Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Sunday, October 15, 2000
Monday, January 28, 2002
was already happy when I opened the box. After three years of running
the site, I had finally received a Sony camera for review,
from Sony directly! But what made me even happier was the camera
itself -- the Cyber-shot
DSC-P1 ($799) turned out to be a joy to use, and everyone I
showed it to had the same level of enthusiasm. It reminded me of
when I was showing off the Canon Digital ELPH -- people just said
"wow, that's really cool!" It turns out that this one
performs as good as it looks... read on!
in the Box?
DSC-P1 has a great included bundle, with one notable exception.
Inside the box, you'll find:
3.34 Mpixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1 camera
NP-FS11 InfoLithium battery
adapter / battery charger
featuring MGI PhotoSuite and VideoWave SE, plus USB drivers
shown with NP-FS11 battery and 8MB Memory Stick
gets big points from this reviewer for including a nice battery
kit, which includes the NP-FS11 "InfoLithium" battery,
along with an AC adapter that doubles as a in-camera battery charger.
The InfoLithium battery, reminiscent of a camcorder battery, is
unique in that it tells you how many minutes of charge it has left.
Battery life ranges from 70-90 minutes, depending on your use of
the LCD display.
P1 is a USB-only camera, so those of you without USB will be out
built-in lens cap is quite handy!
big complaint about the P1's bundle is the Memory Stick, for two
I'm not a big fan of proprietary memory cards. Just when you thought
it was just SmartMedia and CompactFlash, Sony came along with the
Memory Stick, which is around the size of a stick of gum. Recently,
Panasonic did the same thing with their Secure Digital (SD) memory
cards. If these catch on and perhaps become a standard, I'm all
for it... but for now, it just makes life more difficult for the
The included 8Mb stick is way too small to be useful. I could only
get 5 photos on the card, which made it awfully hard to take lots
of sample photos. One 15 second movie left space for just one photo.
Do yourself a favor and buy a larger stick -- 64MB is the max at
this point. I also found the Memory Stick to be slower than CompactFlash
and SmartMedia -- though hopefully they'll get faster as the product
did not have time to test the software, though MGI's PhotoSuite
is a pretty standard package included with many cameras, so it should
be OK for your needs.
I only had a draft of the manual (since this was a Japanese camera),
it seemed pretty much like every other Sony manual: it tells the
whole story, but not necessarily in the clearest way.
finally, one accessory you may have seen before. But since it's
so cool, I'll show you again.
courtesy of the Imaging
MKP-P1 Marine Pack underwater attachment (shown above, $250) lets
you take your P1 as deep as 30 meters (100 feet)! Great for diving,
or just taking pictures in the rain!
I alluded to in the beginning of the review, the P1 has a lot of
the "wow factor". Everyone enjoys playing around with
it, and for good reason. It's a small camera... not as small as
ELPH (it's wider, thicker, and heavier), but it definitely fits
in your pocket.
shown with Coolpix 950 in background, and AA battery in foreground
official dimensions of the P1 are 4.25 x 2.13 x 1.75 inches, and
weighs 8.8 ounces fully loaded. For comparison's sake, the Digital
ELPH's dimensions are 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches.
camera feels exceptionally sturdy and well constructed with its
metal body. All doors are solid looking (even the one over the Memory
Stick slot), and they stay closed. The camera fits in one hand pretty
easily, though using the zoom felt unnatural to me when I was using
P1's lens features a 3X optical zoom of 8-24 mm (equivalent to 39-117mm
on a 35mm camera). The zoom is very responsive and smooth when activated.
let's move on to the back of the camera. Sony included some buttons
seldom seen on other cameras here, including those for volume, as
well as for turning the LCD on and off. I prefer this to the Display
button typically found on cameras (which is also on the P1) which
cycles through info on screen, then shuts the LCD off.. here, you
can cycle through the display modes, without turning off the LCD
when you don't want to.
of the LCD, the 1.5" screen is smaller than most, but it's
still smooth and bright. Like all LCDs, it's pretty useless in direct
that's when the optical viewfinder comes in handy. The viewfinder
is average-sized, but it lacks diopter correction for those with
glasses. No matter what eye you use, your nose will smudge the LCD.
I also found my fingers on the LCD more often than I would've liked.
buttons to the left of the LCD control LCD on/off, speaker volume,
and Program AE mode.
Program AE button lets you switch between the following modes:
("changes the focus quickly and simply from a close subject
to a distant subject")
buttons above the LCD are for macro and flash settings. The buttons
to the right are for cycling through info on the LCD, and the four-way
switch (actually, five-way) controls the menus. I had a little trouble
with menu navigation with this switch, especially pushing in the
center for "OK".
on the lower right, under a plastic cover, you'll find the ports
for USB as well as the AC adapter / battery charger.
above that are the zoom controls. As I said, they're hard to use
when holding the camera with one hand, and I found them a bit small
onto the top of the camera. You can see the LCD info display on
the left, which is showing battery level, resolution (2048), Memory
Stick status, and photos taken (1). I don't want to know how many
pictures I've taken, I want to know how many I can take!
the right of that you can see the microphone, power button, shutter
release button, and mode switch. I like the power button because
you can't easily turn the camera off (by accident). The shutter
release button is well-placed, though it could give better tactile
feedback. The mode switch lets you choose between playback, still
record, and movie record. I'll cover each of those modes in the
one side of the camera -- not much action here. That 6X precision
digital zoom really means 3X optical + 2X digital zoom.
the other side of the camera. Underneath the door you'll find the
Memory Stick slot, as well as the battery compartment (see the first
section for a closeup). To the left of that is the A/V output, for
hooking into a television.
the bottom of the camera. The only thing down here is the metal
going to discuss still record, movie record, and playback mode in
DSC-P1 powers up in less than four seconds, and then it's ready
to go. When you first turn it on, it displays a "splash screen"
with the Cyber-shot logo, as well as the current date and time.
a macro shot with indoor white balance and no flash
is about a one second lag while the camera focuses when you depress
the shutter release button halfway. There's minimal lag from the
time you fully depress the button to the actual recording of the
uses overlay style menus for all the functions that don't have buttons.
These menus are easy to use, though they're laid out strangely (some
things in "File" seem like they should be in "Camera",
for example). Here are all the options you have available in record
Effect (solarize, black & white, sepia, negative art [color/brightness
numbering (normal, series)
Size (2048 x 1536, 2048 (3:2 ratio), 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960,
640 x 480)
mode (TIFF, Text [B&W GIF file], Voice [save 5-40
secs of sound with photos], E-mail [320 x 240])
(-2 to +2)
balance (Indoor, Outdoor, Hold [AE Lock], Auto)
level (high, normal, low)
Compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
few of these options require more explanation. First, what's Clip
Motion? It's an animation function that takes up to 10 frames, and
puts them into an animated GIF file with 1/2 sec between frames.
You can record at 160 x 120 (normal) or 80 x 72 (mobile). So now
all you aspiring filmmakers can make things like the "movie"
self-timer is activated via the menu system, which is unusual for
a digital camera. In true Sony fashion, the build up to the photo
is a spectacle, with flashing lights and sounds. The self timer
is for 10 seconds (I love cameras with 3 and 10 second self-timers,
but oh well).
is indeed an uncompressed TIFF mode, but you're only going to get
one photo on the included Memory Stick, which is why I recommend
a much larger one. It takes over 20 seconds to store an uncompressed
TIFF onto the Memory Stick.
macro test turned out just OK. I first tried using "indoor"
white balance, but that turned out too yellow. So I used "auto"
and got a better result. There is a good deal of noise in this shot,
unfortunately. I did have more luck with macro mode outdoors - check
out the gallery and look at the flower
pictures. You can get as close as 4 cm / 10 inches in macro mode.
night shot also turned out just OK. There's not a lot of noise,
but I just couldn't get it to take in a whole lot of light. The
above shot used the "Twilight Plus" mode, and that's the
best I could get. There's no manual control of shutter or aperture
on the P1. I did notice that Steve over at Steve's Digicams has
better luck with his
night shots than I did.
outdoor photos proved to be very good. You can browse our gallery
to see quite a few sample photos and then decide for yourself.
a quick mention of movie mode here. Sony definitely has the movie
thing down - they're probably the best out there. The 320 x 240
HQ mode produces the highest quality movies of any camera I've seen.
have three quality choices in movie mode:
x 240 HQ
you just hit the button to start filming, and then hit it again
to stop, you can record up to 15 seconds of video (you can lower
this to 10 or 5 seconds via the menus). You can also hold down the
button and record up to 60 seconds (but not in HQ mode).
only downer here is that you cannot use the zoom while filming.
I'm still not sure why some cameras can do it, and others can't...
but let's just add this to the wish list for the DSC-P2!
to view movie
(MPEG format, 15 sec, 5.2MB)
Cyber-shot DSC-P1 has a full-featured playback mode that works well.
All the basics are here, including slideshows, DPOF print marking,
protection, and thumbnail, and there's some other features that
are useful too.
first one is the ability to rotate photos inside the camera. This
is great especially when you're hooked up to a TV.
can also resize photos, in two ways. The first is to just take the
whole photo and shrink it down to one of the lower resolutions.
But another option (hidden in the manual) is the ability to crop
down a photo after you've zoomed into it. The downside to this feature
is that the cropped photo is saved with a 640 x 480 resolution.
zoom and scroll feature lets you get 5 times closer, and then move
around within the photo. While not the fastest scrolling camera
out there, the P1 does an admirable job.
can also playback movies in this mode, complete with sound thanks
to the onboard speaker.
of only two downsides to the play mode is that it takes around 4
seconds to move between photos. There's no low resolution version
to tide you over until the high resolution version shows up, so
it seems a bit longer than on other cameras.
only other complaint is that you can't see any information about
the photos you've taken, other than date and filename. I'd like
to see some exposure information like some other cameras have.
Does it Compare?
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P1 is what I'd call an "advanced point-and-shoot"
camera. It's very good at the basics, and it has some features found
on more "prosumer" cameras such as uncompressed TIFF mode.
But it lacks the real "pro" features like full exposure
control. With this in mind, the DSC-P1 is a great camera, and it's
aimed squarely at people who were looking at Canon's PowerShot line.
In terms of size, the PowerShot Digital
ELPH is the winner. For storage capacity, I'd give the nod to
the PowerShot S10/S20.
For overall features, the DSC-P1 is the winner -- there's a few
things that I don't like, but I really enjoyed using it, and would
recommend it to anyone who wants a compact point-and-shoot camera.
design from body to menus- Sony Style, for sure.
bundle (except for skimpy Memory Stick)
extras like Clip Motion, image rotating/resizing
movie mode w/sound
Marine Pack allows underwater photography
I didn't care for:
Stick -- included card too small, not a big fan of proprietary
and night shots could be better
real manual controls
like exposure information in playback mode.
hope that this is the first of many more reviews of Sony cameras!
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try these
cameras yourself before you make any purchases.