpness of photos. The F828 isn't actually the first digital camera with a T* Vario-Sonnar lens - Contax's TVS Digital has a T* 3x zoom - but it is certainly a welcome addition.
The longer zoom range adds to both the wide and telephoto ends, with 35mm equivalent focal lengths from 28 - 200mm now possible without accessory lenses. The lens still features a 58mm filter thread that should let you use your existing accessories, however. The F828, along with Minolta's DiMAGE A1, are the first cameras in a while to have both a mechanical zoom and focus ring on the lens barrel. Most people find mechanical zooms are preferable to the buttons or fly-by-wire electronic rings on most cameras, because they're more accurate and can be moved quickly or slowly as the user prefers. The larger of the two lens rings on the DSC-F828 controls zoom, and the smaller of the rings controls focusing. We aren't currently sure if the focusing system is mechanical or fly-by-wire. We were told the former in an interview with Sony, but manual focus doesn't seem to work on our prototype review sample (not an unsurprising problem, considering the fact that these prototypes are hand-made and flown around the world). Hence, we can't confirm whether there's a disconnected mechanism in the lens, or whether fly-by-wire manual focusing hasn't been enabled in the firmware. For what it is worth, the focusing ring feels like what we'd expect a fly-by-wire ring to feel like, so the suggestion that it was a mechanical focusing ring may have been a misunderstanding in our phone interview.
Either way, though, the F828 harkens back to the Cyber-shot Pro cameras (DSC-D700, DSC-D770 and DKC-FP3) which also had twin rings on the lens barrel - a mechanical zoom ring, and fly-by-wire focus ring. Sony apparently considered resurrecting the Cyber-shot Pro branding for this camera, but hasn't done so. We think it would make a lot of sense, because many of the features and even to some extent the look of the camera are quite reminiscent of Sony's popular 1998 and 1999 models.
A new Real Imaging Processor in the Cyber-shot F828 should, says Sony, yield a number of advantages. In combination with the "RGB+E" image processor, the company says that its new processor should yield better color than in past models. It says that the processor should also offer improved speeds - despite the fact that its linear matrix processing will be more computationally complex than in other digicams because of the fourth sensor color. Startup time should be about 0.9 seconds, and Sony says shutter lag should improve by about 1/20th of a second or so. The company says that from the shutter button being pressed to a focus lock under most conditions should be about 0.35 seconds or so. In our own testing of a prototype model, the shutter lag time was 0.39 seconds at wide-angle, and 0.61 at maximum telephoto, by far the fastest times we've seen in a prosumer-level digicam. We were also told that shooting in TIFF mode, you should be able to shoot images pretty much as fast as you can press the shutter button (although no specification for burst speed or depth has been announced, as yet).
The new processor is also said to have reduced power requirements that should result in about a 20 minute improvement in battery life with the same NP-FM50 InfoLithium batteries as the 717. Finally, another benefit (although arguably this is part of the speed improvements) is the higher-quality movie mode - boosted from MPEG HQX (320 x 240, 16fps) to MPEG VX Fine (640 x 480, 30fps). As with the previous camera, the movie clip length is limited only by card capacity and speed.
The storage media is another area of the DSC-F828 that has received an update, and the change may surprise some pundits who've given Sony a hard time for adopting their own proprietary Memory Stick format rather than an existing format such as CompactFlash in their cameras. The F828 becomes one of a handful of cameras sporting dual media slots - both Memory Stick (compatible with Memory Stick Pro), and a Microdrive-compatible Type-I/II CompactFlash slot! To use the high-speed movie mode of the camera without limitations, CompactFlash cards will have to be capable of sustained 10.5Mbps write speeds.
Also updated in the new design is the electronic viewfinder. Previously, the DSC-F717 used a 0.44" 180,000 pixel LCD display, but that has been upgraded to a higher-resolution 0.44" 235,000 pixel LCD that should prove more useful for manual focusing. The 1.8" rear-panel LCD display is also upgraded slightly from 123,000 pixels to 134,000 pixels.
Another point of note is that this is Sony's first digital camera to support PictBridge, a CIPA (Camera and Imaging Products Association) standard for direct photo printing that was announced last February. Canon, Epson, Olympus and Sony (later joined by HP) were the prime movers behind the standard, which uses the Windows XP "PTP" protocol to let a digital camera control a printer as a slave device over a USB connection. The camera allows the user to select images and perform basic functions such as cropping, before printing them on the printer without the need for a PC. A couple of PictBridge-compatible printers are already shipping, and we'd expect to see more over the coming months.
Other interesting changes to note include a new flash white balance setting, an extended shutter speed range that now goes to 1/2000 second - twice as fast as previously, a program shift function (which lets you scroll through possible shutter/aperture combinations in program autoexposure mode), and 3-step adjustable saturation and contrast. The ClipMotion Animated GIF function has been removed, deemed unnecessary alongside the MultiBurst mode. (MultiBurst mode allows 16 320x240 frames to be recorded as parts of a single 1280x960 JPEG file at 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30 sec. intervals).
We noted at the start of this news item that the visual style of the DSC-F828 had changed significantly, Right from the very start with the DSC-F505, the lens has dominated the design concept. The changes to the design over the years since the F505 have mostly revolved around the camera body, with some minor tweaking to the lens barrel, but the design of the F828 changes all that. We previously mentioned the twin lens rings, which are immediately noticeable and make the lens barrel look less like - well, a barrel. A completely redesigned pop-up flash unit with built-in hotshoe on the top of the lens is somewhat reminiscent of the prism on an SLR camera. The flash hot shoe is now an advanced type compatible with the HVL-F32X intelligent flash. The controls have also been changed quite a bit, with the mode dial now being deeply knurled, the shutter button moved to a more easily reached location at the very top front of the hand grip, etc.
Most dramatically, the new model is now given a black finish that looks much more "camera-like" than the silver used on previous models. We're told that Sony US campaigned for the black finish to be used on the DSC-F717, but the advance planners at Sony Japan won the day and held the color change back for this model. We can certainly see why! In combination, all these changes and styling cues make the DSC-F828 look much more like a camera, and much less like a piece of consumer electronics. Such an attractive design will not only make the camera an easier sell for Sony, it will make it easier for photographers to persuade their subjects that they're posing for a camera, not looking at something out of Star Trek.
Finally, there have been significant changes to the camera bundle. No flash memory card comes with the camera any more - a step we've long tried to persuade manufacturers to take. At the end of the day, the tiny flash cards that come bundled with digital cameras are, for most purposes, utterly useless - a handful of photos, and you're out of space. Those "free" cards aren't free though - they appear on the manufacturer's bill of materials, and they have an effect on the final price of the camera.
Instead of bundling a useless flash card, Sony is letting customers decide which card they want themselves, and buy it separately. The money saved on the cost of the bundled card, even if only a small savings, can go into making the camera itself better (or go into the customer's pocket to pay for part of a larger card). In the case of the DSC-F828, the camera now comes with a new item in its bundle - a lens hood. Quite possibly, the saving on the flash card has paid for that lens hood, and we'd argue it is a far more useful item to include - since the hood can be designed specifically for the lens on the F828, it is preferable to include it rather than expect the customer to buy a generic hood later. Also a new charger, the AC-L15, is bundled instead of the previous AC-L10 charger.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 has dimensions of 156.7 x 134.4 x 91.1mm, and weighs 955 grams. It should ship in November, with pricing currently set at $1200. That's about $200 above the traditional price for Sony's top-of-the-line Cyber-shot F-series camera, and it will be interesting to see how it sells at that price. With SLR cameras like the Canon EOS 10D available - albeit without a lens - for only $100-200 more, it may seem attractive to some users to spend just a little more money and get an interchangeable-lens camera. Both types of cameras have advantages, though, and we'd expect even at $1200 many customers will be lining up for the F828. SLR cameras have true optical viewfinders, which can be easier to focus with, but they also have disadvantages as well (dust getting onto the sensor when changing lenses, no movie mode or LCD preview, no ability to preview special effects in the viewfinder, etc.). The Cyber-shot DSC-F717 will continue to be available priced at $800 alongside the DSC-F828.
Full specifications and a number of exclusive photos of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 follow below, along with the official US press release:
UPDATED 2003-08-15 07:30ET: In our rush to wrap up this news item - we were literally still receiving the last press info at midnight last night! - Mike completely forgot that we had some comparison photos of the DSC-F828 alongside its sibling the DSC-F717. We also have photos alongside what many will consider its main competitor, Minolta's DiMAGE A1. Scroll down to see for yourself how the cameras compare:
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 |
|Imager || |
|2/3" 8.0 Megapixel Effective RGB+E CCD, 14-bit DXP |
|(8.3 Megapixel Gross) |
|Image Resolution ||3264 x 2448, 3264 x 2176, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 pixels |
|Image Compression ||Standard / Fine |
|Recording Media ||Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, CompactFlash Type-I and Type-II and Microdrive Media |
|Zoom ||7X Optical / 2X Digital / 14X Total |
|Filter Diameter ||58mm |
|Focal Length ||7.1 - 55mm |
|35mm Equivalent ||28 - 200mm |
|Aperture ||f 2.0 / 2.8 - 8.0 |
|Exposure Metering ||Multi-Pattern, Center-Weighted, Spot |
|Auto Focus ||5 Area Multi-point AF |
|Manual Focus ||Continuously Variable Manual Ring |
|Minimum Focus Distance || |
|0.8" (2 cm) Macro Mode, |
|Normal Wide: 9" (23 cm) |
|Normal Tele: 27" (69 cm) |
|Spot AF ||Yes, Flexible |
|Focus Assist ||Yes, Hologram AF |
|Macro ||Yes, selectable |
|Shutter Speed || |
|Auto, 1/8– 1/2000 sec, |
|Manual 30 sec – 1/2000 sec |
|Noise Reduction on exposures from 1/25 to 30 sec. |
|Manual Exposure ||±2.0 EV, 1/3 EV steps |
|Color LCD ||1.8" 134K Pixels Low Temperature Polysilicon TFT |
|Eye-level LCD Finder ||0.44" 235K Pixel Polysilicon TFT w/Diopter Adjust |
|Flash Modes || |
|Auto / Forced On / Forced Off, |
|Red-eye Reduction On / Off |
|Flash Effective Range ||To be determined |
|Flash Shoe / Terminal ||Advanced Hot Shoe (compatible with HVL-F32X, HVL-F1000), ACC Terminal (compatible with RM-DR1) |
|White Balance ||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Manual |
|Picture Effects ||Solarize, Sepia, Negative Art |
|ISO ||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800 |
|Scene Modes ||Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Portrait |
|Self Timer ||Yes, 10 Seconds |
|Audio / Video Out ||Yes, NTSC / PAL selectable |
|Erase / Protect ||Yes |
|Date / Time Stamp ||Yes |
|Slide Show Mode ||Yes |
|Still Image Modes ||JPEG, TIFF, RAW |
|MPEG Movie Modes || |
|MPEG VX Fine (640 x 480, 30fps, 10kHz / sec audio) |
|MPEG VX Standard (640 x 480, 16fps, 10kHz / sec audio) |
|MPEG Video Mail (160x112, 8 fps, 4kHz / sec audio) |
|Clip Motion ||No |
|Microphone/Speaker ||Yes / Yes |
|USB Terminal ||Yes (2.0 High Speed Capable) |
|Supplied Software ||Pixela Image Mixer for Sony v1.5, SPVD-010 USB Driver, Sony RAW Conversion |
|OS Compatibility || |
|Microsoft® Windows® 98 / 98SE / Me / 2000 Professional / XP Home / Pro; |
|Macintosh® OS 8.5.1 / 8.6 / 9.0 / 9.1 / 9.2 |
|Supplied Accessories ||NP-FM50 InfoLithium® Rechargeable Battery, AC-L15 AC Adapter / In-Camera Charger, Lens Hood, Software CD-ROM, further accessories to be determined |
|Dimensions (W / H / D) ||6 3/16" x 3 9/16" x 5 5/16" (156.7 x 91.1 x 134.4mm) |
|Weight ||2 lb 3 oz. (955 g) |
|Additional Features |
|Clear Color / Clear Luminance NR |
|Burst mode |
|3 Shot AE Bracketing mode |
|3:2 Aspect Ratio Mode |
|3 Mode In-Camera Picture Effects |
|Expanded Focus Indicator Magnifier |
|Rotating Lens (70° up, 30° down) |
|More Photos |
|DSC-F717 vs. DSC-F828 vs. DiMAGE A1 |
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|EIGHT MEGAPIXELS JUST PART OF THE PICTURE WITH SONY'S LATEST HIGH-END DIGITAL CAMERA|
Advanced Lens, Color Filter and Processor Realize New Levels of Image Quality and Camera Responsiveness
SAN DIEGO, Aug. 15, 2003 - Expert photographers know that image quality goes beyond pixel resolution, and with today's new product announcement from Sony Electronics, they will soon find a digital camera that measures up to their discerning eye by exceeding the capabilities of current technology.
The latest model (DSC-F828) in Sony's popular line of Cyber-shot® F-series enthusiast cameras represents the next level of digital still photography, which these enthusiasts will surely appreciate. With its lens-centric design, the new camera is encased in a black, magnesium alloy body, and is the first to incorporate Sony's recently announced four-color filter CCD technology and Real Imaging Processor*.
Along with the Carl Zeiss® T* optics, these components are integral in capturing color accuracy closest to what the human eye can see and setting a new benchmark in camera performance.
"With our heritage in component design, Sony is uniquely qualified to realize this new standard in image quality," said Steve Haber, senior vice president of Sony Electronics' Personal, Mobile and Imaging Products Division. "Specifically designed to handle the unique rigors of advanced digital still photography, the new Cyber-shot F828 camera embodies what we envision as a premier imaging experience."
To complete that experience, the new camera offers extensive manual controls, giving advanced photographers a broader range of mechanisms to determine focus, exposure and recording modes.
Users will have the flexibility to store their images onto CompactFlash® Type I and Type II media, as well as a Microdrive® hard disk drive or Memory Stick PRO* media.
Seeing What the Human Eye Sees
Recognizing that current digital cameras borrow a nearly 40-year-old color reproduction system developed for televisions and computer displays (RGB, standing for red, green and blue), Sony began developing a new color filter early last year to provide more flexible color management and dramatically improve color accuracy.
This new approach (RGB+E) adds an emerald-colored pixel to the filter pattern, realizing color fidelity that is closer to human color perception. The first model to utilize this new color system, the DSC-F828, realizes a level of color accuracy not possible with other digital cameras. Specifically, photographers will notice an extraordinarily life-like rendering of blue, blue-green and red hues.
A Processor with Images in Mind
With a more accurate reproduction of the subject's color, the camera's new Real Imaging Processor then converts the four-color signal back into an ideal RGB color space with a linear matrix system.
The processor is also the engine that powers the camera's improved responsiveness, reducing shutter lag and cycle time. Because of a nearly 40 percent reduction in processing time, the Cyber-shot F828 model can capture an eight-megapixel image in almost half the time required by typical five-megapixel cameras.
Custom-designed for digital still cameras, the new processor is optimized to efficiently handle all the required tasks, which ultimately translates into increased speed with lower power consumption.
Key Features and Controls
- Resolution: Sony's 8.0-megapixel CCD image sensor provides the Cyber-shot DSC F828 camera with a maximum image size of 3360 x 2460, equating into 11 x 17-inch prints at 200 dpi or 8.5 x 11-inch prints at 300 dpi.
- Optics: The new camera features a Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar® T* 7X zoom lens (28 - 280mm, 35mm equivalent) with manual zoom for greater framing control, to fully extract the performance of the 8.0-megapixel CCD sensor.
- Five-Area Multi-Point Auto Focus: The camera evaluates five separate areas of the frame and intelligently focuses on the subject, displaying the selected focus point, or the user can choose any of the five points for manual control.
- NightShot® Infrared System: Enables the camera to capture infrared images in total darkness at a distance of up to 15 feet.
- NightFraming System: To capture crisp images in low or no light, this feature illuminates the subject with the NightShot system for proper framing, focuses with Hologram AF* illuminator and lights the scene with the appropriate amount of flash.
- Image File Formats: In addition to JPEG and TIFF formats, the camera supports Sony's RAW format, which allows the photographer to change the parameters of an image (e.g., white balance and color depth). Software will be included for converting RAW files.
- Video Recording: MPEG-VX Fine mode records video at 640 x 480 pixel resolution at 30 frames per second, up to the capacity of the storage device, for TV-quality video.
- Bundled Accessories: The camera comes with an InfoLithium® M battery, AC adapter/in-camera charger, A/V output cable, USB cable, lens hood, shoulder strap and lens cap.
Pricing and Availability
The Cyber-shot DSC-F828 camera will be available in mid-November directly from SonyStyle.com and at retailers nationwide with a suggested price of about $1,200. The DSC-F717 model will continue to be available at about $800.
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