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Sample Images for the
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P51
Digital Cameras

 

I'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, I'm posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

Outdoor Portrait:

Slightly cool color cast, but good resolution and sharpness.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the DSC-P51 does pretty well, but captures an image that's just a bit more contrasty than I'd prefer. The shot at right has a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which brightened up the midtones a little, while holding onto most of the highlight detail. (I'd like to have been able to get the midtones a bit brighter though, without compromising the highlights.) I chose the Daylight white balance setting for the main image, though the Auto setting produced similar results. Overall color is a little cool, with pale skin tones. The blue flowers are also somewhat purplish (this is a difficult blue for many digicams). Resolution is moderately high, with good detail in the flowers and Marti's features. The shadow areas also have good detail, with moderate noise.

To see the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files P51OUTDP0.HTM through P51OUTDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

 

Closer Portrait:

Great detail with little optical distortion.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. Visible fine detail increases in her face and hair, with sharper details than in the wider shot. Detail is also strong in the shadows, with moderate noise. Color balance is still on the cool side, and color is a little flat. The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment.

To view the full exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files P51FACDP0.HTM through P51FACDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:

Normal Flash
Twilight Flash

Pretty good intensity and color, but the "high" setting was necessary to get enough brightness.

The DSC-P51's flash was rather dim at the Normal intensity setting. Increasing the flash intensity to High brightened the image, but it was still a little underexposed. (As you can imagine, the Low setting produced a very dim shot indeed. - Low would be useful though, as "fill" illumination in outdoor shots.) Though dark, the color looks pretty good. The background incandescent lighting results in a slight magenta cast on the back wall, while a blue tint appears on the model from the flash. Switching to the Twilight exposure mode allows longer shutter times, which brighten the overall exposure, and better balance the room and flash illumination. In Twilight mode, I again shot with the High, Normal, and Low intensity settings, again finding the best exposure at the High setting. The longer exposure eliminates the blue cast on the model, but increases the background color cast to a more pronounced orange. (I do like the fact that the flash color temperature is closer to that of the room lighting than daylight.)

 

 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:

Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance

Slight color casts but good detail.

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. The DSC-P51's auto white balance did a surprisingly good job here, producing an image with a slightly warm color cast that preserved the feeling of the original shot, without distorting the colors too much. The Incandescent setting resulted in a much more pronounced warm cast. I shot with the camera's Twilight exposure mode, which is the only way to access exposure times long enough to get a decent exposure. Because the DSC-P51's Twilight mode was designed to preserve color in night shots, it tends to underexpose the image quite a bit. I thus chose an exposure compensation adjustment of +1.7 EV for the main selection, in the Auto white balance. The blue flowers are dark and purplish, a common problem with this shot among digicams, but skin tones look about right. (Click here for sample images at the default exposure and at +2.0 EV.)

I have to say that I *vehemently* disagree with Sony's approach of restricting shutter speeds in the normal exposure mode to 1/30 and above. Forcing users to go to "Twilight Mode" for anything other than bright daylight means you have to routinely dial-in a very aggressive positive exposure compensation to get a decent exposure. The need for manual exposure intervention is at odds with the whole concept of "scene modes" in the first place, and the amount of adjustment required leaves you with little room for additional tweaking, should you actually want to deliberately overexpose a little.

OK, flame off, but I do hope the Sony engineers take another look at how they're using Twilight Mode here. - If they insist on restricting shutter speeds in normal mode, they perhaps should consider adding another exposure mode that doesn't force an underexposure as does the current Twilight mode.

ISO Series
The P51 allows manual ISO (light sensitivity) adjustment in normal exposure mode, letting you trade off noise performance for faster shutter speeds. Note though, that manual ISO selection is not available in twilight mode, so there's no way to combine higher ISO settings with longer exposures for low light photography. As it turns out, the slow-shutter limitation is so extreme that even ISO 400 failed to produce an acceptably exposed image, even in this rather brightly lit interior.

ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400

 

 

House Shot:

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Good resolution and color, but with rather soft corners.

The Auto and Daylight white balance settings both produced good results here, though the Daylight setting resulted in a slightly yellow cast. Resolution is high, with good detail in the tree limbs above the roof and in the house trim. The corners of the image are rather soft though, revealing some curvature of field in the lens when shooting at close distances like this. (Distance to the target in this shot is about 1.5-2 meters.) Details in the center of the frame are reasonably sharp, particularly those of the house.

 

 
 

 

Far-Field Test

Good detail and color, fairly good dynamic range.

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.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this. The DSC-P51 captures a lot of fine detail throughout the frame. The resolution and sharpness here is good for a two megapixel camera, particularly as seen in the foliage. Details on the house front are sharp and well-defined as well. Shooting at infinity like this, there's little evidence of the corner softness I observed in the studio. Color looks good, though the DSC-P51 reproduces the greens with strong yellow tints. Dynamic range is good, as the camera manages to hang onto detail both in the bright white of the bay window and in the shadows around the front door. The table below shows a shortened version of our standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO and Sharpness series.

Resolution Series:
Large / Fine
Medium / Fine
Small / Fine

ISO Series:
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400

Sharpness Series:
Low
Normal
High

 
 

 

Lens Zoom Range

Oops! - A typical 3x zoom range, but I forgot to snap these! I'll try to come back to it later. Sorry!

 
 

 

Musicians Poster

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

A slight cyan cast, slightly pale color, but good detail.

Both the Auto and Daylight white balance settings produced slight cyan casts, likely due to the large amount of blue in the composition. That said, skin tones under the Auto white balance looked warmer and more natural, so I chose it for the main shot. The blue robe has purplish tints in the deep shadows, but looks good overall (this is a tough blue for many digicams to get right). Resolution is moderately high, with good detail visible in the embroidery of the blue robe, as well as in the beaded necklaces and flower garland.

 

 

Macro Shot

Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

Good macro performance, though the flash has trouble throttling down.

The DSC-P51 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.5 x 2.6 inches (89 x 67 millimeters). Resolution is high, with great detail in the coins, brooch, and dollar bill. Details are soft in all four corners, but fairly sharp in the center of the frame. The DSC-P51 overexposed the shot slightly, washing out the color. Still, the color balance is about right with the Auto white balance setting. I also noticed a little barrel distortion from the lens, from its full wide-angle position, but it's less than many cameras show in their macro shots. The DSC-P51's flash almost throttles down for the macro area, but overexposes the top right corner of the frame.

 

 

"Davebox" Test Target

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Good color, accurate hue with appropriate saturation, with nearly accurate exposure.

I chose the Auto white balance setting for this shot, as the Daylight setting resulted in a warm image. Color looks good, though saturation is a little weak in the cyan and magenta and yellow color blocks. Exposure is about right, as subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target are clearly visible all the way to the "B" range. Detail is good in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with moderate noise, though the white gauze loses some of its highlight detail.

 

 

 

Low-Light Tests

Just bright enough for average street lighting at night.

The DSC-P51 only accesses its longer shutter speeds in Twilight mode, which automatically disables the camera's variable ISO option. Twilight mode also automatically applies a negative exposure compensation, so you need to compensate with the manual exposure compensation adjustment. (The negative compensation would help with typical night scenes, where pools of light would be overexposed if the camera paid too much attention to all the dark areas. The automatic exposure reduction of Twilight Mode is what you'll want for shooting typical night scenes, but isn't what you want for typical indoor photography.) The net of all this is that the P51 doesn't perform too well in the low-light shooting category. In my tests, the camera captured bright, clear images at light levels only as low as about two foot-candles (22 lux). The target is visible but dim at the one foot-candle light level (11 lux), and could arguably be used. Since average city street lighting at night is equivalent to about one foot-candle, you'd need the flash for anything darker, and will only just be able to use it at all in normal outdoor city night scenes. Noise remained moderately low throughout testing. Color also looks good, though is a little magenta from the Auto white balance. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

2fc
22lux
1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.31lux
1/16fc
0.67lux
Click to see P51LL02.JPG
2 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51LL03.JPG
2 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51LL04.JPG
2 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51LL05.JPG
2 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51LL06.JPG
2 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51LL07.JPG
2 secs
F3.8

 

 

Flash Range Test

Low intensity at the Normal flash setting, slow dropoff in intensity beyond about 10 feet.

The DSC-P51's flash maintained practically the same intensity from eight to 10 feet from the test target, and then decreased slightly from there. The flash was still effective at the 14-foot distance, albeit a little dim. I shot with the flash in the Normal intensity mode, which underexposed the images a little, and produced a slight warm cast. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see P51FL08.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51FL09.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51FL10.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51FL11.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51FL12.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51FL13.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8
Click to see P51FL14.JPG
1/ 50 secs
F3.8

 

 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Good performance, with strong detail to 800 lines/picture height.

The DSC-P51 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 550 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 800 lines though, and "extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,050 lines.

Optical distortion on the DSC-P51 is moderate at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.54 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared only a little better, as I found 0.38 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration is low, showing about two or three pixels of very light 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.) The most obvious distortion I noticed was some corner softness, which increased the effect of chromatic aberration on the resolution target, particularly on the righthand side of the frame.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large / Fine
Medium / Fine
Small / Fine

Sharpness Series, Wide Angle
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High

 

 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A rather tight optical viewfinder, though the LCD monitor is more accurate.

The DSC-P51's optical viewfinder was very tight, providing only 81 percent frame coverage at both wide angle and telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder showed extra space along the top and right sides, so you'll need to keep that in mind when framing shots. The LCD monitor fared a little better, showing approximately 91 percent of the frame at wide angle, and approximately 93 percent at telephoto. Given that I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DSC-P51's LCD has some room for improvement here, but still performs better than the optical viewfinder. Flash distribution at wide angle is more uniform than average, with just slight falloff at the corners of the frame. Flash distribution at telephoto is more even, but slightly dimmer.

 

Wide Angle - Optical

Telephoto - Optical

Wide Angle - LCD

Telephoto - LCD

 


Back to the Main Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P51 Review

 

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