Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707Wow! 5 megapixels, a super-sharp lens, Hologram AF, NightShot, NightFraming and more! Killer technology, great photos from Sony!
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Page 3:DesignReview First Posted: 08/20/2001 (Full production model update 11/20/2001)
Sony's newest digicam, the DSC-F707, features the same rotating lens barrel and compact body size as its predecessors, the DSC-F505 and DSC-F505V. Indeed, at first glance, the F707 appears to be "all lens," but a quick review of its features proves otherwise. While the F707 looks essentially the same as the F505 and F505V models (apart from the faster lens), the F707 sports a bevy of new features never before seen in a digicam. First of all, this "under $1,000" camera sports a whopping 5.02-megapixel CCD chip, which produces very large image resolutions (as high as 2,560 x 1,920 pixels) with great color and quality. For low-light and "no-light" shooting, NightShot and NightFraming (borrowed from the Sony camcorder line) allow you to frame and capture images in the darkest shooting situations. For accurate low-light focusing, Sony introduces the Hologram AF assist light, which bounces a pattern of laser lights off of the subject to determine focus. Also new to the F707 are through-the-lens (TTL) flash metering and Multi-Pattern metering systems.
The camera's rotating lens barrel continues to be one of our favorite design features in terms of flexibility. You can rotate the lens approximately 135 degrees -- from straight up to almost straight down. (Since the tripod mount is on the bottom of the lens barrel, you can easily tilt the camera body upwards to view the LCD monitor more clearly.) As we've noted on previous digicams of this design, the rather large lens requires a different grip method than most people are accustomed to, but it's fairly intuitive once you get a feel for it. The large lens is heavy, contributing to the camera's hefty 22.39 ounces (635 grams), and therefore requires that you use your left hand to support the lens. The body itself is relatively compact (smaller than the lens, in fact), but with overall dimensions of 6.31 x 4.88 x 2.63 inches (162 x 124 x 68mm), the F707 certainly doesn't qualify as a pocket camera. It's best used with the accompanying neck strap, and we suggest investing in a small camera bag or soft cover to protect the LCD monitor and optics. A tethered, spring-loaded lens cover accompanies the camera.
Aside from the long lens barrel, which dominates the front of the camera, you'll see the Shutter button and Exposure Compensation controls on a sloping ledge off the camera's top panel. Encircling the tip of the lens barrel is a ridged focus ring, which controls the manual focus, much like the focus ring on a conventional 35mm camera lens. On the face of the lens are two LED lights -- a Hologram AF assist and NightShot IR -- which extend the camera's low-light capabilities (more on these features later). A rather substantial hand grip is built into the camera's right side, which is necessary to help counterbalance the weight of the lens when holding the camera. (This is a welcome design enhancement relative to the earlier F505V.)
On the right side panel is a neck strap attachment eyelet, positioned just above the battery and Memory Stick compartment. The compartment door features a locking catch that must be released before sliding the door open. Also visible from this view is the "ACC" Sony accessory connection jack on the top of the lens barrel, which connects Sony accessories, such as the HVL-F1000 flash unit.
The left side of the camera holds a myriad of controls, all located along the side of the lens barrel. From left to right, they include the Zoom lever, Auto / Manual Focus switch, AE Lock button, Spot Metering control, and White Balance (WB) adjustment. Directly under the WB button is the One-Push button, which is used to take manual White Balance readings. All of these controls are within easy reach of your left hand when holding the camera two-handed. Also on the left side of the camera is another neck strap attachment eyelet.
The camera's top panel has some key camera controls, including the Shutter and Exposure Compensation buttons (mentioned above), a Command dial (located in front of the these two buttons), as well as a Mode dial, NightFraming / NightShot switch, and Power switch all clustered on the top right side. Nested within these controls are the camera's microphone and speaker holes. On top of the lens barrel, you'll find the pop-up flash compartment, with a cold shoe flash mount just behind it.
The remaining camera controls are located on the F707's rear panel, along with the LCD monitor and electronic viewfinder (EVF) eyepiece. Just above the viewfinder eyepiece, a diopter adjustment dial corrects the viewfinder for eyeglass wearers. Across the top of the rear panel are the Display, Index, and Menu buttons, to the left of the Four Way Arrow pad. A sliding switch above the LCD monitor determines which viewfinder display you use, alternating between the LCD monitor and EVF. The eyepiece itself is surrounded by a soft rubber eye cup. In the bottom left corner of the rear panel are the DC In and A/V Out connection jacks, protected by a spring-loaded hinged plastic door. A large thumb rest near the top right side of the rear panel protrudes slightly from the battery compartment door, providing a firmer grip for your right hand. The rear panel also features a very tiny LED lamp, located above the center of the LCD monitor, which reports when the flash is charging.
The bottom panel of the F707 is flat and featureless, with the exception of the tripod mount on the bottom of the lens barrel. The USB compartment is also located on the underside of the lens barrel, covered by a lightweight plastic door. Kudos to Sony for keeping the memory card and battery compartments away from the screw mount, making it easy to change batteries while the camera is mounted on a tripod. (We always take note of this, given the amount of studio work we do, and we find it particularly important with feature-laden cameras like this one.) We don't know if the tripod socket is exactly under the optical center of the lens, but it's certainly on the lens centerline at least, making alignment for panorama shots much easier.
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