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Sony MVC-FD97

Sony adds a Memory Stick and USB to the FD95 - No more file-compression blues!

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Page 1:Intro and Highlights

Review First Posted: 2/9/2001

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2.1 megapixel CCD, up to 1600x1200 images
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10x optical , 2x digital zoom, optically stabilized
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Records movies with sound
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JPEG, GIF, TIFF, and MPEG file formats
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Floppy or Memory Stick and USB computer interface


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Manufacturer Overview
More than any other single company, Sony has dominated the digital camera market the last few years, thanks in large part to the easy computer interfacing offered by their Mavica(tm) line of floppy disk based cameras. Last spring (February, 2000), they stunned the digicam world by announcing no fewer than six new digicam models. This year (2001), they did it again at Spring PMA in Orlando, FL, announcing another six new units. As they did last year, this year's announcements affected both the Mavica and CyberShot lines.

The subject of this review is Sony's new Mavica MVC-FD97, redefining the high end of the Mavica line. Like other Mavicas, it retains the ever-popular internal floppy disk drive, permitting images to be exported from the camera to host computer simply by removing the floppy disk, inserting it in the computer, and copying the files. What's different this time is that the MVC-FD97 also includes an internal slot for Sony's Memory Stick flash memory cards. With capacities currently running as high as 64 megabytes, the Memory Stick slot completely eliminates the space crunch produced by trying to squeeze 2 megapixel files onto a 1.44 MB floppy disk. The new design can record to either the Memory Stick or floppy, and copy easily between the two media types. Really, this brings the best of both worlds: The ease and convenience of floppies for sharing images, but the capacity and speed of Memory Sticks for extended usage. Sony also added a USB interface for direct image downloads from the Memory Stick, brought over the clever "Clip Motion" feature from the CyberShot line, and dropped the price $100.

This latest Mavica really expands the reach and value of the Mavica line. More than just a "Mavica with a Memory Stick", the FD97 presents a strong value proposition, bearing the distinction of being the lowest-priced 10x zoom-equipped camera on the market. While other manufacturers competing in the long-zoom market space will doubtless answer with lower prices of their own, the FD97 marks a sharp break with Sony tradition of demanding premium prices for their products. With their new product lineup, they're serving notice on the industry that they'll be offering rich features and aggressive pricing. While this will doubtless be viewed with consternation by other manufacturers, it's only the very best of news for consumers.

With the FD97, we believe Sony has really broken out of the niche (albeit a unique and very profitable one) of "camera with floppy disk" to compete strongly in the broader "camera with big zoom lens" category. We think they've succeeded admirably, and predict much success for this latest extension of the Mavica line.


Highlights

  • 2.1 megapixel CCD delivering up to 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution images.
  • 2.5 inch, color, TFT LCD monitor.
  • Smaller, LCD optical viewfinder with data display.
  • 10x, 6 to 60mm lens (equivalent to a 39 to 390mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 2x Precision digital telephoto.
  • Steady Shot option to decrease camera shake.
  • Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Twilight, Twilight Plus, Landscape, and Panfocus capture modes.
  • Shutter speeds from eight to 1/500 seconds.
  • Automatic, Outdoor, Indoor, and One-Push (manual) white balance settings.
  • Built-in, pop-up flash with Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Suppressed modes and manually adjustable intensity settings.
  • Spot metering option.
  • 10 second self-timer.
  • MPEG movie with sound record mode.
  • "Clip Motion" animation-recording mode
  • Voice Memo record mode.
  • TIFF, E-Mail, and Text (GIF) still image record modes.
  • Manual focus option.
  • Image storage on 3.5 inch floppy disks or Sony Memory Sticks.
  • USB computer interface for rapid image downloads.
  • InfoLITHIUM battery system.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.



What's New?
Given that it's an upgrade to the previous MVC-FD95, we thought it would be useful to give a quick synopsis at the outset of what's new in this model. Here's a quick list of key new features:

  • Memory Stick slot built in. - The FD95 could use a Memory Stick in a special floppy disk adapter, but it was still subject to many of the limitations of the floppy interface. Image compression was just as high as when using floppies, and data transfer to the Memory Stick was actually slower than to a floppy disk. On the FD97, both of these limitations have been conquered, with improved cycle times and significantly reduced image compression (with the attendant increase in quality) when using the Memory Stick.
  • USB Interface. - With a Memory Stick slot onboard, it makes sense to be able to download files directly from it to a host computer.
  • Copy from Memory Stick to/from Floppy. The FD95 could copy from floppy to floppy, to make duplicates for friends or coworkers. In the FD97, you can now easily copy one or more images to or from a floppy. You can thus use a Memory Stick for routine shooting, yet still retain the convenience of the floppy for exchanging photos with others.
  • "Clip Motion" - This is a feature brought over from the CyberShot line, that lets you record a series of still images that the camera assembles into an animated GIF file. Handy for product shots for the internet, fun for kids or adults at parties. Overall, a nifty feature unique to Sony cameras.



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