Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001
Monday, May 13, 2002
review has been updated after using the real, shipping DSC-F707.
Product photos have been re-shot where needed. All the sample photos
are now from the production camera.
when I was getting used to 4 Megapixel cameras, Sony makes another
huge jump, this time to 5 Megapixel with the new Cyber-shot
DSC-F707 ($999). The new 5.24 Mpixel CCD (same as in the Minolta
DiMAGE 7) uses 5.02 million of them, and that's what Sony will market
it as (note the 5.0 Mpixel number on the side).
to Sony, the DSC-F505V
that is replaced by this model developed kind of a cult following.
I admit that in my travels, I've probably only seen one 505 in the
last few years. Never having used the 505, I didn't know what all
the hype was about. But after playing with the new F707, I think
on to find out what's new with the DSC-F707!
in the Box?
DSC-F707 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
5.0 Mpixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707 camera
Li-ion rechargeable battery
featuring MGI PhotoSuite and drivers
page Manual (printed)
F707 has everything you need to get started: batteries, storage,
battery used here is Sony's M-series InfoLithium battery, the same
one as in the S75 and S85. The nice thing about these InfoLithium
batteries is that the camera knows about how many minutes are left
until you have to recharge it. And charging is easy, thanks to the
included AC adapter - just plug it into the camera and the battery
will charge in about 2.5 hours.
claims that the FM50 battery will last for 2.5 hours in record mode,
or 5.5 hours in playback mode. That's very impressive for a digital
camera from my experiences.
a bit spoiled since Sony sent me a 64MB Memory Stick with the (prototype)
F707, but the real shipping model will only include a 16MB card.
You can fit a grand total of 6 fine quality pictures on that 16MB
card, which is disappointing. I'll have the usual chart of how many
photos you can store on the memory card later in the review.
how Canon includes a 32MB card with their PowerShot G2, you'd hope
that other manufacturers would follow suit. I'm also not a big fan
of the "Sony only" Memory Stick format in general.
has been good about include lens caps with tethers, and they include
one here to protect the Carl Zeiss lens.
far as accessories go: the lens is threaded for 58 mm attachments.
Sony sells a filter kit (VF-58CPK) and a wide-angle conversion lens
(VCL-MHG07A) for it. Other products available include a leather
case, wired remote control, and lens hood.
"flower petal" lens hood ($39)
wired remote control ($49)
DSC-F707 is fully compatible with Mac OS X 10.1. If you're using
a version prior to 10.1, you'll need to go to the camera's setup
menu and change the USB mode to "PTP".
find Sony's manuals not very user friendly. The layout and organization
needs work -- they're just like the one included with your VCR.
DSC-F707 is kind of a bizarre looking camera -- it's "all lens".
It got some strange looks when I recently took it out for a photo
shoot. I overheard one person calling it "ungainly" (of
course, they could have been talking about me). Little do they know
that this strange looking camera is a photo-taking machine!
F707 is a little larger than its predecessor. That's because Sony
stuck some new stuff in the lens barrel, as you'll see in a minute.
The camera is on the heavy side, but then again, it's big, and mostly
metallic. This is not a pocket-sized camera in any way - it's aimed
more towards enthusiasts than casual shooters. The
camera is easy to hold, with a decent-sized grip for the right hand,
and that huge lens for the left.
dimensions of the F707 are 4.75 x 2.75 x 6 inches (W x H x D), and
it weighs 710 grams with battery, Memory Stick, lens cap, and shoulder
of the tricks of the F707 is the ability to swivel the lens. I can't
really photograph it the correct way, so you'll have to look at
the above photos and turn your head to see how the lens moves.
it may not look like it, this is where some of the biggest innovations
on the F707 are.
Carl Zeiss lens (5X optical + 2X digital zoom) is now faster: F2.0
- F2.4. It's focal range is 9.7 - 48.5 mm, which is equivalent to
38 - 190 mm. As I mentioned, the lens is threaded for 58 mm attachments.
There is also a manual focus ring around the lens, which I'll describe
more in a minute. (I'm a bit irked at the fact that Sony slaps "10X
precision digital zoom" on the side. I guess it's true but
I've had more than one person ask if the zoom was 10X, which is
small circles around the lens (3 of them) look innocent enough,
but they play a big part in the most interesting new features: Nightshot,
and Hologram AF.
is the same feature seen on Sony's camcorders. It uses IR illumination
(from those circles at the top) and an IR filter to take photos
in complete darkness. Sure, everything is green, but it's a neat
trick. There is also a feature called NightFraming -- I'll discuss
both of these in further detail later in the review.
other new feature on the front I haven't seen on any other digital
camera, and Sony calls it Hologram AF. It uses a Class 1 laser (just
right of the lens) to shine a grid of red light on the subject.
The camera then looks at the contrast between the laser light and
the subject, and focuses. Sony says that this is a step above AF
illuminators (which light up a subject so the camera can find the
contrast between subject and background).
laser grid created by Hologram AF
first glance, you might think that you don't want to take a picture
of a person using Hologram AF -- after all, you're not supposed
to shine lasers in people's eyes! But, according to the manual,
you could stare at it for 30,000 seconds and still not go blind...
not that I advise trying!
F707 also has some new flash tricks as well. It has what Sony called
"true TTL flash metering", where the camera actually fires
the flash twice. The first time it flashes, the CCD measures the
exposure. The second time, it actually takes the photo. This ensures
proper exposure of those flash shots. You'd think this would slow
things down, but nope, it's barely noticeable. There is still a
redeye reduction feature which fires the flash a few times before
all this takes place.
working range of the flash is 0.3 - 4.5 meters. If you want more
flash power, you can pick up the HVL-FL1000 external flash, which
mounts on the "cold shoe" on the top of the F707.
is the back of the F707. The 1.8" LCD display is bright and
fluid, and the brightness is adjustable (Normal or Bright) via the
new feature on the F707 is the electronic viewfinder (EVF) over
to the left. This is like a little LCD that you're looking into.
The benefits are that you're seeing more of the frame than with
a regular optical viewfinder, and you can see a lot more information
(such as exposure) than with a regular viewfinder. The downsides
are that it can be hard to see in bright light, and that the resolution
isn't great. There is a diopter correction knob for those of you
with glasses. A switch to the right of the EVF lets you switch between
the EVF and LCD.
below the EVF, under a plastic door, are the A/V out and power-in
the LCD are buttons for Display (toggles info on LCD/EVF), Thumbnail
mode (in playback), and Menu.
right of that is the four-way switch, which also has buttons for:
Review (shows the last shot taken)
the top of the DSC-F707 (and what would I do without that Olympus
lens cap to hold the thing up!). You can see just how big the lens
is compared to the body! The flash is seen folded down here -- it's
released electronically when needed. Just behind that is the shoe
for a (Sony) external flash.
the main body you'll find:
compensation button (the usual -2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
wheel (for changing settings in manual mode)
some more information about Nightshot, and also the NightFraming
feature. As I mentioned, Nightshot uses IR light to illuminate a
subject, and the CCD captures it (in green). It works for stills
as well as MPEG movies.
takes Nightshot, Hologram AF, and TTL Flash Metering and combines
it to help you take night shots. When turned on, the LCD shows everything
in green Nightshot mode. You compose the picture, and press the
shutter release button halfway. At that point, the IR filter turns
off (so back to normal colors now), the Hologram AF uses the laser
to focus, and the flash double-fires. Thus, you can easily take
flash photos in almost zero light. It's a little awkward at first,
but soon it becomes almost second nature.
A shot of a sunflower using Nightshot mode. You
can see the flower in normal light in the gallery.
the same shot, taken via NightFraming. Keep in mind that it was
almost totally dark when these were taken.
mode wheel (which has the power switch below it) has a very "notchy"
feeling (that's a good thing) and has the following options:
further explanation on these:
Mode: Choose between Twilight, Portrait, and Landscape. The camera
picks the best settings for these situations. You can finally
switch modes without having to go to Setup like on previous Sony
Priority: You pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate
shutter speed. The choices range from F2 - F8 and will vary a
bit depending on the focal range used. Once nice thing about the
lens on the F707 is that the minimum aperture is just F2.0 at
wide-angle, and F2.4 at full telephoto.
Priority: exactly the opposite, you choose the shutter speed and
the camera picks the correct aperture. You can choose from a number
of speeds ranging from 30 sec - 1/1000 sec.
Manual: You choose both the shutter speed and aperture. The values
available are the same as above.
new feature on the F707 is noise reduction -- two types, actually.
The first is called Clear Color NR, which is always enabled. This
helps reduce color noise. The second is subtractive noise reduction,
which is activated at shutter speeds slower than 2.5 seconds. This
helps make those long exposure shots a lot cleaner.
is one side of the F707, with even more buttons! I'll work my way
from left to right.
in while in manual focus mode
manual focus ring can be seen here, and it's activated when you
turn on manual focus. Like the Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom and the Canon
PowerShot G2, the F707 will "blow up" part of the image
so you can check the focus when in manual mode.
we have the zoom controls. I would've preferred a control on the
back of the camera, which I find more comfortable. The zoom itself
is quite fast moving, and smooth too.
next switch is for toggling between Auto and Manual Focus. The three
buttons after that are for AE Lock, Spot Metering, and White Balance.
The F707 has manual white balance, meaning you can shoot a piece
of white or gray paper, and use that as your baseline white color.
is the other side of the F707. Here you'll find the battery/Memory
Stick compartment, as well as the USB port (far right, under metal
cover). Also, at the top-center of the photo, under a rubber cover,
is the accessory port, which is where you plug in the external flash
and (get this) other accessories.
a closer look at the battery/stick compartment, with the FM50 battery
and 16MB stick shown.
here is the bottom of the DSC-F707. Here you'll find a metal tripod
mount. (Again, I'm using my Olympus lens cap to hold the camera
steady, so that's why you see it lower-left.) As you can tell, this
is a production model complete with serial number.
the Sony DSC-F707
the lens is fully enclosed and doesn't need to extend, the F707
is ready to go in just 2 seconds after you turn it on. When you
depress the shutter release halfway, the focus is locked in a second
or so (depending on what the subject is). Depressing the button
all the way results in the photo being taken with almost no lag.
see the same thing on the EVF and LCD
the size of the images, shot-to-shot speed is excellent on the F707.
You'll wait roughly 1.5 seconds before you can take another shot,
even at the highest quality. The longest delay is when a TIFF file
(14 MB) is written, and that's just over 40 seconds (the camera
is locked up during that time).
a look at the image size and quality options available on the 707:
photos on 16MB Memory Stick
(3:2 aspect ratio)
I said at the beginning of the review, the 16MB Stick is too small,
so you'll probably want to pick up a larger one.
F707's menu system is pretty simple, since many functions are buttons
rather than menu choices. Let's take a look at the various menu
items and what they do:
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
Size (2560 x 1920, 2560 (3:2), 2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, 640 x
Quality (Fine, Standard)
Mode (TIFF, Voice, E-Mail, Exposure Bracketing, Burst3, Normal)
-- more on this below
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
(-2 to +2)
more details on those Rec Mode choices:
uncompressed large image - only one fits on 16MB Stick.
Records an audio file along with a still image
Records a 320 x 240 image in addition to the recorded image
bracketing: three shots in a row with different exposure compensation
values (chosen in the setup menu)
Records three images continuously, at 2 frames/sec.
Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here
are the interesting ones:
Focus (on/off) - whether or not the image is enlarged in manual
Image (MPEG Movie, ClipMotion) - explained later
(off, date, day & time) - imprint date on images
Step (1.0EV, 0.7EV, 0.3EV) - for auto bracketing function
numbering (series, reset)
connect (normal, PTP) - put it in PTP mode for Mac OS X only.
camera faired very well in the usual macro test. The colors are
right-on, which is nice considering how bad the lighting is in this
room. You can get as close as 2 cm in wide-angle, or 90 cm in full
telephoto when in macro mode.
camera did equally well in the night shot test, taken from the usual
spot on Twin Peaks. Check out the detail on the buildings both near
and far. I was also impressed with just how little noise is in this
the photo quality on the F707 was stellar. Where the Coolpix 950
was the benchmark for photo quality a few years ago, I think the
F707 will be the new benchmark going forward -- at least for a while.
I've got a ton of photos to back this up too -- check out the Yosemite
gallery as well as the double-size standard
gallery! The last photo in the Yosemite gallery was the only
photo with really noticeable chromatic aberrations.
movie modes is one of the best out there: the video and audio quality
is very good, and you can fill up the Memory Stick with video in
non-HQ modes (this is called MPEG MovieEX).
the microphone is away from the lens, you can use the optical zoom
you can use the Nightshot feature while filming, but not NightFraming.
are three sizes available in movie mode:
# of seconds on 16MB Memory Stick
(clips can be 15 sec max)
quality is highest in 320 (HQ) mode, but you're limited to 15 second
clips. In the other modes you can record until the Stick fills up.
an exciting sample movie for you:
to play movie (2.9MB, MPEG format)
movie-like feature is called ClipMotion, which will take 10 images
and put them into an animated GIF for you.
DSC-F707's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on
most cameras. Those "basics" include slideshows, DPOF
print marking, protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom &
advanced features include:
- copies an image
- change an image's size
- splits movies in half
- when zoomed into an image, you can crop the image down to the
selected area. You choose the resolution of the new image (the
old one is kept). The only thing to remember here is that if you
take a small area of an image and then blow it up, you'll lose
zoom and scroll feature is a bit slow (compared to Canon and Toshiba
at least), but is still better than average. You can zoom in as
much as 5X, in 0.1X increments.
can get more information about photos by pressing the thumbnail
button twice. You'll get a scrollable list of information that you
can see above.
also would've liked a delete button, rather than having to invoke
the menu every time I want to remove a photo.
F707 moves between images quickly in playback mode, and it shows
a low res version before a high res one replaces it. The low-res
image shows up almost instantly, with the high res arriving three
Does it Compare?
think Sony caught many manufacturers by surprise with their announcement
of the DSC-F707 -- especially the $999 price point. Olympus, Nikon,
and Minolta are all selling 4-5 Megapixel cameras for more than
the F707. While I haven't used the Coolpix 5000 yet, I have used
the Minolta DiMAGE 7, and I can say that the F707 is a lot nicer
for much less money. The F707's photo quality is outstanding, the
feature-set strong, and the 5X zoom much better than the usual 3X
zoom. The camera also has -- get this -- a proprietary battery that
actually lasts a long time! The things I'm not enthused about are
few in number: I don't like the Memory Stick (in general), and would
prefer a RAW mode instead of the massive TIFF files that the camera
saves. If I didn't already own an Olympus E-10, this would be the
camera I'd buy myself, most likely.
million pixels for under $1000!
good bundle (except for Memory Stick)
white balance and other manual controls
lasts a long time
I didn't care for:
Memory Stick, flash support
RAW mode would be nice
true continuous shooting mode
4/5 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon
PowerShot G2, Casio
FinePix 6900 Zoom (I guess), Minolta DiMAGE 5
Coolpix 5000, Olympus C-4040Z
DSC-S85, and the Toshiba
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the DSC-F707 and its competitors (if there are any when you're there)
before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our Yosemite and standard
a second opinion? How about a third?
Digicams review of the DSC-F707. The Imaging
Resource Page and DP
Review have them as well.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.