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DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 29, 2006
Last Updated: May 17, 2012

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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 ($450) is an update to the compact DSC-N1 from last year. From the outside, the only difference between the N1 and N2 is the body color. Inside the N2 you'll find a new 10.1 Megapixel CCD, up from 8 Megapixel on the N1. Along with the new sensor comes higher ISO sensitivities, with the N2 now able to go all the way up to ISO 1600.

Everything else is unchanged. That means that the N2 has a compact, all-metal body, a 3X optical zoom lens, a huge 3-inch touchscreen LCD, limited manual controls, a built-in photo album, and a VGA movie mode. Heck, you can even "paint" over your images.

Sounds pretty good, eh? Read on to see how the N2 fared in our tests.

Since the two cameras have so much in common, substantial portions of the DSC-N1 review will be reused here.

What's in the Box?

The DSC-N2 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-N2 camera
  • NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Stylus
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V + DC-in cable (one cable for all three)
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser, ImageStation XPRESS, GPS Image Tracker, Music Transfer, and drivers
  • Camera manual (printed)

Like many digital cameras these days, Sony has built memory into the DSC-N2 instead of bundling a memory card. The N2 has 25MB of internal memory, which holds just five photos at the highest image quality setting. There's also a separate memory bank that contains the Photo Album that I'll describe later. Anyhow, you'll want to pick up a memory card for the N2 right away. It uses Memory Stick Duo cards, and I suggest a 1GB card as a good place to start. While the MS Duo card won't work in any card readers by itself, Sony includes an adapter that allows you to use them in regular Memory Stick slots.

The DSC-N2 uses the same NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. For some strange reason this is not an InfoLithium battery like the ones used on Sony's other cameras. What this means to you is that the N2 cannot provide a minute-by-minute countdown of remaining battery life. The NP-BG1 has 3.4 Wh of energy -- and here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD630 ** 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD900 230 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 360 shots
Fuji FinePix F30 580 shots
Fuji FinePix V10 170 shots
HP Photosmart R967 ** 160 shots
Kodak EasyShare V705 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix S7c ** 200 shots
Olympus Stylus 1000 280 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 ** 300 shots
Pentax Optio T20 ** 130 shots
Samsung Digimax NV10 180 shots *
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1/N2 ** 300 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50 ** 400 shots

* Not calculated using the CIPA standard
** Has a 3-inch LCD

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

While not the best in class, the DSC-N2's battery life is still well above average. Not bad considering that it has power-hungry 3-inch LCD!

The usual caveats about proprietary batteries apply here. They're expensive ($45 a pop) and you can't use "regular batteries" to get you throw the day in an emergency. Unfortunately these batteries are standard features on ultra-compact cameras like the N2.

When it's time to charge the N2's battery, just pop it into the include external charger. This is my favorite type of charger -- you just plug it right into the wall. The typical charging time is 270 minutes, which is very slow.

As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, you'll find a built-in lens cover on the DSC-N2.


Image courtesy of Sony Electronics

Sony includes a rather unusual-looking stylus with the N2 so you can keep your greasy fingers off of the LCD (although that happens anyway). The stylus can attach to the wrist strap, so it won't wander away on you.

There are just a few accessories for the DSC-N2. The most interesting of the bunch is the MPK-NA underwater case (priced from $119), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters (132 ft) under the sea! Next we we have two external flashes: a regular slave flash (priced from $60), plus a macro ring light ($100).

The only other thing I can find is the LCS-NA carrying case (priced from $28).


Picture Motion Browser for Windows

Sony includes their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-N2. The PMB software -- which was briefly known as Cyber-shot Viewer -- is for Windows only, so Mac users will have to find something else to use for downloading photos from the camera (iPhoto works just fine).

On the main screen of PMB you'll get the thumbnail view that is standard on most photo viewers these days. You can view photos by folder or by date (using a calendar interface), with a third list view (showing shooting details) also available. On this screen you can rotate, print, and e-mail images, as well as create slideshows of them.


Picture Motion Browser for Windows

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to the edit screen. This adds some basic photo editing tools such as redeye reduction, brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, and trimming. An auto adjustment feature is also available.


Music Transfer software (Mac version)

Sony also includes software that transfers music to the N2, which you can then use for the fancy slideshow feature. You can rip audio from CDs, and supposedly MP3s, though I couldn't get the latter to work on my Mac.

My DSC-N2 didn't come in a retail box, so I can't say for certain what the documentation looks like. If it's anything like what you'll get on other Sony cameras, though, you'll get a fold-out quick start guide plus a more in-depth user manual. In terms of user friendliness they're just okay.

Look and Feel

Aside from its "champagne gold" colored body, the DSC-N2 looks identical to its predecessor. That means that the N2 is a compact (but not tiny) camera made almost entirely of metal. It's well put together for the most part.

The camera is short on buttons, since it uses a touchscreen LCD. The downside is that using the on-screen menus is time-consuming and -- unless you're using the stylus -- the LCD will be covered with fingerprints in short order.

Now let's see how the N2 compares in terms of size, volume, and weight with the competition:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD630 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 145 g
Canon PowerShot SD900 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 9.5 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 139 g
Fujifilm FinePix F30 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.7 cu in. 155 g
Fujifilm FinePix V10 3.3 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 7.4 cu in. 156 g
HP Photosmart R967 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 170 g
Kodak EasyShare V705 4.0 x 2.0 x 0.8 in. 6.4 cu in. 124 g
Nikon Coolpix S7c 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.5 cu in. 140 g
Olympus Stylus 1000 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 140 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 9 cu in. 151 g
Pentax Optio T20 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 135 g
Samsung NV10 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.4 cu in. 149 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 151 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 151 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 130 g

As you can see, the N2 is exactly the same size and weight as the N1 before it. And, as you can also see, there are smaller cameras out there. Don't let that dissuade you, though -- the N2 will still fit into any pocket with ease.

Okay, enough about that, let's start our tour of the camera now.

The DSC-N2 has the same F2.8-5.4, 3X optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens as the DSC-N1. The focal length of the lens is 7.9 - 23.7 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded, nor would I expect it to be.

To the upper-left of the lens is the N2's AF-assist lamp, which is also used as the visual countdown for the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp helps the camera focus in low light situations.

Just above the AF-assist lamp is the built-in flash. Sony says that the flash range is 0.2 - 4.8 m at Auto ISO, which is slightly worse than on the DSC-N1. Still, that's not bad for an ultra-compact camera. If you want more flash power you can use the external slave flash that I mentioned earlier.

The DSC-N1 has an enormous 3-inch LCD that takes up most of the rear of the camera. The LCD has 230,000 pixels, so things are pretty sharp, though more so in playback mode than in record mode in my opinion. As I mentioned before, this is a touchscreen display, and you can use either the included stylus or your finger to operate it. If you do the latter, you might want to carry around a cleaning cloth, as the screen will be covered in fingerprints. Outdoor visibility was just average, but low light was better, since the screen brightens automatically in those situations.

As you can probably tell, there's no optical viewfinder on the DSC-N2. In fact, there isn't even any room for one. Some people are bothered by this, others don't care. In other words, it's sort of up to you.

At the top-right of the photo you'll find the zoom controller, which moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in under 1.3 seconds. I counted nine steps throughout the 3X zoom range.

Below that you'll find the mode switch, which moves the camera between movie, still, and playback mode. Below that are two buttons: menu and display. The former does just as it sounds, while the latter toggles the information shown on the LCD.

On top of the N2 you'll find the microphone as well as the power and shutter release buttons.

The only thing to see here is the speaker. The lens is at full wide-angle here.

Here's the opposite side of the N2, with the lens at full telephoto. Let's see what's behind that somewhat flimsy plastic door:

Here you'll find the battery compartment and Memory Stick Duo slot. The include NP-BG1 battery is shown at right.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the connector for the USB/video/power cable, plus a metal tripod mount.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2

Record Mode

It takes the DSC-N2 about 1.6 seconds to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. That's about average for this class.


A histogram is shown on the LCD in record mode

The N2 is a fast focusing camera, with typical focus times of just 0.1 - 0.3 seconds. Even at the telephoto end of the lens you won't have to way much longer than that. I found low light focusing to be very good thanks to the N2's AF-assist lamp.

As with Sony's other cameras, shutter lag was not noticeable, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

Shot-to-shot speeds were decent, with a a delay of around two seconds before you can take another photo.

You cannot delete a photo right after it's taken -- you must enter playback mode.

Now, here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the N2:

Resolution Quality # images on 25MB on-board memory # images on 1GB memory card (optional)
10M
3648 x 2736
Fine 5 196
Standard 10 393
10M (3:2 ratio)
3648 x 2432
Fine 5 196
Standard 10 393
8M
3264 x 2448
Fine 6 252
Standard 12 466
5M
2592 x 1944
Fine 10 393
Standard 19 739
3M
2048 x 1536
Fine 16 631
Standard 29 1122
2M
1600 x 1200
Fine 26 1010
Standard 49 1894
16:9 (HDTV)
1920 x 1080
Fine 26 1010
Standard 49 1894
VGA
640 x 480
Fine 158 6063
Standard 397 >9999

And now you see why you want to buy a memory card right away!

The DSC-N2 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats, though I wouldn't expect it to.

The file numbering system used by Sony is quite simple. Files are named DSC0####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The numbering is maintained as you erase and swap Memory Sticks.

The menu system works a bit differently on the N2 than it does on other cameras. Pressing the menu button on the back of the camera brings up the above screen. You then "press" the various virtual buttons on the screen to select an option. I found that the touchscreen LCD actually slows down menu navigation since there's so much button-mashing. I could do without it. Anyhow, the options here include:

  • Shooting mode (Auto, program, manual, high sensitivity, twilight, twilight portrait, soft snap, landscape, beach, snow, fireworks) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Focus mode (Multi, center, spot AF, infinity, 7, 3, 1, 0.5 meters) - see below
  • Menu - opens the full menu described below
  • Flash setting (Auto, flash on, slow sync, flash off)
  • Self-timer (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec)
  • Macro (on/off)
  • Image size (see above chart)

The manual shooting mode is where you'll find the N2's manual exposure controls. You set both the aperture and shutter speed yourself -- there are no "priority" modes on the camera. At any given focal length you'll have three apertures to choose from: F2.8/F4/F8 at wide-angle and F5.4/F8/F16 at telephoto (there will be other options in between those two). The shutter speed range is 30 - 1/1000 sec.

Sony has added a high sensitivity mode to the N2, which is one of the more popular gimmicks on digital cameras this year. Basically the camera boosts the ISO as high as needed in order to get a sharp photo without using the flash. The problem with high sensitivity modes is that you get really noisy photos, as you can see in this example. My advice is to shoot in Program Mode and manually set the ISO, trying to keep it at 400 or lower if possible.


Spot AF

There are a couple of focus modes to choose from on the N2. Multi AF automatically selects the area in the frame on which to focus. Center frame always focuses on the center of the frame, while the spot AF feature lets you choose the area in the frame to focus on simply by touching the LCD in that spot. This feature has been on Sony's camcorders for a couple of years (along with the N1, of course).

From that main menu screen you can press "menu", which opens up the secondary menu that you see above. Here's what you'll find in this one:

  • Color mode (Normal, vivid, natural, sepia, black & white)
  • Metering mode (Multi, center, spot)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent, flash)
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Photo Quality (Fine, standard)
  • Rec Mode (Normal, burst, exposure bracketing, multi-burst) - see below
  • Bracket step (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV) - for the exposure bracketing feature described above
  • Multi-burst interval (1/30, 1/15, 1/7.5 sec) - for the multi-burst feature described above
  • Flash Level (Low, normal, high)
  • Contrast (Low, normal, high)
  • Sharpness (Low, normal, high)
  • Setup - see below

Unfortunately there's no custom white balance option on the N2, or on any of Sony's ultra-compact cameras for that matter. You'll see what this means in the real world shortly.

Now I want to talk about the three rec mode options. In burst mode the camera takes just three shots in a row at a very sluggish 0.7 frames/second. The LCD blacks out briefly between shots. The exposure bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure. You can choose from exposure intervals of 0.3, 0.7, and 1.0EV in the record menu. The final rec mode is multi-burst, which takes sixteen shots in a row at an interval of your choosing (1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30 sec). These images are put into a 1 Megapixel collage, although the camera plays them back as a mini-movie when you're viewing it.

From the full record menu you can get to a setup menu, which has even more options. They include:

  • Camera 1
    • AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
    • Digital zoom (Off, precision, smart) - see below
    • Redeye reduction (on/off)
    • AF illuminator (Auto, off)
  • Camera 2
    • Auto Review (on/off) - shows images on LCD after it is taken
  • Internal Memory Tool
    • Format
  • Memory Stick Tool
    • Format
    • Change/create rec folder - manage folders on the memory card
    • Copy (Internal memory, album) - copies either the photos in internal memory or in the album to a MS Duo card
  • Album
    • Write in album (on/off) - whether photos are automatically put in the album when they are taken
    • Format album
    • Check album - repairs the album if an error message is shown
  • Setup 1
    • Download music - from your Mac or PC
    • Format music - erases the music memory
  • Setup 2
    • LCD backlight (Normal, bright)
    • Beep (Shutter only, on, off)
    • Language
    • Initialize - reset camera to default settings
  • Setup 3
    • File number (Series, reset)
    • USB connect (Auto, Mass Storage, PTP, PictBridge)
    • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
    • Clock set
  • Setup 4
    • Calibration
    • Housing (on/off) - for use with the underwater housing

Single AF is just like you're used to: press the shutter release halfway and the camera locks focus. Monitor AF lets the camera focus constantly, even without the shutter release pressed. This helps reduce the time required to take a picture.

The camera has two types of digital zoom. Precision digital zoom is the same old "enlarge the center" system that you should avoid. Smart Zoom lets you enlarge the image without a loss in quality, with the catch being that you can't use much of it unless you're at a low resolution. The lower the resolution, the more smart zoom you can use, up to a maximum of 5.7X. This is similar to the "extended optical zoom" feature on Panasonic's newer cameras.

Let's move on to our photo tests now, shall we?

The macro test results are mixed. The most glaring issue is the reddish color cast due to the lack of a custom white balance setting. I used the incandescent setting here, which isn't a great match for my studio lamps. Now this won't matter for most people, but if you're shooting under any remotely non-standard lighting, then you may want to find a camera with custom WB. If you want to see how Mickey is supposed to look, click here (I just ran the above image through Auto Color in Photoshop). The subject is sharp in most areas, though I notice some blurring near the top of the photo.

You can get as close to your subject as 6 cm in macro mode.

I must apologize in advance for this night shot. San Francisco is famous for its summer fog, and as a result clear nights are few and far between. Since I had very little time with the N2, this was the best I could get.

That said, the DSC-N2 took in plenty of light, thanks to its manual control over shutter speed. The buildings are fairly sharp, though the fog has definitely softened things up a bit. Noise levels are low considering the resolution of the camera. Purple fringing was not an issue.

Below is the first of two ISO tests in this review. First, let's use the night scene to see how the camera performs at high ISO sensitivities. Again, the fog makes things worse than they should be.


ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Details start to get fuzzy at ISO 200, and noticeably worse at ISO 400. At ISO 800 they're pretty much gone, and ISO 1600 is a disaster, with vertical streaks throughout the whole image. For low light shooting it's best to keep the ISO at 200 or lower if possible.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the N2's 3X zoom lens. While I see a bit of vignetting (dark corners) in the test chart, I didn't find it to be a problem in my real world photos. One issue that was present in both the test chart and real world photos is corner blurriness -- something that is fairly common on ultra-compact cameras.

Compact cameras have a lot of redeye, and the DSC-N2 is no exception to the rule. While your results may vary, odds are that you'll have a redeye problem at least some of the time.

Now it's time for the second ISO test in the review. Above is our test scene, which has the same color cast as the macro shot since the camera can't seem to get the white balance right in my studio. I've cropped out a section of the scene so you can quickly compare the noise levels, though I do recommend viewing the full size images for the complete picture (no pun intended). You can also compare these test results with those from other cameras that I reviewed in the last few years.

Here we go:


ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Things look very clean at ISO 100 and 200, with just mild degradation in image quality at ISO 400. You should be able to make mid to large-sized prints at any of these settings. At ISO 800 details start to get muddy, and color saturation drops a bit as well. This one's only for small prints in my opinion. ISO 1600 is pretty noisy, so I'd avoid this one if possible.

Aside from the custom white balance and corner blurriness issues I raised above, the DSC-N2 takes very good quality photos. Pictures were properly exposed, with pleasing colors. Sharpness was just how I like it -- not too sharp, not too soft. Noise levels were relatively low considering the 10MP resolution of the camera, and purple fringing was not an issue.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing a few of them if possible, and decide if the N2's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The DSC-N2 has the same, top-notch movie mode as Sony's other digital cameras. The MPEG Movie VX Fine mode takes VGA resolution video (that's 640 x 480) at 30 frames/sec until the memory card is full, with sound. The VX Fine mode requires a Memory Stick Pro Duo card, and you cannot use the internal memory at that setting either. A 1GB Pro Duo card can hold about 12 minutes of video at the highest quality setting.

If you don't have a Memory Stick Pro Duo card, don't fret. You can quadruple the recording time by using the VX Standard mode, which is still VGA, just at 16 frames/second. An even lower resolution mode is also available: 160 x 120 at 8.3 frames/second, which boosts recording time by a factor of fifty seven!

As is usually the case, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming. Movies are saved in MPEG format.

Here's an exciting sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (15 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, MPEG format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The DSC-N2's playback mode is quite a bit fancier than what comes on most cameras. The basic features are here, of course, like thumbnail viewing, zoom & scroll (playback zoom), DPOF print marking, and image protection. You can also rotate, resize, and crop your photos. A movie editing feature lets you trim unwanted footage.

And, of course, the N2 is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to the photo printer of your choice.

The slide show feature is much fancier than what most of the competition offers. You can choose from five "effects" (transitions), including normal, active, stylish, nostalgic, and simple. You can also select four music tracks (or just turn off the sound), and Sony includes some sample music with the camera. If you want your own music, use the music transfer application to move your MP3s to the camera. Do note that this software only works on Windows PCs.

The N2 has the same unique photo album feature as it's predecessor. Each time you take a picture, a 640 x 480 version of the photo is put into the album, which has its own separate memory bank. Even if you delete your photo from your memory card, it's remains in the album. Photos in the album operate on the "first in, first out" system, so the oldest photos get "bumped" from the album when the 500 image limit is reached. You can protected album photos to keep them from being automatically removed.

Way back at the beginning of the review I had a picture of the N2's rather bizarre Paint feature. This lets you use the stylus (or your finger) to digitally draw on top of a picture. There are various pens and stamps you can use, and there are several colors to choose from.

By default, the N2 doesn't tell you much about your photos. But press the Display button and you'll see a bit more, including a histogram.

The camera moves between images quickly in playback mode. If you go one image at a time, the next one appears instantly, without any low resolution placeholder. If you really start flipping through them, you'll see a low res placeholder followed by the high res image a half second later.

How Does it Compare

While not much of an improvement over its predecessor, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 remains a very good ultra-compact camera, and it earns my recommendation. It has a nice selection of point-and-shoot features, good photo quality, snappy performance, and a capable movie mode.

The DSC-N2 looks just like the DSC-N1 before it, aside from its new champagne gold color. That means that it has a compact metal body, a 3X zoom Zeiss lens, and a huge 3-inch touchscreen LCD. While the touchscreen feature is a cool thing to show off to friends, I found that its constant need for cleaning and the clunky touch-based menu system was frustrating. The LCD's outdoor visibility was just average, while in low light conditions it was better, as it brightens automatically so you can still see your subject. The N2 lacks an optical viewfinder.

The N2 is a point-and-shoot camera with a few manual controls thrown in for good measure. It has plenty of scene modes, including a new high sensitivity mode, though I'd avoid using that whenever possible. The N2's movie mode is unchanged since the N1, meaning that it records VGA / 30 fps video until you run out of memory. In terms of manual controls, the N2 has a full manual mode, which lets you set both the aperture and shutter speed at the same time. Unfortunately, there are only three aperture choices available at any one time. One manual control that's not here is custom white balance, which would've helped the N2 shine in our photo tests (this won't matter to most folks, though).

One of the N2's unique features is its built-in 500 shot photo album. Everything's automatic -- every photo you take gets put into the album, which is stored in a separate memory bank. Thus, the N2 doubles as a portable photo viewer. Another unique feature, though not nearly as useful, is a "paint" option that lets you draw all over your photos with the included stylus. The DSC-N2 also has a fancy slideshow with background music and transitions.

Camera performance is excellent. The N2 starts up in 1.6 seconds, focuses very quickly, and has no shutter lag to speak of. The camera focused well in low light situations thanks to its AF-assist lamp. Battery life was above average. The one downside in terms of performance is the N2's burst mode. It takes just three shots in a row at a very slow 0.7 frames/second. Just about every other compact camera on the market does a better job in this area.

Photo quality was very good for the most part. The DSC-N2 took well-exposed photos, with accurate colors and pleasing sharpness. Purple fringing wasn't a problem, and noise levels were well controlled through ISO 400. Downsides include some corner blurriness and substantial redeye in flash photos.

I got most of my complaints about the N2 out in the previous paragraphs. The only others that come to mind are the relatively small amount of built-in memory (for a 10MP camera) and the lack of Mac image browsing software (though iPhoto works just fine).

All-in-all, the Cyber-shot DSC-N2 is a nice ultra-compact camera, and one that I can recommend to most people. If you take a lot of photos in unusual lighting conditions then I'd skip it, but for everyone else, it's a good choice. One shopping hint for you all: the "old" DSC-N1 can be found for $100 less than the N2, and it offers all the features you've read about here, save for the marketing-driven 10MP sensor and high sensitivity mode. If you like the N2, it might be worth seeking out the N1 instead to save some money.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality (though see issues below)
  • Stylish, compact metal body
  • Enormous LCD display (though see issues below)
  • Low noise through ISO 400
  • Snappy performance in most areas
  • Some manual controls
  • AF-assist lamp; good low light focusing
  • Built-in 500 shot photo album
  • Nice movie mode
  • Enhanced slideshow feature, plus the ability to "paint" over images
  • Above average battery life
  • Optional underwater case
  • Support for USB 2.0 High Speed protocol

What I didn't care for:

  • Blurry corners
  • Redeye
  • Unimpressive burst mode
  • Big LCD attracts fingerprints; clunky touch-based menu system
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Only three aperture choices available at any one time in manual mode
  • Needs more manual controls, especially for white balance
  • Not much built-in memory; no Mac image browser included

Some other ultra-compact cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot SD630 and SD900, Casio Exilim EX-Z1000, Fuji FinePix F30 and V10, HP Photosmart R967, Kodak EasyShare V705, Nikon Coolpix S7c, Olympus Stylus 1000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50, Pentax Optio T20, Samsung NV10, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the DSC-N2 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our photo gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.