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Sony DSC-S85

Sony extends its S-series Cybershot line with the S85, sporting a 4-megapixel CCD, Exposure Bracketing, and Burst 3 sequential capture.

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Page 3:Design

Review First Posted: 6/7/2001

Maintaining the same compact design and similar overall styling as the DSC-S85, the Sony DSC-S85 is the first 4.1-megapixel offering in the Cyber-shot lineup. The S85 is reasonably trim, but definitely not a shirt-pocket camera. You may feel comfortable carrying it in a large coat pocket or purse, but we would recommend using a small camera bag, or the supplied neck strap to keep it out-of-the-way, yet portable. Its metal and hard plastic body convey a very rugged, solid feel, and the overall build quality is excellent.

While its outward appearance may be similar to the 2000 Cyber-shot models, the S85 has a new user interface and LCD menu that make it much easier (in our opinion) to navigate through the camera's many options. The addition of a Mode dial and Jog Dial navigator (or Command wheel) greatly simplifies the task of setting such variables as shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation. A fully Manual exposure mode gives you more control over camera settings than ever before.

The telescoping Carl Zeiss lens has shifted more toward the center of the camera, sharing the front panel with a flash window to the left, an optical viewfinder window above the lens, an autofocus assist light for low-light shooting, and self-timer LED to count down delayed exposures. A rubber finger grip on the right front of the camera is well shaped to provide a comfortable hold with the right hand, which should wrap comfortably around the curve of the understated right hand grip. The 7-21mm 3x zoom lens extends an additional 3/4 inch beyond the fixed lens barrel, when the camera is powered on and the lens is zoomed out to telephoto range. When the camera powers off, or the Mode dial is set on the Playback or Setup positions for more than a few seconds, the lens retracts into the fixed 3/8-inch lens barrel. A set of filter threads just inside the lip of the lens barrel accommodates Sony's line of accessory lens adapter kits.

The hand grip (right) side of the camera has only a neck strap attachment eyelet, and the Jog Dial navigator nearby, for adjusting exposure settings on the camera's LCD monitor and LED panel. The left side of the camera has the second neck strap eyelet, with the camera's speaker, external flash connection jack, and connector compartment below. A small, hinged, plastic door protects the connector compartment, which houses the USB and A/V Out connection jacks. The external flash connection jack, labeled "ACC," hosts Sony's FL-1000 flash unit, as well as a handful of Sony flash-related accessories.

The S85's top panel is more feature laden than its predecessors, with an external flash "cold shoe" (no electrical contacts on the shoe, for mounting only), the camera's microphone, Shutter button, Mode dial, and power switch. There's also a small, green LED lamp next to the power switch that glows steadily whenever the camera is powered on. The addition of a Mode dial is very welcome, as it greatly simplifies camera operation and makes switching between Recording and Playback modes much faster and more intuitive.

The remaining features and controls are on the S85's back panel. These include the 1.8-inch color LCD monitor, real-image optical viewfinder, small black-and-white status display panel, and a DC In jack in the lower right corner. The optical viewfinder features a diopter adjustment dial and three LEDs that report when the camera is in focus or the flash is charged. A solid green LED indicates that the image is in focus and the camera is ready to fire the shutter, while a flashing green LED means that the autofocus system is having trouble focusing. A solid orange LED shows that the flash is ready to fire, while a flashing orange LED indicates that the flash is still charging. The top LED blinks red when the self-timer is counting down.

A new feature that we instantly enjoyed working with is the Jog Dial navigator wheel on the right side of the back panel. This tiny wheel allows you to quickly change camera settings such as shutter speed and aperture, either via the LCD menu system, or in conjunction with the monochrome status display readout. You simply turn the wheel until its on-screen pointer arrow is alongside the appropriate setting, press in on the wheel to activate it, and turn it to change settings. We also liked the small status display panel above the LCD monitor, which reports many of the camera's settings. Properly used, data readouts like this greatly reduce your dependence on the LCD, speeding camera operation, and conserving battery life. In addition to serving as a navigational tool in the LCD menu system, the four-way Arrow Rocker Pad controls several camera functions through its four arrow keys, including Flash mode, Macro, Self-timer, and Quick Preview. We applaud Sony's decision to bring more feature controls to the back panel. Six dedicated buttons control such features as Menu, Display, Exposure Compensation, Spot Metering, Focus mode, and AE lock. Having external control over these camera features greatly simplifies camera operation and saves battery power by allowing you to work without the LCD monitor.

Finally, the S85 features a nice, flat bottom panel, comprised of the battery / memory compartment door and tripod mount. We were pleased to note that the distance between the compartment door and metal tripod mount is great enough to allow for quick battery and Memory Stick changes while working with a tripod. A sliding, plastic door protects the battery and memory slots, which are side-by-side in the relatively small compartment. A small button locks the battery into place and releases it when you're ready to recharge or replace the battery cell. The Memory Stick features a push lock instead of a release button, which means that you have to give it a gentle push to release it from the slot. Also in the compartment is a tiny Reset button, which resets all the camera's settings to their factory defaults.

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