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View Full Version : Battle of the Minis: Canon s500 vs Sony DSC-W1



pyr3sayz
08-22-2004, 08:45 PM
For some time, I've been trying to narrow down my options for a small digital camera. I'm somewhat of a beginner to novice, in the sense that I knew about the digital parts of digital cameras, but nothing about the photography (ie 'white balance', 'f/numbers', etc) end of it. So go easy on me. I want to get some input from others on this decision. I mainly want to get a camera for a few things:

regular pictures
This would be the regular pictures that people take. Photos of friends and family at gatherings, hanging out, at parties, things when you go on vacation, etc.

sky pictures
During the summer where I live I see a lot of awesome views of clouds, storm fronts, thunderheads, etc. Every time I see these awesome scenes I just want to take a picture of them to share it's magnificence with others.

cityscapes
I like daytime city scenes and night time skylines of cities. I'm not too sure what the best settings/ways to take these types of shots are though. I know that long exposures and use of a tripod are two things that are used, but I'm not sure about the other settings and options.

nature
I like to take pictures of nice looking flowers I see, and cool nature scenes during the summer, and even winter. For example, during this hail storm we had this summer there was so much hail that it looked like there had been a light snow. It all melted over the course of 15 minutes or so, but while it was there it was an awesome shot I wanted to take (please note that I shouldn't have been outside of the basement during this storm that turned the sky dark, as in the sun has gone down dark, at 2PM in the afternoon. But a pic of the way it looked outside would have been cool too.)

I list these things here because I'm not sure options are the best when wanting to take such shots. Also keep in mind that this will be my only camera, at least for now. As far as the battle goes between the two cameras, I think that I have narrowed the field down to a few things that I'm unsure about:

Movies
This isn't a feature that needs to be a large issue, but there have been some situations where taking a little video would have been cool. For example, at the Toledo Zoo I got to see a baby orangutan up close with one of the staff holding it. This is one of those things that you don't do too often and capturing a couple of pictures and a good video clips would have been ideal. On the s500, the 640x480 video is limited to 30 seconds which isn't a BIG deal, but the 10fps seems to me like it's a little lacking. The Sony DSC-W1 on the other hand has unlimited length (limited by memory space) and 30fps. Winner: DSC-W1

White Balance
The Sony doesn't have a manual white balance setting. It just has 4 presets. As opposed to 5 presets and a manual setting on the s500. I'm not sure how important this is, especially for the types of shots I'll be trying to use it for. It's even less important if I can just do some touch-up in Photoshop/GIMP/etc to correct a poor 'auto' white balance setting or such. Winner: s500

Batteries
The Sony has a large advantage here. It uses AA batteries. This, to me, is a huge boon because I can then use off-the-shelf AAs if the need every arises. This comes with a draw-back though. The rechargeable AAs take 6 hours to fully charge. Granted, this can be worked around by having 3 sets of batteries ( This allows you to have 2 on hand at all times, and one on the charger. If you end up using BOTH sets during the course of the day, for whatever reason, you charge one set over-night. The next day, you then throw the other drained set on the charger and you have two sets for the new day). But the s500 has a Lithium-ion battery that isn't 'off-the-shelf'. The recharge time on the battery is significantly smaller than 6 hours though, which is a good thing. The only thing here is that if I run out of battery power for whatever reason, then I'm SOL with the s500, but with the DSC-W1 I can just buy some AAs at a local store and pop them in. Winner: undecided.

Accessories
The Sony has a huge advantage here with a lot of lens accessories and even a flash accessory. But the Sony is missing one thing that the s500 has, an underwater case. I don't *plan* on needing to take underwater pics anytime soon, but if I ever decide to go on a vacation in the tropics, I'll probably do some snorkeling or scuba which would steer me towards getting an underwater case. As for most of the other accessories, other than a tripod (which both can use) I don't plan on needing the lens or flash accessories. Though since I view this as an investment into my 'future' camera the ability to extend it's uses without needing to shop for another camera would be nice. Winner: Undecided.

Media
The DSC-W1 uses Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, but the s500 uses Compact Flash which is loads cheaper, and my preferred media. Winner: s500.

Quality Settings
The DSC-W1 has 'fine' and 'standard'. The s500 has 'super-fine', 'fine', and 'standard'. The 'super-fine' from the s500 is a little less compressed and better than the 'fine' from the DSC-W1 so far as I can tell from pictures taken with both of the same scenes. Though I've read that the 'fine' setting was improved in this model as opposed to previous Sony models. Winner: s500.

LCD
The DSC-W1 has a nice large 2.5" LCD which makes it nice for previewing the picture you are about to take. On the other hand, it might drain more of the batteries than the 1.5" on the s500. (I've seen no figures on this) The s500 also has a higher res on the 1.5" screen that it has. (118,000 for 1.5" as opposed to 123,000 for 2.5") I would have to say that based solely on the LCD though, I would go for the W1. Winner: DSC-W1

ISO
They both are pretty much the same, with ISOs of 100, 200, and 400. The s500 has an ISO of 50 as well though. Less ISO means less sensitivity, so I'm not exactly sure how much the ISO 50 matters since ISO 100 is the standard lowest setting from what I've read. I have seen a difference in colors in photos of the same scene between the two, but I'm not sure if ISO 50 (on the s500) vs the ISO 100 (on the DSC-W1) is the culprit or not, since it could have something to do with other settings or image processing. Winner: I wouldn't know.

Long Exposure
This is pretty cut and dry. The lowest shutter speed on the DSC-W1 is 30 seconds, while the the max on the s500 is 15 seconds. I don't know much about long exposure shots, other than some basics I've read like limiting aperture and such. I have no experience to know if I probably won't need more then 15 seconds in most cases or what. Winner: I wouldn't know.

Auto Focus
The s500 uses Canon's Ai AF TTL 9-point, while the DSC-W1 uses Sony's Multi-point 5 area. I've not seen any reviews of how the two compare, but the W1 has manual focus (selectable presets). If Canon's system is good enough, them maybe I won't need auto-focus. But I don't know how good it is for the types of shots I would want to take. Winner: I don't know.

Resolutions
The DSC-W1 has these resolutions: 2592x1944, 2592x1728 (3:2), 2048x1536, 1280x960, and 640x480.
The s500 has these resolutions: 2592x1944, 2048x1526, 1600x1200, 640x480.
The Sony has more resolutions to choose from. Of note is the 3:2 which would be good for 4x6 shots, but the other can always be cropped down. I will probably just take all the pics in 5MP anyways and just edit them down after the fact, unless I'm running out of memory and the picture isn't too important, I might take a smaller or more compressed one. Winner: Sony, but who cares?

Aperture
The s500 has a smaller telephoto aperture which would make it more ideal for low light pictures (I've read up, can you tell? :D ) But the s500 also doesn't allow you to control the aperture manually. The DSC-W1 does allow some manual aperture control, but only to a certain extent. Winner: Not sure how much manual control matters.


This is all I can really think of at the moment. As I said, I'm gearing towards the s500, but I like the AA option and smaller price of the DSC-W1. Although the price of the memory sticks almost makes up for that. For $500, I can get a 256MB Kingston CF card, and the s500 where I work. (tax is mostly negated because I get a 5% discount, and the sales tax is 6%) On newegg.com, I can get the s500 for ~$450 plus ~$60 for a 512MB CF card (I think it was SanDisk). On the other hand, it's ~$350 for the DSC-W1 on newegg.com and $104 for a 512MB memory stick pro (I think this was SanDisk as well). So $450+shipping for a DSC-W1 with 512MB, $500 for the s500 with 256MB, or $510+shipping for a s500 with 512MB. This also doesn't account for purchasing an extra $50 battery for the s500 or purchasing 4 extra batteries (6 if the Sony batteries are too expensive and the charger that comes with the DSC-W1 doesn't accept anything but the Sony batteries) for the DSC-W1.

Any input that any of you have to this would be greatly appreciated.

speaklightly
08-23-2004, 07:20 AM
There is a Sony W-1 review on this website with direct references to how it was designed to compete with the Canon S-500. and many comparisons within the review about how well the Sony W-1 met those challenges. You might want to take a look at the review.

I own the Sony W-1, but not the Canon S500. I have been very pleased with the W-1. It can be used as a point & shoot in the beginning and then as you gain more experience, you can use more and more of the features that are already there.

You spoke of an adjustable ISO and manual white balance. Take alook at the Fuji E-550 (6mp, 4X optical zoom etc) it has manual white balance and the ISO selections are 80, 100, 200,400, and 800.

Sarah Joyce

Ching
08-24-2004, 04:26 AM
Hello there,

Sarah, I have been following the discussion of the W1 and it seems to be a very good camera and the fantastic 2.5 lcd, but then there's a lot of issues regarding the quality of the pictures of W1 although I find very nice pix in pbase taken with the W1, sooo with regards to having enough experience in digicams, how many blurred pix would you get from 30 shots??

Ching

speaklightly
08-24-2004, 06:42 AM
Ching:

In a string of 30 shots with my Sony W-1, not a single shot will be blurred. That is because I do not shoot in "automatic" but in "P" or "Program" and I always am aware of the shutter speed to be used. As long as the shutter speed is greater than 1/50th of a second, AND I am holding the digital camera steady without movement, the digital photo will not be blurred.

A good deal of digital photo blurring has to do with the experience level of the person taking the digital photo.

Sarah Joyce

jfn
08-24-2004, 11:13 AM
I would check out the Sony Talk forum on dpreview. There have been a lot of topics about the W1 with debates about image quality and other issues. An interesting read.

speaklightly
08-24-2004, 01:27 PM
Thanks, JFN-

I now have over a thousand digital photos that I have taken with my Sony W-1 and I have not encountered any real problems. I am not without experience in making that statement. You see I am a digital camera lecturer who presents digital camera workshops all over the world and I own 37 different digital cameras.

Sarah Joyce

Ching
08-24-2004, 08:21 PM
I really thought so that the problem is not with the camera but with the person using it, I can say, I'm confident enough to use a camera not in automatic, I hardly use my auto mode in V1 - what other mini camera contender to the W1 you think? As I'm thinking of getting something that uses SD card or CF, but if there are no other choices, then I'll stick to Sony.

There are more and more new cameras coming out with bigger LCD, although my eyesight is good enough for the 1.5 size LCD, a bigger one would be a plus. But then again, my son would persuade me, mom, why not buy something bigger? like the 828!! uhoh!! decisions decisions, I would look like a photographer holding those big guns!! But hey, Olympus C8080 looks delicious.


Ching:

In a string of 30 shots with my Sony W-1, not a single shot will be blurred. That is because I do not shoot in "automatic" but in "P" or "Program" and I always am aware of the shutter speed to be used. As long as the shutter speed is greater than 1/50th of a second, AND I am holding the digital camera steady without movement, the digital photo will not be blurred.

A good deal of digital photo blurring has to do with the experience level of the person taking the digital photo.

Sarah Joyce

Sequoia225
08-24-2004, 08:52 PM
Batteries
The Sony has a large advantage here. It uses AA batteries. This, to me, is a huge boon because I can then use off-the-shelf AAs if the need every arises. This comes with a draw-back though. The rechargeable AAs take 6 hours to fully charge. Granted, this can be worked around by having 3 sets of batteries ( This allows you to have 2 on hand at all times, and one on the charger. If you end up using BOTH sets during the course of the day, for whatever reason, you charge one set over-night. The next day, you then throw the other drained set on the charger and you have two sets for the new day). But the s500 has a Lithium-ion battery that isn't 'off-the-shelf'. The recharge time on the battery is significantly smaller than 6 hours though, which is a good thing. The only thing here is that if I run out of battery power for whatever reason, then I'm SOL with the s500, but with the DSC-W1 I can just buy some AAs at a local store and pop them in. Winner: undecided.


Media
The DSC-W1 uses Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, but the s500 uses Compact Flash which is loads cheaper, and my preferred media. Winner: s500.



My girlfriend was just deciding bet these 2 cameras. I looked at 4 different review sites. Learned a lot of stuff about these and other cameras.
We went for the Sony and now she is very satisfied with that decision.
Let me speak about a couple things.

1. The screen size!! The screen is so big. This is our first dig camera but now I cant imagine having a smaller screen like the one on the s500. Its so nice to really see the pictures taken and REALLY nice to really see what youre shooting. You dont say so much of "well it will look nice once I get it into the computer" as I imagine with the canon. Now this is something that you deal with with every shot you take. Small differences in quality and noise are going to be less important unless you are a REALLY skilled photographer and if thats the case, you should buy a better camera than BOTH these.

2. Scene modes. Canon has none correct? These are great for quick and better shots esp for those who arent really experienced photographers.

3. Batteries. W1 is WAY better in this respect. And let me recommend, Costco, at least here in So Cal, sells 6 AA and 2 AAA rechargables of the higher caliber (2100mAh) that take 2 to 4 hours to charge depending on how many you are charging. This is for 20 dollars!! Compare that (including the convience of having AA that you can buy ANYWHERE if you misplace them or forget them) with the canon and its the W1 by far.

4. Memory Stick. AT first, I was really turned off by this. Then I just did some searching. Frys Electronics which is here in So Cal always has rebates. They also have an online store you can access anywhere. We just got 2 Memory Stick PROs. Each 256 MB. With a 15 dollar rebate, I think they were 45 dollars each I think. Thats really not that much money. DONT buy this stuff from Best Buy. Their prices are high always on memory. Check the Sunday paper ads for office stores or electronic stores or get them online and you can find a deal.

I love the movies. They are less choppy if you get a PRO card and record in fine. But even without, they are great.

To me the canon is just all about old hype cause they were the first to lead the pack. But like said on this website in the review, I think the pack caught up and theres no telling who will take the lead now. With these 2 cameras, IMO its Sony

pyr3sayz
08-27-2004, 12:19 AM
2. Scene modes. Canon has none correct? These are great for quick and better shots esp for those who arent really experienced photographers.

I thought that the Canon did have scene modes. I'll have to look at that again.


3. Batteries. W1 is WAY better in this respect. And let me recommend, Costco, at least here in So Cal, sells 6 AA and 2 AAA rechargables of the higher caliber (2100mAh) that take 2 to 4 hours to charge depending on how many you are charging. This is for 20 dollars!! Compare that (including the convience of having AA that you can buy ANYWHERE if you misplace them or forget them) with the canon and its the W1 by far.

Actually, one of my friends put it best when he told me, "I would rather get a better camera than settle for one that isn't just because I might [screw] up." Basically, basing the camera decision on the 'I might forget batteries' factor is akin to buying a car with a larger gas tank because you might forget to refill it.


4. Memory Stick. AT first, I was really turned off by this. Then I just did some searching. Frys Electronics which is here in So Cal always has rebates. They also have an online store you can access anywhere. We just got 2 Memory Stick PROs. Each 256 MB. With a 15 dollar rebate, I think they were 45 dollars each I think. Thats really not that much money. DONT buy this stuff from Best Buy. Their prices are high always on memory. Check the Sunday paper ads for office stores or electronic stores or get them online and you can find a deal.

That's $90 for 2 256meg sticks vs. $60 for one 512 CF card.


I love the movies. They are less choppy if you get a PRO card and record in fine. But even without, they are great.

That's not really a big deal to me. I'm not buying a digital video camera.


To me the canon is just all about old hype cause they were the first to lead the pack. But like said on this website in the review, I think the pack caught up and theres no telling who will take the lead now. With these 2 cameras, IMO its Sony

If they are evenly matched, then where is the 'hype?' Sorry, I just get a irked at the overuse of the term.

pyr3sayz
08-27-2004, 12:38 AM
Thanks, JFN-

I now have over a thousand digital photos that I have taken with my Sony W-1 and I have not encountered any real problems. I am not without experience in making that statement. You see I am a digital camera lecturer who presents digital camera workshops all over the world and I own 37 different digital cameras.

Sarah Joyce

Is the lack of manual white balance in the W1 a problem at all? What about the compression ratio in the 'Fine' setting? (in some of the reviews similar photos with the s500 in 'super fine' and the W1 in 'fine' had the files from the s500 about .2-.4MB larger) Do you think that ISO 50 is that big of a deal?

I have friends with both cameras. I've tried out the W1, but I haven't had a chance to try out the s500 (friend was out of the country recently). The W1 seemed nice and I liked the interface. It was funny for me to figure out more features in a couple seconds than it's owner had in the 3 or 4 days he has had it. It's unfortunate that I can't borrow both cameras at the same time and run a bunch of tests to see which one is better. I've yet to see a full-on head-to-head comparison where the photographs taken are all the same, so that you can compare the quality side-by-side.

You've had a little more in-depth experience with it than just snapping a couple of shots though. I thought that I had made up my mind on the s500, but now that I've played with the W1, I'm having some doubts again.

A search on bizrate.com comes up with the s500 around $389 and the W1 around $327. So the price difference isn't too bad. Only $62.

Shibby
08-27-2004, 08:22 AM
I've sort of posted along the same lines, I am in your dilemma with these 2 cameras, so I just thought I'd share my thoughts...



Actually, one of my friends put it best when he told me, "I would rather get a better camera than settle for one that isn't just because I might [screw] up." Basically, basing the camera decision on the 'I might forget batteries' factor is akin to buying a car with a larger gas tank because you might forget to refill it.


By all means, I wouldn't ever let batteries be a deciding factor in buying a camera, especially over picture quality. However, IF you are stuck on 2 cameras with excellent picture quality, it's not a bad feature to have. Yeah, be prepared, always have your gas tank full ;) , but things happen. Maybe it's not even your fault, stuff happens. Running out of batteries on digicams isn't exactly unheard of. Maybe this doesn't apply to you, but I think it's a nice feature. Cheaper to really stock up on spares with AAs as well. On the other hand, you have to 'manage' the Sony batteries a little more...letting them run out completely before recharging, etc.



So $450+shipping for a DSC-W1 with 512MB, $500 for the s500 with 256MB, or $510+shipping for a s500 with 512MB

That's $90 for 2 256meg sticks vs. $60 for one 512 CF card.


In my opinion, if you are spending this much money on a camera, I would try not to let money be the deciding factor. Kind of like what you said with the batteries...I'd rather have the better camera, rather than settle on one just because it is a little cheaper (not implying that the s500 is necessarily better because it's more expensive, but if it's better for YOU). I'm definitely on a tight camera budget, and if I get one of these 2, it's definitely as far as I could push it, but if I liked the Canon better, I would wait and scrape together the last $60. Fortunately, I'm leaning towards the W1. You also mentioned the possibility that Sony's charger might only charge the Sony batteries...can anybody confirm this? I thought (though I'm not positive) that I read that any brand should work :confused:




Quote:
I love the movies. They are less choppy if you get a PRO card and record in fine. But even without, they are great.

That's not really a big deal to me. I'm not buying a digital video camera.


Well...you did list it as one of the factors (though a minor one) in your original post :rolleyes: . Sorry, your response just came across as kind of snippy

Good luck with your dilemma, it really sounds like you want the S500 though. Let me know any of your thoughts, the more input I get for my own decision, the better :p

David Metsky
08-27-2004, 10:13 AM
On the other hand, you have to 'manage' the Sony batteries a little more...letting them run out completely before recharging, etc.

Not with NiMH batteries you don't. They don't have the charge memory issues that other types of rechargables have. I think the same is true of the proprietary Li-Ion batteries in the Canon.

Batteries are a big issue for me since I backpack with a camera, and I try to make the few electronic items I carry all use the same battery type so I don't have to bring lots of different spares. AA is a big win for me.

-dave-

pyr3sayz
08-27-2004, 10:41 AM
Not with NiMH batteries you don't. They don't have the charge memory issues that other types of rechargables have. I think the same is true of the proprietary Li-Ion batteries in the Canon.

Batteries are a big issue for me since I backpack with a camera, and I try to make the few electronic items I carry all use the same battery type so I don't have to bring lots of different spares. AA is a big win for me.

-dave-

That's a good point. But in my case, I will have one camera, and when I pick up another one, it will probably be a dSLR in a year or two. I haven't really looked at them, but I think that they all take proprietary batteries. I'll have to look into this though. Good thoughts.

Shibby
08-27-2004, 11:00 AM
David,

I got this from the DSC-W1 user manual:



"If you recharge Nickel Metal-Hydride batteries before using up the existing charge, the low battery warning may be displayed earlier than expected. This is called the "memory effect". If this problem occurs, charging the batteries only after using up the existing charges will correct it."

They go on to say:

"To use up the batteries completely, put the camera in the slide show model and leave it that way until the batteries are used up"

So what's the deal here? Is this something you ~should~ do, but really don't have too? Is it just a problem with correct readings from the low battery indicator? Also, while I'm asking battery questions, another user wondered if the Sony charger would only work with Sony batteries. Doesn't seem like this should be the case, but could you (or anyone) clear this up for me?

Thanks so much!

Greg



Not with NiMH batteries you don't. They don't have the charge memory issues that other types of rechargables have. I think the same is true of the proprietary Li-Ion batteries in the Canon.

Batteries are a big issue for me since I backpack with a camera, and I try to make the few electronic items I carry all use the same battery type so I don't have to bring lots of different spares. AA is a big win for me.

-dave-

John_Reed
08-27-2004, 12:10 PM
"If you recharge Nickel Metal-Hydride batteries before using up the existing charge, the low battery warning may be displayed earlier than expected. This is called the "memory effect". If this problem occurs, charging the batteries only after using up the existing charges will correct it."

They go on to say:

"To use up the batteries completely, put the camera in the slide show model and leave it that way until the batteries are used up"My previous thinking was that it was NiCd (Nickel-Cadmium) batteries that exhibited the "memory effect," and that NiMh batteries didn't. I think the writer of the manual may have been confused on this point. Anyone with a countering opinion?

David Metsky
08-27-2004, 12:49 PM
Here are many sites that support the idea that there is no memory effect for NiMH. Nearly all the web sites out there support this idea.
Should I condition my batteries? (http://www.thomas-distributing.com/wonderdesk/wonderdesk.cgi?db=faq&uid=default&from=&language=english&wdauth=&view_records=1&ID=20&ww=1)
What is "memory effect"? (http://www.digibattery.co.uk/ni-mh_store1.html#51)
Guide to Memory Effect (http://www.dansdata.com/gz011.htm)
NiMH Batteries (http://www.thepalmtree.com/nimh.htm)

Although this site supports the idea of NiMH memory effect (I have my doubts)
Kelrad (http://www.kelrad.com/Batteries.htm)

This site claims memory effect doesn't exist even on NiCADs
Myth of memory effect (http://www.hippy.freeserve.co.uk/nicdmyth.htm)

I've never noticed a problem with my NiMH batteries in any of my cameras or other devices.

-dave-

Neuromancer2791
08-27-2004, 03:45 PM
I own S500 or IXUS 500 as it is also refered to. I guess this is the same camera, wouldn't know why except for some legal purposes, it has a different name.

For me the quality of movies (Sony's 30 fps versus Canon's 10 fps at 640 * 320) makes a hell of a difference. Not to mention Canon's unreasonable 30 second limitation. But I think Canon's model looks a little more friendly to a touchy eye.

There is also another distinction that was not yet mentioned in this post. Sony transfers with USB 2.0 while Canon does it through USB 1.1. The difference is noticeable although I woudn't say it is a deciding factor.

I think if movies are something one will record often then Sony is a clear winner. But then I think time to say goodby to camcorders isn't here just yet. Otherwise I think it's a tie. I would go for Canon's PowerShot S1 IS if it were not only a 3.2 mega pixels camera.

pyr3sayz
08-28-2004, 10:15 PM
For me the quality of movies (Sony's 30 fps versus Canon's 10 fps at 640 * 320) makes a hell of a difference. Not to mention Canon's unreasonable 30 second limitation. But I think Canon's model looks a little more friendly to a touchy eye.

I've seen both cameras, and I have to say that the front of the Canon looks better than the front of the Sony, but the back of the Canon doesn't look as good as the back of the Sony, not even taking into account the large LCD. Overall, the Canon has a better form factor and a more compact look, even if they are about the same size. Not having them next to each other for comparison one wouldn't tend to think they were about the same size. At least in my opinion.


There is also another distinction that was not yet mentioned in this post. Sony transfers with USB 2.0 while Canon does it through USB 1.1. The difference is noticeable although I woudn't say it is a deciding factor.

To me, this isn't a big deal. The USB2.0 card readers are always going on sale at OfficeMax or Best Buy. I personally don't care if I use a card reader or plug in the camera. Actually, you'll save a little battery life if you just pop the card out and use a card reader rather than needing to keep the camera plugged in. I don't think that either camera can use USB to charge.

speaklightly
08-29-2004, 07:54 AM
There is one other factor that has not been discussed that can be a source of real frustration to people with large fingers. The control buttons on the back of the Canon S-500 are both small and quite close together. The ergonomics on the back of the Sony W-1 is a good deal better.

Sarah Joyce