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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828

Sony extends their high end to encompass 8(!) megapixels and a sharp 7x Zeiss zoom lens. - And Sony's new RGB+E sensor technology for more accurate color!

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Page 1:Intro and Highlights

Review First Posted: 08/15/2003, Updated: 02/05/04

8.0-megapixel CCD for image sizes to 3,264 x 2,440 pixels
Ultra-sharp 7x zoom lens (f/2.0-2.8 too!), now with manual zoom control via lens ring.
Sony's new "RGB+E" sensor technology for dramatically improved color accuracy.
The fastest prosumer digicam on the planet? - Maybe so...
Many enhancements and feature upgrades over the previous F717.


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Manufacturer Overview
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Sony Electronics Inc. has long been a dominant player in the digicam marketplace, with a wide range of models enjoying enormous popularity with consumers. Currently, they're maintaining what's arguably the broadest line of digicams in the industry, with multiple models in a number of distinct product lines. At the high end, they rocked the digicam world in 2001 by introducing the DSC-F707, a five megapixel model with a tack-sharp Carl Zeiss lens and a host of unprecedented features, all for under $1,000. The F707's infrared-based Night Shot and Night Framing modes and the completely unique Hologram Autofocus created a camera that could quite literally shoot (and focus) in total darkness.

Last year, they updated the F707 to the F717, adding a number of enhancements that together constituted a significant upgrade to an already highly capable camera. This year (this is being written in August, 2003), they migrated many of the F717's features into a compact body style, the result being the new DSC-V1 model.

This time around, at a time when five-megapixel cameras are beginning to become commonplace, Sony has leapfrogged the competition once again, extending the F717 "big lens" concept by boosting the sensor resolution to 8 megapixels (!) and the lens to a 7x zoom, equivalent to a 28-215mm lens on a 35mm camera. - And it's not just any 7x zoom lens either, but one with a fast f/2.0-2.8 maximum aperture. The result is the new DSC-F828, a burly uber-camera to redefine the high end of Sony's lineup.

Some of the biggest news with the 828 is that it's the first vehicle for Sony's new "RGB+E" image sensors, which use four different color filters, rather than the usual three. (Most digicams distinguish color thanks to red, green, and blue color filters over their individual pixels. The 828 adds "Emerald" (more or less a cyan color) filters, replacing half of what would otherwise have been green pixels on a normal CCD chip.) This new sensor color space dramatically improves color rendition in some parts of the spectrum. In particular, it reveals more shading and detail in highly-saturated yellows, reds, and oranges, and more renders some shades of blue and blue-green more accurately. In early samples I saw, the RGB+E technology looked like it held great promise for significantly improving color accuracy and the ability of cameras to faithfully render subtle hues in brightly-colored subjects. Now, after some time spent with a production model, I have to say that it looks like the promise was fulfilled. - The F828 does a much better job with highly saturated colors of certain hues than any other digicam I've seen to date. (Interested readers can peruse our original news stories covering the announcement of RGB+E technology here and here.)

Overall, the 828 will look familiar to people acquainted with the previous F717, although it also shares some heritage with Sony's much-earlier "cult" model, the D770. There's one significant departure internally though, that frankly surprised me given Sony's recent history: A Type II CompactFlash memory slot! While there's still a Memory Stick slot hidden inside the battery compartment, the inclusion of a CF slot struck me as an indication of how seriously Sony wants to pursue the high end "prosumer" digicam market. - A lot of prospective buyers in that market segment already have a significant investment in CF cards, so the presence of a CF slot in the 828 removes a potential barrier for many prospective buyers.

It's clear that the F828 constitutes a technological breakthrough in several areas, including the aforementioned RGB+E sensor technology, and also in its autofocus speed and shutter response. It does suffer from higher image noise than we've seen in the best 5-megapixel digicams though, and its lens also seems somewhat prone to the "purple fringing" problem that's plagued the digicam world for years now. Overall though, the F828 is an incredible picture-taking machine that raises the bar for the entire field. Read on for all the details!

High Points

  • 8.0-megapixel, four-color Super HAD CCD, for file sizes to 3,264 x 2,448 pixels.
  • 1.8-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with data display, 235,000 pixel resolution (very high).
  • Optional "live" histogram display in viewfinder.
  • 7x optical zoom with 14x Precision Digital Zoom (as much as 35x Smart Zoom in VGA mode).
  • 28-200mm equivalent Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.0-f/2.8, depending on zoom position.
  • Direct mechanical coupling of lens ring to zoom mechanism, for better control and "feel".
  • Multipoint autofocus for challenging subjects, plus Manual focus option and fully adjustable Spot AF area.
  • Industry-leading autofocus speed and shutter delay. (This claim amply supported by my own test results.)
  • Hologram AF assist light for low-light and low-contrast focusing.
  • Night Shot and Night Framing IR modes for "no light" framing and shooting.
  • Through-the-lens (TTL) flash metering.
  • TTL flash metering supported with new (optional) HVL-F32X external flash unit as well.
  • Full Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus four preset Scene modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 30 to 1/2,000 seconds.
  • Adjustable ISO with sensitivity equivalents of Auto, 100, 200, 400, and 800.
  • White Balance setting with six presets and a manual setting.
  • Multi-Pattern, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
  • Clear Color, Clear Luminance, and Slow Shutter Noise Reduction modes.
  • Built-in, pop-up flash with four main modes and a Red-Eye Reduction setting.
  • External flash hot shoe and connection socket.
  • MPEG VX Movie with sound recording mode with two quality options (recording duration limited only by memory card capacity) - New "VX Fine" mode extends movie resolution to 640x480.
  • "Burst 7," Multi-Burst, Auto Exposure Bracketing, E-Mail, Voice, and 10-second Self-Timer modes.
  • Sharpness, Saturation, Color, and Contrast settings (low/normal/high for each).
  • Uncompressed TIFF, RAW, and JPEG image file formats (movies saved as MPEG).
  • Image storage on Sony Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, or CompactFlash Type I or II (IBM MicroDrive compatible) cards.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • Power from Sony NP-FM50 lithium-ion battery pack or AC adapter.
  • AV Cable with NTSC and PAL format options
  • USB cable (supports USB 1.0 and 2.0) and software CD for quick connection to a computer.

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