Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Sony Digital Cameras > Sony DSC-S85

Sony DSC-S85

Sony extends its S-series Cybershot line with the S85, sporting a 4-megapixel CCD, Exposure Bracketing, and Burst 3 sequential capture.

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

Cyber-shot DSC-S85 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 6/7/2001

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: (1784 k)
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 S85 performs well. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (1649 k), daylight (1674 k), and manual (1676 k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting as the most accurate for our series. Both the automatic and daylight settings produced slightly cool images, with the daylight setting producing the coolest cast. The manual white balance setting resulted in a much warmer image, with more natural-looking skin tones (though the skin tones do appear slightly warm). Color is really excellent throughout the image, with good saturation overall. The red flowers look a bit too magenta, and are a little bright, but still show good detail in the petals. (Some digicams have trouble with these reds, making them so bright that details are lost.) The blue flowers are almost exactly accurate though. (These blues are also hard for many digicams to reproduce correctly.) Overall resolution is high, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the image. Details are also reasonably sharp, particularly noticeable in the flower bouquet and the green leaves against the model's shirt. The shadow areas show good detail as well, though with somewhat higher than normal noise. (This was shot with a prototype camera though, so noise may be lower in production models.) Our main image was taken with a +1.3 EV exposure adjustment to get a good exposure in the shadow areas without overexposing the bright highlights. (The camera's 12-bit A/D converter does a good job of holding onto highlight detail, even in very strong highlights, as seen here.) The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.7 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 1000
F/ 8
(1656 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 800
F/ 8
(1634 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 640
F/ 8
(1660 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 8
(1750 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 7.1
(1784 k)
1.7 EV
1/ 500
F/ 6.3
(1770 k)



 
Closer portrait: (1712 k)
The S85 does a reasonably good job with this closer, portrait shot, thanks in part to its 3x zoom 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 manual white balance setting, which continued to produce a good overall color balance. Resolution is higher in this close-up shot, with more fine detail visible in the model's hair and face. In addition to the more obvious wood grain pattern on the house siding, the subtle surface texture is also clear and distinct. Noise is again noticeable in the shadow areas, with small traces visible in the siding. Our main shot was taken with an exposure adjustment of +0.3 EV, which is a little too bright. (There seemed to be a big jump in brightness between the 0.0 and +0.3 EV adjustment levels, but then none at all between 0.3 and 0.7. - Again, likely a prototype issue.) The default exposure, with no exposure compensation adjustment (1712 k), produced a much darker image. 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/ 8
(1712 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 6.3
(1676 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 500
F/ 6.3
(1789 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 500
F/ 6.3
(1747 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1644 k)



 
Indoor Portrait, Flash: (1543 k)
The S85's built-in flash does a nice job with this indoor portrait, producing good color and a bright exposure. We shot with all three of the flash intensity settings. In all three shots, we noticed a slight orange cast in the background from the strong household incandescent lighting. Despite the orange cast, color looks nearly accurate. At the low intensity (1545 k) setting, the orange cast is stronger on the model's white shirt and in her hair and face. The medium intensity (1549 k) setting decreases the orange cast slightly, though a stronger blue cast appears on the face and white shirt from the flash. At the high intensity (1543 k) setting, the blue cast becomes stronger, but brightens the exposure on the model. We chose this for our main image, as it was the brightest overall. Overall, a very nicely-balanced flash performance.


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (1483 k)
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, and the S85's white balance system handles the challenge well. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (1596 k), incandescent (1628 k), and manual (1605 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. The incandescent setting resulted in a very warm image, with a strong orange-sepia cast. The manual setting produced nearly accurate results, but we felt it was both slightly greenish, and also lost some of the mood of the original lighting. The automatic setting produced a slightly warm image, but we felt it was both fairly accurate, and did a good job of preserving the "look" of the original scene. The red flowers are a little too bright, showing a slight loss in detail, while the blue flowers are a little dark, with purplish tints at the edges of the petals. Resolution looks good, with a lot of fine detail visible in the flower bouquet and on the model. We chose an exposure adjustment of +0.6 EV for our main image, as anything higher than that produced highlights on the white shirt that were too bright. We also shot with the 100 (1608 k), 200 (1609 k), and 400 (1809 k) ISO settings, noticing that exposure remained essentially the same at all three settings. Noise, however, increased from moderately high at 100 ISO to a very high level at 400 ISO. The table below shows a range of exposures from zero to +1.7 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 14
F/ 2.7
(1088 k)
0.3 EV
1/ 12
F/ 2.7
(1140 k)
0.7 EV
1/ 9
F/ 2.7
(1215 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 7
F/ 2.7
(1113 k)
1.3 EV
1/ 6
F/ 2.7
(1143 k)
1.7 EV
1/ 5
F/ 2.7
(1146 k)



 
House shot: (1752k)
We shot this image with the automatic (1752 k), daylight (1771 k), and manual (1776 k) white balance settings, none of which produced an exactly accurate image. The daylight setting produced a very warm image, with a yellow cast mostly noticeable in the white trim of the house. The manual setting was close to being accurate, though the overall image is slightly cool, with bluish tints in the bricks and white trim. Though the automatic setting is a hint warm, we felt it produced the most natural results overall. Resolution is exceptionally high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the bricks and shrubbery, as well as in the tree limbs above the roof. Details are sharp overall, even the more organic details of the small tree and the shrubbery in front of the house are fairly crisp. Thanks to the Zeiss lens, corner sharpness is very good as well, with little of the softening of detail we so frequently see in the corners of digicam images. In-camera sharpening is barely detectable, as less than a pixel of the halo effect is noticeable around the light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line. The roof shingles and shadows show moderate noise. Overall, an excellent performance by the S85 here: It's optics seem to be fully capable of taking advantage of the higher resolution provided by the 4.1 megapixel sensor.

Sharpness Series
We also shot a series with the camera's adjustable Sharpness setting, which does a nice job of incrementally increasing and decreasing the overall image sharpness without making too strong of an adjustment in either direction. The highest sharpness setting increases contrast a fair amount, but overall brightness remains about the same. The small halo that indicates the in-camera sharpening also becomes more pronounced at the highest setting, but fades into nonexistence at the lowest setting.

Very Sharp
1/ 125
F/ 2.8
(1801 k)
Sharp
1/ 125
F/ 2.8
(1800 k)
Normal
1/ 125
F/ 2.8
(1756 k)
Soft
1/ 125
F/ 2.8
(1763 k)
Very Soft
1/ 125
F/ 2.8
(1764 k)



 
 
Far-Field Test (1804 k)
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 pretty good color, though a blue cast is present and the greens are a bit too bright. 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 really exceptional, with a lot of fine detail in the front shrubbery and house details, as well as in the tree branches above the house (which show a lot of leaf detail). Details are also pretty crisp throughout the image, with little or no softening in the corners. 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 S85 handles the bright, white paint of the bay window well, capturing the stronger details and a few of the fainter ones in the recessed trim. The shadow area under the porch also fares well, as the brick pattern and porch light details are reasonably clear and distinct. We shot with the 100 (1803 k), 200 (1780 k), and 400 (1758 k) ISO settings, noticing that as the ISO setting increased, so did the noise level. At 100 ISO, noise is moderately high, but increases to a very high level at the 400 ISO setting. Exposure seems to remain the same at all three settings, The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(11,345 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1801 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(982 k)

Medium/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(876 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(788 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(585 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(318 k)

Tiny/Fine
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(146 k)
Tiny/Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(59 k)


Sharpness Series
We again shot with the S85's adjustable Sharpness setting, which did a nice job of increasing and decreasing the overall image sharpness. Again, contrast is affected along with the sharpness adjustment.

Very Sharp
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1838 k)
Sharp
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1778 k)
Normal
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1797 k)
Soft
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1698 k)
Very Soft
1/ 500
F/ 5.6
(1766 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 the lens at full telephoto with 2x digital telephoto enabled. The S85 captures a very wide field of view, though exposure darkened slightly at the wide angle setting. Detail looks good, with moderately high resolution. A hint of barrel distortion is visible along the curb of the street, but isn't too distracting. The 3x telephoto setting brightens the exposure slightly as it zooms in, increasing resolution as well. Details are also a little sharper, even those of the bright bay window (there's a slight halo around the bay window from the bright paint). We've always been impressed with the capabilities of Sony's Precision Digital Zoom, and the S85's performance is as good as we've come to expect. Though the image is digitally enlarged, details remain sharp and crisp, with only a slight loss in resolution. (NOTE though, that these shots are taken at the 1280x960 image size: Full-resolution images would show a proportionately greater loss of sharpness.)

Wide Angle
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F6.3
(576 k)
3x Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F5.6
(587 k)
2x Digital Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 500
Aperture: F6.3
(588 k)



 
 
Musicians Poster (1792 k)
For this test, we shot with the automatic (1825 k), daylight (1792 k), and manual (1791 k) white balance settings, this time choosing the daylight setting as the most accurate. The large amount of blue in the image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, and the S85's white balance system has a little trouble here. The automatic setting resulted in a very cool image, with a strong blue cast that affected the skin tones and overall color. The manual setting also produced a cool image, though with less of a blue cast. Skin tones are a little pale with manual white balance as well. Though the daylight setting is slightly warm, with reddish-purple tints in the blue background, the skin tones look the more natural. There's a bit of an overall magenta "haze", caused by the levels of red and blue being elevated in the shadow areas. We'll thus reserve final judgement on this shot until we can evaluate a full production model of the S85: Exposure and color issues like this have been fairly common in prototype cameras we've tested, later being worked out in the production versions. The Oriental model's blue robe is slightly greenish from the warm cast, but still looks good (this is a difficult blue for digicams to reproduce accurately). Resolution is good throughout the image, with nearly all of the fine detail in the bird wings and silver threads of the model's robe visible. The tonal gradations on the bird's wings lack some crispness, but overall, the S85 picks up a lot of detail. The violin strings are nice and sharp, with only a hint of a moire pattern. The beaded necklaces and flower garland also show good detail. Noise is moderate throughout the image, mainly noticeable in the blue background and in the red vest (some of the "noise" could actually be the film grain from the poster itself).


 
Macro Shot (1775 k)
The S85 performs nicely in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 2.46 x 1.84 inches (62.47 x 46.85 millimeters). Resolution is high, with good detail visible throughout the image. Details are also fairly sharp, though the brooch is a little soft (probably due to the limited depth of field when working this close). Corner softness is more noticeable in this shot, at all four corners of the image. Color balance looks good, with no strong color cast present. The S85's built-in flash (1752 k) has some trouble throttling down for the macro area, overexposing the subject and washing out color. The lens blocks the flash as well, causing a dark shadow in the bottom right corner of the image.


"Davebox" Test Target (1435 k)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (1442 k), daylight (1435 k), and manual (1435 k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting as the most accurate. The automatic setting produced a slightly cool, bluish image, while the daylight setting produced a warm, yellowish image. The manual setting produced an accurate white value and overall color balance, without any strong color cast. The large color blocks of the target look about right, with good saturation, though the red block is a little bright. The S85 captures 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), though the black separator line has a reddish tint and the red block appears more orange. Exposure is a little bright, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart are only barely visible as far as the "B" range. The tonal gradations of the smaller, vertical gray scales look good though. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows great detail, with moderate noise, and we also noticed good detail in the white gauze area. We shot with the 100 (1435 k), 200 (1601 k), and 400 (1777 k) ISO settings, noticing moderate noise at the 100 ISO setting and very high noise at the 400 ISO setting. Exposure appeared to stay about the same at all three ISO settings. Overall, a very good performance, very nice color.


 
Low-Light Tests
The S85 performs very well in the low-light category, capturing bright, usable images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) at the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At the 100 ISO setting, the target was still fairly bright at the 1/16 foot-candle light level, though we felt the camera captured a more usable image at the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level. We also noticed a change in color cast from the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, going from a warm cast to a cooler one. Noise is moderately high at the 100 ISO setting, and increases with the 200 and 400 ISO settings. (We direct readers to Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program, for a tool with an amazing ability to remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.) To put the S85's low-light performance in perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so the camera should easily handle much darker situations without the flash. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, at all three ISO settings. 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
0.67lx
ISO 100
Click to see S85LL1000.JPG
1,597.8 KB
1/ 8
F2
Click to see S85LL1001.JPG
1,606.2 KB
1/ 4
F2
Click to see S85LL1002.JPG
1,413.2 KB
1/ 3
F2
Click to see S85LL1003.JPG
1,619.9 KB
1.3
F2
Click to see S85LL1004.JPG
1,853.8 KB
3
F2
Click to see S85LL1005.JPG
1,890.7 KB
8
F2
Click to see S85LL1006.JPG
1,890.1 KB
8
F2
Click to see S85LL1007.JPG
1,728.8 KB
8
F2
ISO 200
Click to see S85LL2000.JPG
1,654.1 KB
1/ 13
F2
Click to see S85LL2001.JPG
1,575.7 KB
1/ 6
F2
Click to see S85LL2002.JPG
1,600.8 KB
1/ 4
F2
Click to see S85LL2003.JPG
1,715.2 KB
1/ 2
F2
Click to see S85LL2004.JPG
1,672.6 KB
2.5
F2
Click to see S85LL2005.JPG
1,854.9 KB
7
F2
Click to see S85LL2006.JPG
1,888.6 KB
8
F2
Click to see S85LL2007.JPG
1,861.0 KB
8
F2
ISO 400
Click to see S85LL4000.JPG
1,747.0 KB
1/ 25
F2
Click to see S85LL4001.JPG
1,750.4 KB
1/ 13
F2
Click to see S85LL4002.JPG
1,765.6 KB
1/ 6
F2
Click to see S85LL4003.JPG
1,740.7 KB
1/ 3
F2
Click to see S85LL4004.JPG
1,784.7 KB
1.3
F2
Click to see S85LL4005.JPG
1,867.8 KB
2.5
F2
Click to see S85LL4006.JPG
1,908.0 KB
4
F2
Click to see S85LL4007.JPG
1,870.5 KB
5
F2

 

Love high ISO photography? Hate noise? Check out Fred Miranda's ISO-R noise-reducing actions for Photoshop. Incredible noise reduction, with *no* loss of subject detail. (Pretty amazing, IMHO.) Check it out!




 
Flash Range Test
In our testing, we found the S85's flash to be very bright and highly effective as far as 14 feet from the test target. Intensity only slightly decreases from the eight to 14 foot distances, but remains bright. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target, with the flash in the normal intensity setting.


8 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1669 k)

9 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1618 k)

10 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1581 k)

11 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1534 k)

12 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1514 k)

13 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1489 k)

14 ft
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(1444 k)



 
ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (1563k)
Given the S85's 4.1 megapixel sensor and sharp "Carl Zeiss" lens, it's perhaps no surprise that it does very well on our laboratory resolution target test. We observed the first (very faint) hints of artifacts appearing at around 900 lines per picture height, in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Strong detail was clearly visible to 1100 lines though, and "extinction" didn't occur until somewhere around 1500 lines. The image is also razor-sharp all the way out to the corners. Overall an excellent performance!

The S85's lens also did very well in terms of chromatic aberration, showing only a couple of pixels of fairly weak color around the target elements in the extreme edges and corners.At the wide angle end of the lens' range, optical distortion is about average for cameras we've tested, showing approximately 0.73 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as we saw only two pixels of pincushion distortion, a negligible amount.

Resolution Series, WideAngle
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(11,345 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1563 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(983 k)

Medium/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(849 k)
Medium/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(453 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(561 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(299 k)

Tiny/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(143 k)
Tiny/Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(59 k)


Sharpness Series

Very Sharp
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1609 k)
Sharp
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1609 k)
Normal
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1574 k)
Soft
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1680 k)
Very Soft
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1642 k)


Resolution Series, Telephoto
Large/Fine
1/ 160
F/ 2.8
(1564 k)


 
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
The S85's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing approximately 83.6 percent frame accuracy at wide angle (1006 k), and about 83.2 percent at telephoto (970 k). By contrast, the LCD monitor showed almost exactly 100% of the final image area. We couldn't measure the frame coverage exactly, as our shots placed the standard lines of measurement outside of the final frame at both wide angle (958 k) and telephoto (932 k) settings. A little time with the pixel-counting tools in Photoshop(tm) though, convinced us that it was actually just minor framing errors on our part that prevented us from seeing the lines: The S85's viewfinder shows exactly 100% of the final image area. Flash distribution is even at the telephoto setting, with a tiny reflection on the target lines in the center of the frame. At the wide angle setting, flash distribution is fairly even in the middle of the target, with a little falloff at the corners and along the edges.


Wide Angle (Optical)
1/ 40
F/ 2.2
(1006 k)

Telephoto (Optical)
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(970 k)

Wide Angle (LCD)
1/ 40
F/ 2.2
(958 k)

Telephoto (LCD)
1/ 80
F/ 2.5
(932 k)


 

Reader Comments! --> Visit our discussion forum for the Sony DSC-S85!



<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Top 3 photos this month win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate