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"Picky Details" for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F88 digital camera


Timing
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F88:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F88 Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
1.2
Simple turn-on. Very fast, in part because there's no lens to telescope out before shooting.
Shutdown
0 - 21
First time is simple shutdown, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. No lens to retract, so first time is essentially zero. Second time is fairly long, but that's not surprising given the generous 9-frame buffer capacity in continuous shooting mode.
Play to Record, first shot
0.8
Time until first shot is captured. Very fast.
Record to play
2.5/0.8
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. Both times are fairly fast.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.43/0.68
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. Very fast, much better than average among cameras currently on the market.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.016
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Extremely fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

1.84 /
1.90

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. Buffer clears after each shot (that is, there effectively is no buffer). Fairly fast, particularly given that you can shoot at this rate until the memory card is full, without waiting for a buffer memory to empty after a few shots.
Cycle Time, Burst mode, max/min resolution 0.93 / 0.83
(1.08 / 1.21 fps)
First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" size images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, shoots 9 images, waits 9 seconds for the buffer to clear, and is ready for 9 more. In TV mode, can shoot more than 100 images without stopping, but takes 21 seconds to clear the buffer. Fairly fast for a 5-megapixel camera in a compact form factor, and the 9-frame buffer capacity is very good.
Cycle Time, MultiBurst mode 0.033
(30 fps)
Camera captures 16 images in a 4x4 array inside a normal 1280 x 960 file. Frame rate can be set to 7.5, 15, or 30 FPS. Buffer clears in 2 seconds. Extremely fast, great for golf/tennis swings, although note that the image size is greatly reduced.

Overall, the DSC-F88 is a surprisingly fast camera, particularly so given its compact size. Because it doesn't have to wait for its lens to telescope in or out, it starts up and shuts down quite quickly. When running, its shutter lag numbers are very good, with full-autofocus lag times of 0.43 - 0.68 second, and prefocus delays of only 0.016 second. Shot to shot cycle times are good, if not blazing, at 1.8 seconds between shots in large/fine mode. - But the buffer memory never seems to fill, so you can shoot at that pace all day long (or until your memory card fills). Continuous-mode speed is good if unspectacular at just right around 1.1 frames/second, but buffer capacity is very good at 9 frames that quickly before you have to wait for the memory card to catch up. Although its images are rather small, "Multiburst" mode is great for studying things like golf and tennis swings, with its blazing speed, ranging from 7.5 - 30 frames/second. All in all, surprising speed, particularly for a compact digicam.


Power
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F88 uses a custom rechargeable LiIon battery for power. It uses a custom power adapter, so I couldn't perform my usual direct measurements of power drain, but the run-time numbers reported by Sony's InfoLITHIUM battery technology are very accurate, so that's what I relied upon to assess the F88's battery life.

With a worst-case run time (capture mode, with the LCD turned on) of nearly 200 minutes with a fully-charged battery, and run time of nearly 400 minutes in playback mode, the DSC-F88's battery life is little short of amazing for such a compact camera model. I almost always advise readers to purchase a second battery along with their cameras, but in the case of the F88, you may very well be able to get away without one.



Storage Capacity
The Sony stores its photos on Memory Sticks, and a 32 MB card is included with the camera. (I strongly recommend buying at least a 64 MB card, preferably a 128 MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings.) The chart below shows how many images can be stored on the included 32 MB card at each size/quality setting.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
32 MB Memory Stick
Fine Normal
2592 x 1944 Images
(Avg size)
12
2.6 MB
22
1.4 MB
Approx.
Compression
6:1 11:1
2048 x 1536 Images
(Avg size)
19
1.6 MB
34
924 KB
Approx.
Compression
6:1 10:1
1280 x 960 Images
(Avg size)
46
684 KB
85
376 KB
Approx.
Compression
5:1 10:1
640 x 480
Images
(Avg size)
187
171 KB
467
68 KB
Approx.
Compression
5:1 13:1

 

Download Speed
The Sony connects to a host computer via a USB interface. Downloading files to my Sony desktop running Windows XP (Pentium IV, 2.4 GHz), I clocked it at 1753 KBytes/second. This is very fast. (Cameras with slow USB interfaces run as low as 300 KB/s, cameras with fast v1.1 interfaces run as high as 600 KB/s. Cameras with USB v2.0 interfaces run as fast as several megabytes/second.)

 

DSC-F88 Review
DSC-F88 Test Images
DSC-F88 Specifications
DSC-F88 "Picky Details"
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