Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828Sony extends their high end to encompass 8(!) megapixels and a sharp 7x Zeiss zoom lens. - And Sony's new RGB+E sensor technology for more accurate color!
<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>
F828 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 08/15/2003, Updated: 02/05/04
Digital Cameras - Sony CyberShot DSC-F828 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!|
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, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the DSC-F828 handled the challenge pretty well.
All of the shots here were captured using the F828's "real" color mode, which produced more natural-looking skin tones than did its "normal" color option. (See Far Field and Davebox tests below for examples comparing results from the Real and Normal color modes.) The shot at right was taken with no exposure compensation adjustment at all, very unusual for this test. I also used the camera's low contrast setting in the example at right, to help tame the harsh lighting. (The 828's normal contrast setting produced rather dark shadows and over-bright highlights, see the side by side comparison below to see the difference between the two.) Midtone detail is pretty good, with good detail in the shadows, and only the strongest highlights lost. I chose the Auto white balance, though the Daylight setting also produced good results.
Skin tones are about right, and the blue flowers in the bouquet and Marti's pants are only slightly darker than in real life. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, but the F828 gets just about the right amount of purplish tint in them.) Overall color looks good throughout the rest of the frame as well, with good saturation. Resolution is excellent, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the frame, even in the fabric texture of the flowers. Shadow detail is high as well, with reasonably low image noise. (Given its 8-megapixel sensor, I was expecting to see quite a lot of noise in the F828's images, but felt that in this instance at least, it wasn't all that bad. There's more noise here than I've seen in images from the best 5 megapixel cameras, but not an amount that I'd consider to be a problem. - What constitutes "acceptable" image noise is very much in the eye of the beholder though, so you may feel differently.)
Perhaps most interesting is how well Sony's RGB+E sensor technology preserves shape and shading in the red flowers. Most digicams tend to either under-saturate these, or lose much of the detail. The improved color accuracy of the RGB+E sensor appears to do an excellent job of preserving detail that others cameras typically lose.
To view an entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see
files F828OUTAP0r.HTM through F828OUTAP3r.HTM on the thumbnail
index page. (Files with "LC" in the name, such
as F828OUTALCP0r.HTM were shot with the contrast adjustment
set to "low".)
Again, excellent resolution and detail, moderate noise.
Results in this close-up shot are similar to the wider shot above, and the F828's 7x lens does a great job of preventing any distortion of Marti's features. The shot at right was again shot with no exposure compensation adjustment. This time though, I shot with the normal contrast setting only, which resulted in good midtones, but with darker shadows and brighter highlights. Detail is outstanding, with sharp details in Marti's face and hair. (Probably more than Marti would care to see full-screen.;-) Perhaps because of the higher contrast and resulting darker shadows, there's more noise present in the shadows here. Still not what I'd call bad, but clearly more noticeable than on the best 5 megapixel cameras.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV, see files F828FACAP0r.HTM through F828FACAP2r.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Good intensity and coverage with the built-in flash at the high intensity setting.
The F828's built-in flash illuminated the subject well with
the High intensity setting, but
the Normal and Low
settings underexposed somewhat. Color is pretty good, though
the incandescent lighting results in a slight orange cast
on the background, some of which can be seen in Marti's features
somewhat. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode combines the flash
with a longer exposure, allowing more ambient light into the
image. Once again, I found the best results with the High
intensity setting, as the Normal
and Low settings both left the
image too dark for my tastes. The longer exposure results
in a more pronounced warm cast, but color is still pleasing
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Great color with the Manual white balance setting, moderate image noise.
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. The F828's Manual white balance produced excellent results here. The Auto and Incandescent settings resulted in warmer color casts, but some people may actually prefer the results from the Incandescent setting, as being more faithful to the color of the original lighting. The main shot was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, and once again, all images were shot in the camera's "real" color mode. Color is accurate with good saturation, and image noise is "moderate" - higher than the lowest I've seen on this shot, but not yet to the point that I'd consider really objectionable.
These images were shot at ISO 100, as that's about the lowest I'm comfortable going on this shot, given how long the exposure times become below that point. As noted, image noise here is higher than the best I've seen, and I'm a little on the fence as to how I feel about it. - While I'd definitely like to see less, I think I'd be happy with the results here, if I owned the F828. As I've often said though, this is a very subjective area, so everyone should look at the images closely themselves, and see how they feel about the noise levels. - See the results shot at ISO 64 below though, as the noise level there is indeed a good bit lower.
To see the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files F828INMP0r.HTM through F828INMP4r.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent resolution and detail, with nearly accurate color.
For this shot, I preferred the slightly cool cast of the Manual
white balance setting to the slightly warm tone of the Auto
white balance. (The Daylight setting
resulted in a warmer, more yellow color cast.) Resolution
is very high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the tree
limbs and front shrubbery. (Keep in mind that the F828's 8.0-megapixel
CCD really stretches the limits of this poster as a test target.
Even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5
negative shot with a tack-sharp lens, the F828 extracts about
all the detail that's to be found here.) Details are also
sharp from corner to corner, with only the slightest softness
in the top left corner.
Excellent resolution and detail, with a good 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, and the DSC-F828 performed exceptionally well, easily surpassing the best 6 megapixel cameras I've tested. Detail is outstanding in the tree limbs over the roof, as well as in fine foliage in front of the house, with great definition in the tree bark patterns and leaf details. Details are also sharp throughout the frame, without any obvious softness in the corners. Like most digicams, the F828 loses most of the detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. Detail is strong in the shadow area above the front door though (perhaps helped slightly by the porch light seen in the photo), evidence of the DSC-F828's excellent dynamic range. Contrast was high with the default setting, so I snapped this series with the camera's low contrast option. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, saturation, and contrast series.
Lens Zoom Range
Excellent 7x zoom range.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the range of field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (7x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The DSC-F828's lens is equivalent to a 28-200mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a good wide angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. (Most cameras' zooms only go to about 35mm at the wide end, so the extra coverage of a 28mm equivalent is very welcome for anyone working close quarters.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Pretty good color, with great resolution and detail.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance
of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance
systems into producing a warm color balance. The F828's white
balance system did very well with it though, the Auto
white balance setting surprisingly producing the best results
overall, though the Daylight
setting produced similar color. (The Manual
setting was a bit too cool.) Skin tones are pretty good, though
a hint warm, and the blue robe looks nearly right, without
any purplish tints in the shadows. Resolution is excellent
in the embroidery of the blue robe and on the red vest, but
the camera's 8.0-megapixel CCD is easily capable of showing
more detail than this poster has in it. (The original data
file for this poster was only 20MB.)
A very small macro area with excellent detail in the dollar bill. The flash is blocked by the lens at closest approach, however, and there's quite a bit of barrel distortion present (although not obvious in this shot).
The F828 performed very well in the macro category, capturing
a minimum area of only 2.11 x 1.58 inches (54 x 40 millimeters).
Resolution is very high, and detail is excellent in the dollar
bill. However, the coins and brooch are soft due to the very
short shooting distance. There's a lot of softness in the
corners, particulalry on the left side of the frame. Also,
while it's not obvious in this shot, there's quite a bit of
barrel distortion present, due to the lens having to be used
at its maximum wide angle setting. Partly because maximum
macro is only available at the widest-angle zoom setting,
the F828's long lens barrel blocks the flash
here, making it ineffective for this close-up shot. - Plan
on using external lighting for the closest macro shots.
"Davebox" Test Target
Very nice color and exposure.
The F828's Manual white balance
setting did the best job here, with a good white value in
the mini resolution target and large color block. However,
the Auto and Daylight
settings resulted in warmer images. Exposure is about right,
and the F828 has no trouble distinguishing the subtle tonal
variations of the Q60 target. The large color blocks look
pretty good, with about accurate saturation and color. The
shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows great detail,
with low noise. Following are ISO, contrast, sharpness, saturation,
and effects series.
Excellent low-light performance, with great color balance, and accurate framing and focusing in total darkness, but more visible noise than the best 5 megapixel models.
The F828 did very well in my low-light tests, offering full manual exposure control and a maximum exposure time of 30 seconds. The F828 also offers Sony's outstanding infrared-based Night Framing and Hologram Autofocus options for excellent framing and focusing capability, even in complete darkness.
The F828 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all five ISO settings. The F828's Noise Reduction system did an good job of keeping noise in check, but I noticed more black speckles in the images caused by the dark-frame subtraction noise reduction process' handling of hot pixels. As I've been finding with other digicams, the normal noise measurement (standard deviation of luminance) does a poor job of characterizing what's going on in the F828's images. Even though the standard deviation is lower than high-end five-megapixel camera models (such as the Canon PowerShot G5), the noise in the 828's images is more visually distracting, and a fair bit of fine detail is lost to the noise-suppression processing. The results aren't bad, far from it, they're just not as good as I've seen from the category-leading 5 megapixel cameras.
As more 8-megapixel cameras make it onto the market, we'll see how the 828 stacks up against them. For now though, it appears that the jump from 5 to 8 megapixels may well be the point at which there are some noticeable tradeoffs to be made between resolution and image noise.
The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check
light levels for subjects you might be interested in
shooting, a light level of 1 foot-candle corresponds
to a normal exposure of 2 seconds at F/2.8 and ISO 100.)
Flash Range Test
A powerful flash, only very slight falloff at the 14 foot limit of our test.
In my testing, the F828's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, without any significant decrease in intensity. (And the 828 doesn't resort to the trick of "secretly" boosting ISO to get greater flash range performance, as is done by many digicams these days.) Below is the flash range series, showing the results with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
Very high resolution, 1,600- 1,650 lines of "strong detail." Average barrel distortion, higher than average pincushion though.
The F828 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions, but I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,600 lines vertically, and perhaps 1,650 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,950 lines.
Optical distortion on the F828 is lower than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion, very good for a 28mm zoom, but still more than I like to see. (Barrel and pincushion distortion are pet peeves of mine. Most digicam lenses show 0.8-1.0 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end, so it's not fair to single out any one manufacturer's cameras, but I'd really like to see all lenses improve in this area.) Interestingly though, the F828 gets better quickly as you zoom away from the full wide-angle setting. At an equivalent focal length of only 33.5mm, the barrel distortion drops to only 0.25 percent, an excellent figure by any measure. As usual, the extreme telephoto end did a little better, as I measured a 0.32 percent pincushion distortion there.
Chromatic aberration looks to be higher than average, showing about nine or ten pixels of fairly strong 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.)
In my test shooting, I found some evidence of the "purple
fringe" problem, but seemingly less than some other reviewers
did. (This is an optical phenomena that produces bright purple
fringes around the edges of very bright objects in the image.
It's apparently caused by some combination of conventional
chromatic aberration and diffraction by the microlenses on
the surface of the CCD itself.) I was able to trigger the
purple fringe problem in the studio, particularly with very
strong light sources, at relatively close range, and with
the lens set to its wide angle position and maximum aperture.
For whatever reason though, I saw little or no evidence of
it in most of my test images. Not to say that the problem
isn't there, just that the range of shooting conditions I
worked under didn't seem to trigger it to the extent seen
by some reviewers. For what it's worth, it does seem to require
a pretty severe light overload to trigger the phenomena.
Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Resolution Test, Telephoto
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder.
The F828's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) is very accurate, showing 99+ percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor is also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the F828's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard. Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just a little falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is a little more uniform.
1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate
2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate
3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate