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Sony MVC-FD97

Sony adds a Memory Stick and USB to the FD95 - No more file-compression blues!

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Page 3:Design

Review First Posted: 2/9/2001

As the most recent addition to Sony's Mavica series, the FD97 continues the line's trend of larger body styles, dictated by the physical dimensions of the included floppy drive. Despite first-guess estimates based on its hefty size, the camera feels lighter than you'd think. Weighing in at 33.2 ounces (950 g), including the battery pack, the FD97 is nearly identical to the previous FD95. Although that's a great deal more weight than many smaller digicams carry, it's still lighter than what your first assumption might be, mostly due to the tough plastic body. The camera's overall size is 5 x 5 x 7.25 inches (126 x 124 x 184mm). While the FD97 won't easily slip into your coat pocket, (the size must accommodate the required floppy disks and the very long-ratio zoom lens), the accompanying neck strap makes it easy to tote.

Now for our virtual tour around the camera. The top of the FD97 is fairly plain, holding the shutter button, pop-up flash, external flash mount, and external flash sync connection (marked "ACC" and covered by a rubber flap). In addition to hosting Sony's accessory F1000 flash unit, the external flash connector also works with a handful of other Sony flash-related accessories. You can also see the ridged manual focusing ring on the front of the lens in this view.

The rather large lens dominates the front of the camera, with a squared off rest to keep the lens from banging when the camera is set down. (This "rest" also houses the Steady-Shot system.) Also on the front of the camera is the zoom control lever and microphone, in addition to a soft rubber finger pad on the front of the hand grip.

We like the bulky hand grip on the side of the camera, which gives you a nice, solid hold. Conveniently, the floppy disk and Memory Stick slots are also on this side, making it simple to change disks in and out when the camera is mounted on a tripod. An eyelet for attaching the neck strap protrudes from the top of the floppy disk slot.

The majority of the camera's controls are on the left side of the camera (when viewed from the back), which we're more accustomed to after working with other Mavica models. Focus, Steady Shot, white balance, Program AE, spot metering, and macro options are all controlled from this side. An audio/video out terminal also resides on this side of the camera (at the bottom), protected by a flexible rubber flap that conveniently slides out of the way when opened. There's also a dioptric adjustment dial on the side of the optical viewfinder, to accommodate near and farsighted users, and an eyelet for attaching the neck strap.

Some controls do remain on the back panel, namely power, capture mode, flash, volume, the menu button, LCD on/off button, and the display button. The optical viewfinder and LCD panel also live back here (this LCD display is stationary, unlike some Mavica models where the LCD panel actually flips upward or has swiveling capability). We like the idea of having an information display in the optical viewfinder as with the FD95, but it's really only useful as a status readout: It's a little awkward navigating through menus with your face pressed against the back of the camera. Also on the back panel is the Memory Stick slot, covered by a hinged, sliding door. An adjustment switch above the compartment, labeled "MS" and "FD," determines whether the camera records images to the floppy disk or Memory Stick. The USB digital port rests beneath the Memory Stick compartment and is covered by a flexible rubber flap. Just above the Memory Stick compartment is the floppy disk ejector switch, a speaker, and a red LED that indicates when the camera is accessing the memory card or floppy disk.

We greatly appreciated the placement of the tripod mount and the battery compartment. They're just barely far enough away from each other to allow battery changes while the camera is attached to a tripod bracket. The metal threads of the tripod mount also gave us a bit more confidence that we wouldn't strip them when we tightened down the tripod screw. Our only complaint with the tripod mount was that the socket doesn't have a lot of flat area around it, particularly toward the front of the camera. This makes it more prone to front-to-back rocking when mounted on the tripod. Also visible from the bottom side of the camera is the DC In jack, beneath a rubber flap on the bottom of the lens barrel.

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