Sony DSC-N2 Optics

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 features a 38-114mm equivalent (3x) lens, which is a common zoom range among consumer-level digital cameras. The camera's autofocus system determines focus from a five-point spread in a large area at the center of the frame, but you can manually set the main AF point to the center position through the LCD menu, or opt for Spot AF. In Spot AF mode, you can actually touch the portion of the screen you want the camera to focus on, and set that as the main AF point. You can also manually select one of five fixed focus settings through the same menu option. Through the Setup menu, you can opt for Single or Monitor AF modes, the Monitor option acting like a Continuous AF mode and continuously adjusting the focus until the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The Sony N2's Macro mode performs well, and focuses as close as 2.4 inches (6 centimeters). In autofocus mode, a green circle appears solid in the LCD menu (it flashes while focus is uncertain), and the selected AF area brackets appear in green as well. The camera also gives an audible chime, so you know focus is locked.

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the Sony N2 also sports Sony's trademark Precision Digital Zoom and Smart Zoom technologies. Precision Digital Zoom enlarges as much as 2x, while Smart Zoom extends to a maximum of 17x. With Smart Zoom, the amount of digital enlargement available depends on the image resolution setting. At the 8.0-megapixel resolution, only 3.4x is available. The full 17x enlargement is only an option at the VGA resolution setting.

Lens

Zoom
A typical 3x optical zoom range, though good lens performance. Precision Digital Zoom also performs well.

38mm 114mm 2x Precision Digital Zoom

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 optical zoom covers the equivalent of a 38-114mm range, fairly typical among digital cameras of its class. Results were quite good at wide angle, though some corner softness and coma distortion were present. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom did a great job of holding onto fine detail, much better than we're accustomed to seeing with digital zooms. Though some fine detail is compromised, results on the whole are much better than average.

Macro
A tiny macro area with strong detail and high resolution. Flash exposure was very uneven up close.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Sony N2's macro setting performed well, capturing a small minimum area of 2.28 x 1.80 inches (58 x 46 millimeters). Detail and resolution were both good, though some lens distortion creates strong softening in the corners of the frame. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) The flash produced a very uneven exposure here, partially blocked by the lens with a slight overexposure in the top of the frame, though it was comparitively well-controlled. Still, plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the Sony N2.

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion, as well as some minor pincushion.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto). The Sony N2's 0.8% barrel distortion at wide angle is about average among the cameras we've tested, although still uncomfortably high to my eyes. At the telephoto end, I found about 0.2% pincushion distortion, which is fairly low but noticeable.

Barrel distortion at 38mm is 0.8%
Pincushion at 114mm is 0.2%

Chromatic aberration
Moderate to high effect on images at edges.

Wide: high though dim,
top left @ 200%
Wide: high, still dim
top right @ 200%
Tele: moderate extension, more
bright, top left @200%
Tele: moderate extension, more
bright @200%

Chromatic aberration is moderate at both wide angle and telephoto on the Sony N2. At telephoto, the distortion is still a bit high, though pixels are a little less bright. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The effect is pretty noticeable in several of our test shots.

Corner Sharpness
Significant softening in the corners at wide angle, though corners remain fairly sharp at telephoto.

Wide: Quite soft in the
corners (particularly the lower right)
Wide: sharper at center
Tele: sharp in the
corners (upper left)
Tele: slightly soft at center

The Sony N2 produced quite soft corners at its full wide angle setting, with the strongest blurring in the lower right corner. At telephoto, all four corners were fairly sharp, though the center of the frame was slightly softer.

Viewfinder

Coverage

Excellent accuracy with LCD monitor.

38mm eq., LCD 114mm eq., LCD

The Sony N2's LCD monitor showed about 103% frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 99% at telephoto, which is quite good. (Though wide angle framing is actually a bit loose, just slightly cutting out the furthest target lines.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 Photo Gallery .

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