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Sony MVC-FD87

Sony announces an affordable 1.3-megapixel digicam with basic features, good quality pictures, and a dual-media storage drive!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 5/4/2001

Executive Overview
Like the other Sony Mavicas, the MVC-FD87 appears bulky at first sight, measuring a hefty 5.75 x 4.1 x 3 inches (143 x 103 x 75mm), but the larger size is a small price to pay for the convenience of floppy disk image storage. Almost a mirror image of the FD92, the FD87 is a more trimmed-down version, with less features, a smaller lens, and no interpolation of its 1.3-megapixel CCD. The camera weighs slightly less than the FD92, at 22.2 ounces (630 grams with battery, lens cap, and floppy diskette) and its sturdy, all plastic body should withstand most average wear and tear. A shoulder / neck strap keeps the camera portable, and an accessory camera bag is available for added protection and easier toting.

The MVC-FD87's boxy shape accommodates a 3.5-inch floppy diskette, which can be removed from the camera following image capture, plugged directly into your computer's floppy drive, and the photos dragged and dropped onto your hard drive with no software intervention (a feature that has made the Mavica line extremely popular with consumers). Like the FD92, the FD87 offers both floppy disk and Memory Stick image storage options, however, the FD87 uses the same drive for both, accepting the Memory Stick only when inserted into an FD2M/FD2MA Floppy Disk Adapter (both the Memory Stick and Adapter are optional accessories).

The MVC-FD87 offers a 2.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor for composing images, with a fairly detailed information display and on-screen menu system (minus the shutter speed and aperture settings). The 3x optical zoom lens offers focal lengths from 6.1-18.3mm (39-117mm equivalent on a 35mm camera) with maximum apertures from f/2.8-f/2.9 depending on the zoom setting. Focus ranges from 9.84 inches (25 cm) to infinity in normal mode (at the wide-angle setting) and from 1.18 to 19.2 inches (3 to 50 cm) in Macro mode, with a handful of fixed focus settings available as well.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times (unfortunately the instruction manual doesn't report the complete range of apertures or shutter speeds). A variety of Program AE modes equip the camera for special shooting situations, with choices of Automatic exposure, Twilight, Twilight Plus, Landscape, Panfocus, and Spot Metering modes. Twilight and Twilight Plus modes extend low-light performance (although not to true night photography levels, the flash is required for dark scenes). Landscape mode locks the focus at infinity, and Panfocus allows you to quickly change focus from far away to close-up subjects. Both Landscape and Panfocus modes are perfect for fast-action shooting situations, when you don't have time to wait for the autofocus system to change focus. Spot Metering mode changes the default averaged metering system to one that bases the exposure on the very center of the frame -- ideal for high-contrast subjects.

Though exposure is completely automatic, an exposure compensation adjustment allows you to override the exposure reading from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Automatic, Indoors, Outdoors, and Hold (which merely recalls the previously used setting). The onboard flash gives you some added control, providing four operating modes (Auto, Auto Red-Eye, Forced Flash, and No Flash) and allowing you to set its intensity to one of three levels (High, Normal, and Low). There's also a sharpness control, ranging from +2 to -2, and a selection of menu-selected Picture Effects, which include Solarize, B&W, Sepia, and Negative Art.

Aside from the traditional still capture mode, the MVC-FD87 offers a Text option for recording still images as black-and-white GIFs (good for capturing printed text or meeting white boards), or smaller 320 x 240-pixel E-Mail files for Internet transmission (recorded simultaneously with higher-resolution files).

The MVC-FD87 stores images to either a 3.5-inch floppy diskette or a Sony Memory Stick (via a floppy adapter). Floppy storage makes it exceptionally easy for users to transfer images to a computer. Simply pop out the disk and insert it into your computer's floppy drive. There's no cabling to figure out and you don't have to worry about using the AC adapter while downloading to save battery power. The downside to floppy disk storage is that the 1.44MB capacity limits you to only five high-resolution images on a disk. The Memory Stick, however, offers storage capacities as high as 64MB on a single card, and when used with the floppy disk adapter, offers the same drag-and-drop advantages.

MGI PhotoSuite SE and VideoWave come packaged with the camera's software CD. PhotoSuite SE provides organized image downloading, image correction capabilities, and a variety of creative templates for making greeting cards, calendars, and other novelties. VideoWave software provides movie playback and minor editing capabilities, though the camera does not have movie capture capabilities. Similarly, the software CD includes Sony SPVD-004 USB drivers for both Mac and Windows platforms, though the camera does not have a USB connection jack. (We assume this is because the same software CD is bundled with the MVC-FD92 models, which do include these features.)

For power, the MVC-FD87 runs on Sony InfoLITHIUM NP-F330 rechargeable battery packs. (NP-F550 packs can also be used.) What's great about the InfoLITHIUM system is that the battery communicates with the camera regarding power consumption. The camera displays remaining battery time in minutes on the LCD, next to a battery symbol. To conserve battery power, an auto power-off option shuts down the camera after three minutes of inactivity. This is great from an energy conservation standpoint, but we'd like to be able to adjust the shut-down time.

Throughout our testing, the MVC-FD87 performed well for its 1.3-megapixel class, with nice color and great detail. The camera's white balance system accurately assessed most light sources, and the camera's macro capabilities are very commendable. The lack of exposure control limits the camera's low-light performance somewhat, but the available Program AE modes should handle a large variety of shooting situations. Overall, this slightly scaled-down addition to the Mavica line is a great choice for consumers who want the ease of a point-and-shoot camera plus good quality images.

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