Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Sony Digital Cameras > Sony DSC-P10

The Imaging Resource

Quick Review

Sony DSC-P10 Digital Camera

 

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 06/11/2003
User Level Novice - Amateur
Product Uses Home / Travel
Digicam Design Point and Shoot
Picture Quality Very High, 5.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes Email to 8x10-inch
(with cropping)
Availability Now
Suggested Retail Price $599



Introduction
Review Links
Overview
Specifications
Design
Recommended Accessories
Operation
Test Images
Conclusion

Sony Electronics Inc. is well known for its consumer camcorders, notebook computers, and other multimedia products, blazing a long trail of innovations, including the first electronic still camera -- the Sony Mavica -- released in 1981. Over the last couple of years, they've developed a dominant position in the digital still camera market, with one of the broadest product lines in the industry.

In the "subcompact" camera market, they've developed a unique line of cameras with a thin, elongated profile. This shape lets them slide easily into small pockets, yet gives U.S.-sized fingers plenty to grab onto. With rugged metal cases, an appealing design, and strong feature sets, Sony's subcompacts have enjoyed wide popularity.

The latest addition to the series (as of this writing in June, 2003) is the P10, with a 5.0-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom lens, and an expanded range of seven preset Scene modes to choose from. The P10 offers a limited amount of exposure adjustments, but more than enough to adapt it to most common shooting situations, and the 3x zoom lens (with Macro mode) is great for recording a wide range of subjects, from close-up portraits to scenic vistas. Overall, a very functional camera with excellent image quality, in a tiny package.


Camera Overview
The DSC-P10's shape and compact size rank it among the smaller Sony Cyber-shots on the market, perfect for travel and leisurely outings. The camera definitely passes the "shirt pocket" test, and would even fit into a rather small handbag. The P10's compact shape isn't all the camera has to offer though. A 5.0-megapixel CCD and an all-glass, 3x zoom lens deliver sharp, clear pictures, suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches. There's also an email size option that creates smaller-resolution files for sending over the Internet. Plus, the handful of preset Scene modes handle a wide range of common exposure situations, from beach scenes to night shots.

The P10's 3x optical zoom lens has a focal range from 7.9-23.7mm, the equivalent of a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focus ranges from19.7 inches (50 centimeters) to infinity in normal focus mode, with a macro setting that lets you get as close as 3.9 inches (10 centimeters). Although the camera does not have a manual focus option, it does offer a range of fixed focus settings, from 0.5 meters to infinity. The three-area Multi-Point AF system bases focus on one of three areas in the center of the frame. Through the camera's Record menu, however, you can opt for Center AF mode, which bases focus on the very center of the frame. Also available, through the Setup menu, are three AF operating modes: Single, Monitoring, and Continuous. In Single AF mode, focus is set whenever the Shutter button is halfway depressed. Monitoring mode adjusts focus before the Shutter button is halfway depressed, which locks focus. Continuous AF mode also adjusts focus without a half-press of the Shutter button, but continues to adjust the focus even after the Shutter button is halfway held down, so that you can "track" a moving subject. The camera's AF illuminator helps the camera focus in dark conditions, and works well with the Twilight scene modes. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the P10 also features up to 4x Smart Zoom, Sony's current implementation of "digital zoom." Unlike most other digital zoom functions, Sony's Smart Zoom does not resample the image, so no image deterioration occurs as a result: Pixels are simply excised from the central portion of the sensor's image, and packaged as a separate file. When the optical zoom reaches 3x, Smart Zoom takes over, if enabled in the Setup menu. The maximum total magnification available for 3.1M images is 3.8x, 1.M is 6.1x and VGA is 12x. (Note though, that as a result, "Smart Zoomed" images will always be restricted to sizes smaller than the camera's full resolution.)

The P10 has a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor for framing shots. An information display on the LCD monitor reports a handful of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed) and features an optional live histogram display as well. The histogram graphs the tonal distribution of the image, giving you a quick idea of any over or underexposure.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the P10, great for novices and casual photographers looking for simplicity. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on, and an adjacent Mode dial selects between Playback, Automatic, Program, Scene, Setup, and Movie modes. The Automatic setting takes away all user control, with the exception of flash, macro, and resolution. Program mode also automatically sets aperture and shutter speed, but gives you control over a number of other exposure variables. Scene mode offers a range of preset exposure modes, including Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, and Fast Shutter. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting distant subjects. Snow mode enhances saturation and adjusts exposure, to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures that blue tones are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. Fireworks mode preserves color in shots of fireworks or other night light displays by fixing the lens aperture at f/5.6 and setting the exposure time to the 2-second maximum. Fast Shutter mode captures fast-moving subjects by biasing the exposure system toward higher shutter speeds.

By default, the P10 employs a Multi-Metering mode to determine exposure, which reads the exposure from various sections across the frame. For higher-contrast subjects or more pin-pointed readings, the P10 also offers a Spot metering mode through the Record menu. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV), in one-third-step increments. You can also adjust the camera's sensitivity to 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents, or use the Auto setting. The P10's adjustable White Balance setting offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash modes, handling a variety of common light sources. Under the Picture Effects setting, you can record images in sepia monochrome, or select the Solarize or Negative Art options. The camera also offers Sharpness, Saturation, and Contrast adjustments. The DSC-P10's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync modes, and an intensity adjustment controls flash output.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 640 x 480-, or 160 x 112-pixel resolution moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available storage space. The P10 also offers Clip Motion and Multi Burst modes. Clip Motion records a series of up to 10 images that are automatically saved in a single GIF file, and that can be played back as an animation sequence (a feature I enjoyed on previous Cyber-shot digicams). Multi Burst mode captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames per second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (This would be a fun way to catch someone crossing a finish line during a race, or to analyze golf and tennis swings.) A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, giving the photographer time to run around and get into the picture. Also available on the P10 are Burst 3 and Voice Record modes. Burst 3 records three images in quick succession, with one press of the Shutter button. Voice mode records a short sound clip to accompany an image, useful for attaching voice captions.

Images are stored on Sony's Memory Stick media (a 16MB stick is included, although higher capacity cards are available), and they can be downloaded via a speedy USB 2.0 connection to a PC or Macintosh computer. An AV cable is also provided for viewing images or slide shows on your TV. The P10 is powered by a Sony InfoLITHIUM battery pack (NP-FC10 or NP-FC11 model), and comes complete with an AC adapter and battery charger. I like the InfoLITHIUM batteries because they communicate with the camera to tell you how much running time is left on the battery pack, but I always (strongly) recommend buying a second battery, and keeping it charged and ready to go, especially when the AC adapter isn't close at hand. The P10 is pretty dependent on its LCD display (a large power drain), and you can't pick up extra batteries at the corner drug store.

Basic Features

  • 5.0-megapixel CCD.
  • 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 3.2x [no data] digital Smart Zoom.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Built-in flash with five modes and an intensity adjustment.
  • Sony Memory Stick storage (16MB card included).
  • USB computer connection.
  • InfoLITHIUM battery system (AC adapter included).
  • Software for Mac and PC.


Special Features

  • Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, and Fast Shutter preset shooting modes.
  • Movie (with sound) recording mode.
  • Clip Motion animation and Multi-Burst slow motion modes.
  • Email and Voice Memo capture modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to two seconds [no data] (with automatic Noise Reduction from 1/2 to two seconds [no data]).
  • Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/5.6.
  • Creative Picture Effects menu.
  • Image Sharpness, Saturation, and Contrast adjustments.
  • Self-timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Macro (close-up) lens adjustment.
  • Spot and Multi-Metering modes.
  • Adjustable AF area and three AF modes.
  • Auto ISO setting or 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six options.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) printing compatibility.

 

User Recommendation
Beginning through intermediate users will be right at home with the P10, and advanced users will enjoy its excellent portability. Although the P10 is technically a high-end point-and-shoot digicam, it has a lot of creative options and enough image adjustments to handle a wide variety of shooting situations. So, while it's designed so you don't have make a lot of complicated exposure decisions, advanced amateurs and business users will appreciate it for its quality, portability, and varied shooting options.



Design
The Sony DSC-P10 is compact, stylish, and ready to go anywhere, with a body style nearly identical to most of the other compact Cyber-shots, including the P8 and P9. Its streamlined, silvery metal body is only slightly longer than a typical business card, and nearly the same height, top to bottom. Measuring just 4 1/4" x 2" x 1 7/16" (108 x 51.5 x 35.8mm) and weighing only 6.9 ounces (197 grams) with the battery and memory card installed, the P10 fits easily into small pockets or purses. When not in use, the telescoping zoom lens retracts neatly inside the body, and a small metal leaf shutter automatically closes over the lens to protect it. Outfitted with the accompanying wrist strap, it's quick on the draw and easy to hold.

Despite its small size, the P10's elongated shape provides plenty of room to extend two average-size fingers comfortably across the front and top of the camera, without blocking the lens or any camera controls. By making the camera thin but long, Sony kept the P10 very compact, and avoided the lack of finger space that plagues many ultra-small digicams. The 3x, 7.9-23.7mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera), dominates the right side of the front of panel, with a small orange lamp just above and to the right of it, to help with focusing in low-light conditions. (This lamp also blinks when the self-timer is in use, to let you know when the camera is about to snap the picture.) A slightly larger window for the optical viewfinder comes next, followed by the built-in electronic flash. A large, raised vertical chrome ridge on the right side (as viewed from the rear) serves as a finger grip, making for a much more secure grip on the camera..

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) houses the battery and Memory Stick compartment, protected by an easy to open, hinged plastic door. Above it is a small eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

The left side has no controls, only a smooth, rounded surface to following the contour of the lens barrel.

The camera's top panel includes a Mode dial with five settings (Setup, Movie, Playback, Automatic, Program, and Scene modes) and a Shutter button in the middle, as well as a small Power button on the left of the Mode dial. Just to the left of the Power button is a small microphone, for recording sound clips and movie audio.

The camera's rear panel holds the remaining camera controls and function buttons, along with a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor for previewing and playing back images, and the optical viewfinder window. The LCD display reports a variety of camera and exposure settings, including the aperture and shutter speed settings (a nice bonus for those interested in how the camera will expose the image). The optical viewfinder is located above the top right corner of the LCD monitor, and has three LED lamps along the right edge of the window, each of which reports the current status of various camera functions. The camera's Zoom control is in the upper right corner, conveniently located next to a series of small bumps for better thumb traction when holding the camera. In the center of the back panel is a Four-Way Arrow pad, with small arrows pointing in four directions (Up, Down, Left, and Right). Each serves multiple functions, navigating onscreen menus scrolling between captured images in playback mode, or activating different camera functions (Flash, Self-Timer, Quick Review, and Macro).

Surrounding the Arrow pad are the LCD Display On / Off, Menu, and Image Resolution / Erase buttons. Just below these are the three connection jacks (DC In, A/V Out, and USB), all covered by a single plastic door, tethered by a flexible retention stub.

Finally, the P10's flat bottom holds the threaded (plastic) tripod screw mount and a speaker for audio playback. While most users of the P10 probably won't care, I was pleased to see that I could change the battery and memory card without removing my tripod mounting plate from the camera's bottom.



Camera Operation
Operating the P10 is very straightforward, as the camera is under automatic exposure control at all times. The Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main operating modes, with options for Scene, Program, Automatic, Playback, Movie, and Setup. In all image capture modes, the P10 provides an onscreen LCD menu (activated by the Menu button), with a variety of options for adjusting image quality or adding special effects. The four arrows of the Four-Way Arrow pad are used to scroll through menu options, while the button in the center of the pad functions as the OK button to confirm selections.

The four arrow buttons also serve as external controls when the camera's menus are turned off, or they can be used to scroll through captured images in Playback mode. Starting with the Up arrow and going clockwise, the functions they control include Flash, Macro, Self-Timer, and Quick Review modes. An Image Resolution button pulls up the available resolution settings, removing this item from the menu system. The Zoom control in the top right corner of the back panel adjusts both optical and digital zoom (when activated through the Setup menu). Overall, I was impressed by Sony's judicious use of space, especially with the large number of external controls provided, and the relatively short learning curve the P10's user interface entails. Along with Sony's other recent cameras, the P10 has one of the cleanest user interfaces I've seen, and will present few challenges to even the most novice user.

Record-Mode Display
In record mode, the LCD monitor displays the subject with a moderate amount of overlaid information, indicating flash mode, white balance, focus mode (macro or normal), autofocus mode setting, any currently-selected exposure compensation setting, ISO setting, the current size/quality setting, and number of images that can be stored on the remaining Memory Stick space at the current size/quality. Half-pressing the shutter button causes the camera to display the shutter speed and aperture setting it has chosen for the current lighting conditions. (While you can't change these directly, it's very nice to know what settings the camera has selected.) Pressing the Display button beneath the LCD once adds a small "live" histogram display to the information, pressing it again removes the information overlay, and pressing it a third time turns the LCD off entirely. Pressing it a fourth time restores the default display.


Playback-Mode Display
In playback mode, the default image display shows the most recently captured image, with a modest information overlay present. Pressing the display button once adds the exposure information and a small histogram to the overlay, pressing it again removes the information overlay entirely, and pressing it a third time turns off the LCD altogether. Pressing the wide-angle side of the zoom lever takes you to a display showing images on the Memory Stick in groups of nine small thumbnails. (You can navigate a yellow outline cursor over these thumbnails by using the four arrow keys. Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom lever will bring the currently-selected image up full-screen.) Pressing the wide-angle side of the zoom lever again switches to a detailed information display for the currently-selected image, showing aperture, shutter speed, EV adjustment, ISO, metering mode, flash mode, and white balance setting used to capture the photo, on a two-screen display, the panels of which are selected with the up/down arrow keys. (This detailed information display doesn't appear in the screenshot above right.) Alternatively, pressing the telephoto side of the zoom lever when viewing an image full-size on the LCD screen will zoom in on the image, in 17 variable-sized increments up to a maximum magnification of 5x. - This is a useful level of magnification, handy for checking focus and precise framing. The screenshot above right shows all the available display options in playback mode, with the exception of the detailed information screens.



External Controls


Power Button
: Located just left of the Mode dial on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on and off.


Shutter Button
: Sitting in the center of the Mode dial, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.

Mode Dial: Encircling the Shutter button, this ribbed dial sets the camera's operating mode, offering Scene, Program, Automatic, Playback, Movie, and Setup modes. (See menus and descriptions below.)


Zoom Control
: Positioned in the top right corner of the rear panel, this two-way rocker button controls optical zoom and, when enabled via the Setup menu, Sony's "Smart Zoom."

In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of a captured image, which can go as high as 5x. (Very handy for checking focus or the expressions on people's faces in group shots.) Also in Playback mode, the wide-angle end of the button activates the Index Display mode, which displays as many as nine thumbnail images on the screen at one time.


Four-Way Arrow Pad
: Located just to the right of center on the rear panel, this rocker control features four arrows, each pointing in a different direction (up, down, left, and right). In all settings menus, these arrow keys navigate through menu options. Pressing the center of the button confirms selections.

In any record mode, the Up button controls the Flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, Suppressed, and Slow-Sync modes. The Right arrow turns the Macro (close-up) mode on and off, and the Left arrow accesses the Quick Review mode, which displays the most recently captured image on the screen. The Down arrow accesses the Self-Timer mode.

In Playback mode, the Right and Left arrows scroll through captured images. When Playback zoom is enabled, all four arrows scroll around within the enlarged view, while pressing the center of the button returns to the normal, 1x display.


Menu Button
: Diagonally to the left, beneath the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button activates the settings menu in any camera mode (except Setup, which displays the menu automatically). The Menu button also turns off the menu display.


Image Resolution / Erase Button
: Diagonally to the right of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button displays the available resolutions in any record mode. Choices are 5.0M (2,592 x 1,944), 4.5M (3:2 ratio), 3.1M (2,048 x 1,536), 1.2M (1,280 x 960), and VGA (640 x 480). Movie resolutions are 640 x 480-, and 160 x 112-pixels. Clip Motion sizes are 160 x 120- and 80 x 72-pixels.

In Playback mode, this button lets you erase the currently displayed image.


Display / LCD On/OFF Button
: Straight up from the Menu button, this button controls the LCD display, cycling through the image with information display, the image with information and live histogram display, the image with limited information display, and no image display at all (in all Record modes). In Playback mode, it cycles through the same series.



Camera Modes and Menus

Scene Mode: Marked on the Mode dial as "SCN," this mode sets up the camera to capture images in specific situations. Seven "scenes" are available through the Record menu, including Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, and Fast Shutter. Both Twilight modes capture images in low light, although the Twilight Portrait mode automatically enables the Red-Eye Reduction flash mode, combining it with a slower shutter speed to let ambient lighting brighten the background as well. Because the camera employs a slower shutter speed in both Twilight modes, a tripod is highly recommended to prevent blurring from camera movement. Landscape mode sets the focus at infinity and uses a smaller lens aperture to capture sharp details both near and far away. Beach and Snow modes optimize the camera for bright situations and prevent color loss from overexposure. Fireworks mode forces the camera to use its longest exposure time of 2 seconds to capture fireworks streamers, along with its smallest aperture setting, to preserve color in the displays. Finally, Fast Shutter mode biases the exposures sytem toward higher shutter speeds to freeze action with fast-moving subjects.

Program Mode: This mode is marked on the Mode dial with a black camera icon and a "P." In this mode, the camera selects shutter speed and aperture, while you control all other exposure variables.

Automatic Mode: Indicated on the Mode dial with a green camera icon, this mode puts the camera in control over the exposure and everything except Macro, Image Size and Quality, Zoom, Flash, and the Self-Timer.

Playback Mode: Playback mode is noted on the Mode dial with the traditional Playback symbol (a triangle enclosed within a black rectangle outline). In this mode, you can scroll through captured images, delete them, write-protect them, and set them up for printing on DPOF-compatible printers. You can also copy, resize, and rotate images.

Movie Mode: A filmstrip icon marks this mode on the Mode dial. In Movie mode, you can record moving images and sound, for as long as the Memory Stick has space. Resolution and quality choices are 640 x 480-, or 160 x 112-pixels. While recording, a timer appears in the LCD monitor to let you know how many minutes and / or seconds are remaining on the Memory Stick, and how long you've been recording, so you'll have some idea of how much time you have left.

Through the Setup menu, you can also program the Movie mode to record "Clip Motion" animation sequences or Multi Burst files. Clip Motion records as many as 10 frames of still images to be played back in sequence. Frames can be captured at any time interval, with successive presses of the Shutter button. Available image sizes are 160 x 120- and 80 x 72-pixels, and each set of images is recorded as a single animated GIF file, ready to be dropped into a Web page or emailed to a friend. Regardless of their capture interval, successive frames in Clip Motion GIF files are displayed at intervals of 0.5 second. Multi Burst shots are captured at any of three; fixed frame rateas, and then played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. Multi Burst shots can be acquired at frame rates of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames/second.

Record Menu: Available in all three Record modes by pressing the Menu button, the Record menu offers the following options (some options are not available in all modes):

  • Scene: (Scene mode only) Offers Twilight, Twilight Plus, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, and Fast Shutter "scene" modes.
  • EV (Exposure Compensation): Increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. 
  • Focus: Sets focus control to Multi AF or Center AF, or one of five preset focus distances (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, and 7.0 meters, and Infinity).
  • Metering Mode: Chooses between Multi-Metering and Spot modes. Spot metering reads the exposure from the very center of the frame (identified by a cross hair target on the monitor). Spot metering is handy for backlit subjects, or any time the subject and background exhibit very high contrast. Multi-Metering mode reads the entire frame to determine exposure.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the image, to suit the light source. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash.
  • ISO: (Not available in Scene mode.) Adjusts the camera's light sensitivity. Options are Auto, or 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Picture Quality: Sets the JPEG compression to Fine or Standard for still images.
  • Record Mode: Offers a selection of image-recording modes:
    • Voice: Records small sound clips to accompany captured images. You can record up to 40 seconds of sound for each image.
    • E-Mail: Records an additional 320 x 240-pixel file that's small enough to email, along with the normal size image.
    • Burst 3: Records three consecutive images at a rapid frame rate with one press of the Shutter button.
    • Normal: Records an image at the size and quality settings selected via the other menu options.
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the intensity of the built-in flash, with options of High, Normal, and Low.
  • Picture Effects: Offers four creative shooting modes:
    • Solarize: Significantly increases the image contrast, making the image look more like an illustration.
    • Sepia: Records an image in sepia tone.
    • Negative Art: Reverses the color and brightness of the image, making it appear more like a negative.
  • Sharpness: Controls the overall image sharpness and softness with plus, normal and minus settings.
  • Saturation: Adjusts the overall color saturation with plus, normal and minus settings.
  • Contrast: Alters the level of contrast in images with plus, normal and minus settings.

Playback Menu:

  • Folder: Selects the folder for playing back images.
  • Protect: Write-protects the current image (or removes protection), preventing it from being deleted or manipulated in any way except with card formatting.
  • DPOF: Marks the current image for printing on a DPOF device. Also removes the print mark.
  • Slide: Plays back images in an automatic slide show. You can set the time interval and whether or not the sequence of images repeats.
  • Resize: Resizes the image to 2,592 x 1,944; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels. (When an image is resized, the original image is left in place, and a new copy is made at the selected size.)
  • Rotate: Rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Divide: Allows you to trim material from the beginning or end of a recorded movie, or to extract an interesting bit of action from the middle of a longer clip. (Very handy.)


Setup Mode: This mode allows you to change a variety of camera settings. The Setup menu is automatically displayed upon entering the mode.

  • Camera:
    • Moving Image: Sets Movie mode to record MPEG movies, Clip Motion animations, or Multi-Burst files.
    • AF Mode: Sets the focus mode to Single, Monitor, or Continuous.
    • Smart Zoom: Turns the 3.2x Smart Zoom on or off. (When enabled, the digital zoom picks up as you hit the end of the optical zoom's range.)
    • Date / Time: Determines whether the date and / or time is overlaid on captured images.
    • Red Eye Reduction: Enables or disables the Red Eye Reduction flash mode, affecting both Auto and Forced flash modes.
    • AF Illuminator: Turns the AF Assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically illuminates in dark shooting conditions.
  • Camera 2:
    • Bracket Step: Sets automatically bracketed exposures to vary by 0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 EV between shots.













  • Memory Stick Tool:
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • File Number: Sets the file numbering to Series (which continues file numbering from one Memory Stick to another) or Reset (resets file numbering with each new card, or each time the current card is reformatted).
    • Create REC Folder: Creates a new folder for recording images.
    • Change REC Folder: Changes the folder that images are recorded to.


  • Setup 1:
    • Power Save: Turns the camera's power save function on or off. If on, the camera will shut itself off after a period of inactivity.
    • LCD Brightness: Controls the brightness of the LCD display. Options are Bright, Normal, and Dark.
    • LCD Backlight: Controls the level of the LCD's backlight, with options of Bright, Normal, and Dark.
    • Beep: Controls the camera's beep sounds, turning them on or off. A Shutter option enables only the shutter beep noise.
    • Language: Selects among Portuguese, Italian, French, Spanish, German or English for the menu language.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.


  • Setup 2:
    • USB Connect: Sets the USB connection type to PTP or Normal.
    • Video Out: Sets the timing of the video output signal to either NTSC or PAL.


In the Box
Included with the Sony DSC-P10 digital camera are the following items:

  • Wrist strap..
  • 16MB Memory Stick..
  • NP-FC10 InfoLITHIUM rechargeable battery pack..
  • AC adapter / in-camera battery charger.
  • USB cable.
  • AV cable.
  • Software CD containing Pixela ImageMixer v1.0 and USB drivers.


Recommended Accessories

  • Extra NP-FC10 InfoLITHIUM battery pack
  • Larger capacity Memory Stick (at least 32 or 64MB)
  • Carrying case


Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...


Test Images
See my test images and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 



"Gallery" Photos
For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the P10, here are some thumbnails of more random shots snapped with it. Click on one any of the thumbnails below for a larger view. Click on the larger view again to see the original image from the camera. (Photos in this gallery were shot by Gibbs Frazeur or Stephanie Boozer. Thanks Gibbs and Stephanie!)

NOTE: that these are big files, so be aware that (a) they'll take a while to download, and (b) they'll chew up a pretty good chunk of bandwidth on us. (Read the "support this site" blurb at the top the carrier pages, and think about it while you're waiting for the images to download.

NOTE TOO: Some browsers have difficult with very wide images, and distort them a lot when they display them. (I don't know about others, but IE 5.0 on the Mac definitely does this. If the full-sized images appear to be stretched horizontally, you may need to just download them to your hard drive and view them in an imaging application, or possibly try another browser.)

Click to see YDSC00614.JPG
YDSC00614.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 100
Aperture: F7.1
Exposure EV: 12.2
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00617.JPG
YDSC00617.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 125
Aperture: F5.6
Exposure EV: 11.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00619.JPG
YDSC00619.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 640
Aperture: F5.6
Exposure EV: 14.2
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00620.JPG
YDSC00620.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 320
Aperture: F6.3
Exposure EV: 13.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00623.JPG
YDSC00623.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 640
Aperture: F6.3
Exposure EV: 14.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00626.JPG
YDSC00626.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 250
Aperture: F8
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00627.JPG
YDSC00627.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 640
Aperture: F5.6
Exposure EV: 14.2
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00628.JPG
YDSC00628.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 50
Aperture: F3.2
Exposure EV: 9
ISO Speed: 400
Click to see YDSC00631.JPG
YDSC00631.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F7.1
Exposure EV: 14.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00633.JPG
YDSC00633.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 80
Aperture: F3.2
Exposure EV: 9.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00634.JPG
YDSC00634.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 80
Aperture: F4
Exposure EV: 10.3
ISO Speed: 400
Click to see YDSC00664.JPG
YDSC00664.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 50
Aperture: F5.2
Exposure EV: 10.4
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00672.JPG
YDSC00672.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 80
Aperture: F5.2
Exposure EV: 11
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00674.JPG
YDSC00674.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 160
Aperture: F10
Exposure EV: 13.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00682.JPG
YDSC00682.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 80
Aperture: F10
Exposure EV: 12.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00695.JPG
YDSC00695.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 5
Aperture: F3.5
Exposure EV: 5.9
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00708.JPG
YDSC00708.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 160
Aperture: F4.5
Exposure EV: 11.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00711.JPG
YDSC00711.JPG
Size: 2592x1944
Shutter: 1/ 30
Aperture: F5.2
Exposure EV: 9.6
ISO Speed: 100
Click to see YDSC00720.JPG
YDSC00720.JPG
Size: 1944x2592
Shutter: 1/ 100
Aperture: F5.2
Exposure EV: 11.4
ISO Speed: 100

 

Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.


Picky Details
Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.


User Reviews

 Test Results
This section has now been updated based on results obtained from a full production-level camera. See the P10's sample pictures page for a full analysis.

  • Color: Overall, the P10 produced good color, with only slight color casts with each white balance setting. Its Auto white balance option did a good job with the very difficult incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test, a severe challenge for many digicams I test. Color was generally accurate and well saturated, although the P10 seems to really like greens - Foliage outdoors tended to be unnaturally bright. Skin tones and other colors came out looking quite good though.

  • Exposure: Exposure was pretty good on the P10, as the camera accurately gauged most situations, and it actually required less compensation in the high-key Outdoor Portrait shot than do most cameras I test. Its default tone curve is quite contrasty though, causing it to lose detail in strong higlights shot under harsh lighting conditions. That said though, bot the Outdoor and Indoor portrait shots required less positive exposure compensation than I have to use with most digicams I test.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The P10 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,100 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, and around 800 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,400-1,450 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,700 lines.

  • Closeups: The P10 did pretty well in the macro category, capturing an average-size minimum area of 3.72 x 2.79 inches (94 x 71 millimeters). However, resolution and detail were excellent, with strong detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. There was a lot of softness in the corners on the right side of the frame, and a moderate amount on the left side. (Digicam lenses often have a hard time bringing the entire subject into focus in their macro modes, due to curvature of field when close-focusing. The P10's lens seems to be particularly affected by this phenomena.) The P10's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, and overexposed the shot -- plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots with the P10.

  • Night Shots: The P10's low-light shooting setup is a little odd, in that the longest shutter time of 2 seconds is only available in Twilight scene mode, but that mode leaves the ISO fixed at 100, with no option for user intervention. In normal shooting mode, you can adjust the ISO as high as 400, but the maximum shutter time is only one second. The net result is that the P10 actually produces the brightest low-light shots in normal mode, with the ISO set to 400, although noise levels will be lower in Twilight mode. Still, it's a very credible performer, producing good-looking images at light levels of a half a foot-candle or slightly below. - And your photos will be well-focused too, thanks to a bright AF-assist illuminator LED on the camera's front panel, that can be enabled or disabled by the user.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The P10's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing approximately 81 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto lens settings. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing about 99 percent of the final frame at both lens settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the P10's LCD monitor performed well in this respect.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the P10 is high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared somewhat better, as I found 0.3 percent barrel distortion. (Many digicams show about 0.8% barrel distortion at their wide-angle setting, still too high IMHO. At telephoto, the range seems to be from zero to a few tenths of a percent pincushion distortion.) Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about three or four pixels of coloration on either side of the 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.)

  • Battery Life: Thanks to Sony's InfoLithium battery technology, the P10 shows better than average battery life among compact digicams, with 102 minutes projected runtime in capture mode with the LCD on, and 182 minutes in playback mode. As always though, I still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery along with the camera.



Conclusion

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
Simple pro lighting and use tips let you snap stunning photos. Check out our free Photo School area!

With its small size and well-rounded feature set, the Sony DSC-P10 is an excellent ultracompact point-and-shoot digicam. Packed in a very small package is a 5.0-megapixel CCD, a sharp 3x optical zoom lens, seven preset Scene modes, and a host of other creative options. I'd be happier with it if its default tone curve was a good bit less contrasty, and likewise feel that it gets a little carried away with itself with bright greens. Apart from these quibles though, the P10 is a very nice compact digicam in the 5 megapixel class. Like the rest of Sony's ultracompact Cyber-Shots, it makes a nearly ideal "take anywhere" camera for people not willing to sacrifice image quality for camera size.


 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Sony DSC-P10, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate