Sony DSC-N2 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2
Resolution: 10.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7"
Lens: 3.00x zoom
(38-114mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-1600
Shutter: 30-1/2000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
(97 x 61 x 23 mm)
Weight: 6.5 oz (185 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $450
Availability: 10/2006
Manufacturer: Sony
10.00
Megapixels
3.00x zoom
1/1.7"
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2
Front side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 digital camera Back side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 digital camera Top side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 digital camera Left side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 digital camera Right side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 digital camera

Imaging Resource rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Sony DSC-N2 Overview

by Stephanie Boozer
and Shawn Barnett
Review Date: 10/11/2006

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 is an upgrade of the existing DSC-N1 model. The Sony N2 derives its higher ten megapixel resolution from a 1/1.7" CCD imager, rather than the eight megapixel 1/1.8" imager used in the previous camera. This is coupled with the same popup Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens, which offers a 3x optical zoom range equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera. Also retained for the Sony DSC-N2 is is the N1's whopping 3.0" LCD display - ideal for showing off photos immediately that they're captured, or using the camera itself as a portable photo album. Given the size of the display, there's little room for buttons on the rear of the Sony N-series cameras, so the company opted for a touch screen on the display, useable either with a fingertip, or with an included stylus.

As with the DSC-N1, Sony has taken advantage of the LCD in the Sony N2 to let the camera function as a digital photo "wallet" of sorts. As you capture each image, it is saved twice. One copy is saved at your chosen resolution on the camera's flash card, or in 26MB of memory reserved for image storage. The other copy is stored at VGA resolution in a further 26MB of memory that is reserved for a photo album. The user can then select favorite photos from the album for protection, or delete images they don't like. As you continue to capture images and eventually the 26MB of album space (enough for 500 VGA images) runs out, the oldest non-protected image is automatically discarded whenever a newer photo is captured. This simple method should ensure that owners of the Cybershot N2 always have a good selection of photos on-hand to show off, with a minimum of fuss.

Also retained in the Sony N2 is a slideshow mode with a range of transitions including pans, zooms, wipes, and fades, all selected automatically by the camera, and accompanied by music stored in the camera. The user can replace the music with their own selections using the accompanying software, which will transcode the user's personal music to MPEG1 format to replace the existing four background music selections that are built into the camera. 6MB of memory is reserved for the music to be stored in. As with the T50 model it is announced alongside, the Sony N2 adds a "normal" slideshow mode to the N1's functionality, however.

The Sony N2 draws power from an InfoLithium NP-BG1 battery, with the useful ability to give an indication of remaining battery life in minutes. It includes both video and USB connectivity, offers some manual control over images (including both Aperture- and Shutter-priority modes), and also provides a selection of eight scene modes to offer an easier way for beginners to get the results they're looking for. Other changes from the N1 include a slightly stronger "smart zoom" mode, a minimum shutter speed of 1/2000 second, tweaks to the shutter speeds at which noise reduction is applied, and slightly reduced burst capture rate / depth. As with the T50, the Sony N2 also includes Sony's Picture Motion Browser v1.1 software package.

 

Sony DSC-N2 User Report

Cyber-shot DSC-N2

Sony's newest Cyber-shot, the DSC-N2, is quite a departure in interface design for digital cameras. In this day of Blackberries and Treos, a stylus and touchscreen aren't really that revolutionary in themselves. We use touchscreens everywhere: at the ATM, ticketing kiosks, even when we vote. But the last place I thought about using touch-screen technology was on a digital camera. (But I still carry a paper date-book, if that says anything.) So when I pulled the Sony N2 out of the box, I was thrilled to see its minimal controls and maximized LCD screen. Now granted, Sony has been using touchscreens on their video cameras for a while, so it's a natural to put one on a digital still camera. The use of the touchscreen on the Sony N2 and N1 is genius, as it greatly simplifies the interface and keeps the camera body nice and clean. With most of the controls accessed through that bright 3.0-inch color LCD display, there's really no need for a mess of buttons cluttering up the camera body.

The Sony N2 is quite attractive, with a brushed metal finish on the front panel and a super sleek body that isn't trapped by a myriad of buttons, dials, and switches. Dominating the rear panel is the huge 3.0-inch LCD monitor, with only three tiny control buttons lining its right side. Those with larger hands may find the Sony N2 a little difficult to keep a good grip on, but the camera fit my own hand well. You'll definitely want to keep the wrist strap on when you're shooting, though, as the camera's smooth surface can be a bit slippery at times. The included stylus is attached to the wrist strap, so it's always at the ready for making changes via the LCD interface, but I found a fingernail or fingertip just as useful.

Though strongly backlit, fill flash preserved this shot; it will require some adjustment to fully recover the shadows, but the detail is there.

The ability to make menu changes literally by touching the screen saves quite a bit of time in camera operation once you get used to it. Sony set up the menus logically, with large virtual buttons to accommodate fingertips as well as the stylus. My only minor complaint is that the Sony N2's LCD monitor does end up with a few smudges on it if you do choose to use your fingertips, but they wipe off easily with a soft cloth.

What's interesting about the DSC-N2's touchscreen is its Paint function, found in the camera's Playback menu. Paint mode offers a mini image editing interface, with options for painting lines, stamping, cloning, and rotating. While any serious retouching is better left to a more complete software package and a larger display, it is fun to be able to alter images in the camera and then print them directly to a PictBridge device. However, take note, the Sony N2 automatically saves any altered file at 640 x 480 pixels, which is really only best for printing snapshots and sending as email attachments. I don't know if the Paint utility will be useful for serious photographers, but some consumers may get a kick out of imprinting graphics on a photograph, or circling an area of interest with the paintbrush tool.

A small quibble with the touchscreen interface is that the large semi-translucent buttons overlay large portions of the image. You can remove the buttons by pressing the Touchscreen button, but then you lose your ability to change to another image. So you end up having to press the physical Touchscren button a lot to properly show off your images in their full splendor; better might have been to have a lighter, more translucent button for image playback mode than the rather than such bold and dark buttons.

Aside from the LCD menu, the most useful touchscreen function is using your fingertip to indicate the AF point in Spot AF mode. I found this useful in dealing with off center subjects, as I could literally tell the Sony N2 exactly where to focus.

Getting a little closer allowed the fill flash to compensate for the strong reflected light from the deck. Overall, the N2 performed well for child photography outdoors.

Another bonus to the Sony N2 is its Manual exposure mode. You can manually adjust the shutter speed and lens aperture, with a maximum shutter time of 30 seconds available in Manual mode, perfect for low-light shooting. While the Sony N2 does offer a full range of automatic and preset Scene modes for novices and amateurs, it's nice to have the option for manual control when you want it. ISO speeds go up as high as 1,600, though image noise is really quite high and obtrusive at the 800 and 1,600 equivalents. The maximum 30-second exposure time serves the camera well in low light and near darkness, as we were able to capture very bright images at the lowest light levels we test at (much darker than average city street lighting at night). Though noise becomes a factor, particularly with the higher ISO settings, the Sony N2 can still capture quite usable images under very dim lighting, though you'll definitely need a tripod or some other form of stabilization to get the best results.

An advanced slideshow function lets you build multimedia presentations out of your photos, complete with MP3 music accompaniment, as well as sophisticated wipes, fades, and even "Ken Burns" effects, where the camera pans and zooms across a picture.

Equipped with a 10-megapixel CCD, the Sony N2 captures image resolutions as high as 3,468 x 2,736, which is quite large. With a suggested retail price of $449.95, this is a lot of resolution for the money (plus a host of unique, fun features to boot). The Sony N2 is quite versatile, offering image contrast and sharpness adjustments, as well as color modes and useful tools like bracketing and Multi-Burst shooting. Overall, I'd say the Sony N2 is another good bet from Sony. It's easy to operate, dextrous in a multitude of exposure conditions, and is pretty to look at. The Sony N2 captures good-looking images with good color and exposure, and though image noise can sometimes be a factor at the higher ISO settings, the Sony N2 is flexible in its exposure capabilities. All in all, a good value for the money.

 

Basic Features

  • 10.1-megapixel CCD
  • 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera)
  • Max 3.4-17x digital Smart Zoom (depending on selected resolution) plus 2x Precision Digital zoom.
  • 3.0-inch color LCD monitor, with touchscreen capability
  • Automatic, Program, and Manual exposure modes, plus eight Scene modes
  • Built-in flash with five modes and an intensity adjustment
  • 25MB internal memory
  • Sony Memory Stick Duo storage (no card included), compatible with Memory Stick Pro Duo
  • USB 2.0 computer connection
  • Single Li-Ion rechargeable battery and charger included
  • Software for Mac and PC

 

Special Features

  • Beach, Fireworks, High Sensitivity, Landscape, Snow, Soft Snap, Twilight, and Twilight Portrait preset modes
  • Paint option in Playback mode offers in-camera editing/cleanup tools
  • Movie recording mode (with sound)
  • Burst, Multi-Burst, and Auto Exposure Bracketing shooting modes
  • Email modes
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 1/8 second in Auto mode, 1/2,000 to one second in Program mode; and 1/1,000 to 30 seconds in Manual mode.
  • Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/16, depending on zoom position
  • Image Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, plus Image Color options
  • Self-timer for delayed shutter release
  • Macro (close-up) lens adjustment
  • Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi-Metering modes
  • Adjustable AF area (Center, Spot, or Multi-Point options)
  • Single and Monitor (continuous) AF modes, plus five fixed focus settings
  • Auto ISO setting or 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 ISO equivalents
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six options
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing compatibility

 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • Sony DSC-N2 camera
  • Wrist strap
  • One Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack, a case, and charger
  • USB cable
  • AV cable
  • Software CD containing Picture Package (ver. 1.6 for Windows), Pixela ImageMixer VCD2 (for Mac), a PC-based tutorial and USB drivers.
  • Quick-guide manuals and registration information

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack.
  • Large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo MemoryStick PRO versions can handle high-res movie data and give faster download times. They should be used for all current Sony cameras. These days, 512MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 1GB should be a minimum.

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Responsive with a good shutter lag time, very good shot-to-shot speed
  • Good overall color accuracy
  • Very good low-light shooting capabilities
  • Image noise at ISO 200 and below is pretty good
  • ISO up to 1,600
  • Touchscreen LCD is efficient and simple to navigate
  • Very fast Multi-Burst mode
  • Slow continuous shooting speeds
  • High chromatic aberration lens distortion, noticeable in some images at the edges
  • Slightly warm skin tones
  • Auto white balance had a hard time with household incandescent lighting
  • Contrasty default tone curve
  • Image noise high at ISO 400 and up; at 800 and 1,000 images are almost unusable
  • Anti-noise processing trades away some subtle subject detail at all ISO levels

 

Again making waves in the digital camera marketplace, Sony innovates with the Cyber-shot DSC-N2. The camera's touch-screen technology allows for a clean body style (perfect for pockets) while enabling a much simpler user interface. Touch controls not only extend to the Sony N2's main menu functions, but also let you alter images in-camera with the Paint tool, and pinpoint focus exactly where you want it as you shoot, all with a simple touch of the screen. Add to this the Sony N2's 10-megapixel CCD, available manual exposure control, and host of creative tools, and you have an extremely capable camera that takes great pictures in a wide range of situations. Though the higher ISO settings do produce quite a bit of image noise, the Sony N2 is still quite capable of capturing useable images under very bright or dark conditions. At an MSRP of $449.95, the DSC-N2 offers a lot in its small package, and it's a clear Dave's Pick.

 

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