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Quick Review

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P2 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
09/18/02
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 2.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$399.95

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
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, Sony has developed a unique line of cameras with a thin, elongated profile. This shape lets the cameras slide easily into even small pockets, yet gives even relatively large fingers plenty to grab hold of. With rugged metal cases, appealing design aesthetics, and strong feature sets, Sony's subcompacts have enjoyed wide popularity.

Sony's top-of-the-line subcompact digicam last year was the three megapixel DSC-P5, a slim, trim three megapixel model with a 3x zoom lens. This year (this article is being written in July, 2002), they've built upon the P5's strengths, broadening the line to higher and lower resolution models and adding several enhancements. Year-2002 improvements include Sony's "MPEG HQX" movie mode for movie recording limited only by the size of the memory card, a sophisticated multipoint autofocus system, and both a microphone and speaker, to permit recording and playback of movies with sound.

The top of the new subcompact lineup is the four megapixel DSC-P9, which I reviewed earlier this year. The middle of the current line is the three megapixel DSC-P7, which I've also reviewed. Now, I'm turning my attention to Sony's entry-level subcompact, the DSC-P2. The DSC-P2 drops down to a resolution of two megapixels, but retains the 3x optical zoom capability of the P9 and P7, as well as the host of advanced features introduced in the other 2002 models. Like the others, the DSC-P2 also fits into the Sony "Marine Pack" for underwater photography. Overall, the DSC-P2 looks like another winner, rounding out the line at the low end, without sacrificing image quality or features.

Camera Overview

Like the rest of the Sony Cyber-Shot "P" series, the DSC-P2 is compact and very portable. Tiny enough for a shirt pocket or small evening bag, the camera also fits into Sony's Marine Pack accessory underwater housing, meaning you really can take it just about anywhere. Because the P2's small size doesn't allow for much of a handgrip, a thin wrist strap accompanies the camera for a more secure grip. Although the DSC-P2 protects itself well for travel (with a telescoping lens with built-in shutter and a rugged metal case), I'd still recommend picking up the accessory soft case, to protect the camera from minor nicks and scratches. As noted, the compact body design includes a shutter-like, built-in lens cover which conveniently slides open whenever the camera is powered on, signaling the lens to telescope outward. The DSC-P2's 3x, 6-18mm (39-117 mm equivalent) zoom lens features automatic focus control, with several fixed focus settings available as well as an adjustable focus area. The 2.0-megapixel Super HAD CCD produces images with enough resolution to make tack-sharp 4 x 6 prints, and very acceptable 8 x 10s, with great color and detail. Basic point-and-shoot camera operation keeps things simple, while a handful of exposure options provides some creative control as well.

Equipped with a 3x, 6-18mm lens (39-117mm 35mm equivalent), the DSC-P2 has a minimum focus distance of 3.9 inches (10 centimeters) in Macro mode, producing an average macro performance, with minimum area coverage of roughly 3.5 x 2.6 inches (88 x 66mm). Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/5.6, depending on the lens zoom position. In addition to automatic focus control, the DSC-P2 offers five preset focus settings through the Record menu, as well as Center AF and Multi AF focus area options. Under dim lighting, an AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera throws a little extra light on the subject, helping the camera focus. (The AF assist light can be shut off through the Setup menu for less conspicuous shooting.) A 2x Precision digital zoom option increases the DSC-P2's zoom capabilities to 6x, though I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality in direct proportion to the magnification it achieves, because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. Both a real-image optical viewfinder and a more accurate 1.5-inch color LCD monitor are available for composing images. The LCD's information display reports detailed camera information, including the shutter speed and aperture settings (though you cannot adjust these).

The DSC-P2 automatically controls basic exposure, though a few manual options are available. Camera operation is straightforward and easy to learn. A Power button on top of the camera powers the camera on, and a Mode dial lets you select between Scene, Automatic, and Movie exposure modes. Within Scene mode, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape "scenes" set up the camera for specific shooting situations. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting, permitting much longer exposures, and automatically engaging a noise reduction system for exposures longer than 1/2 second. Normal Twilight mode enables slow shutter speeds, but disables the flash. Twilight Portrait combines the slow shutter speed with the flash, to illuminate foreground subjects. Landscape mode sets the camera's focusing to best handle broad vistas of scenery. Although the camera always controls aperture and shutter speed, the Record menu offers White Balance, Metering, Exposure Compensation, ISO, Record Mode (Normal or E-mail), Sharpness, Flash Level, Picture Effects, Focus, and image quality and size settings. Under the Picture Effects setting, you can choose to record images in black and white or sepia monotones, or select the Solarize or Negative Art options. The DSC-P2 automatically uses a Multi-Pattern metering mode, which reads from several areas throughout the frame, but a Spot option is available for pinpointing specific areas of the frame. White Balance offers five settings, and sensitivity includes 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents. You can adjust the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments as well. The DSC-P2's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync modes, and you can adjust the overall flash intensity through the Record menu, with options of low, normal, or high.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 320 x 240-, or 160 x 112-pixel resolution moving images (with sound) for as long as the memory card has available storage space, with an available HQX quality setting. HQX movies are recorded at the 320 x 240 pixel resolution, but the frame rate is increased, the image compression decreased, and the audio sampling rate is boosted. The overall impact is much higher-quality movies with better sound, but at the cost of much larger movie files. The DSC-P2 also offers Clip Motion and Multi Burst modes. Clip Motion records a series of up to 10 160 x 112-pixel or two 120 x 108-pixel images to be played back as an animation sequence, an entertaining feature I've enjoyed on previous Cyber-shot models. Multi Burst mode captures an extremely rapid burst of 16 small 320 x 240 pixel images, which are stored on the memory card as a single 1280x960 image but played back as a movie (giving a slow-motion effect. Multi-Burst mode offers three different frame rates of 7.5, 15, and 30 frames per second. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the camera actually takes the picture, great for self-portraits. There's also a Voice recording mode, which records sound clips as long as 40 seconds to accompany captured images.

The DSC-P2 stores images on Sony Memory Sticks, available separately in capacities as large as 128MB (a 16MB card is included). The camera utilizes an NP-FC10 InfoLITHIUM battery for power. Sony's InfoLITHIUM batteries are unique in the digicam world, in that they contain a "gas gauge" chip that lets the camera report with great accuracy how much operating time remains before the battery will be exhausted. A rechargeable battery and in-camera battery charger are packed with the camera, and the charger also serves as the AC adapter. The DSC-P2 features a Video Out jack, for connecting to a television set, and a USB jack for downloading images to a computer. (The DSC-P2's USB interface is quite fast, with a transfer rate of 614 KB/second.) A software CD is loaded with Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers, which facilitates image downloading and organization.

Basic Features

  • 2.0-megapixel Super HAD CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 3x 6-18mm lens (equivalent to a 39-117mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/5.6.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to two seconds.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • Memory Stick card storage, 16MB card included.
  • Power supplied by lithium-ion battery pack or AC adapter (battery, charger, and AC adapter included).
  • Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with MPEG Movie (with sound), Clip Motion, and Multi Burst options.
  • MPEG HQX for movie lengths limited only by memory card capacity.
  • Scene mode with Twilight, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape preset modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Picture Effects menu with Black-and-White, Sepia, Negative Art, and Solarize effect options.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Sharpness adjustment.
  • E-mail (320 x 240-pixel) recording mode.
  • Voice caption recording.
  • Spot metering option.
  • Sensitivity setting with three ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
  • Five fixed focus settings.
  • Adjustable autofocus area.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
  • NTSC video cable for connection to a television set.

Recommendation

Compact yet full-featured, the DSC-P2 makes a great travel companion, especially considering that it's compatible with Sony's Marine Pack for underwater shooting. The 2.0-megapixel Super HAD CCD delivers good image quality and color, with high enough resolution to print snapshots as large as 5x7 inches with good detail, and acceptable 8x10s. Hassle-free camera operation and automatic exposure control provide point-and-shoot appeal, while a handful of exposure settings provide some creative options to extend the camera's basic capabilities. Ready to go just about anywhere, the DSC-P2 is great for novices on the go, or even for more experienced amateurs looking for an easy-to-use, travel-worthy "second" camera.

 

Design

Small and compact, the DSC-P2 is practically identical to the DSC-P7 and -P9 models in size and shape, with the exception of the blue accents on the camera body. The DSC-P2 has the smooth, rounded design characteristic of the "P" series of the Cyber-Shot line, free from any significant protrusions, apart from the lens, which projects about 3/4 inch from the camera body when fully extended. The DSC-P2 should fit into most shirt pockets, with its svelte dimensions of 4.5 x 2.0 x 1.4 inches (114.0 x 51.5 x 35.8 millimeters). Like others in Sony's "P" series, the P2 is longer than some subcompact digicams, but still slim enough to fit comfortably into most shirt pockets. - And the added length makes it easier to hold for those of us with larger fingers and hands. The DSC-P2 is quite light weight as well, at just 7.5 ounces (206 grams).

The front of the DSC-P2 follows the shape of the lens barrel on the right side of the camera, contributing to the camera's smooth, curvy design. A shutter-like, retractable lens cover protects the lens whenever the camera is powered off, sliding quickly out of the way when the camera is turned on and the lens telescopes forward. Also on the front panel are the flash, optical viewfinder window, AF Illuminator lamp, and microphone. A sculpted, soft plastic ridge serves as a finger grip, on the right side of the front panel. (Combined with the thumb rest on the back panel, this provides a reasonably secure grip.)

The camera's right side (when looking from the back) holds the battery and Memory Stick dual-slot compartment. A sliding plastic door protects the compartment, with sculpted ridges that grip fingers when sliding the door open. Inside the compartment, the battery and Memory Stick slots line up side-by-side. I'm always pleased to see side access to battery and memory card compartments, as it facilitates quick changes when the camera is mounted to a tripod. (Many digicams have these compartments on the bottom panel, too close to the tripod mount.) Just above the compartment is an eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless, and curves around the lens barrel.

The DSC-P2's top panel is fairly smooth and flat, though the Mode dial protrudes from the top slightly. Also on the top panel are the Power and Shutter buttons.

The few remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece, LCD monitor and connector jacks. Three LED lamps next to the optical viewfinder report camera status, such as when focus is set or the flash is charging. A rocker button in the top right corner of the back panel controls optical and digital zoom, as well as Playback viewing options. In the center of the back panel is a Four Way Arrow rocker pad, which serves multiple functions (a great quality in a compact digicam, where control space is limited). Beneath it are the Display and Menu buttons. Next to the lower right corner of the LCD monitor is the connector compartment, which houses the DC In, USB, and A/V Out jacks. A plastic cover protects the jacks, and remains tethered to the camera.

The DSC-P2's bottom panel is mostly flat, with a thin plastic base plate surrounding the tripod mount and covering the speaker.

Camera Operation

Like the rest of the Cyber-Shot "P" series, the DSC-P2's user interface is straightforward and uncomplicated, with few external controls and a concise LCD menu system. For standard point-and-shoot operation, the most basic features (flash, camera mode, and zoom) have external controls, while settings like White Balance, Exposure Compensation, etc. are adjusted through the menu. The Mode dial sets the camera's operating mode, with just a quick turn to one of five settings. When it is necessary to enter the LCD menu system, a series of subject tabs represents each option at the bottom of the screen. The arrow keys of the Four Way Arrow pad scroll through each selection, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. Intuitive and essentially identical to that of other Sony Cyber-shot models, the DSC-P2's user interface is intuitive and easy to master.

External Controls


Power Button
: Placed unobtrusively on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on and off.


Shutter Button
: Located on the far right side of the top panel, 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: This ribbed dial surrounds the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, and offers the following settings:

  • Scene: Lets the user select one of three Scene modes (Twilight, Twilight Portrait, or Landscape) for specific shooting conditions.
  • Automatic Record: Puts the camera in Record mode, with the user able to adjust all exposure features apart from shutter speed and aperture.
  • Playback: Replays captured still images and movie files, with options for image management and printing.
  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, for as long as the Memory Stick has space. This mode also accesses Clip Motion and Multi Burst modes if so configured via the Set-Up menu.
  • Set-Up: Displays the Set-Up menu, for changing camera settings.


Zoom Toggle Button
: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, this button controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode.

In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images and accesses the index display mode as well as a detailed information display.


Four Way Arrow Pad
: In the center of the back panel, this rocker button incorporates four arrow keys which navigate through the settings menus. The center of the pad acts as the "OK" button, confirming menu selections when pressed.

In Automatic Record mode, the up arrow controls the flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, and Suppressed modes. (Only Slow-Sync is available in Twilight Portrait mode, and no flash modes are available in Twilight or Movie modes.) The down arrow activates the Self-Timer mode, while the left arrow enables a quick review of the most recently captured image. The right arrow activates Macro mode.

In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys move around within the enlarged view.


Menu Button
: Just below the Four Way Arrow pad, this button displays or dismisses the settings menu in any Record mode or in Playback mode. In playback mode, if you've zoomed into an image, pressing the Menu button gives you the option to "trim" the image as currently displayed on the LCD screen.


Display/LCD Button
: Adjacent to the Menu button on the left, this button controls the LCD monitor's display mode. In both Record and Playback modes, the button cycles through the image and information displays, and turns the LCD monitor on and off.


Viewfinder
: The DSC-P2's viewfinder is if the "real image" variety, which means it zooms along with the lens, and shows you (more or less) what the camera will photograph. I say "more or less," because (like essentially all optical viewfinders), it shows less than the full frame, about 80% of the final image area. (The LCD viewfinder is slightly better, at 90% accuracy.) The P2's viewfinder eyepiece doesn't have a diopter adjustment for eyeglass wearers, but does have a relatively high eyepoint, providing ample room for all but the thickest eyeglass lenses.

Camera Modes and Menus

Scene Mode: This record mode offers three "scene" options, for shooting in specific situations. Flash, zoom, Macro, and Self-Timer modes are all available, though flash mode is limited in some cases. (Flash is disabled in Twilight mode, flash is always on in Twilight Portrait.) Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Scene: Selects between Twilight, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape "scenes."
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • White Balance: Places color balance under Auto control, or sets it for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Spot Meter: Turns spot metering on or off.
  • Image Size: Sets the resolution size to 1,600 x 1,200; 1,600 (3:2); 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels.
  • Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • Mode: Changes the recording mode to Voice, Normal, or E-Mail (records a 320 x 240-pixel image in addition to one at the set resolution size). Voice mode records a short sound clip to accompany images (maximum recording time of 40 seconds).
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the flash intensity level to Normal, Low, or High (as long as you're not in Twilight mode).
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.
  • Sharpness: Sets the overall image sharpness in arbitrary units from -2 to +2.

Record Mode: In this mode, the camera captures still images, with aperture and shutter speed under automatic control. Pressing the Menu button displays a similar menu as above, with an additional ISO option, and no Scene menu entry:

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • White Balance: Places color balance under Auto control, or sets it for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Spot Meter: Turns spot metering on or off.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Image Size: Sets the resolution size to 1,600 x 1,200; 1,600 (3:2); 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels.
  • Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • Mode: Changes the recording mode to Voice, Normal, or E-Mail (E-Mail mode records a 320 x 240-pixel image in addition to one at the selected primary resolution size). Voice mode records a short sound clip to accompany each image.
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the flash intensity level to Normal, Low, or High.
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.
  • Sharpness: Sets the overall image sharpness in arbitrary units from -2 to +2.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. When playing back movie files, you can opt for "frame-by-frame" playback, which plays back the movie file more slowly, several frames at a time. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Delete: Erases the current image displayed. There is an option to cancel the operation. (Includes options to delete all frames or select multiple/batch delete when in index display mode.)
  • Protect: Write-protects the currently-displayed image, or removes protection. During index display, this option also lets you select several images for protection. NOTE that write-protected images will still be erased if the Memory Stick is reformatted.)
  • Print: Marks the current image for printing on a DPOF device, or removes the print mark. During index display, you can also mark multiple images for printing.
  • Slide: Enables a slide show of all images captured on the Memory Stick. You can control the interval between each image as well as whether or not the slide show repeats.
  • Resize: Resizes the currently-displayed image to one of the available resolution sizes.
  • Rotate: Rotates the currently-displayed image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Divide: Divides movie files into segments, providing a very basic editing tool.

Movie Mode: Records short movie clips without sound, for as long as the Memory Stick has available space. If set through the Set-Up menu, also accesses either Clip Motion or Multi Burst modes. The LCD menu system offers the following options. (No screen shot is shown to avoid confusion between different modes):

  • Exposure Compensation: Lightens or darkens the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • White Balance: Places color balance under Auto control, or sets it for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Spot Meter: Turns spot metering on or off.
  • Image Size: Sets the movie resolution size to 320 x 240 (HQX); 320 x 240; or 160 x 112 pixels in MPEG Movie mode. In Clip Motion mode, offers Normal (160 x 120 pixels) or Mobile (120 x 108 pixels) sizes. In Multi Burst mode, offers frame intervals of 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30-second.
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the flash intensity level to Normal, Low, or High. (Clip Motion mode only.)
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.
  • Sharpness: Sets the overall image sharpness in arbitrary units from -2 to +2. (Clip Motion mode only.)

Set-Up Mode: The following three-page Set-Up menu displays immediately upon entering this mode:

  • Camera:
    • Moving Image: Sets the Movie recording type to MPEG Movie, Clip Motion, or Multi Burst.
    • Date/Time: Controls the date and time display, options are Day & Time, Date, or Off. When enabled, the camera records the current day of the month and/or time in small red numerals in the lower right-hand corner of each photo.)
    • Digital Zoom: Turns the 2x digital zoom on or off.
    • Red-Eye Reduction: Enables the Red-Eye Reduction flash (which will fire with all flash modes), or turns it off.
    • AF Illuminator: Puts the AF Illuminator into Auto mode, or simply turns it off.


  • Set-Up 1
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • File Number: Specifies whether file numbering resets with each new Memory Stick or continues in a series.
    • Language: Changes the camera's menu language to English or Japanese.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's internal clock.


  • Set-Up 2
    • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the LCD display brightness level to Normal, Bright, or Dark.
    • Beep: Controls the camera's beep sound, setting it to Shutter, On, or Off.
    • Video Out: Specifies the camera's Video Out signal as NTSC or PAL.
    • USB Connect: Places the USB connection into PTP or Normal modes.
    • Power Save: Turns the power save option on or off, which automatically shuts off the camera after a period of inactivity.

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

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 
House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

Picky Details

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

User Reviews

Test Results
It's interesting, the extent to which Sony has been able to create very consistent color and tonal response across an entire line of cameras: The P2 produces images that are very reminiscent of those of the P7 and P9, which are in turn very similar to each other. (The good news, is that the color/tone standard they've settled on seems to be a good one.) Here's a synopsis of what I found in my testing of the DSC-P2:

  • Color: The DSC-P2 produced very good color in most cases, although I noticed the same tendency toward slightly warm color casts as I saw in the P7. Color balance was good overall though, both outdoors and in the studio. LIke the other P-series cameras, though, the P2 had a little difficulty with the very warm color cast of the household incandescent lighting in my "indoor portrait" test. Despite leaving a bit more warmth in the shots taken under incandescent lighting though, it nevertheless did better than the majority of cameras I've tested with that subject. All in all, great color, with accurate hues and appropriate saturation.

  • Exposure: The DSC-P2's automatic exposure system did a pretty good job with most of my standard test shots. It slightly underexposed the high-key Outdoor Portrait test (a very typical response among digicams I've tested to that harshly-lit subject), but normal exposure was quite good in most other cases. Indoors or in any moderate-to-low light setting, you'll need to use the Twilight exposure mode to access shutter speeds longer than the P2's normal 1/30 second limit. Twilight mode seems to introduce a strong negative exposure bias (probably to prevent washing out bright lights in outdoor night scenes), so you'll need to dial in quite a bit of positive exposure compensation when working in that mode. In common with most other recent Sony digicams I've tested, the DSC-P2 has excellent tonality, holding both highlight and shadow detail easily in difficult lighting conditions.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The DSC-P2 turned in a very respectable 2 megapixel performance. Details were reasonably sharp throughout the testing, and there was very little softness in the corners of the P2's images. Resolution tested out at about 800-850 lines per picture height on the laboratory resolution test target, a good level for a two megapixel camera.

  • Closeups: The DSC-P2 turned in a roughly average performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.45 x 2.59 inches (87.6 x 65.7 millimeters). Resolution was pretty good, but the image was slightly soft overall, with increased softness in the corners (a common digicam macro failing). The flash had trouble at such close range, badly overexposing the shot. (Plan on using external light sources for macro shots with the P2.)

  • Night Shots: The DSC-P2's automatic exposure control and lack of ISO adjustment in Twilight mode limited its low-light shooting performance. The camera captured bright images at light levels only as low as one foot-candle (11 lux), about as bright as standard city street lighting at night. Noise was moderate, and color was good though.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The DSC-P2's optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing about 80 percent of the final frame at wide angle, 81 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared only a little better, showing approximately 90 percent of the frame at wide angle and telephoto. Given that I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DSC-P2 could stand some improvement in this area, not to mention a bit more accurate optical viewfinder as well.

  • Optical Distortion: The P2's optical distortion was higher than average at the lens' wide angle setting, showing 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto setting proved a little better, with only 0.4 percent barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was slight, showing only two pixels of faint coloration on either side of the target lines.

  • Battery Life: The DSC-P2 uses a custom LiIon battery, using Sony's excellent "InfoLITHIUM" technology to keep you constantly apprised of how much charge is remaining. Worst case battery life is a fairly short 68 minutes in record mode with the LCD turned on (fairly typical for subcompact digicams), but a fairly generous hour and 45 minutes with the LCD off. (As always, I strongly recommend purchasing a second battery when buying a digicam, and bringing along a fully-charged spare on any photo outings.)

In the Box

The following items are included in the box:

  • Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P2 digital camera.
  • Wrist strap.
  • 16MB Memory Stick.
  • NP-FC10 InfoLITHIUM battery pack.
  • AC adapter/battery charger.
  • USB cable.
  • NTSC video cable.
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.

Recommended Accessories

  • Larger capacity Memory Stick.
  • Additional battery pack.
  • Small camera case.

Conclusion

Sony's camera designers have done a great job with their subcompact digicam line, combining excellent features and good image quality in very small, stylish, and easy-to-hold packages. Despite its small, pocket-fitting size, the elongated body shape makes the DSC-P2 a better fit for American-sized hands than many subcompact models. The P2 snaps great-looking pictures under a wide variety of conditions, and its two-megapixel resolution is enough to make sharp 5x7 prints and acceptable ones as large as 8x10 inches. It's a point and shoot camera, with the ease of use that designation implies, but there's enough exposure control to let you snap good photos under what would otherwise be difficult shooting conditions. If you don't need the three or four megapixel resolution of its "big" brothers the P7 and P9, the Sony DSC-P2 would make a nearly ideal "take anywhere" camera for people not wanting to sacrifice image quality to get a compact digicam.

 

 

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