Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Sony Digital Cameras > Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71

The Imaging Resource

Quick Review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
User Level
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 3.2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Up to sharp 8x10s
March, 2002
Suggested Retail Price

Learn how to really use your camera! Check out our free Photo Lessons!

Review Links
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures

Sony has clearly been one of the most dominant players in the entire digicam market for a number of years now. - And for good reason: Their cameras offer excellent features and performance, good build quality and great picture quality. They currently offer no fewer than five distinct lines of cameras, spanning an incredible range of features, price, and performance. In their "Compact" line, they've now added a new three megapixel model, the DSC-P71. With a telescoping 3x optical zoom lens and compact design, the P71 is comfortably pocket-sized, offering three megapixel resolution in a package that's both portable and comfortable in the hand. (I find the slightly elongated case design easier to hold than some ultra-compact digicams yet it's thin profile means it's still easy to slip in a pocket.) A range of creative options let you shoot in a wide variety of conditions, while its auto-connect USB connection (on Windows Me, 2000, XP, and Mac OS 8.6 or higher), makes downloading images easy. Read the review below for the details, but if you're looking for a compact and highly functional three megapixel digicam, the Sony DSC-P71 deserves serious consideration.

(This review has now been updated to reflect the performance and behavior of a production-model DSC-P71. 6/6/2002)

Camera Overview
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71 is similar in size and shape to the original DSC-P1, making it very portable and compact. Its small size makes it a perfect match for most shirt pockets, and a wrist strap keeps it securely attached to your wrist when shooting (necessary given the very tiny handgrip). The compact design includes a shutter-like, built-in lens cover which conveniently slides open whenever the camera is powered on, allowing the lens to telescope outward about an inch from the body. The DSC-P71's 3x zoom lens features automatic focus control, with several fixed focus settings available as well as an adjustable focus area. The 3.2-megapixel CCD produces high resolution, print quality images, as well as lower resolution images better suited for e-mail. Combine this with the ease of automatic exposure control and the creative Picture Effects menu, and the DSC-P71 is an excellent choice for novice consumers who want to take great pictures without hassling over exposure decisions.

The DSC-P71 is equipped with a 3x, 8.0-24mm lens, with a focus distance ranging from approximately 1.64 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity in normal shooting mode. A Macro shooting mode is available, letting you get to within 10 cm when the lens is zoomed to its wide angle position, and 50 cm at its telephoto setting. This translates into a fairly average minimum macro area of 3.46 x 2.60 inches (88 x 66 millimeters). In addition to automatic focus control, the DSC-P71 offers a range of fixed focus settings through the Record menu, as well as Center AF and Multi AF focus area options. An AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera helps focus at low light levels, a very handy feature I wish more digicam manufactures would add to their cameras. A 2x Precision digital zoom option increases the DSC-P71's zoom capabilities to 6x, though I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. (That said, Sony's Precision digital zoom generally seems to produce better than average results.) For composing images, the DSC-P71 offers a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch, color LCD monitor.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the DSC-P71, great for novices and casual users looking for simplicity. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on, and a Mode dial on the back panel lets you select between Scene, Automatic, and Movie exposure modes. Within Scene mode, you can select Twilight, Twilight Portrait, or Landscape "scenes." Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting broad vistas. Although the camera controls aperture and shutter speed, the Record menu offers White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Spot Metering, ISO, Record Mode (Normal or E-mail), Sharpness, Flash Level, Picture Effects, Focus, and image quality and size settings. Even though the camera always controls both shutter and aperture settings, I appreciated the onscreen display that shows the settings its chosen whenever you half-press the shutter button - I think such displays do a great deal to help people understand the effects of shutter speed and aperture, demystifying the camera's operation. Under the Picture Effects setting, you can record images in black and white or sepia monotones, or select the Solarize or Negative Art options. The DSC-P71's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync (Twilight Portrait only) modes.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 320 x 240-, or 160 x 112-pixel resolution moving images (without sound) for as long as the memory card has available storage space, with an available HQX quality setting for higher image quality at the cost of larger file sizes. The DSC-P71 also offers Clip Motion and Multi Burst modes. Clip Motion records a series of up to 10 images that are automatically saved in a single animated GIF file, and that can be played back as an animation sequence. (A feature I enjoyed on previous Cyber-shot digicams.) Multi Burst mode captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames/second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (Great for tennis and golf swings!) A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the camera actually takes the picture, giving the photographer time to run around and get in the picture him/herself.

The DSC-P71 stores images on Sony Memory Sticks, available separately in capacities as large as 128MB. In a real departure from Sony's past practice of using their proprietary "InfoLITHIUM" batteries, the P71 uses two AA batteries for power, either alkaline, NiMH, or lithium. A set of two rechargeable NiMH AAs and a battery charger are included in the box with each camera, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Sony AAs have a very high capacity, on a par with the very best third-party NiMH AA cells I've tested. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images. The DSC-P71 features a Video Out jack, for connecting to a television set, and a USB jack for downloading images to a computer. A software CD is loaded with Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers, for downloading and organizing images. (On Windows Me, 2000, or XP computers, or Macs running OS 8.6 or higher, no separate USB driver software is needed: The camera shows up on the desktop automatically when it is plugged in.)

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor with backlight.
  • Glass, 3x zoom lens, equivalent to 39-117mm on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8 - f/5.3, depending on lens zoom position.
  • 2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 2 seconds.
  • Built-in flash.
  • Memory Stick storage, 16MB card included.
  • USB computer interface
  • Power supplied by two AA batteries or optional AC adapter.
  • Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with MPEG EX Movie, Clip Motion, and Multi Burst options.
  • Scene mode with Twilight, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape preset modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Picture Effects menu with Black-and-White, Sepia, Negative Art, and Solarize effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens setting.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Sharpness adjustment.
  • E-mail (320 x 240-pixel) record mode.
  • Multi-Pattern and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with three ISO equivalents (100, 200, 400) and an Auto setting.
  • Five (optional) fixed focus settings.
  • Adjustable autofocus area.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • NTSC video cable for connection to a television set.

Like the rest of the smaller-sized Sony Cyber-shot line, the DSC-P71 is a good quality compact digicam. It offers a nice point & shoot simplicity, but with enough advanced features to make it possible to take photos in otherwise challenging situations. (Low light, fast action, etc). The 3.2-megapixel CCD delivers high quality images, appropriate for any use from printing to distributing via e-mail, and its compact design makes it a good candidate for travel. Overall, the P71 is a good choice for anyone wanting a capable, portable camera that takes good photos in a variety of circumstances. Easy to use, but with enough flexibility to handle a range of conditions.

With a small body size and compact design, the DSC-P71 maintains dimensions similar to the original DSC-P1 model. (Virtually identical, but a half-inch longer overall.) Its sleek, smooth styling is free from any extreme protrusions except for the lens, which telescopes outward when powered on. Still, the DSC-P71's dimensions of 5.0 x 2.1 x 1.5 inches (127 x 53 x 38 mm) makes it just small enough to fit into a shirt pocket or small purse.

The front of the DSC-P71 is rounded on the left side, following the shape of the lens barrel and adding to the smooth design aesthetic. A shutter-like, retractable lens cover protects the lens whenever the camera is powered off, flipping quickly out of the way when the camera is turned on. The lens telescopes out from the camera body about three-quarters of an inch into its operating position. Also on the front panel are the flash, optical viewfinder window, and AF Illuminator lamp. A small handgrip provides a secure finger rest when holding the camera, but is small enough that you'll probably want to keep the wrist strap securely in place while shooting.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the back) is the battery compartment. A sliding plastic door protects the compartment, and features a latch that prevents it from accidentally flying open while shooting. Just above the compartment is the wrist strap attachment eyelet. You can also see the Memory Stick compartment door from this view, which opens from the bottom of the camera.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless, rounded by the side of the lens barrel.

The DSC-P71's top panel is fairly smooth and flat, featuring only the Shutter and Power buttons, both of which barely protrude from the camera's surface.

The remaining few camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece, LCD monitor, speaker, and connector jacks. Three LED lamps next to the optical viewfinder report camera status, indicating when focus is set or the flash is charging. The Mode dial and Zoom rocker button dominate the top left corner of the back panel, while the Menu, Display, and Four Way Arrow pad flank the left side of the LCD monitor. The small speaker plays only camera sounds, as the camera records only silent movies. In the lower left corner, beneath a tethered plastic door, are the Video Out and USB connector jacks. The DC In jack is on the opposite side, beneath a flexible plastic flap. Also on the right side is a set of raised bumps, which provide a thumb grip when holding the camera in shooting position.

In record mode, the LCD monitor optionally displays just the subject, the subject plus an information overlay, or nothing at all. (That is, the LCD may be turned off.)

In playback mode, the LCD display can show the captured images with or without an information overlay, a thumbnail index showing multiple images at once, or detailed information regarding the exposure parameters for a given image.

The DSC-P71 has a flat bottom panel, which holds the metal tripod socket and Memory Stick slot. (Kudos for the rugged metal tripod socket, many cameras use plastic here.) The Memory Stick compartment door slides open to reveal the card, which pops outward when pushed slightly. I was glad to see enough space between the tripod mount and Memory Stick slot to let you change the card even when mounted to a tripod. (The side-access battery compartment is a plus as well). That said, I did notice that the off-center tripod mount left the camera slightly tilted on my tripod head, making more difficult to level the camera body exactly. Given the very portable nature of the DSC-P71, I don't think this will be much of an issue for most of its users though.

Camera Operation
The DSC-P71's user interface is very straightforward, with only a few external controls and a very concise LCD menu system. For standard point-and-shoot operation, the most basic features (flash, zoom, and macro and self-timer modes) have external controls, while settings like White Balance, Exposure Compensation, etc. are adjusted through the menu. The Mode dial lets quickly set the camera's operating mode, with just a turn. When you need to enter the LCD menu system, you'll find it simple to navigate, with each setting appearing as a separate tab at the bottom of the screen. The arrow keys of the Four Way Arrow pad scroll through the selections, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. The menu system is so simple and intuitive I think even novice users will be able to become completely familiar with it in an hour or less.e.

External Controls

Power Button: Placed unobtrusively on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on and off.

Shutter Button: Located on the far right of the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.

Mode Dial: This ridged dial is on the camera's rear panel, and offers the following settings:

  • Scene: Allows the user to select one of three Scene modes (Twilight, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape).
  • Automatic Record: Places the camera in Record mode, with the user able to adjust all exposure features except for shutter speed and aperture.
  • Playback: Replays captured still images and movie files, with options for image management and printing.
  • Movie: Records silent, moving images, for as long as the Memory Stick has space. Also accesses Clip Motion and Multi Burst modes when activated through the Set-Up menu.
  • Set-Up: Displays the Set-Up menu, for changing camera settings.

Zoom Toggle: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, this rocker switch controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode.

In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images and accesses the index display mode as well as a detailed information display. (The "T" side zooms in, the "W" side zooms out. Zooming out from the normal-sized single image view brings up an index display of tiny "thumbnail" images.)

Menu Button: Situated to the right of the speaker, this button displays or dismisses the settings menu in any Record mode or in Playback mode.

Display/LCD Button: Just adjacent to the Menu button, this button controls the LCD monitor's display mode. In both Record and Playback modes, the button cycles through the image and information displays, and turns the LCD monitor on and off.

Four Way Arrow Pad: Below the Menu and Display buttons, this rocker control features four arrow keys and navigates through any settings menu. The center of the pad acts as the "OK" button to confirm menu selections.

In Automatic Record mode, the up arrow controls flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, and Suppressed modes (it only activates Slow-Sync in Twilight Portrait mode, and no flash modes are available in Twilight or Movie modes). The down arrow activates the Self-Timer option, while the right arrow controls the Macro mode. The left arrow calls up a quick review of the most recently-captured image.

In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys move around within the enlarged view.

Battery Compartment Latch: Tucked in the center of the battery compartment door, this button unlocks the door, allowing it to slide outward.

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In this mode, the camera captures standard still images, controlling aperture and shutter speed. Pressing the Menu button displays a similar menu as above, with an additional ISO option:

  • Exposure Compensation: Lightens or darkens the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • White Balance: Adjusts the color balance for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Spot Metering: Turns on Spot Metering or shuts it off.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents. - Use ISO 200 or 400 for action shots, where you need a faster shutter speed to freeze the action. Higher ISOs produce "noisier" images though.
  • Image Size: Sets the resolution size to 2,048 x 1,536; 2,048 (3:2 aspect); 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels.
  • Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • Mode: Changes the recording mode to Normal or E-Mail (records a 320 x 240-pixel image in addition to one at the selected image size).
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the flash intensity to Normal, Low, or High.
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.
  • Sharpness: Sets the overall image sharpness in arbitrary units from -2 to +2.

Scene Mode: This record mode offers three preset "scene" modes, for shooting in specific situations. Flash, zoom, Macro, and Self-Timer modes are all available, though flash mode is limited in some cases, and Macro isn't available when in Landscape scene mode. Menu options are virtually identical to those in normal Record mode, except the ISO option isn't present. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Scene: Selects between Twilight, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape "scenes." Twilight allows much longer exposure times than does the normal shooting mode, but disables the flash. Twilight Portrait combines longer exposures with the flash. ISO options aren't available, but the Twilight modes apparently boost ISO to 200 automatically. Landscape apparently just sets the camera's focus to infinity. (I confess to not being sure why you'd need this, the autofocus lens could just focus on distant objects normally.)
  • Exposure Compensation: Lightens or darkens the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. Needed to get correct exposures for scenes that are light or dark overall. (E.g., beach/snow scenes, etc.)
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • White Balance: Adjusts the color balance for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Spot Metering: Turns on Spot Metering or shuts it off.
  • Image Size: Sets the resolution size to 2,048 x 1,536; 2,048 (3:2 aspect); 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels.
  • Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • Mode: Changes the recording mode to Normal or E-Mail (records a 320 x 240-pixel image in addition to one at the set resolution size).
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the flash intensity to Normal, Low, or High. (Flash is only available in Twilight Portrait scene mode though, not Twilight or Landscape.)
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.
  • Sharpness: Sets the overall image sharpness in arbitrary units from -2 to +2.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. When playing back movie files, you can also opt for "frame-by-frame" playback, which plays back the movie file slowly, several frames at a time. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Delete: Erases the current image. There is an option to cancel the operation.
  • Protect: Write-protects the currently image, or removes protection.
  • Print: Marks the current image for printing on a DPOF device, or removes the print mark.
  • Slide: Enables a slide show of all images captured on the Memory Stick. You can control the interval between each image as well as whether or not the slide show repeats.
  • Resize: Resizes the current image to one of the available resolution sizes.
  • Rotate: Rotates the current image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Divide: Divides movie files into segments, providing a very basic editing tool you can use to "trim" your movies to just the portion you want to keep.

Movie Mode: Records short movie clips without sound, for as long as the Memory Stick has available space. If set through the Set-Up menu, this mode can also record Clip Motion or Multi Burst frames. The LCD menu system offers the following options:

  • Exposure Compensation: Lightens or darkens the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • White Balance: Adjusts the color balance for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Spot Metering: Turns on Spot Metering or shuts it off.
  • Image Size: Sets the movie resolution size to 320 x 240 (HQX); 320 x 240; or 160 x 112 pixels in MPEG Movie mode. In Clip Motion mode, offers Normal (160 x 120 pixels) or Mobile (80 x 72 pixels) sizes. In Multi Burst mode, offers frame intervals of 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30-second.
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.

Set-Up Mode: The following three page Set-Up menu automatically displays when entering this mode:

  • Camera:
    • Moving Image: Sets the Movie recording type to MPEG Movie, Clip Motion, or Multi Burst.
    • Date/Time: Controls the date and time display, options are Day & Time, Date, or Off.
    • Digital Zoom: Turns the 2x digital zoom on or off.
    • Red-Eye Reduction: Enables the Red-Eye Reduction flash (which will fire with all flash modes), or turns it off.
    • AF Illuminator: Puts the AF Illuminator into Auto mode, or simply turns it off.
  • Set-Up 1
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • File Number: Specifies whether file numbering resets with each new Memory Stick or continues in a series.
    • Language: Changes the camera's menu language to English or Japanese.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's internal clock.
  • Set-Up 2
    • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the LCD display brightness level to Normal, Bright, or Dark.
    • LCD Backlight: Controls the LCD backlight feature, setting it to Normal or Bright.
    • Beep: Controls the camera's beep sound, setting it to Shutter, On, or Off.
    • Video Out: Specifies the camera's Video Out signal as NTSC or PAL.
    • USB Connect: Places the USB connection into PTP or Normal modes.
    • Power Save: Activates or disables the camera's Power Save feature, which shuts the camera off after a length of inactivity.


Test Shots & Sample Pictures
See our test shots and detailed analysis here. For our sample images, click here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Indoor Flash






Viewfinder Accuracy

See the specifications sheet here.

Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.

Test Results

  • Color: The production model P71 I tested avoided most of the prototype's tendency to produce slight magenta color casts, but skin tones were still a bit on the pink side of normal. Colors were generally accurate, although the blue flowers of my Indoor and Outdoor portraits were typically dark and purplish (a tough blue for many digicams to get right, and tough lighting to boot). The large color blocks of the Davebox were generally quite accurate, with the sole exception of the bright green swatch, which was a bit over-bright and yellowish. (Matching the outdoor shots I took.) - The P71 seems to really "like" green, rendering most foliage as a rather bright and yellowish shade of that color.

  • Exposure: The DSC-P71 generally did a very good job with exposure. The Davebox and Outdoor Portrait shots were a tad contrasty, but highlight and shadow detail are very well preserved in most cases thanks to the higher-resolution digitization circuitry Sony uses in their cameras.

  • Sharpness: Image sharpness looked pretty good throughout my testing, and the variable sharpness adjustment provided a useful level of control. (However, corner softness from the lens resulted in blurry corners in some cases.)

  • Closeups: The DSC-P71 performed pretty well here, capturing a minimum area of 3.6 x 2.7 inches (88 x 66 millimeters). Great detail and resolution, with some corner softness and barrel distortion from the wide-angle lens setting. The flash can't throttle down enough for closeups though, so you'll need to think about external illumination for your macro shots.

  • Night Shots: The DSC-P71 is a little limited in its low-light shooting capabilities, due to its maximum two-second shutter speed. The camera captured usable images at light levels only as low as one foot-candle (11 lux), though the image was nearly usable at 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux). Average city street lighting at night is about one foot-candle, or 11 lux, so the P71 should do fine in most artifically-lit outdoor night scenes. I had to shoot in Twilight mode to get the longer exposure times, and the mode doesn't offer an adjustable ISO setting, although the camera appears to automatically select ISO 200 in that mode. (Shooting in Automatic mode enables the ISO option, but the longest shutter time available is only 1/30-second). A nice touch is that the P71 automatically employs noise reduction (NR) processing on any exposures 1/2 second or longer. This largely prevents so-called "hot pixels" from appearing in your low light photos. Note too, that the P71's lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 in wide angle mode (reasonably "fast"), but only f/5.3 at its telephoto setting. - Thus, you'll do much better shooting at wide angle under dim lighting.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The P71's optical viewfinder is rather "tight", showing only 82-86% of the final image area depending on the lens zoom setting. The LCD viewfinder is very accurate though, at 99-100% coverage.

In the Box
Here's what Sony includes in the box (in the US) with the DSC-P71:

  • Wrist strap.
  • 16MB Memory Stick.
  • USB cable.
  • NTSC video cable.
  • Two AA NiMH batteries with charger.
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity Memory Stick.
  • Additional AA rechargeable batteries.
  • AC adapter.
  • Small camera case.

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...


About Batteries
Time for my standard battery tirade: I've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that I'm now inserting this standard notice in the reviews of all AA-powered cameras on our site: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. Big kudos to Sony for including a very high capacity set of AA NiMH cells with the P71, as well as a nice little charger. Do yourself a favor though, and get a couple of extra sets of high-capacity NiMH AA cells, and always keep one set charged and ready to go while the other is in the camera. The Sony batteries appear to be of very good quality, so you could just get another set or two of them, or try a couple of sets of the new (as of this writing, in early 2002) Maha 1800 mAh PowerEx brand cells from Thomas Distributing. (In my battery testing, these new Maha 1800s are currently running at the top of the chart for useful capacity.) There's nothing more frustrating than running out of battery power in the middle of an outing. Spend the money on good-quality batteries and you'll be glad you did.

The DSC-P71 seems like another well-built, compact Sony camera. The color improved a bit over that of the prototype (as is often the case), with the result that the production model produced good-looking images under a wide range of conditions. My one criticism of its color handling is the yellow-green tint it likes to add to bright greens. Apart from that, its color is quite good, as is its tonal range and resolution. Other aspects of its performance are very good as well, with very decent shooting speed (both shutter lag and cycle times), and better than average battery life for a compact, 2-cell AA-powered camera. Overall, the DSC-P71 looks like an excellent choice for people looking for an easy to operate, highly portable three megapixel camera with good image quality.

Follow Imaging Resource: