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Sony DSC-F505V

Sony updates their popular DSC-F505V with a 3 megapixel sensor (2.6 million effective pixels) and all-new electronics!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 06/01/2000

Executive Overview
Given that we enjoyed the earlier DSC-F505 so much, it's no surprise that we really liked the nearly identical design of the DSC-F505V. The main differences between the two models lie in the larger 3.3 megapixel CCD (delivering an uninterpolated image size of 1856 x 1392 pixels, or 2240 x 1680 pixels with interpolation); better highlight detail and low light performance; improved manual focusing, aperture and shutter controls; an uncompressed TIFF format on all but the largest image sizes; and a wider range of exposure compensation settings (from -2.0 to +2.0 in 1/3 EV increments); among other improvements. One of our favorite aspects continues to be the rotating lens which swings nearly 180 degrees. We also enjoyed the fact that the tripod mount is placed on the bottom of the lens instead of the camera body, meaning you can tilt the body up to make the LCD monitor more visible. Although the lens notably prevents the camera from fitting into small pockets, the camera body itself is one of the most compact we've seen, making it quite light weight. (And the huge lens makes it an instant attention-getter, if you're into that sort of thing...) The only viewfinder on the DSC-F505V is the LCD monitor on the back panel, which offers brightness controls and a back light option directly beneath it. We found the LCD monitor to be somewhat difficult to see in very bright conditions (even with the back light function turned off as the manual suggests) and would like to have had an optical viewfinder for reference in those situations. That said, the LCD is much more visible in direct sunlight than most. In very dark conditions though, the opposite situation prevails, with not enough light reaching the CCD for it to produce a usable image in its rapid-refresh "viewfinder" mode. (Overall, we'd really prefer to see some sort of optical viewfinder as an adjunct.) For optics, the DSC-F505V comes with a razor-sharp 7.1 to 35.5mm Carl Zeiss 5x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38 to 190mm lens on a 35mm camera) with apertures from F/2.8 to F/8.0. Focus ranges from 0.5m to infinity in wide angle and from 2 cm to infinity in macro.

The DSC-F505V can digitally zoom up to 2x (for an overall zoom ratio of 10x), but keep in mind that the end result of digital zoom is a lower-resolution image. A manual focus option allows you to focus the lens as you would a standard 35mm camera by turning the notched bezel. Manual focus is especially helpful in macro mode, which on the DSC-F505V captures subjects as close as 0.8 inches (2cm) to the lens. An improvement that we especially appreciate here is that once you begin turning the focus bezel, a magnified image appears on the LCD to assist in fine tuning the focus. This is very helpful, since there is no distance readout to assist you.

The DSC-F505V doesn't offer full manual exposure control, but does give you moderate exposure control with its program AE modes (Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, Twilight, Twilight Plus, Landscape and Panfocus). Aperture Priority and Shutter Speed Priority are self explanatory, letting you control the aperture or shutter speed while the camera adjusts the other setting. Twilight mode helps you capture bright objects against darker backgrounds, while Twilight Plus boosts the light sensitivity of the camera and allows longer exposure times for nighttime photography. Landscape sets the focus for far away subjects and Panfocus allows you to quickly switch focus from far away to close up subjects (setting the lens to it's hyperfocal point?). The pop-up flash on the DSC-F505V works from 11.9 inches to 8.3 feet (0.3 to 2.5m) with choices of Auto (no LCD icon displayed, flash fires whenever the camera thinks it needs it), Forced (flash always fires), Red-Eye Reduction (a small pre-flash fires before the full flash to eliminate the Red-Eye Effect) and Suppressed (flash never fires) modes. You can also control flash intensity via the record menu with choices of High, Normal and Low. A new bonus on the F505V is the external flash connection. You still have control over exposure compensation through the record menu, but now with a wider range, from -2.0 to +2.0 in 1/3 EV increments. White balance continues to offer four modes (Auto, Indoors, Outdoors and One-Push). Auto, Indoors and Outdoors do exactly what you'd expect and balance the white value for specific lighting conditions. We enjoyed the flexibility of the One-Push mode, which adjusts the white balance according to a white value that you establish, and found it able to handle pretty extreme lighting conditions. There's also a 10 second self-timer and a spot metering option for further versatility.

In addition to standard exposure control, several picture effects let you manipulate images in the camera, both before and after recording. Negative Art reverses the color and brightness of the image. Sepia and Black & White change the image into monochromatic tones. Solarize separates the light intensities in the image, making it look more like an illustration. These are fun ways to infuse a little creativity into your shots. Probably the most exciting feature on the DSC-F505V is the ability to record short movies with sound. Movies can be recorded in lengths of five, 10 and 15 seconds, depending on how you set it up. Three movie formats are available: 320 x 240 HQ, 320 x 240 (standard quality) and 160 x 112. You can also record short sound bytes to accompany your still images. We can think of dozens of uses for this in everything from pure image organization to documentation. Movie files are stored in the MPEG3 format

When it comes to storing images, the DSC-F505V utilizes Memory Sticks. These tiny cards (about the width of a stick of gum, but a bit shorter) come in 4MB, 8MB, 16MB, 32MB and 64MB sizes and are easily write protected with a sliding lock on the card itself. The DSC-F505V runs on rechargeable InfoLITHIUM battery packs (S series) or the A/C adapter (which doubles as the battery charger). We really like the "gas gauge" function provided by the InfoLITHIUM system that shows remaining battery charge in minutes of operation for whatever camera mode you happen to be in. US and Japanese models of the DSC-F505V come with an NTSC A/V cable for connection to a television set. (European versions presumably support the PAL standard). Images and movies can be played back and composed using the TV as the LCD monitor. The camera also comes with a USB cable for downloading images to a computer. The included software CD contains PictureGear 3.2 Lite, which basically allows you to download and play back captured images. Although no photo manipulation software comes with the camera, Sony does offer ImageStation on their website, which offers various Internet and printing capabilities. Unfortunately for Mac users, the PictureGear software is only compatible with Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0 (although they do provide a USB driver for Macintosh, so you should at least be able to download images).

Despite the slightly quirky LCD and the limited software options, we really enjoyed this camera. Combine the tack-sharp rotating lens with the movie capability and good exposure control options, and you have a very versatile, simple to operate digicam well-suited to both the average consumer and the photo enthusiast. The variety of features and the overall flexibility make the DSC-F505V handy for the office, home or anywhere. It's compact enough to be portable and feature-laden enough to tackle almost any shooting situation. Overall, it's a fantastic upgrade to what was already an excellent camera, the DSC-F505. We think you'll enjoy it.

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