Sony DSC-V3By: Shawn Barnett and Dave Etchells
A no-excuses "enthusiast" camera from Sony: 7 megapixels, 4x zoom, 2.5 inch LCD, better grip, and features galore.
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DSC-V3 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 09/09/2004, Updated: 11/30/2004
Digital Cameras - Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data on this page 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 thumbnail index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
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, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Cyber-shot DSC-V3 performed fairly well.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which results in bright highlights, though pretty good midtones. Contrast is a little high here, and detail is lost in the extreme highlights. Both the DSC-V3's Auto and Daylight white balance settings resulted in warm casts, so I chose the slightly more accurate color of the Manual setting for the main series (despite a slight red cast).
Marti's skin tones look pretty good (just a little oversaturated, to my eye), but the blue flowers in the bouquet are a bit more purplish than in real life. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, often producing strong purple tints in what is really a light navy blue with only hints of purple.) Color looks good throughout the rest of the frame as well, if slightly dark. Resolution is very high, and detail is excellent in the flower bouquet. Marti's features also show strong detail, as do the creases in the cloth background, but detail is lost in the subtle shading of her hair, due to a slightly overaggressive anti-noise system. Shadow detail is good, and image noise is moderate.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files V3OUTMP0.HTM
through V3OUTMP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent resolution and detail, though slightly high contrast (still good midtone detail though).
Though contrast is again slightly high from the harsh lighting, the Sony DSC-V3 captures pretty good midtone detail here. The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which looks pretty good overall. The DSC-V3's 4x zoom lens helps prevent geometric distortion in Marti's features, and captures really extraordinary (verging on embarrassing) detail.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files V3OUTFACAP0.HTM
through V3OUTFACAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Slight underexposure with the flash in its normal mode, even at the High intensity setting. Similar results with Slow-Sync mode, though with a strong warm cast.
The Sony DSC-V3's built-in flash proved a bit weak here, even with the
intensity set to High. (Results were very dark
at the Normal intensity setting.) Color balance
is slightly warm from the background incandescent lighting, though Marti's
skin tone isn't too bad and the flower bouquet looks good. The camera's
Slow-Sync flash setting also required the High
intensity adjustment, though color was much warmer because the longer
exposure let in much more of the room lighting. Lighting is somewhat more
even here, but the orange cast is very strong.
Normal Flash Intensity Series:
Slow-Sync Flash Intensity Series:
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Slightly cool, but still good, color with the Manual white balance setting, about average exposure compensation required.
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 Sony DSC-V3's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings both resulted in warm casts, with the Auto setting producing the strongest of the two. Though slightly cool overall, I preferred color with the Manual setting. (Some users would doubtless like the results with the Incandescent setting though, as being more representative of the original scene lighting.) Marti's skin tone looks very good, and the flower bouquet looks about right as well. The blue flowers, however, are very dark and purplish (a common problem under this difficult light source, even when the overall white balance has been corrected to neutral). The main shot was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files V3INMP0.HTM
through V3INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, and very high resolution and detail.
Both the Sony DSC-V3's Auto and Manual
white balance settings performed pretty well here, but I chose the Manual
setting as the most accurate overall, based on the white value of the
house trim. The Daylight setting instead
resulted in a warm cast. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong
in the tree limbs, front shrubbery, and house front. Details are sharp
in the center of the frame, and soften only a little in the corners. (Note
though, that the DSC-V3 is probably capable of picking up more detail
than this poster has in it, despite the fact that it was made from a 4x5
negative shot with an extremely sharp lens.)
High resolution and strong detail, but high contrast limits dynamic range somewhat.
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, and the Sony DSC-V3 captures a lot of fine detail. The leaf patterns in the front shrubbery and in the tree limbs above the roof show a lot of fine detail, as does the brick pattern on the house front. While I saw some evidence of over-sharpening in the V3's resolution target shots, I really didn't notice any in natural scenes like this one. (Which is, of course, really the ultimate test of a digicam.) Details here are crisp and sharp, with relatively little evidence of "halos" around objects caused by the sharpening process. The "low sharpness" option produces images that takes strong low-radius sharpening in Photoshop(tm) very well, but I did notice in playing with the V3's images that strong sharpening applied to even the highest-quality JPEGs tended to reveal JPEG artifacts. This is a little unusual in my experience among top-tier digicams. While it's important to note that the V3's JPEG artifacts in its highest-quality mode are essentially invisible in unmodified images, people who like to sharpen post-exposure may want to shoot any photos in TIFF or RAW mode that they're planning to output as very large prints.
Turning to dynamic range, the bright sunlight causes
the camera to lose essentially all detail in the bright white paint surrounding
the bay window, making the window panes look almost like an illustration.
Detail is also low in the shadow area above the front door as well, further
evidence of a limited dynamic range. The table below shows a standard
resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, saturation,
and color effects series.
Color Effects Series:
Lens Zoom Range
A nice 4x zoom range. High quality auxiliary lenses.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (4x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. I also shot with the DSC-V3's wide angle and telephoto accessory lens adaptors. The Sony DSC-V3's lens is equivalent to a 34-136mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Sony manufactures a pair of auxiliary lenses for the DSC-V3, extending
the lens' focal length capability at both the wide-angle and telephoto
ends of its range. These look like high-quality optics, with a lot of
glass (meaning their use should result in relatively little reduction
in the effective aperture of the camera's lens). The shots below largely
confirm my impressions of these as quality optics, as they're quite
sharp from corner to corner, and there's relatively little chromatic
aberration in either. (The wide-angle example is a little problematic
though, in that the very wide angle of coverage led the camera to focus
on the tree branches intruding on the frame from the upper left, with
the result that the house itself and the trees around it are somewhat
out of focus. I'll try to repeat this shot, if I can find time before
sending the camera and lenses back.)
Slightly warm color, but still good results. High resolution and strong detail.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue
in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing
a warm color balance. Both the Sony DSC-V3's Auto
and Daylight white balance settings produced
slightly warm color balances, while the Manual
setting produced a cooler, more magenta cast. I preferred the warmer skin
tones of the Auto and Daylight settings, so I chose the Auto setting for
the main shot. Though the warm cast creates slight purplish tints in the
blue background and blue robe, overall color still looks good. Resolution
is very high, and detail is strong in the embroidered bird wings on the
blue robe, as well as in the beaded necklaces and instrument strings.
(The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras
like the DSC-V3 are capable of showing more detail than the poster has
An average macro area, albeit with very high resolution and detail. Flash throttles down a bit too much, however, underexposing slightly.
The Sony DSC-V3 captured a roughly average minimum area of 3.44 x 2.58
inches (87 x 66 millimeters) in the macro test. Resolution is very high,
however, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch.
Details soften toward the corners of the frame, but are fairly sharp in
the center. (Most digicams produce images with soft corners when shooting
in their Macro modes.) The DSC-V3's flash throttles
down almost too well for the macro area, as the resulting exposure is
a little darker than it ideally would be. (The "high" flash
setting would likely have corrected this though, as the flash exposure
adjustment does work in macro mode.) Overall, a very good macro performance.
"Davebox" Test Target
Good exposure and color, strong reds and greens are a bit overly bright.
Though very slightly magenta, the Sony DSC-V3's Manual
white balance setting produced the best results here, though the Auto
setting looked pretty good as well (just a little warm). The Daylight
setting resulted in a stronger warm cast. Exposure looks good, and the
subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target are clear and distinct. Color
in the large blocks of the MacBeth(tm) chart looks pretty good, although
the V3 does tend to make the bright colors very bright, and it
somewhat oversaturates the bright green and red swatches in particular.
The overall effect on "natural" subjects is quite pleasing though,
so I'd rate the V3's color as very good. The shadow area of the charcoal
briquettes shows good detail, with fairly low noise.
Excellent low-light performance, with good color and exposure, and low image noise, at the darkest light levels of this test. Good AF performance even without the AF-assist, excellent with Sony's Hologram AF-assist option.
The DSC-V3 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings. (I did notice minor color shifts toward a warm or a pink color balance at the lower light levels, but the shift was relatively slight.) Noise is quite low at the 100 and 200 ISO settings, and even at ISO 400 was quite a bit lower than I'd normally expect. At ISO 800, noise is higher, but still less than one would expect at such a high sensitivity, and color remains quite good in the face of it. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the DSC-V3 should do very well for after-dark photography in typical outdoor settings. Its autofocus system responded very well also, focusing down to light levels a bit under 1/4 foot-candle with the AF illuminator turned off. Sony's Hologram AF-assist light works better than most, and to greater distances, letting the camera easily focus in total darkness. 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.
(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to
check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a
light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two
seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)
Flash Range Test
A moderately-powerful flash, with a useful range at telephoto focal lengths of about 10 feet.
In my testing, the DSC-V3's flash dimly illuminated the test target at 14 feet, showing decreasing intensity from about the 10-foot distance on. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
High resolution, 1,550 lines of "strong detail." High barrel distortion at wide angle, and moderately high pincushion at telephoto. Low to moderate chromatic aberration. Very good sharpness in the corners of the frame.
The DSC-V3 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height horizontally, but around 800-1,000 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,550 lines, though you could also argue for 1,600 lines in both directions. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,900 lines.
Looking at the results from Imatest, the "MTF 50" numbers tend to correlate best with visual perceptions of sharpness, so those are what I focus on here. The uncorrected resolution figures are 1548 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge), and 1331 along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 1440 LW/PH. Correcting to a "standardized" sharpening with a one-pixel radius reduces these numbers a bit, to an average of 1321 LW/PH, a good if not spectacular number.
Geometric distortion on the DSC-V3 is about average at the wide-angle
end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The
telephoto end fared a little better, as I measured approximately 0.4 percent
pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is low to moderate, as I measured
about four of five pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines,
the degree of color ranging from slight to moderate. (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.) One of the stronger points
of the V3's lens is how sharp it keeps the corners of the frames. There's
relatively little of the softness in the corners that I've come to more
or less expect in consumer/prosumer digicam lenses.
Resolution Series, medium focal length
Resolution Test, Zoom Series
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
A tight optical viewfinder, but nearly accurate LCD monitor.
The Sony DSC-V3's optical viewfinder is very tight, and also rather variable, showing only 79 percent of the final image area at wide angle, but about 88 percent at telephoto. (A tight viewfinder is bad enough, but one that varies in its coverage as the zoom setting changes is very bad indeed, as it makes it very difficult to judge how much of the image the viewfinder is cropping.) Happily, the LCD monitor offered essentially 100% coverage, within the limits of this test. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DSC-V3's LCD monitor performed pretty well here, but its optical viewfinder could definitely use some help. Flash distribution is a little uneven at wide angle, with some falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.
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