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Sony CyberShot DSC-P50

Sony develops an affordable, full-featured 2.1-megapixel compact digicam with great picture quality!

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>

CyberShot DSC-P50 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 4/4/2001

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: (879k)
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 DSC-P50 performs quite well. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (585 k) and daylight (541 k) white balance settings, choosing the daylight setting for our main series. The automatic and daylight settings resulted in very similar, slightly cool images, though we felt that the daylight setting was a hair warmer and had a slightly better color balance. A light purple/magenta cast appears in the highlight areas (we noticed this in both the automatic and daylight white balance modes). Skin tones are also a bit too pink, but the blue flowers look pretty good, though with some purple tints here and there. (These blues are hard for many digicams to reproduce correctly.) The bright, red flowers are a little oversaturated and a small halo causes some detail to be lost. Resolution looks pretty good, with plenty of fine detail visible throughout the image. Overall image sharpness is nice, but just a touch soft. A fair amount of detail exists in the shadow areas, with a surprisingly low noise level. Our main image was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure adjustment to get the best exposure in the shadow areas without overexposing the bright highlights. 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/ 10
(550 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 9
(565 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(579 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 6.3
(586 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(555 k)



 
Closer portrait: (1320k)
The P50 also does a good job with this closer, portrait shot, thanks to its 3x lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots.) We again shot with the daylight white balance option, and again saw a slightly purplish cast in the highlight areas and skin tones. As is typical with this shot, the amount of resolution has increased throughout the image, with even sharper details. (Exceptionally good detail rendition for a 1.3 megapixel camera!) Some of the tiniest details of the model's face and hair are completely visible, even in the shadow areas. The more subtle texture of the house siding becomes more pronounced as well. Noise level is again very low in the shadow areas. Our main shot was taken +0.3EV of exposure compensation. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.0 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 9
(566 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(560 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 500
F/ 6.3
(558 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(519 k)



 
Indoor Portrait, Flash: (508k)
The P50's built-in flash does a good job of illuminating the subject, though the camera has a little trouble with the background incandescent lighting, producing an orange color cast in each image. We shot our first series of images with the flash set to the Low (482 k), Normal (510 k), and High (586 k) intensity settings. The Normal setting produced the best looking shot, though the white background shows slight orange and magenta color casts. In both the Normal and High intensity shots, the highlight areas of the white shirt also appear magenta. The Low setting produced a very dim exposure, with more of an orange cast. Next, we switched the camera to the Twilight exposure mode, allowing more ambient light into the image. We again shot with the flash at the Low (501 k), Normal (508 k), and High (514 k) settings, which again resulted in an orange color cast. The orange cast appeared the strongest with the Low setting, and faded somewhat with each higher intensity setting. Flash power is very dim with the Low setting, with the model's shirt appearing very orange. The Normal setting produced the best results, with a decreased orange cast and a nice flash level on the model. The white shirt still shows some magenta and orange in the highlights, but the overall color doesn't look too bad. As you'd expect, flash power is much too strong at the High setting. Orange/magenta highlights remain in the white shirt, and the overall color appears washed out. We chose the Normal flash exposure of the Twilight mode for our main shot because of its brighter exposure and reasonably good color. Overall, quite a good performance with this difficult mixed-lighting subject.


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (494k)
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, but the P50's white balance system did an exceptionally good job of handling this difficult lighting. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (484 k) and indoor (484 k) white balance settings, finding that the automatic setting produced really excellent results. (As with many digicams, the P50's tungsten white balance setting appears to be intended for studio incandescents.) We also shot with the camera's Twilight exposure mode, snapping images in automatic (489 k) and indoor (491 k) white balance modes, with the automatic setting again being the most accurate. The Twilight mode produced the best pictures, thanks to its longer exposure times, and we chose an exposure adjustment of +1.0 EV for our main image. We also shot with the 100 (484 k), 200 (527 k), and 400 (541 k) ISO settings (in normal, automatic exposure mode and automatic white balance). Exposure was darkest with the 100 setting, brightening significantly with the 200 and 400 settings. As you might expect, noise level increased as well, with a moderate level at ISO 100 and a somewhat higher (but quite acceptable) level at ISO 400. All in all, an excellent performance on this very difficult subject. The table below shows a range of exposures from zero to +1.3 EV in the Twilight exposure mode with automatic white balance.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 25
F/ 3.8
(523 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 20
F/ 3.8
(537 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 15
F/ 3.8
(485 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 13
F/ 3.8
(494 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 10
F/ 3.8
(500 k)
1.7 EV
1/ 8
F/ 3.8
(497 k)



 
House shot: (593k)
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 P50 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster in the automatic (586 k) white balance setting.

We shot samples of this image with the daylight (593 k) and automatic (586 k) white balance settings. Actually, neither white balance setting produced exactly accurate results, as the automatic setting resulted in a very cool image and the daylight setting produced a rather warm one. Despite the warm cast of the daylight setting, we chose it for our main series, feeling it to be the most accurate of the two. We noticed a magenta cast in the white highlight areas, and a somewhat orange tint to the bricks. The greens in the image look pretty good, but the blue sky is rather washed out. Resolution is very good for a 1.3 megapixel camera, with a lot of fine detail visible in the bricks and shrubbery, and in the tree limbs above the roof. Overall image sharpness is slightly soft, with slightly more softness around the corners of the image. The roof shingles and shadows show a moderately low noise level, with a reasonably tight grain pattern. Just the tiniest halo around the light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line gives evidence to the in-camera sharpening. A very good performance. The table below shows our standard range of resolution and quality settings.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(593 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(515 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(574 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(319 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(346 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(214 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(147 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(64 k)


Sharpness Series
We also shot a series with the camera's adjustable sharpness settings, which produced significant variations in sharpness, with virtually no change in contrast or brightness. Interestingly, the softest setting seemed to actively blur the image somewhat, as opposed to the "soft" setting on many other digicams, which just seem to disable the in-camera sharpening.

Very Sharp
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(588 k)
Sharp
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(582 k)
Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(577 k)
Soft
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(575 k)
Very Soft
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(579 k)



 
 
Far-Field Test (573k)
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, which produced a slight magenta color cast in the white areas and highlights. 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 good, especially in the tree branches above the house, as well as in the bricks and house front details. We can just barely detect the stronger details in the wooden fence behind the house (visible on the driveway side). Overall sharpness is slightly soft, but still reasonable. 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 P50 did a good job with the bright, white paint of the bay window, showing a reasonable level of detail, and keeping the white value well below saturation. The camera also does a good job with the dark shadow area under the porch, preserving detail in both the bricks and even the dark door itself. Noise in the roof shingles and shadow areas of the house is low, with a reasonably small and tight grain pattern. We also shot with the 100 (581 k), 200 (582 k), and 400 (573 k) ISO settings, noticing that the exposure brightened with each higher setting (the image is overexposed and appears much softer at the ISO 400 setting, due to the very small lens aperture being used). Noise level also increases, but remains moderate at the ISO 400 setting. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(3,601 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(573 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(312 k)

Medium/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(342 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(213 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(149 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(61 k)


Sharpness Series
We again shot with the P50's adjustable sharpness setting, which again only made subtle changes. However, we did notice that the warm color cast cooled slightly with the Very Sharp setting, giving the white highlights an almost bluish tint. Contrast also increased a little with the highest sharpness setting and decreased with the softest setting.

Very Sharp
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(592 k)
Sharp
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(592 k)
Normal
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(586 k)
Soft
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(567 k)
Very Soft
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(577 k)



 
 
Lens Zoom Range
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 3x telephoto, and at full telephoto with the 2x digital telephoto enabled. The P50's wide angle setting captures a nice, wide field of view, with reasonably good detail and just a hint of barrel distortion along the curb of the street. The level of detail and sharpness increases with the 3x telephoto setting, as does the magenta cast in the white areas. The camera's 2x digital telephoto does a nice job of holding on to detail as it digitally enlarges the image, though resolution is somewhat less than in the other two shots. Details are also much softer. The color balance warms a little with the digital telephoto image, though the magenta tints are still present in the white highlights. Noise isn't too bad with the digital telephoto, and is just faintly perceptible in the shadows.

Wide Angle
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F7.1
(339k)
3x Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F8
(340k)
2x Digital Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F8
(335k)



 
 
Musicians Poster (577k)
For this test, we shot with the automatic (569 k) and daylight (573 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 P50's white balance system had a little trouble adjusting the color balance. The automatic setting resulted in a very cool, bluish image, while the daylight setting produced a much warmer image with purplish tints in the blue background. As we've noticed throughout our testing, the white values in the image have a slightly purple tint. We chose the daylight setting for our main series because the warmer skin tones looked better than the paler, bluish ones that the automatic white balance produced. Despite the warm color cast, overall color balance doesn't look too bad. The blue of the Oriental model's robe is nearly accurate, though slightly greenish. Resolution is moderate, with the darker details of the bird wings on the blue robe visible. The silver threads of the blue robe (near the birds) are just faintly distinguishable as well. The violin strings are well defined, 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/ 50
F/ 3.9
(577 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(328 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(566 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(321 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(345 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(214 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(158 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 50
F/ 3.9
(62 k)



 
Macro Shot (567k)
The P50 performs very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 2.32 x 1.74 inches (58.96 x 44.22mm). Detail and resolution both look great, with a nice sharpness level. However, corner softness is much more evident in this shot, and there's quite a bit of barrel distortion. The gray background shows a low noise level. Color balance looks good throughout the image, though just the slightest magenta tints are visible in the lighter areas of the dollar bill. The P50's built-in flash (532 k) has some trouble throttling down for the macro area, creating a hot spot in the top right corner, and a darker shadow area in the lower left corner.


"Davebox" Test Target (530k)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (529 k) and daylight (530 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. Both daylight and automatic white balance settings produced magenta tints in the white areas, and in fact the two settings were nearly indistinguishable from each other. It was a toss up, but we decided that the automatic setting produced the most accurate color balance. The large color blocks look about right, though the large cyan and yellow blocks are a little weak. (Somewhat an exposure issue, as the entire image is just a little bit too light.) We also noticed that the brighter yellow, green, and orange color blocks have about a pixel of a halo around the outer edges, just inside the black lines. The P50 just barely 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), oversaturating them slightly. The P50 also captures the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart all the way up to the "B" range, though they are very faint (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 moderate noise, though the details of the white gauze area are a little blown out. Resolution looks great overall, with good detail in the box hinges and silver disk, and the mini resolution target appears reasonably sharp as well. We also shot with the 100 (530 k), 200 (572 k), and 400 (537 k) ISO settings, noticing that the magenta tints disappeared with the 200 and 400 ISO settings. Exposure stayed about the same, but noise level increased with the 200 and 400 ISO settings. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(3,601 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(530 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(314 k)

3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(526 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(310 k)

Medium/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(337 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(202 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(153 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 40
F/ 3.9
(61 k)



 
Low-Light Tests
Our first reaction to the P50 was that it didn't do well at all in the low-light category, as we were shooting only in the normal exposure mode, using ISO settings of 100-400. (Low-light limits were about 8 foot-candles at ISO100, 4 foot-candles at ISO 200, and 2 foot-candles at ISO 400, but even those figures were pushing matters somewhat: Light levels of almost 2x that would be a more conservative rating.) We then switched to the camera's "Twilight" mode, which allows longer exposure times, and obtained much more favorable results, achieving a good, bright exposure at a light level of 1 foot-candle (11 lux), and a usable one at 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux). To put the P50'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 P50 should do fine for most outdoor/city shooting in its Twilight mode. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. 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
0.67lux
ISO 100 Click to see P50L1000.JPG
653 KB
1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L1001.JPG
659 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L1002.JPG
591 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L1003.JPG
826 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L1004.JPG
758 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L1005.JPG
724 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L1006.JPG
718 KB
1/ 15
F3.9

ISO 200 Click to see P50L2000.JPG
728 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L2001.JPG
699 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L2002.JPG
723 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L2003.JPG
692 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L2004.JPG
610 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L2005.JPG
636 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50L2006.JPG
630 KB

1/ 15
F3.9

ISO 400 Click to see P50LT00.JPG
807 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50LT01.JPG
790 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50LT02.JPG
834 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50LT03.JPG
810 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50LT04.JPG
745 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50LT05.JPG
668 KB

1/ 15
F3.9
Click to see P50LT06.JPG
653 KB

1/ 15
F3.9

Twilight Mode Click to see P50LT00.JPG
767 KB

1/ 6
F3.8
Click to see P50LT01.JPG
799 KB

1/ 3
F3.8
Click to see P50LT02.JPG
812 KB

1/ 1
F3.8
Click to see P50LT03.JPG
741 KB

2
F3.8
Click to see P50LT04.JPG
721 KB

2
F3.8
Click to see P50LT05.JPG
666 KB
2
F3.8
Click to see P50LT06.JPG
631 KB

2
F3.8
Click to see P50LT07.JPG
608 KB

2
F3.8



 
Flash Range Test
In our testing, we found the P50's flash effective as far as 15 feet from the target. Flash intensity was brightest at the eight foot distance, diminishing slightly with each additional foot of distance. Flash power at the 15 foot distance is still reasonably bright, however, a very good performance. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 15 feet from the target.

8 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(538 k)
9 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(553 k)
10 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(508 k)
11 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(537 k)
12 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(537 k)
13 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(512 k)
14 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(487 k)
15 ft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(463 k)



 
ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (529k)
The DSC-P50 did very well in our laboratory resolution test, cleanly resolving to 500-550 lines per picture height in both vertical and horizontal directions, and showing excellent detail all the way out to 600 lines. This is a very good performance for a 2 megapixel camera.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 4
(529 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 4
(317 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 4
(544 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 4
(318 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 4
(337 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 4
(207 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 100
F/ 4
(145 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 100
F/ 4
(59 k)


Sharpness Series
Very Sharp
1/ 100
F/ 4
(535 k)
Sharp
1/ 100
F/ 4
(532 k)
Normal
1/ 100
F/ 4
(530 k)
Soft
1/ 100
F/ 4
(570 k)
Very Soft
1/ 100
F/ 4
(550 k)


Resolution Series, Telephoto
Large/Fine
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(515 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(285 k)
3:2 Aspect/Fine
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(537 k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(314 k)
Medium/Fine
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(331 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(202 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(157 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(61 k)


Sharpness Series
Very Sharp
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(559 k)
Sharp
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(565 k)
Normal
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(563 k)
Soft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(544 k)
Very Soft
1/ 80
F/ 3.9
(526 k)



 
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the P50's optical viewfinder to be very tight, showing only about 69.6 percent of the final image area at wide angle (316 k), and about 74.7 percent at telephoto (291 k), at all three image sizes. This is quite tight, and below par among cameras we've tested. We also noticed that the final image is shifted towards the lower left corner, with a great deal of extra space on the right side of the image. Images framed with the optical viewfinder are also slanted toward the lower left corner. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 99.6 percent accuracy at wide angle (299 k). Unfortunately, the telephoto images framed with the LCD monitor are slanted toward the lower left corner, placing our standard measurement lines just out of the frame. We assume that the LCD accuracy at telephoto (291 k) is also very close to 100 percent, however. We generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the P50 does well in this respect, though the telephoto images are somewhat slanted. Flash distribution looks dim but even at the telephoto setting, with just a slight hot spot in the center of the target. At the wide angle setting, flash distribution is blotchy, with magenta hot spots and slight falloff in the corners.

Optical distortion on the P50 is fairly low at the wide angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.42 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared slightly better, as we measured an approximate 0.34 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing about a half a pixel 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.) Overall, it looks like the DSC-P50 has a very good lens system.

 

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