Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P5
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2001
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
already skinny Sony DSC-P1 (see our review)
has gone on a diet. After several months of hard work, the P1 has
been reborn as the new DSC-P5,
a thinner camera with the latest bells and whistles that you expect
from Sony. What was the secret to the P5's weight loss? It wasn't
one of those Hollywood miracle diets; rather, it's a new two-stage
lens design, which let Sony take off those inches (or millimeters,
as the case may be). The camera's width and height hasn't changed
much, but its depth most certainly has.
a retail price of $599, the DSC-P5 is sure to give the competition
a run for the money. Read our review to find out how it "measures
in the Box?
DSC-P5 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Cyber-shot DSC-P5 camera
InfoLITHIUM rechargeable battery
featuring MGI PhotoSuite software and drivers
issues I will raise here are typical of my reviews of Sony cameras.
first issue is the Memory Stick. It's a Sony-only storage format,
and proprietary-anything isn't great in my mind. The included 8MB
Stick can hold a whopping 4 "Fine" photos, so you'll want
to buy a bigger card.
second, related issue is the battery, which is again proprietary.
Unlike the DSC-P50 (see our review),
the P5 can only use the included InfoLITHIUM battery, so when you're
desperate for power, you can't just pick up a set of AA's. Another
reason I don't like proprietary batteries is the cost -- they're
many times more expensive that NiMH AA cells.
order to shrink the camera, Sony had to come up with a new, smaller
battery. The new "C" series InfoLITHIUM battery is about
the size of 4 Memory Sticks stacked on top of one another. As you
might expect, shrinking the battery also shortens the battery life.
Sony estimates that you'll get between 60 and 90 minutes of battery
life before you have to recharge. Recharging takes between 90 and
nice thing about InfoLITHIUM batteries is that the camera knows
how many minutes of battery life you have left before you'll need
to recharge. The included AC adapter can power the camera as well
as charge the battery (in the camera).
the DSC-P5 has a built-in lens cover, there is no need to worry
about lens caps.
DSC-P5 has one of my favorite accessories: the Marine Pack. With
this case (model number MPK-P5), you and your P5 can go underwater
as deep as 40 meters! It will cost about $250 when it ships in October.
P5 is compatible with both Mac and PC computers. For compatibility
with Mac OS X, you'll need to go into the Set Up menu and change
the USB Mode from "Normal" to "PTP".
manuals aren't great. They remind me of the one that comes with
the VCR that most people can't figure out how to program.
I've already mentioned, the Sony DSC-P5 is a small camera. It's
not Digital ELPH sized (its wide but thin), but it's still easy
to slide into a pocket. The body is made of a mixture of metal and
plastic, and it feels solid. The controls are well-placed, and will
be familiar to anyone who has ever touched a Sony digital camera.
The camera is easy to use with one hand, if you wish.
dimensions of the P5 are 4.25 x 1.44 x 2.25 inches (W x H x D),
and it weighs just 180 grams (6.4 oz) empty. Let's take our usual
tour now, starting with the front of the P5.
the front of the camera is that new two-stage lens (see the picture
at the top of this page for a better look). This F2.8 lens has a
3X optical zoom, with a focal range of 8 - 24mm, which is equivalent
to 39 - 117mm.
lens is not threaded, so don't expect any attachments for it.
above and left from the lens is the AF illuminator, which helps
to light up the subject in low-light situations, to ease focusing.
to the left is the flash, which has a working range of 0.5 - 2.8
m (wide-angle) and 0.6 - 1.4 m (telephoto).
the back of the camera, which looks like other Sony digicams, only
more cramped for space.
1.5" LCD is smaller than those found on most cameras, but it's
still bright and easy to see, except outdoors (as is the case with
all LCDs). One thing I noticed is that if you use the optical viewfinder,
your nose will smudge the LCD.
of the optical viewfinder, it's right in the middle of the camera,
and is a bit on the small side. In addition, there is no diopter
correction to help focus the image for those of us with less than
above the LCD is a nice treat - an LCD info display. This little
display shows flash setting, battery life, remaining photos, and
more. It's nice to see such a thing, as most tiny cameras skip over
it. This is also helpful to cut down on battery usage, as you don't
need to use the big LCD to see these pieces of information.
the right of the LCD are a number of buttons, including the four-way
switch, LCD on/off, and menu buttons.
addition to controlling the menu system, the four-way switch also
does the following:
all those buttons, under a rubber cover, are the I/O ports on the
P5. They include:
Review (shows the last shot taken)
port (the AC adapter plugs in here)
but not least, towards the top right of the photo you can see the
zoom controls. They were placed right where your thumb rests for
easy access. The zoom mechanism is a little noisy but its precise
the top of the P5, featuring the microphone, mode wheel, shutter
release button, and power button.
mode wheel is essentially the same as other modern Sony cameras,
except for one thing: there's no "scene mode". It's strange
that they skipped this, since many of their other new cameras have
it. What you will find on the mode wheel is:
mode (for night shots)
cover these in further detail later in the review.
one side of the DSC-P5, where you can get a good look at that new
on the other side, you can see where the Memory Stick and battery
go. The plastic door seems a bit flimsy, so be careful. The Memory
Stick slot is spring-loaded, making it easy to remove those sticks.
lastly, here is the bottom of the P5. Here you'll find the speaker
(at left) and the metal tripod mount.
the Sony DSC-P5
P5 takes just three seconds to extend the lens and "warm up"
before you can start taking pictures. Depressing the shutter release
halfway results in a focus lock in under a second in most cases.
There is no noticeable shutter lag when you press the button fully
to record the picture. Shot-to-shot speed is very good, as well
- you'll wait about 2 seconds before you can take another shot (Fine
mode). TIFF files take longer to record, but since you can't actually
fit one on the included Memory Stick, I can't tell you exactly how
long (I'd guess about 40 seconds to write it).
you'll see on the LCD in record mode
a look at the image size/quality choices on the P5:
photos on included 8MB Memory Stick
I mentioned, you can't get a single TIFF file on the included 8MB
Memory Stick. If you're doing to be shooting TIFFs, buy a much larger
card (they come as big as 128MB).
DSC-P5's "overlay-style" menu system is pretty simple
and easy to learn. Let's take a look at the various menu items and
what they do:
Compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
(Auto, 0.5m, 1.0m, 3.0m, 7.0m, infinity)
Balance (Hold, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
Size (2048 x 1536, 2048 (3:2), 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x
Quality (Fine, Standard)
Mode (TIFF, Text, Voice, E-Mail, Burst2, Normal) -- more on this
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Black & White, Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
(-2 to +2)
is no manual white balance on the P5, unlike some of the more expensive
Cyber-shots. The "hold" white balance mode is for use
with single-colored subjects or backgrounds.
more details on those Rec Mode choices:
uncompressed large image - cannot fit on 8MB stick
records a GIF in black & white
records an audio file along with the JPEG
Records a 320 x 240 image in addition to the recorded image
records two images continuously (interval of 0.6 sec)
Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here
are the interesting ones:
Image (MPEG Movie, ClipMotion) - explained later
numbering (series, reset)
connect (normal, PTP) - put it in PTP mode for Mac OS X only.
enough about menus already, let's take a look at our photo tests!
took a little help from the exposure compensation feature, but I
was able to take a good macro test shot of the "usual suspect"
above. The colors are right on, which isn't easy in the room where
this shot is taken.
can get as close as 10 cm (4") at full wide-angle, or 60 cm
(about 24") at full telephoto.
wasn't able to get much of a night test shot with the P5, due in
part to the lack of manual controls. I admit that the city isn't
as lit up as it used to be, but even the Kodak DX3900 did better.
There weren't any "artificial stars" caused by noise in
I was very happy with the DSC-P5's photo quality. Photos were sharp,
colors were accurate, and I didn't notice any major problems with
chromatic aberrations. But don't take my word for it -- check out
the gallery and judge for yourself.
digital cameras have one of the best movie modes out there. The
P5 can record until the Memory Stick fills up (and with an 8MB stick,
that's not long), plus there's a high quality mode if you need it.
zoom lens cannot be used during filming, since the microphone is
close to the lens. Sound is recorded (obviously) during filming.
can record up to 15 seconds in HQ mode, and longer in the regular
320 x 240 (80 sec) and 160 x 112 (320 sec) video modes.
a thrilling sample movie (taken in standard 320 x 240 mode) for
to play movie (MPEG format, 908KB)
is also a movie-like feature called ClipMotion which will take 10
images and put them into an animated GIF for you.
DSC-P5's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on most
point-and-shoot cameras. The basic features include slideshows,
DPOF print marking, protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom &
less common, "advanced" features include:
- 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
- transfer images from one Memory Stick to another
can get more information about photos by zooming out twice. You'll
get a scrollable list of information that you can see above.
would have liked a delete button on the camera itself, rather than
having to invoke the menu every time I want to remove a photo, but
that's a minor gripe. You can, however, delete a group of photos.
Put the P5 into thumbnail mode, invoke the menu, and choose Delete
> Select and you'll see what I mean.
P5 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 about three
Does it Compare?
like with its predecessor (the DSC-P1), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P5
is one of my favorite "little cameras". It's got a wide
array of features, stopping short of having manual controls of things
like shutter speed and aperture. But for the point-and-shooter,
the P5 is a great choice. The photos are very good, it's easy to
use, and very easy to stash in your pocket. It's closest competitors
are probably the Kyocera Finecam S3 and Canon PowerShot S300 Digital
ELPH, and it keeps up very well with those two. My advice, as always,
is to try them all and see which you like best - you can't go wrong
with any of them.
small, light, and THIN!
startup and shot-to-shot speeds
movie mode w/sound
I didn't care for:
battery and memory card
shots not great
small 2 and 3 Megapixel cameras you should consider include the
Canon PowerShot S110
and S300 (both of which are 2MP),
Finecam S3, Pentax
Optio 330, and the Sony
DSC-P3 (same as the P5, without an optical zoom).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the DSC-P5 and its competitors before you buy.
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
out Sony DSC-P5 reviews from Steves
Digicams and the Imaging
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.