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Sony MVC-FD95

Sony takes the Mavica line to 2.1 megapixels, and 12-bit digitization!

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MVC-FD95 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 7/13/2000

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! ;)

Note on Exposure Info for the Sony MVC-FD91 test images: We normally include exposure information for all our test shots, extracted from the JPEG file headers by Max Lyon's excellent "Thumber" program. In the case of the FD91 (and some other Sony cameras) though, the required information apparently isn't stored in the file headers in the first place. Thus, none of the images below have any of the usual shutter speed/aperture information associated with them. Sorry! :-(

 

 

Outdoor portrait: (316k)
This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal range of the image (which is why we set it up this way). The trick is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors and the Sony MVC-FD95 did a very commendable job. We shot this image using the daylight (316k), automatic (315k) and manual (315k) white balance settings. Both daylight and automatic settings seemed a little too cool (daylight more so than automatic) and the color balance wasn't quite right. Therefore, we chose the manual setting for our main series, based on the more accurate white and color balance throughout. Color balance looks good for the most part, although the blue flowers and pants seem slightly muted. Resolution and detail look reasonably sharp, showing just a little softness (we usually look at the leaves next to the model's shirt and in the details around the face). The 12-bit digitization of the FD-95 shows in the exceptional job it does of holding delicate gradations in the strong highlights of the model's shirt. Detail looks great in the shadow areas too, with only a slight amount of noise. For our main image, we chose a +0.3 EV exposure adjustment to get the best exposure on the model's face without blowing the highlight areas too much. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
(316k)
+0.3 EV
(316k)
+0.7 EV
(315k)
+1.0 EV
(314k)
+1.3 EV
(319k)



 
Closer portrait: (322k)
The MVC-FD95 does a very nice job with this "portrait" shot, thanks to its 10x optical zoom lens. (The availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people pictures.) As with the Outdoor Portrait, we shot in the manual white balance mode. Our main shot (322k) required only a +0.3 EV adjustment to achieve a good exposure on the face and in the highlight areas. Resolution and detail look much sharper in this close-up shot, particularly in the strands of the model's hair. There's still a tiny amount of noise in the shadow areas, but overall, the image looks fabulous. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
(321k)
+0.3 EV
(322k)
+0.7 EV
(322k)
+1.0 EV
(324k)
+1.3 EV
(324k)



 
Indoor portrait, flash:
For our first series of shots, we used the camera's popup flash in Automatic Exposure mode and set the intensity level to low (334k) normal (316k) and high (317k). The shots were well illuminated by the camera's flash, but each had slightly bluish and magenta casts, due to the mismatch between the daylight-balance strobe and the very warm cast of the incandescent room lighting. The best of these exposures was achieved at the normal flash intensity level. Next, we switched the camera to Twilight Plus mode and shot with the popup flash at the low (334k) normal (316k) and high (331k) intensity levels. While these exposures seemed to be allowing a little more ambient light in, they still have very blue shadow areas and very magenta highlights. Color balance is slightly better than in Automatic Exposure mode, but all of the images are a little too dark (even with the flash on the high setting). Then we shot again in Twilight Plus mode, with the flash at normal intensity, but boosted the exposure compensation to +0.7 EV, producing this (331k) slightly better exposed image. Although the color balance is still a little off, the overall lighting appears more balanced, and the color mismatch between the flash and room lighting isn't as strongly evident.

Next, we decided to take advantage of the camera's external flash connection. Staying in the Twilight Plus exposure mode, we connected an external flash unit and bounced it from the ceiling in the normal (329k) and high (322k) intensity settings. The resulting images had much softer lighting (none of those harsh shadows on the wall) but the magenta color cast remained. Of the two, the high intensity setting seems to be the better exposure. Finally, we switched back to Automatic Exposure mode and again bounced the external flash off of the ceiling (at high intensity) and tried shooting with the automatic (332k) and daylight (331k) white balance settings. The automatic setting produced a slightly dark exposure with that same magenta cast, but the lighting is much softer. Interestingly enough, the daylight setting produced a little better exposure, although still dark, but without the magenta tinge. (We were a little surprised at this outcome, as we expected the daylight white balance to produce a very yellow image).


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (310k)
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, and the MVC-FD95's white balance system did a pretty good job with this difficult light source. We shot with the automatic (311k), manual (320k) and incandescent (322k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting for our main series because of its much-improved accuracy. The automatic setting resulted in a very magenta image while the incandescent setting appeared a little too warm. (In the white-balance examples, we used a +1.0 EV exposure adjustment. The picture really required more than that, but we didn't realize this until the shooting session was over, and discovered that we hadn't shot an auto white balance image with greater exposure compensation. We thus showed the +1 EV samples to provide a consistent basis of comparison.) We achieved the best results with the camera's Twilight Plus exposure mode, which did a nice job of brightening the color throughout the image. The table below shows a range of exposure compensation settings from zero to +2.0 in the both the Automatic and Twilight Plus exposure modes with manual white balance in both cases.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
Automatic
0 EV
(332k)
+0.3 EV
(324k)
+0.7 EV
(312k)
+1.0 EV
(320k)
+1.3 EV
(313k)
+1.7 EV
(313k)
+2.0 EV
(312k)
Twilight Plus
0 EV
(335k)
+0.3 EV
(325k)
+0.7 EV
(331k)
+1.0 EV
(328k)
+1.3 EV
(338k)
+1.7 EV
(328k)
+2.0 EV
(310k)



 
House shot: (313k)
NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the MVC-FD95 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster, captured with the automatic (332k) white balance settings.

In this shot, we chose the automatic (37k) white balance setting for our main series, as the color balance appeared the most accurate overall. We also shot with the daylight (37k) setting, which produced slightly warm results, and the manual (37k) setting, which looked nearly identical to the automatic setting. Resolution and detail look good throughout the image, especially in the brick and shingle areas, as well as in the shrubbery and tree limbs, although the image is overall a bit softer than the best of the 2 megapixel cameras we've tested. Compared to the original FD-91 Mavica though, it's a huge improvement, while maintaining most of the exceptional zoom range that model had. Noise is very subtle, barely even noticeable, mostly visible in the shingles. We picked up only a small halo effect around light and dark edges, so the in-camera sharpening is set just about right. (We'd have gone just a bit lighter with it, but it's pretty good as cameras go, better than some highly touted models.) The table below shows the full range of resolution and quality settings for the MVC-FD95.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
(313k)
Large/Normal
(161k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
(318k)
 
Medium/Fine
(134k)
 
Low/Fine
(37k)
 


We also shot with the MVC-FD95's adjustable sharpness setting, which allows you to set the sharpness level from -2 to +2 (a total of five levels). The settings are awfully subtle in their effect, to the point that we had a little trouble deciding which image was which, the changes seemed so minute. There's definitely a difference between the softest and hardest settings though. Actually, the subtlety of the sharpness variation is good, in that we found the results were much better than we could achieve in Photoshop(tm): When we tried to apply our normal hard/tight sharpening in Photoshop, we found that it mostly accentuated the JPEG artifacts, rather than subject detail. Since the in-camera sharpening is applied prior to the JPEG compression, it avoids this difficulty. Here's the range of settings:

Sharpness series
+2 Very Sharp
(312k)
+1 Sharp
(316k)
+0 Normal
(316k)
-1 Soft
(319k)
-2 Very Soft
(315k)



 
 
Far-Field Test (314k)
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.

The MVC-FD95 performs very well in this shot, which is the strongest test of detail of any we do, as well as the harshest contrast challenge we throw at the cameras (the bright white of the central bay window often tricks digicams into losing detail in that area). Although the bay window is partially in shade (we were dodging clouds a lot the day we shot these, so they're taken a bit later in the day than normal), you can still see quite a bit of detail in the sunny portions, meaning that the MVC-FD95 handled the bright white highlights unusually well. (As we've said before, thanks no doubt to the 12-bit digitization.) We shot with the daylight (37k), manual (40k) and automatic (40k) white balance settings, choosing automatic for our main series because it had the most accurate white value. Daylight and manual came pretty close, but both were off just a little (daylight a shade too cool and manual a shade too warm). Color balance and saturation look nice overall, although the grass maybe wasn't quite that green. (Dave only wishes. ;-) Resolution and detail also look good, with a tiny amount of noise visible in the telltale shingles. Overall, an excellent job with good resolution and excellent handling of the difficult highlight areas. The table below shows the full resolution/quality series with the automatic white balance setting.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
(314k)
Large/Normal
(160k)
Medium/Fine
(128k)
 
Low/Fine
(40k)
 


Here again, the differences in the images were very subtle.

Sharpness series
+2 Very Sharp
(318k)
+1 Sharp
(339k)
+0 Normal
(313k)
-1 Soft
(314k)
-2 Very Soft
(313k)



 
 
Lens Zoom Range
We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy to present you here with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with the lens at full wide-angle, the lens at full 10x telephoto and the lens at full telephoto with 2x digital telephoto enabled.

Zoom range is one of the big stories of the MVC-FD95: Its 10x zoom is a longer ratio than any other digicam on the market, save only it's predecessor the FD91 (which had a 14x optical zoom, although only an 800K pixel sensor.) If you've only been exposed to the 3x zooms typical on most digicams, you literally won't believe your eyes when you look through the FD95's viewfinder and hit the zoom button! Its ability to reach *way* out to get the subject combines with its 2 megapixel resolution to deliver more pixels on distant subjects than any other digicam out there. If you're a nature or sports photo buff, and commonly find yourself wishing you could get closer to your subjects, the FD95 is a camera we can recommend without qualification! On this test, we found the images to be sharp and clear (although we've chosen to show only the small-size images here to make downloads faster). The lens does show a fair bit of barrel distortion on the wide angle shot, but really captures a nice wide area. The 10x optical zoom gets you incredibly close-in and the 2x digital telephoto gets even closer while maintaining good resolution. (At least in this small-mode image: At larger sizes, the image would be interpolated and consequently less sharp.) Overall, an incredible performance!

Wide
(216k)
Tele
(200k)
2x Digital Telephoto
(200k)



 
 
Musicians Poster (328k)
As with the House shot, we shot samples of this image using the automatic (40k), manual (40k) and daylight (40k) white balance options. We chose the daylight setting because we felt it produced the most accurate skin tones and overall color balance, while automatic produced very cool results and manual was just slightly cooler than daylight. (The heavy amount of blue in the image is often tricky for digicams to adjust for.) Color saturation looks about right in the model's blue robe, as well as in the red of the blonde model's vest. The skin tones also look good throughout. Resolution and detail are reasonably crisp, with great detail in the bird wings and silver threads of the blue robe as well as in the flower garland and beaded necklaces. We caught a moderate level of noise in the image, some of which may be coming from the poster. Below is our standard resolution/quality series in the daylight white balance setting.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
(328k)
Large/Normal
(155k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
(326k)
 
Medium/Fine
(125k)
 
Low/Fine
(40k)
 



 
Macro Shot (317k)
The MVC-FD95 performs superbly in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.12 x 1.59 inches (53.95 x 40.46 mm) at the furthest wide angle (335k) setting. The lens does seem to have a bit of a "sweet spot" in macro mode, allowing you to partially zoom in and capture an even smaller minimum area of only 1.42 x 1.06 inches (35.96 x 26.97mm). We chose this for our main shot,(317k) since it seems to be as close as we can get. Excellent detail and resolution. The lighting is a bit odd here, due to the close proximity of the lens to the subject, which blocks some of the light and forced a very shallow lighting angle. For this same reason, we could not use the flash with this test as the large lens would block the light. Ultra-macro optics usually show some optical imperfections this close, and the FD-95's lens is no exception. Still, the level of distortion seems to be less than we've come to expect, with some barrel distortion, curvature of field and lens flare in the corners all present, but not as severe as we've seen in some other ultra-macro lenses.


"Davebox" Test Target (324k)
The MVC-FD95 again performs well in this test category, although some of the colors appear a little weak. We shot with the daylight (324k), manual (324k) and automatic (324k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series as it produced the best looking white value (we judge mainly by white of the small resolution target). Daylight produced a very warm cast and the manual setting looked identical to the automatic. The large cyan, magenta and yellow color blocks on the left side of the target look pretty good, although just slightly muted (as do several of the other color blocks). The MVC-FD95 isn't fooled by the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart and separates them nicely (we've seen many digicams get confused in this area and try to blend the colors into one). The subtle tonal variations in the "B" pastel range of the Q60 chart are just barely distinguishable (a good result as some digicams do not pick up the differences). There's a fair amount of detail in the shadow area of the briquettes, and only a small amount of noise. Overall, a very nice performance. Below is our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
(324k)
Large/Normal
(153k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
(329k)
 
Medium/Fine
(131k)
 
Low/Fine
(36k)
 



 
Low-Light Tests
One of the most obvious limitations of the original Mavicas was their low-light performance: You just couldn't take pictures in very dark surroundings. We were therefore surprised to see the excellent results we obtained with the FD95 even in very dark conditions: The FD95 is comfortably in the current (June, 2000) first rank in the low-light arena! In straight Automatic Exposure mode, the MVC-FD95's low light capabilities weren't too great (only going down as far as 1 foot-candle (325k), or 11 lux). Even at 8 foot-candles (338k) (11 lux), the image is still quite dark. Switching over to the Twilight Plus mode gave us slightly better results, with useable images as low as 1/2 foot-candle (338k) (5.5 lux), although we could still discern a good bit of detail all the way down to 1/16 of a foot-candle (336k) (0.7 lux). Finally, switching over to Shutter Priority exposure mode let us select exposure times as long as 8 seconds, producing by far the best results, and a surprisingly good (although noisy) image at 1/16 of a foot-candle (334k) (0.7 lux). We'd rate the FD95 as producing very good images down to light levels of 0.5 foot-candles (5.5 lux), and usable ones to levels of 1/4 of a foot-candle (2.6 lux) and below. (For reference, a city night scene under typical street lighting corresponds to an illumination level of 1 foot-candle.)

The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, using the Shutter Priority exposure mode. Images in this table (like all our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

Shutter Priority
8 fc
(324k)
4 fc
(328k)
2 fc
(321k)
1 fc
(335k)
1/2 fc
(309k)
1/4 fc
(336k)
1/8 fc
(331k)
1/16 fc
(334k)
Twilight Plus
8 fc
(327k)
4 fc
(338k)
2 fc
(332k)
1 fc
(338k)
1/2 fc
(338k)
1/4 fc
(320k)
1/8 fc
(336k)
1/`6 fc
(336k)



 
Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available). Sony rates the MVC-FD95's flash power as effective from 2.7 to 8.3 feet (0.6 to 2.5 m) in the normal intensity setting, which strikes us as a vast understatement. In our testing, we found the MVC-FD95's flash to be highly effective as far out as 15 feet, without much brightness falloff or color shift at all. We also shot with the Twilight Plus mode, and found similar results, with the exception of a slightly blue color cast in the images. The table below shows results obtained at a range of distances from eight to 15 feet at both the normal flash setting and in the Twilight Plus mode.

Normal
8 ft
(330k)
9 ft
(328k)
10 ft
(335k)
11 ft
(331k)
12 ft
(330k)
13 ft
(333k)
14 ft
(333k)
15 ft
(335k)
Twilight Plus
8 ft
(330k)
9 ft
(340k)
10 ft
(320k)
11 ft
(330k)
12 ft
(317k)
13 ft
(336k)
14 ft
(323k)
15 ft
(339k)



 
ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (291k)
In the resolution department, the FD95 performed about in the middle of the pack among 2 megapixel cameras we've tested. We "called" the visual resolution at about 800 lines horizontally, 650 vertically. We saw more color moire patterns and artifacts in the vertical axis, but they weren't too severe in either direction. Overall, a good performance, likely a very welcome upgrade to fans of the earlier 800K pixel FD91. As usual, the tables below show samples of the range of resolution settings, at both wide angle and telephoto settings of the lens.

Resolution/Quality series, Wide Angle
Large/Fine
(301k)
Large/Normal
(145k)
Medium/Fine
(119k)
 
Low/Fine
(37k)
 


Resolution/Quality series, Telephoto
Large/Fine
(291k)
Large/Normal
(145k)
Medium/Fine
(123k)
 
Low/Fine
(37k)
 


Here again are the sharpness series images

Sharpness Series
+2 Very Sharp
(300k)
+1 Sharp
(298k)
+0 Normal
(296k)
-1 Soft
(300k)
-2 Very Soft
(302k)



 
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the MVC-FD95's LCD monitor to be a little tight, showing about 92 percent of the final image area at both wide angle (318k) and telephoto (319k) settings. We assume that the optical viewfinder has the same accuracy level, since it's basically a smaller version of the rear LCD panel. Although we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the MVC-FD95 is more accurate than most.

Optical distortion on the MVC-FD95 is a little high at the wide angle end, showing an approximate 0.9 percent barrel distortion. However, we found virtually no pincushion distortion at the telephoto end (at least none that we could effectively measure). Chromatic aberration was moderate, showing about two pixels of coloration on each side of the black resolution target corner elements. (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). There is also some lens flare in the corners of the image in telphoto mode. Flash distribution was very good, with just a slight fall-off in the corners at the wide angle setting.
 

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