March 28, 2009

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S700


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S700 was announced in January of this year.  The S series from Sony is their affordable, entry level line.  A previous model, the S600, ended up doing very well in the market.  The S700 is a 7.2 megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom and a 2.4 inch LCD.  A stylish metal body makes the camera look and feel like a more expensive one.

The S700 is meant to be an easy to use camera.  There isn’t a ton of shooting options, but it’s easy to use the ones that are there.  This class of camera is typically powered by AA batteries so entry level users aren’t intimidated by extra chargers and batteries.

The S700 has a 7.2 megapixel, 1/2.5” CCD imaging sensor.  Full size images are 3072x2304 pixels in size.
The S700 has only a 2.4 inch LCD with 112,320 pixels of resolution.  The colors displayed on the LCD are accurate and the brightness gains up and down depending on the lighting conditions.  It is very difficult to preview images on the display on a bright day.  Refresh rates are good enough to provide a smooth preview of your shot.  Also, the fairly low pixel count leads to a preview that isn’t that sharp and it’s hard to see details.
This camera gets a fairly typical 3x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 35-105mm.  The maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f4.8, depending on the zoom setting.
As this is a fairly entry level camera, you simply get a normal focus and macro focus.  In normal mode, you can focus as close as 19.75 inches.  In macro mode, you can focus on something as close as 2 inches.
Auto focus is quick and accurate as long as you’re in the right focus mode.  A green light on the LCD stays solid when a focus lock is achieved.  Focus is determined by a center AF area.  There is no multiple-area AF mode available on this camera.
The built-in flash has a range of 0.5 – 3.5 meters at wide angle and ISO set to Auto.  If you zoom in to something, this range narrows to 0.5 – 2.0 meters.  The flash can be set to auto, always on, disabled, and slow synchro.  If you want red eye reduction, you have to enable it via the setup menu.  Flash modes are set by using the up direction on the control pad.
The S700, like the rest of the Sony cameras, use Memory Stick Duo media.  There is also about 24MB of internal memory.
Still images are recorded as JPEG only.  Movies are captured as AVI files (Motion JPEG).
There is a multi-connector that handles USB 2.0 Full Speed and A/V out.
Typical of entry-level models, the S700 is powered by 2 AA batteries.  You can use alkaline or rechargeable batteries.  NiMH rechargeables will provide better battery life.  Sony claims 100 shots with the included AA batteries and 460 shots on Sony NiMH batteries (NH-AA-2DB).  I highly recommend that you use high capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries with this camera.  Not only will you get much better battery life, but they’ll be much cheaper just after a few charge cycles.
As the S700 is an entry-level camera, there are no manual exposure modes.  However, you get an auto mode and a program auto mode.  All the shooting modes of the camera are available in the mode dial on the top, which makes for easy operation.  Auto mode is the mode with the green camera icon on the mode dial.  In auto mode, your options are limited – you can choose if you shoot a single or burst, the exposure compensation, flash mode, timer mode, and macro mode.  If you switch to program auto (P on the mode dial) – you can adjust more settings and the camera is still essentially in “auto”.  In program auto, you can change color settings, metering modes, white balance, ISO, JPEG compression level, flash level, and sharpness.
The burst mode on the S700 can take three shots at 1.5 second intervals at full resolution.
There aren’t 800 different options in the camera menu system, but you’ll find a select few available right on the mode dial.  As you turn the mode dial, a short description appears on the LCD.  A High ISO mode boosts the ISO and disables the flash.  The other modes are: Soft Snap (for portraits), Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Landscape, Beach, and Snow.
There aren’t a lot of options during movie capture.  Movie mode is another slot on the mode dial allowing easy access.  The S700 captures movies at a single size (320x240 at 30fps).  You can adjust the color, metering method, and white balance.  Mono sound is recorded and optical zoom is not available during movie capture.
While in program auto mode and the movie mode, you can choose the metering method between spot metering and "multi" metering.
During movie capture, you can set white balance to auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, and incandescent.  For still capture, in program auto mode, you get an additional choice of flash.  Some white balance settings will be unavailable at different times.  For example, if you have the flash set to always on, you can only set the white balance to auto or flash.
The camera has an ISO range from ISO 100 – 1000.  Control over the ISO setting is only available in program auto mode.
Besides being able to adjust things like color (B&W, sepia, natural, rich, and normal) and sharpness during image capture, there aren’t a lot of other options.  Post-capture, you can resize and rotate your images.
The S700 is pretty compact.  Not quite an ultra-slim, but still pretty tiny.  Its measurements are 5.6 inches x 2.5 inches by 1.1 inches.  It weighs in at 7 ounces with 2 batteries.  The metal body feels sturdy and still manages to stay lightweight.  The brushed metal finish on the front of the camera adds a nice touch of style to the camera.


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