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Sony MVC-CD400

Sony expands its CD-equipped camera line, adding a four megapixel CCD, a huge buffer memory, Hologram Autofocus, and a standard hot shoe!

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MVC-CD400 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 2/20/2002

Sample Images for the
Sony Mavica CD400 Digital Cameras

 

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

Outdoor Portrait:

Great color, resolution, and sharpness, slight purple tinge in blue flowers.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the MVC-CD400 handles the challenge pretty well, thanks to its 12-bit digitization. The shot at right was taken with one notch of positive exposure compensation (+0.3EV), and looks just about right. (Midtones are reasonable, and the camera does a great job of holding onto highlight detail in Marti's shirt, but some of the shadows are a bit darker than I'd like.) I shot with the Manual white balance setting, which resulted in a pretty accurate color balance (though the white shirt is just slightly warm). The Auto and Daylight white balance settings resulted in slightly cool color casts. The blue flowers and pants are dark and a little purplish (a common digicam problem on this shot), but skin tones look about right. Resolution is high, with crisp detail throughout the frame. Detail is also good in the shadow areas, with moderately high noise.

To view the entire exposure series, from zero to +0.7 EV, see files CD40OUTMP0.HTM through CD40OUTMP2.HTM on our thumbnail index page.

 

 

 

 

Closer Portrait:

Great detail, good color & tone.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of the model's features. Fine detail increases in Marti's face and hair, with great sharpness and definition. The shadows are only moderately noisy, and detail is good. Color balance is about right, though still slightly warm. The main shot was taken with zero exposure compensation, which preserves detail in the highlights at the cost of slightly dark midtones.

To view the entire exposure series, from zero to +0.7 EV, see files CD40FACMP0.HTM through CD40FACMP2.HTM on our thumbnail index page.

 

 

 

 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:

Normal Flash
Twilight Flash
(High flash setting)

Good intensity in the normal flash mode, though Twilight mode produces dim shots.

The CD400's flash illuminated the subject fairly well, with good brightness at the Normal flash intensity setting. The High setting was slightly bright, while the Low intensity setting resulted in a slightly dim shot, with stronger color casts (the strong background incandescent lighting produced a pronounced orange cast). I also tried shooting with the camera's Twilight shooting mode, which underexposed the shot somewhat. In Twilight mode, the High intensity setting produced the brightest results, with dimmer images at the Normal and Low settings.

 

 

 

 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Auto white balance did very well, manual was excellent.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. (A very common shooting condition for indoor photography in the US, though.) The CD400's white balance system had very a little trouble here though, producing a slightly warm color balance in Auto and Manual modes, although the Manual-mode color balance was almost perfect. The Incandescent setting resulted in the warmest cast, with a strong yellow tint. (I can never understand why the "Incandescent" setting on digicams so often produces worse results than the "Auto" one. I'm pretty certain that the manufacturers are setting the color temperature at 3200K, the value of professional studio lighting. Household incandescent, the condition most of these cameras will be used in, is more like 2500-2700K.) Both the Auto and Manual settings produced similar results, though the Manual setting produced the most accurate overall color. (This is a much better-than-average performance for a camera's Auto white balance setting under these conditions.) Despite a slightly warm, greenish cast, color looks about right, with good skin tones. The blue flowers appear a deep purple, a common problem with this shot, among many cameras. The main shot selection has a +1.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment. (Really more EV boost than should have been required. Click here for links to zero and +2.0 EV adjustment images) Following are links to an ISO series.

ISO Series
As usual, noise increases in direct proportion to the CD400's light sensitivity, becoming fairly pronounced at ISO 400. It seems a little finer-grained than that of many cameras though, making it a little less objectionable.

ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400


 

 

 

 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great resolution and color.

The Auto and Manual white balance settings both produced good results here, so I chose the Manual setting for our main image. The Auto setting appeared nearly accurate, though the overall image had a slight yellow cast. I also shot with the Daylight setting, which produced a much warmer image. Resolution is high, with good detail in the tree limbs above the roof and in the house trim. The finest detail in the image is a little coarse-looking though, compared to some of Sony's other cameras, such as the excellent S85 Cyber-shot mode. It looks to me like the engineers got a little heavy-handed with the in-camera sharpening here, which has the effect of coarsening the details. Still, the overall level of detail is very good.

 

 

 

 
 

 

Far-Field Test

Good detail and color, but a limited dynamic range.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this. The CD400 captures a lot of fine detail throughout the frame, but as I noted above, the finest details look a little "heavy" to my eye. I attribute this to the in-camera sharpening being a bit overdone. This conclusion was confirmed by my own experiments: When I took an image shot with the internal sharpening set to -2 (the lowest value) and sharpened it in Photoshop (unsharp masking, radius 0.5 pixels, amount 150%), the results were excellent: Fine, lacy detail with superb definition. (Note to Sony - If you reduced the radius of your sharpening operator in the final production units, the "enthusiast" photographers this camera is aimed at will love you for it.)

The CD-400 production model tested here handled the exposure of this shot better than the prototype unit I tested previously. Despite the very contrasty illumination, the CD400 managed to hold onto detail in the strong highlights of the bay window trim on the front of the house. Overall, an excellent job.

The table below shows a shortened version of our standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO and sharpness series.

Resolution Series:
Large / Fine
Medium / Fine
Small / Fine
Tiny / Fine

ISO Series:
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400

Sharpness Series:
Soft
Normal
Hard

 

 

 
 

 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.
(Oops - forgot to reshoot these, images from the prototype unit shown instead!)

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The CD400's lens is equivalent to a 34-102mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
2x Digital Telephoto

 

 

 
 

 

Musicians Poster

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good color and detail overall, slight overexposure.

Both the Auto and Daylight white balance settings produced slightly warm images here, likely due to the large amount of blue in the composition. The Daylight setting produced the least warmest cast, and I chose it for the main image because of the more accurate overall color. The Manual setting actually produced a very cool image, with strong magenta tints. Skin tones are still slightly pale with the Daylight white balance, but are warm enough to look nearly accurate. The blue robe looks about right as well, with only slight purplish tints in the darker areas (this is a tough blue for many digicams to get right in many cases). Resolution is high, with good detail visible in the embroidery of the blue robe as well as in the flower garland details. The default exposure is just a tad bright IMHO, perhaps 1/3 of an EV or so.

 

 

 

 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

Great macro performance, though the flash has trouble when you get really close.

The CD400 does very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.3 x 1.7 inches (57 x 43 millimeters). Resolution is high, with sharp details visible on the coins, brooch, and dollar bill. Color and exposure both look good as well. Some corner softness is visible from the lens, strongest on the left side of the frame, but it's overall not as bad as I'm accustomed to seeing in digicam macro shots. The lens' wide-angle setting also results in some slight barrel distortion. The CD400's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, overexposing the top portion of the image while underexposing the lower portion. (This close, the flash is strongly shadowed by the lens barrel. A bit further away from the subject, it should do OK.)

 

 

 

"Davebox" Test Target

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good exposure, detail, and color, slightly low saturation on the subtractive primary colors.

For this shot, the Manual white balance setting produced the most accurate overall color, though the Auto setting also produced great results. As you might expect, the Daylight setting resulted in a slightly warm image (though with less of a warm cast than I noticed with the prototype unit I tested previously). Exposure is about right, as the subtle tonal variations of the pastels Q60 target are distinctly visible, and shadow detail is very good. The large color blocks are nearly accurate, though saturation in the subtractive primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow) is slightly weak. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows great detail, with a moderate level of noise. (The CD400's tonal range seems really excellent.) As with the Musicians shot above, these images look just slightly overexposed, relative to those from the prototype.

 

 

 

 

Low-Light Tests

Good performance, can handle very dark shooting conditions.

The CD400 performed very well here, thanks to its maximum eight-second exposure time. The camera captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) at both the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At 100 ISO, the image was nearly usable at 1/16 foot-candle, just slightly dim. The best results at 100 ISO were obtained at the 1/8 foot-candle (1.4 lux) light level. Average city street lighting at night is equivalent to about one foot-candle, or 11 lux, so the CD400 should handle much darker shooting conditions with ease. Color is warm from the Auto white balance, but saturation is good. Noise is moderate at the 100 and 200 ISO settings, increasing to a slightly higher level at ISO 400. Low light shooting is also enhanced by the built-in autofocus-assist illuminator

LED on the front, which lets the camera focus in more or less total darkness. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, at each ISO setting. Images in this table (like all our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

 

1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.31lux
1/16fc
0.67lux
ISO
100
Click to see CD40LL103.JPG
1 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL104.JPG
2 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL105.JPG
5 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL106.JPG
8 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL107.JPG
8 secs
F2.1
ISO
200
Click to see CD40LL203.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL204.JPG
1 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL205.JPG
3 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL206.JPG
4 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL207.JPG
8 secs
F2.1
ISO
400
Click to see CD40LL403.JPG
1/ 4 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL404.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL405.JPG
2 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL406.JPG
2 secs
F2.1
Click to see CD40LL407.JPG
4 secs
F2.1

 

 

 

 

Flash Range Test

Slightly dim at the Normal flash setting, but constant intensity all the way to 14 feet.

At the Normal intensity setting, the CD400's flash remained effective as far as 14 feet from the test target, but I felt it was a little dim at all distances. Intensity remained about the same throughout the series, with only slight decreases occurring as the distance increased. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

Click to see CD40FL08.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5
Click to see CD40FL09.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5
Click to see CD40FL10.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5
Click to see CD40FL11.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5
Click to see CD40FL12.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5
Click to see CD40FL13.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5
Click to see CD40FL14.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F2.5

 

 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Good performance, with strong detail to 1,400 lines/picture height.

The CD400 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, but I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,05 lines vertically and 1,150 lines horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,400 lines.

Optical distortion on the CD400 is a bit lower than average (although, along with most other consumer digicams, still too high IMHO) at the wide-angle end, as I measured a 0.62 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end showed much less distortion, with about 0.19 percent distortion present. Chromatic aberration is also relatively low, showing about three pixels of very light coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The most evident distortion I noticed was some slight corner softness in a few shots, strongest on the left side of the frame.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large / Fine
Large / Normal
Medium / Fine
Medium / Normal
Small / Fine
Small / Normal
Tiny / Fine
Tiny / Normal

Telephoto
Large / Fine

Sharpness Series, Wide Angle
Soft
Medium-Soft
Normal
Medium-Hard
Hard

 

 

 

 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A very accurate LCD monitor.

The CD400's LCD monitor was just the tiniest bit loose, showing just a whisker less of the subject area than what was framed. Viewfinder accuracy is thus almost exactly 100 percent. Given that I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the CD400 performs very well here. Flash illumination at wide angle is reasonably bright, with lower than average falloff at the edges and corners of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more even, though intensity is slightly dim. 


Wide Angle

Telephoto

 

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