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Quick Review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-U60 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 7/28/2003
User Level
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 2.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Up to 5x7
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)

Review Links
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures

Sony has clearly been one of the dominant players in the 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 ultra portable "U-series" line of point-and-shoot digicams, they've now added a two-megapixel model, the DSC-U60. Waterproof down to five feet (1.5 meters), the DSC-U60 is truly a "go anywhere" camera, offering a fixed focal length lens, full automatic exposure control, seven preset Scene modes, and a compact package. With its simple user interface and automatic controls, the U60 makes a good first camera for kids (especially with its waterproof design, which means you can easily wipe off any sticky smudges), but also makes a good option for outdoor enthusiasts. If you've been looking for a camera that you wouldn't be afraid to bring along to the beach or on a backpacking or rafting trip, this could be the model you've been waiting for! Read on for more details.


Camera Overview
Whimsical in design, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-U60 takes the familiar shape of the "P" series and props it on end with a playful tilt. As soon as I set eyes on the U60, the blue accents on the white camera body and tilted orientation immediately called to mind the R2-D2 'droid of Star Wars fame, to the point that I almost expected the camera to start talking to me when I pulled it from the box. Because of the camera's layout, you actually hold it vertically, which might take some getting used to, but is actually quite comfortable. The tilt in its design closely matches the angle of your right arm as you bring the camera to eye level, making the grip very natural. It's small enough to fit most shirt pockets, and a wrist strap keeps it securely attached to your wrist when shooting. Probably one of the most interesting design features is that the camera is waterproof down to five feet (1.5 meters), perfect for shallow snorkeling or splashing around in a pool. (Now you can prove your tall fish tales.) Perhaps more to the point though, the waterproof design means it can tolerate splashes of mud or water, and stand up to even very dusty environments without ill effects. Likewise, the tough plastic case should be much more scratch-resistant than the metal case designs people often associated with ruggedness. Fearing for their safety, people often leave their delicate digicams at home, but the U60 should suffer no such fate.

The DSC-U60's fixed focal length lens features automatic focus control, with several fixed focus settings also available. The 2.0-megapixel CCD produces good resolution images suitable for printing as large as 5x7 inches, and lower resolution settings produce images suitable for e-mail or other electronic use. Featuring the simplicity of automatic exposure control, a handful of preset "scene" modes (including an underwater setting), and the creative Picture Effects menu, the DSC-U60 is a fun choice for first time shooters, kids, or anyone who just wants an easy to use digicam that can literally go anywhere.

The DSC-U60 is equipped with a 5.0mm lens, equivalent to a rather wide-angle 33mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. Focus ranges from approximately four inches (10 centimeters) to infinity under normal conditions, with a minimum focusing distance of six inches (15 centimeters) underwater. In addition to automatic focus control, the DSC-U60 offers four fixed focus settings through the Record menu. For composing images, the DSC-U60 offers a one-inch, color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor is at an angle on the back of the camera, meaning you have to hold the camera somewhat slanted to get it lined up straight. The LCD monitor in the U60 deserves special mention, as it's one of the most readable I've seen to date under all conditions, including bright, direct sunlight. I'm normally not a fan of cameras without optical viewfinders, in part because LCDs tend to wash out so badly in sunlight. The U60's LCD is a notable exception though, and the camera is very big as usable in direct sun as indoors.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times on the DSC-U60, great for novices and casual users looking for simplicity, although I do wish that there was at least an exposure compensation adjustment available on it. Uniformly bright or uniformly dark subjects will trick its exposure system, and without a compensation adjustment, there's no way to correct for this. The Power button on the rear panel turns the camera on, and a Mode dial on the back panel selects between Playback, Record, and Movie exposure modes. Sony doesn't report the camera's shutter speed range, and the information is not reported on the LCD monitor. Although you cannot adjust the exposure, you can select from a range of preset "scenes" via the Scene button on the rear panel (which also serves as the down arrow key). Scenes include Automatic, Underwater, Active Outdoor, Soft Snap, Illumination Snap, Twilight, and Vivid Nature modes. Underwater mode enhances color for underwater subjects (boosting red tones to combat the overwhelming blue), and produces the best results when there is bright sunlight. Active Outdoor mode is for capturing fast-moving action, and uses a faster shutter speed to freeze action shots. Soft Snap mode enhances skin tones and applies a soft filter for softer portraits and close-up shots. Illumination Snap and Twilight modes are both for shooting under dark conditions. While Twilight mode just captures basic night images, Illumination Snap mode sets the flash to Red-Eye Reduction mode for portraits and applies a cross filter that creates cross-shaped rays around background lights. Finally, Vivid Nature mode enhances blue and green tones for more vivid images of natural landscapes. (In line with my earlier comments about the lack of exposure compensation, a snow/beach scene mode would have helped get correct exposure in those situations. Given the go-anywhere design of the U60, it's likely that many will be used on beach and ski holidays, so a scene mode catering to those environments would have been very useful.)

Though the camera controls exposure and white balance, the Record menu offers an entertaining Picture Effects setting. You can record images in black and white or sepia monochrome, or select the Solarize or Negative Art options for unusual effects. The DSC-U60's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, and Red-Eye Reduction modes. Sony estimates the flash as effective to about 6.2 feet (1.9 meters), a fairly short range, but one that's consistent with its wide-angle lens. A Burst mode captures five successive images at the 640 x 480-pixel resolution while the Shutter button is held down, at approximately 0.5-second intervals. (Note though, that if your Memory Stick is nearly full, the actual number of images recorded may be limited by the remaining storage space, and frame rates may vary depending on the shooting mode. Burst mode intervals will be slightly longer due to the slower shutter speeds in Illumination Snap and Twilight modes.)

The DSC-U60 also has a Movie exposure mode, which records moving images without sound. The maximum movie length per clip is 15 seconds, depending of course, on the amount of available memory card space. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, giving the photographer a few seconds to run around and get into the picture.

The DSC-U60 stores images on Sony Memory Sticks, and comes with an 8MB Memory Stick in the box. I strongly recommend also purchasing a larger capacity card so you don't miss any shots, especially given the very portable nature of this camera, and the likelihood of it tagging along more often than not. In like fashion to other entry-level Sony cameras, the DSC-U60 uses two AAA batteries, rather than their high-capacity InfoLITHIUM battery packs. (An upside of this is that in a pinch, you could pick up a set of single use batteries at any drug store.) A set of two rechargeable NiMH AAAs and a battery charger are included in the box with the camera. I strongly advise picking up a couple of extra sets of rechargeable AAA batteries and packing them along on any extended outing, especially since the camera does not feature a terminal for an AC adapter. The DSC-U60 features 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 to 9.2 though, no separate USB driver software is needed, as the camera shows up on the desktop automatically when it is plugged in.

Basic Features

  • 2.0-megapixel CCD.
  • 1.0-inch color LCD monitor.
  • 5.0mm lens, equivalent to 33mm on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Automatic white balance.
  • Built-in flash with four modes.
  • Memory Stick storage, 8MB card included.
  • USB computer interface and supplied cable.
  • Power supplied by two AAA batteries.
  • Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.
  • Waterproof body design down to five feet (1.5 meters).

Special Features

  • Movie mode (without sound).
  • Underwater, Active Outdoors, Soft Snap, Illumination Snap, Twilight, and Vivid Nature preset modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Picture Effects menu with Black-and-White, Sepia, Negative Art, and Solarize effects.
  • Burst record mode.
  • Four (optional) fixed focus settings.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.

With its waterproof case (though only safe to five feet, or 1.5 meters), fun design, and fully automatic exposure control, the DSC-U60 is an excellent option for first time photographers, kids, or anyone who wants a simple to use digicam for snapshots. I can see this being a great option for kids going away to summer camp, or for taking snapshots at the beach, as the water-resistant seals should also prevent small amounts of sand from doing damage. It offers the convenience of point-and-shoot simplicity, and the handful of preset scene modes accommodates more difficult shooting situations. The 2.0-megapixel CCD delivers high enough quality images for printing as large as 5x7 inches, great for snapshots.


Though I doubt it was intentional on Sony's part, any Star Wars fan out there will instantly notice the similarities between the too-cute R2-D2 droid and the new Sony DSC-U60 digicam, with its pearly-white body, blue accents, and even the overall shape. The camera is meant to be held vertically, a complete departure from the rest of the Cyber-shot line. The angle of the camera body turns out to just about match the angle of your arm when you bring the camera to eye level, making it easy to bring its field of view level without having to contort your arm into an uncomfortable position. I found it most comfortable to cradle the camera so that my index finger was on the Shutter button, and my thumb free to press any controls on the rear panel. This grip on the camera would also be fairly secure when swimming around or snorkeling, but I'd definitely make sure that the wrist strap is secure while playing in the ocean.(Or even a pool, for that matter, as dropping the camera into the deep end would take it beyond its 5-foot depth rating.) Small and compact, the DSC-U60 is very portable at just 2.38 x 4.63 x 1.75 inches (60 x 117 x 43 millimeters). The camera should easily fit into most shirt pockets and small purses. The all-plastic body keeps the DSC-U60 very light weight, at just 6.7 ounces (191 grams) with the batteries and memory card.

The front of the DSC-U60 features the fixed focal length lens, flash, and an LED lamp that blinks while the self-timer is counting down. A clear, plastic window covers the lens and the flash, so you don't have to worry about a lens cap. You'll just have to be careful not to accidentally scratch or smudge the surface with your fingers, though smudges can be easily wiped off.

On the right side of the camera is the release lever for the memory and battery compartment door.

The opposite side of the camera features only the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

The DSC-U60's top panel is rounded, with an inset area for the white, plastic Shutter button.

All of the remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, along with the 1.0-inch color LCD monitor. Beneath the LCD monitor are two multi-functional arrow keys, one pointing upward and the other downward. These scroll through LCD menu items, and also control the flash and scene settings. Below the Scene button is the Execute button, for confirming menu selections, which also controls playback enlargement. The camera's Power button is in the top left corner, with the Menu button just below it, and a Mode dial in the lower left corner.

The DSC-U60's bottom panel has one flat, angled surface for resting the camera on end, and then a second half that curves slightly toward the other side. The entire bottom panel is the door for the memory and battery compartment, with a large hinge on one end. Inside the compartment door, an O ring creates a watertight seal. A second door inside the compartment covers the Memory Stick and AAA battery slots. The USB connection terminal is adjacent to the inner door.



Camera Operation
Because of the camera's full automatic exposure control, the DSC-U60's user interface is very straightforward, with only a few external controls. Because there are very few exposure adjustments to twiddle with, you just point and shoot most of the time. The LCD menu system is short and sweet, offering four tabs of menu options, with one page of choices each. (I did find that the limited number of external controls made the menu system a little tedious to use though, as there are only up/down arrows for navigation. This means that you have to alternate between these buttons and the "Exec" button to enter or leave the sub-menus, making for somewhat awkward navigation.) The Mode dial on the camera's rear panel lets you quickly set the camera's main operating mode, and you can cycle through the available scene modes by pressing the down arrow key when in normal shooting mode. It didn't take much more than a few minutes for me to get the gist of things, even without looking at the manual, so even beginners should be able to pull the camera out of the box and shoot right away.

Record Mode Display
In Record mode, the LCD monitor displays the subject, level of battery power, resolution setting, folder number, and the number of images that can be stored on the Memory Stick at the current image size setting. (You can turn off this information display through a setting in the LCD menu system.)

Playback Mode Display
In Playback mode, the LCD display shows the captured image, battery level, resolution setting, folder, image number and file name, and the date and time. Enlarged playback options of 2.5x and 5x are available (sorry, not shown here), but only the center of the frame can be enlarged.

External Controls

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.

Power Button
: Tucked in the top left corner of the camera's rear panel (beneath the LCD monitor), this button turns the camera on and off.

Menu Button
: Beneath the Power button and about center in the rear control panel, this button displays or dismisses the settings menu in any Record mode or in Playback mode.

Mode Dial
: Dominating the lower left corner of the rear panel, this dial sets the camera's main operating mode to one of the following:

  • Playback: Replays captured still images and movie files, with options for image management and printing.
  • Record: Places the camera in Record mode, with seven "scene" modes available.
  • Movie: Records moving images without sound, for a maximum of 15 seconds per clip.

Flash (Up Arrow) Button
: Beneath the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button has an up arrow on it and is used to navigate through any settings menu.

Pressing this button in Record mode cycles through the Forced, Suppressed, Auto, and Red-Eye Reduction flash modes.

Pressing this button in Playback mode scrolls backward through captured images on the memory card.

Scene (Down Arrow) Button
: Directly below the Flash button, this button features a down arrow and also scrolls through LCD menu options.

In Record mode, this button cycles through the Auto, Underwater, Active Outdoors, Soft Snap, Illumination Snap, Twilight, and Vivid Nature preset scene shooting modes.

Pressing this button in Playback mode scrolls forward through captured images on the memory card.

Execute/Enlarge Button
: Just below the Scene button, this button serves as the "OK" to confirm menu selections in any settings menu.

In Playback mode, this button enlarges captured images as much as 5x.

Battery Compartment Latch
: Tucked on the right side of the DSC-U60 (as viewed from the rear), this latch unlocks the battery and memory compartment door, allowing it to be opened.


Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In this mode, the camera captures standard still images, controlling aperture, shutter speed, and white balance. Pressing the Menu button displays the following menu tabs:


  • Camera
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab-selection screen.
    • Size/Burst: Sets the image resolution to 2.0M (1,632 x 1,224 pixels) or VGA (640 x 480 pixels). There's also a Burst option for capturing five sequential VGA-resolution images rapidly.
    • Focus: Sets the focus to Auto, or lets you select 0.2, 0.5, or 1.0 meter focal distances, or an Infinity setting.
    • Self-Timer: Turns the Self-Timer mode on or off.
    • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects filters like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.

  • Monitor
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab-selection screen.
    • LCD Light: Turns the LCD backlight on or off.
    • Display: Turns the information overlay on the LCD display on or off.

  • Setup
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab-selection screen.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's date and time.
    • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off, or tells the camera to make only the shutter noise.
    • USB: Sets the USB mode to PTP or Normal.
    • Language: Changes the menu language to English or French.

  • Memory Stick Tool
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab-selection screen.
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick, erasing all files.
    • Create Folder: Creates a new folder on the Memory Stick for saving images.
    • Change Folder: Changes the folder that images are recorded to.

Playback Mode
: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, or set them up for printing. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Playback
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab selection screen.
    • Delete: Lets you delete the image currently displayed, with an option to cancel.
    • Delete in Folder: Deletes all files in a selected folder, with an option to cancel.
    • Index: Displays a thumbnail index of the images on the memory card.
    • DPOF: Turns the DPOF print mark for the currently displayed image on or off.

  • Monitor
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab selection screen.
    • LCD Light: Turns the LCD backlight on or off.
    • Display: Turns the information overlay on the LCD display on or off.

  • Setup
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab selection screen.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's date and time.
    • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off, or tells the camera to make only the shutter noise.
    • USB: Sets the USB mode to PTP or Normal.
    • Language: Specifies the menu language as English or French.

  • Memory Stick Tool
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab selection screen.
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick, erasing all files.
    • Change Folder: Changes the playback display folder.

Movie Mode
: Records short movie clips with 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 images. The LCD menu system offers the following options under the Camera menu, with the same Monitor, Setup, and Memory Stick Tool options as still-image Record mode:

  • Camera
    • Return: Returns to the main menu tab selection screen.
    • Focus: Sets the focus to Auto, or lets you select 0.2, 0.5, or 1.0 meter focal distances, or an Infinity setting.
    • Self-Timer: Turns the Self-Timer mode on or off.
    • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Black and White, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.

In the Box
The DSC-U60 ships with the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • 8MB Memory Stick.
  • USB cable.
  • Two AAA NiMH batteries with charger.
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.

Recommended Accessories

  • Larger capacity Memory Stick.
  • Additional AAA rechargeable batteries.
  • 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...


Sample Pictures
See my sample pictures and detailed analysis 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.


User Reviews


Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the DSC-U60's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the DSC-U60's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: The U60 generally produced very good color, although it frequently injected a slight reddish tint in the images. (Although it rendered the always-difficult blue flowers in my Outdoor Portrait test much more purple than they are in real life, a frequent problem among digicams I test.) To its credit, the U60 even handled the very difficult household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait shot very well.

  • Exposure: The DSC-U60's exposure system did a pretty good job with evenly-lit scenes containing a mix of subjects. It had distinct problems with overall high- or low-key subjects (overall very light or very dark colored), which tricked it into under- and overexposing, respectively. This entirely typical behavior, and is why higher-end cameras routinely include manual exposure compensation adjustments to let you correct for this sort of problem. I understand Sony's intention to make the U60 a pure point & shoot, with virtually no manual functions on it, but I can't help but wonder why they left off a control as fundamental as Exposure Compensation.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The DSC-U60 performed pretty well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 500~600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to 800+ lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,100 lines. Overall, it isn't up to the level of the best 2-megapixel cameras, but not bad for such a compact, basic point & shoot design.

  • Closeups: The DSC-U60 turned in about an average performance in the macro category, capturing a slightly large minimum area of 4.35 x 3.26 inches (110 x 83 millimeters). Resolution was moderately high, with good detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. There was a lot of softness in the corners though, this time present in all four corners of the frame. The DSC-U60's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, and overexposed the shot. (So plan on using external illumination for any macro photos you take with it.)

  • Night Shots: The DSC-U60's all-automatic exposure control and lack of an exposure compensation adjustment limits its low-light shooting capabilities a fair bit. In my testing, the camera produced a clear, bright image down to 4 foot-candle (44 lux), which is about four times as bright as normal city street lighting at night. (Note that you need to use the night landscape mode to get the 1/2 second exposure these images were shot at. The normal shutter range extends down to only 1/8 second.) Shots at 1 foot-candle (11 lux, corresponding to normal city street lighting) were quite dark, but possibly usable with some tweaking in an image manipulation program.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The DSC-U60's LCD monitor was just a little tight, showing approximately 93 percent of the final frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the DSC-U60's LCD monitor has a little room for improvement here.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the DSC-U60 was about average, as I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. (This is about average for wide-angle shots among cameras I've tested, but I'd really like to see much less geometric distortion in digicam images than that.) Chromatic aberration is moderate, with noticeable coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) I also noticed very strong corner softness in many of my shots, most severe in the lower corners of the frame and extending upward a fair ways into the frame.

  • Battery Life: Because it has no external power connector on it , I couldn't conduct my normal power-drain measurements on the U60. I did however, take the rather unscientific approach of simply running the camera continuously with its LCD on in capture mode (the worst-case power-drain mode) on a freshly charged set of batteries, and found that they lasted 76 minutes. This isn't anything to write home about, but isn't bad for such a compact digicam. (And the U60's excellent LCD can be run outdoors with the backlight turned off, which should save a little power.) Definitely plan on purchasing a couple of extra sets of AAA NiMH cells, but the run time is impressive for a camera with such a modest power source.


Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
Simple pro lighting and use tips let you snap stunning photos. Check out our free Photo School area!

The DSC-U60 is something of a departure for Sony. It extends their "ultra cute" U-series line, but this time adds a flash, two megapixels of resolution, and a completely waterproof case. The result is an extremely easy-to-use camera that snaps surprisingly good photos, and that can literally go anywhere without worries about water, mud, or dust. Not for the Ansel Adams types, this is a very basic point & shoot model with modest resolution, no exposure controls, and a lens that's decidedly soft in the corners. However, its simplicity, combined with its rugged, waterproof construction, makes it ideal for packing along on the trail or to the beach. The combination of ruggedness and simple operation also make it a nearly ideal "first camera", suitable for use by even very young children. While far from the sort of feature-laden "enthusiast" camera I tend to highlight on this site, the U60 easily won a place on my "Dave's Pick" list for filling its unique niche so well.

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