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Sony MVC-FD97

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MVC-FD97 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 2/9/2001

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! ;)


Outdoor portrait: (865k)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Sony MVC-FD97 handles the challenge very well. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (870 k), daylight (869 k), and manual (866 k) (or One-Push, as Sony refers to it) white balance settings, choosing the daylight setting for our main series. The automatic setting resulted in a slightly warm image. Alternatively, the manual setting produced a slightly darker, greenish image. Although the daylight setting results in a somewhat cool color balance, the white value of the model's shirt looks the best. Skin tones on the model appear a little flat, but the blue flowers and pants are close to accurate, though just a little bright. (These blues are hard for many digicams to reproduce correctly.) The bright, red flowers show just a tiny halo, but aren't too oversaturated, compared to many other digicams we've tested. Resolution looks very nice, with a great deal of fine detail visible throughout the image. Details also appear nice and crisp, with sharp, defined edges. The shadow areas hold a large amount of detail as well, with very little noise. Our main image was taken with +0.7EV of exposure adjustment, as that seemed to produce less noise in the shadows while still preserving highlight detail. Interestingly, the FD97 seems more tolerant of exposure variation than most digicams we've tested. Exposure adjustments from 0 to +0.7 EV held about the same amount of highlight detail, while the midtone values came out virtually the same. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(865 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 5.
(866 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(861 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 350
F/ 5.6
(866 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 250
F/ 5.6
(847 k)



 
Closer portrait: (849k)
The FD97 also performs well with this close5 portrait shot, thanks to its 10x lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in closeup shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting closeup people shots.) We again shot with the daylight white balance option, which produced a nice overall color balance. As is typical with this shot, we notice increased resolution throughout the image, with crisp details as well. Some of the tiniest details of the model's face and hair are completely visible, even in the shadow areas. We also picked up the more subtle texture of the house siding. Noise level remains very low in the shadow areas, with only traces visible in the house siding. Our main shot was taken without any exposure compensation. Really an excellent performance. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 8
(849 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 8
(848 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 500
F/ 8
(861 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(865 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 350
F/ 5.6
(851 k)



 
Indoor Portrait, Flash: (768k)
The FD97's built-in flash does a reasonably good job of illuminating the subject, though the camera has a little trouble with the background incandescent lighting, producing a strong color cast in each image. We shot our first series of images with the flash set to the Low (744 k), Normal (768 k), and High (763 k) intensity settings, which did a good job of illuminating the subject, with just a little magenta cast in the background from the strong incandescent lighting in the room. The Low intensity image was somewhat dim, the Normal and High settings producing more pleasing pictures. Despite the slight magenta color cast in the background, overall color balance looks very good, with nearly perfect color in the flower bouquet and the white shirt. The High intensity setting produced the best results of this first series, with a reasonably bright exposure and good color (though the magenta cast still exists in the background, and the model's shirt looks a little "flat"). Next, we switched the camera to the Twilight Plus exposure mode to allow more ambient light into the image, and again shot with the flash at the Low (745 k), Normal (754 k), and High (768 k) settings. This time, the effect of the incandescent lighting was much more noticeable, as a strong orange cast. As we noticed with the first series of shots, the low flash setting produced a very dim image with barely any evidence of a flash exposure at all. The Normal flash setting produced a much brighter image, with good color, though the model's face and shirt are on the verge of being washed out by the flash. Interestingly enough, the High intensity setting resulted in a dimmer image than Normal, but not as dark as the Low setting. The orange color cast remains quite strong, but the flower bouquet still looks pretty good. A bit of a toss up in choosing our main image, between the Normal/High and Twilight Plus versions. We ended up choosing the Twilight Plus version, because of the larger amount of ambient light admitted into the image, which provides a more natural looking exposure than the regular High intensity flash in normal automatic exposure mode.


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (758 k)
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 FD97's white balance system had a little difficulty. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (803 k), manual (805 k), and indoor (807 k) white balance settings, with the manual setting producing the best results overall. The automatic white balance produced a very strong magenta color cast, while the indoor setting resulted in a very warm, almost sepia image. Color in the manual white balance setting appears a little flat, but the white value of the shirt is the most accurate of the three settings, and the overall appearance is really excellent for this tough subject. We also shot with the Twilight Plus exposure mode, which produced much better results. Color balance appears more accurate and overall saturation and brightness looks better as well. Skin tones in the Twilight Plus mode are much more accurate than in the standard Automatic exposure mode, where they appear very pale. We chose the +1.7 EV exposure adjustment for our main image, in the Twilight Plus exposure mode. (The amount of exposure compensation required is a little odd: Most cameras underexpose this shot a fair bit, due to the light background, but needing this much adjustment is unusual.) Noise level is moderate in the Twilight Plus images, but slightly more pronounced in the standard Automatic exposure images. Overall a really excellent performance on a very difficult subject. The following table shows a range of exposure adjustments from zero to +1.7 EV, for both Twilight Plus and Automatic exposure modes.

Exposure Compensation Settings, Automatic:
0 EV
1/ 30
F/ 2.8
(856 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 30
F/ 2.8
(787 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 30
F/ 2.8
(802 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 30
F/ 2.8
(802 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 30
F/ 2.8
(803 k)
1.7 EV
1/ 30
F/ 2.8
(803 k)

Exposure Compensation Settings, Twilight Plus:
0 EV
1/ 8
F/ 5.6
(714 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 8
F/ 5.6
(724 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 8
F/ 4.8
(723 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 8
F/ 4.8
(750 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 8
F/ 4
(750 k)
1.7 EV
1/ 8
F/ 4
(758 k)



 
House shot: (871k)
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 FD97 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster in the automatic (894 k) white balance setting.

We shot samples of this image with the daylight (351 k), automatic (353 k), and manual (354 k) white balance settings, choosing the daylight setting for our main series. Both the automatic and manual settings produced similar, cool images, with the automatic setting resulting in the coolest color balance of the two. Though the daylight setting is just slightly warm, we felt that it had the best overall color balance. Saturation looks good and even throughout, particularly in the red bricks and in the greens of the grass and shrubbery. Resolution is pretty high for a two megapixel camera, with a lot of fine detail visible in the bricks and shrubbery, and in the tree limbs above the roof. Details are reasonably sharp as well, especially in the straight edges and rectangular details of the house front. Noise is very low in the roof shingles and shadows, with a fine grain pattern. A very small halo around the light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line betrays the in-camera sharpening. Overall, a nice job. The table below shows our standard range of resolution and quality settings.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(871 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(312 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(160 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(894 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(314 k)

Medium/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(350 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(127 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(150 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(41 k)



Sharpness Series
We also shot a series with the camera's adjustable sharpness settings, which produced very subtle differences. The sharpness setting does a good job of not altering the contrast too much, or the brightness either. Each adjustment makes very minute changes though, just barely changing the overall contrast. (We'd like to see a bit more pronounced range of variation for this control. Usually we find ourselves admonishing manufacturers to tone down their in-camera image modifications, but in this case think a bit more adjustment range would be good.)

Very Sharp
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(868 k)
Sharp
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(881 k)
Normal
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(871 k)
Soft
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(861 k)
Very Soft
1/ 60
F/ 2.8
(886 k)



 
 
Far-Field Test (899k)
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.

We shot this image with the automatic white balance setting, as it produced a nice overall color balance. Color saturation looks a little weak, probably due to the very bright sunlight and slight overexposure in the image. This shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite range of fine detail in a natural scene like this, viewed from a distance. Resolution looks very nice, especially in the tree branches above the house, as well as in the bricks and house front details. We can also detect a lot of detail in the wooden fence behind the house (visible on the driveway side). Overall sharpness is pretty good as well. We also judge a camera's dynamic range in this shot, comparing how well the camera holds detail in both the shadow and highlight areas. The FD97 succumbs somewhat to the bright, white paint of the bay window, just barely picking up the strongest details of the trim, but overall does better than average with this extremely bright highlight. The camera has a little trouble with the dark shadow area under the porch, as the brick details are just barely visible. Noise in the roof shingles and shadow areas of the house is moderate, though with a reasonably small and tight grain pattern. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality Series
Uncompressed/Fine
Note: Download and view in imaging software.
(5642 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(898 k)

Medium/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(347 k)

Small/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(149 k)


Sharpness Series
We again shot with the S75's adjustable sharpness setting, which again only made subtle changes with each setting.

Very Sharp
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(874 k)
Sharp
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(864 k)
Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(899 k)
Soft
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(890 k)
Very Soft
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(878 k)



 
 
Lens Zoom Range
Wow! That's a lot of lens! 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 at full telephoto with the 2x digital telephoto enabled. The FD97's wide angle setting captures a nice, wide field of view, with good detail and just a hint of barrel distortion. The level of detail increases dramatically with the 10x telephoto setting, as does the sharpness. The details of the shrubbery are very crisp, and the color saturation looks better with the closer shot. The one defect we note is that there is some chromatic aberration visible around the strong white details in the window trim (faint green/pink tinges). This isn't unusual in long digicam zooms, and is far from the worst we've seen, but it deserves mentioning nonetheless. The camera's digital telephoto does an excellent job of holding onto detail as it digitally enlarges the image, without softening the image too much. (Although we're shooting here at the cameras "medium" resolution setting of 1024x768, which mitigates the softening effect of digital telephoto, since the image isn't being enlarged as much as it would at the full 1600x1200 resolution setting.) Details are a little softer than with the normal telephoto setting, but are still reasonably crisp. Remarkably, noise level is very low with the digital telephoto setting. A great job!

Wide Angle
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F5.6
(344 k)
10x Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F5.6
(357 k)
2x Digital Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F5.6
(348 k)



 
 
Musicians Poster (830k)
For this test, we shot with the automatic (344 k), manual (345 k), and daylight (352 k) white balance settings, choosing the daylight setting for our main series. The large amount of blue in the image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, and we noticed that the FD97's white balance system had some trouble here. None of the white balance settings produced a dead-on accurate color balance. The automatic setting resulted in a very cool, bluish image, while the manual setting (which would not be affected by the subject's coloration) produced a slightly greenish cast, with pale skin tones. The daylight setting produced a slightly warm image with purplish/reddish tints in the blue background, but we felt that the skin tones on each of the models looked the best with this white balance setting. The warmer color balance affects the blue of the Oriental model's robe, but it still looks nearly accurate (this is a tough blue for many digicams to reproduce correctly, so the FD97 does a pretty good job). Resolution looks great, judging by the level of detail in the bird wings and silver threads on the blue robe, as well as in other fine details such as the beaded necklaces and flower garland. The violin strings look pretty good as well, without a strong moire pattern. Noise is moderate and mostly visible in the blue background. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(830 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(895 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(355 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(147 k)



 
Macro Shot (827k):
The FD97 does an excellent job in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 0.73 x 0.55 inches (18.57 x 13.93mm). Detail and resolution both look great, though the brooch and coins are slightly soft (probably due to the limited depth of field or focus range when you get this close). Even the tiny details of the dollar bill paper and gray backboard are visible, with just a little noise in the gray background. Color balance also looks good throughout the image. The FD97's built-in flash (604 k) is blocked by the very long lens barrel, and is ineffective at this close range. Still, the FD97 gives an outstanding performance.


"Davebox" Test Target (804k)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (327 k), daylight (327 k), and manual (325 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. Both daylight and manual white balance setting produced similar, warm images, while the automatic setting appeared a little cool. Judging by the white value of the mini resolution target, we chose the automatic setting as the most accurate overall. The large color blocks look very nice, with pretty accurate saturation, though the large cyan, magenta, and yellow blocks appear a little weak. We also noticed that the brighter yellow and green toned color blocks have about a pixel of a halo around the outer edges, just beside the black lines. The FD97 picks up the subtle difference between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart (which is a common problem area for many digicams), although the black separator line shows a reddish tint. The FD97 just barely distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart all the way up to the "B" range (another common problem area for digicams). The tonal gradations of the smaller, vertical gray scales also look good, though the darkest two blocks blend together slightly. The shadow area of the briquettes shows a fair amount of detail, with only minimal noise, though the details of the white gauze area are a little subdued, even though the exposure is far below saturation. Resolution looks great overall, with a lot of fine detail visible in the box hinges and shiny pot lid, and the mini resolution target appears reasonably sharp as well. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality Series
Large/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(804 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(764 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(329 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.8
(141 k)



 
Low-Light Tests
The FD97 did a pretty good job in the low-light category, as we were able to obtain very bright, clear images at light levels as low as one foot-candle (11 lux), in both the Shutter Priority and Twilight Plus exposure modes. In Twilight Plus mode, images were still usable at the 1/2 of a foot-candle light level (5.5 lux), but progressively darkened at the lower light levels. In the Shutter Priority exposure mode, images were still usable as low as the 1/8 and 1/16 of a foot-candle light levels (1.3 and 0.67 lux). (That's very dark!) In both the Twilight Plus and Shutter Priority exposure modes, we noticed a rather cool color cast in the darker images that shifted to warmer one at the one foot-candle (11 lux) and higher light levels. Noise remained minimal in both exposure modes. To put the FD97's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so the camera should be able to handle most bright, night shooting situation. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, in both the Twilight Plus and Shutter Priority exposure modes. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

8fc
10EV
88lux
4fc
9EV
44lux
2fc
8EV
22lux
1fc
7EV
11lux
1/2fc
6EV
5.5lux
1/4fc
5EV
2.7lux
1/8fc
4EV
1.3lux
1/16fc
3EV
0.67lx
Shutter Priority Click to see F97L0004.JPG

803.2 K
1/4
F3.4

Click to see F97L0102.JPG

803.7 K
1/2
F2.8

Click to see F97L0201.JPG

808.3 K
1
F2.8

Click to see F97L0302.JPG

793.6 K
2
F4

Click to see F97L0404.JPG

827.8 K
4
F2.8

Click to see F97L0508.JPG

872.4 K
8
F2.8

Click to see F97L0608.JPG

872.5 K
8
F2.8

Click to see F97L0708.JPG

810.1 K
8
F2.8

Twilight Plus Click to see F97LTP00.JPG

752.4 K
1/8
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP01.JPG

763.7 K
1/4
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP02.JPG

793.8 K
1/2
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP03.JPG

818.2 K
1
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP04.JPG

733.6 K
2
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP05.JPG

766.2 K
2
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP06.JPG

721.8 K
2
F2.8

Click to see F97LTP07.JPG

662.2 K
2
F2.8




 
Flash Range Test
Sony rates the FD97's flash as effective from about 2.7 to 8.3 feet (0.6 to 2.5m), which is a pretty conservative estimate relative to our own findings. In our testing, we found the FD97's flash effective as far as 15 feet from the target. Flash intensity is very bright from eight to 11 feet from the target, diminishing slightly with each foot of distance. Flash power at the 15 foot distance is still reasonably bright, however. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 15 feet from the target.

8 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(337 k)
9 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(330 k)
10 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(341 k)
11 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(347 k)
12 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(335 k)
13 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(338 k)
14 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(325 k)
15 ft
1/ 85
F/ 2.8
(329 k)



 
ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (809k)
In the resolution department, the FD97 performed about in the middle of the pack among 2 megapixel cameras we've tested, and virtually identically to the earlier FD95. (No surprise there, since as far as we know, it's the same lens and CCD.) 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. (The biggest benefit of the FD97 relative to the FD95 is that the lower image compression available when operating using Memory Sticks for image storage significantly reduces JPEG artifacts.) As usual, the tables below show samples of the range of resolution settings, at both wide angle and telephoto settings of the lens.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(809 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 4
(300 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 60
F/ 4
(146 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(801 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 4
(298 k)

Medium/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(340 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 4
(123 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(153 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 60
F/ 4
(40 k)



Resolution Series, Telephoto
Large/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(866 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(774 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(327 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 60
F/ 4
(151 k)


 
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Given that the FD97 has an electronic optical viewfinder, which is essentially a smaller version of the LCD monitor, we expected to find the exact same frame accuracy for both. Instead, we found that the frame accuracy differed slightly at the wide angle setting, though the telephoto setting produced identical results for both viewfinders. In both cases, the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder were just a little tight. The optical viewfinder showed about 90.8 percent of the final image area at wide angle (151 k), and about 91.4 percent at telephoto (146 k), at all three image sizes. The LCD monitor showed approximately 89.5 percent accuracy at wide angle (148 k), and about 91.4 percent at telephoto (152 k), again at all three image sizes. We generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the FD97 falls a little short in this area. (Although most point & shoot camera viewfinders show only about 85 percent of the final image area, so by that standard the FD97's is better than average.) Flash illumination is a little dim (we didn't use any flash exposure compensation to correct for the large white target, and the telephoto shot was taken beyond the flash's maximum range), but shows only a little falloff in the corners in the wide angle shot.

Optical distortion on the FD97 is moderately high at the wide angle end, as we measured an approximate 0.76 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as we couldn't find even a pixel of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is also relatively low, showing about one or two pixels of coloration on each side of the black 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.) There is some "coma" evident in the corners of the frame, particularly at the telephoto end of the lens' range. (The coma or radially symmetric flare is in opposite directions at wide and telephoto focal lengths, suggesting that there is likely an intermediate focal length where it disappears completely.)

 

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<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

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