Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Friday, July 19, 2002
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
lost count at the number of new cameras Sony has introduced this
year. They cycle through models faster than any other digital camera
manufacturer. With all the models out there, things can be confusing
when you're shopping.
example, Sony has a Cyber-shot
DSC-P7 ($499) and a Cyber-shot DSC-P71 ($399). The DSC-P7, reviewed
here, is smaller than the P71 (see
our review), with a few more features, plus the ability to record
sound. So despite having a higher model number, the P71 is actually
"inferior" to the P7. Hopefully this paragraph cleared
up some of the confusion that I know must be out there.
the DSC-P7 is a very small, 3.2 Megapixel camera with a 3X optical
zoom. It's a point-and-shoot camera, so don't expect a lot in the
way of manual controls. Read on to get the full scoop on this camera!
this camera is so similar to other Sony cameras, I've reused a lot
of text. Why reinvent the wheel?
in the Box?
DSC-P7 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7 camera
InfoLithium rechargeable battery
adapter / battery charger
featuring Pixela ImageMixer software and drivers
104 page manual (printed)
some other recent Sony cameras have switched to AA batteries, the
P7 uses the tried-and-true InfoLithium battery. The included NP-FC10
battery (2.4 Wh) is about the size of three Memory Sticks put together.
Sony estimates that you'll be able to get about 80 minutes of photo-taking
per charge. The included AC adapter plugs right into the camera
to recharge the battery in about 150 minutes.
will repeat my usual speech about proprietary stuff (keep in mind
that you're welcome to disagree -- it's just my opinion). First,
proprietary batteries. While the InfoLithium batteries are some
of the best proprietary batteries out there (they even display the
remaining minutes before they need a recharge), they're still expensive,
and you can't buy regular batteries to get you out of a bind, like
you can do with AA-based cameras. The other proprietary feature
on the Sony cameras is, of course, the Memory Stick. While prices
have really come down, it's still a shame that Sony insists on their
own memory format instead of using an industry standard format.
last Memory Stick comment -- the included 16MB card is a bit too
small for a camera with this resolution, so you'll definitely want
to buy a larger one at some point.
should give you an idea of the P7's size
the camera has a built-in lens cover, there are no lens cap worries.
You can see just how small the P7 is in the photo above.
P7 has a decent amount of accessories available. The two most interesting
ones are an external flash (really!) and an underwater case. The
HPK-FSL1 accessory flash ($100) attaches via the tripod mount, and
provides extra flash power, without any hot shoe or cables needed
(it uses a slave sensor).The MPK-P9 Marine Pack ($250) lets you
take the P7 up to 40 meters underwater. There are also underwater
filters, lights, and an "arm" available. The one thing
the P7 is missing is support for traditional conversion lenses.
DSC-P7 works fine with Mac OS X and iPhoto, plus Windows XP. I have
not tried the bundled Pixela ImageMixer software.
P7's manual is an improvement from those included with older Sony
cameras. I still think they have a ways to go, but things are getting
DSC-P7 (along with the P2 and P9) is Sony's smallest digicam, or
darn close to it. It's a lot wider than most "micro cameras",
but it is thin. Here's how they stack up in terms of size:
x 2.0 x 1.4
x 2.4 x 1.8
x 2.6 x 1.7
x 2.3 x 1.2
x 2.2 x 1.2
x 2.2 x 1.1
x 2.5 x 1.2
Sony quotes the weight of the camera with battery installed, you'll
need to take off a few grams to compare it with the other cameras,
which are measured with nothing installed. This chart should also
give you an idea about the size difference between the P7 and P71
P7 has a very sleek, all metal body that is easy to hold with one
hand or two. The camera feels well-constructed and should take whatever
you throw at it. One thing to watch out for on all metal cameras
is that they are easily scratched.
do our usual 360 degree tour of the P7, starting with the front.
DSC-P7 has an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens, with a focal range of
8 - 24 mm. That's equivalent to 39 - 117 mm. The lens is not threaded.
small circle just above-left from the lens is the AF illuminator,
which helps to light up the subject in low-light situations, to
to the left is the flash, which has a working range of 0.5 - 3.8
m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 2.4 m at telephoto. Like the more expensive
Sony DSC-F707, the P7 uses a pre-flash TTL metering system. In layman's
terms, this means that that flash fires twice -- the first time
to figure out the correct exposure, and the second time to actually
record the image. I already mentioned the add-on flash available
for the P7.
to the lower-left of the lens is the DSC-P7's microphone.
the back of the DSC-P7. The 1.5" LCD is smaller than those
found on most cameras, but it's par for the course on "micro-cameras".
The LCD is bright and fluid, and usable except in bright sunlight
(which is the case for all LCDs). I found it easy to smudge the
LCD with your fingers and nose.
optical viewfinder is right in the middle of the camera, and is
on the good-sized compared to other micro-cameras. There is no diopter
correction to help focus the image for those of us with less than
the right side of the LCD are a few buttons and the four-way switch.
The Display/LCD and Menu buttons are self explanatory. In addition
to controlling the menu system, the four-way switch also does the
(Auto, forced, flash off)
Review (shows the last shot taken)
those buttons, under a plastic cover, you'll find the I/O ports.
The ports for for DC in, USB, and A/V out. You plug the included
AC adapter into the DC in port, which charges the batteries or powers
the camera (but not both at the same time).
towards the top right is the zoom control. The zoom moves smoothly
now is the top of the DSC-P7. The lack of an LCD info display means
that you'll have to use the main LCD when you want to check settings
and shots remaining.
you will find here is the power button and the mode wheel, which
has the shutter release button inside it. The choices on the mode
mode lets you pick one of three scenes (night scene, night portrait,
landscape), and the camera chooses the best settings for that situation.
not much to see on this side of the camera. Since some people have
asked in the past, I will try to clear up that 6X label you can
see above. The camera has a 3X optical zoom lens. When coupled with
a 2X "digital zoom" feature, you get the 6X number seen
above. Unfortunately, when you use the digital zoom, the image quality
decreases, so I just turn it off. I wish they wouldn't label it
as 6X though.
the other side, you'll find the battery compartment, as well as
the Memory Stick slot. Let's open those up.
you can see the included battery and Memory Stick!
but not least, here's the bottom of the P7. Down here you'll find
the metal tripod mount and speaker.
the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7
DSC-P7 turns on, extends its lens, and is ready to go in just over
three seconds. Auto-focus generally takes under a second, though
it can take slightly longer if the AF illuminator is used. Shutter
lag is not an issue on the P7. Shot-to-shot speed is excellent --
just over a second elapses before you can take another shot.
in record mode
recent cameras have three noise reduction systems to make your pictures
better. There's one for chrominance (Clear Color NR), another for
luminance, and finally, one for noise (Slow Shutter NR). When shutter
speeds drop below 1/2 sec, the "Slow Shutter NR" noise
reduction mode kicks in. This results in a longer wait for the image
to be recorded, but you'll be rewarded with a less noisy image.
a look at the image size/quality choices on the P7:
photos on included 16MB Memory Stick
these latest P-series cameras, the uncompressed TIFF mode have gone
the way of the dinosaur. I'm not sure why (maybe since few people
actually use it?), but it's gone now. Some of the other Record Modes
seem to have disappeared as well.
DSC-P7 uses the familiar Sony "overlay-style" menu, which
is quick and easy to operate. Here's what you'll find in the menus:
Compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
(Multi AF, Center AF, 0.5m, 1.0m, 3.0m, 7.0m, infinity) - more
Balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
Size (2048 x 1536, 2048 (3:2), 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x
Quality (Fine, Standard)
Mode (E-Mail, Voice, Normal) - E-mail is a 320 x 240 photo saved
with a regular full size image; Voice mode lets you attach a sound
clip to photos.
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Black & White, Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
(-2 to +2)
white balance mode has been expanded on the recent P-series cameras.
No more indoor, outdoor, or hold choices. There are new auto-focus
(AF) modes as well: multi-area and center. The multi-area is 3 points,
though the camera will pick what point it focuses on. Center-weighted
focusing, well, focuses on whatever is in the center of the frame.
Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here
are the interesting ones:
Image (MPEG Movie, ClipMotion, Multi-Burst) - explained below
(Day & Time, Date, Off) - whether date/time is printed on
numbering (series, reset)
Moving Image feature has a new addition: Multi-Burst mode. This
is similar to a feature found on the Nikon Coolpix cameras. It will
take 16 shots in a row and put it into one 1280 x 960. I guess it's
good for analyzing your golf swing. You get to choose from several
between-frame intervals -- 1/7.5 sec, 1/15 sec, and 1/30 sec. There
is also a movie-like feature called ClipMotion which will take 10
images and put them into an animated GIF for you.
P7 does not have a "traditional" burst/continuous shooting
our macro test shot came out a bit softer than I would like, it
still looks pretty good. The color of our famous 3" tall subject
is right on. The minimum distance to the subject is 50 cm at wide-angle
and 60 cm at telephoto.
night shot test is just average. Since there isn't any controls
over shutter speed, you're stuck whatever the camera chooses. This
shot was taken in night scene mode with an exposure time of 2 seconds,
which is as slow as the P7 will shoot. It needed another second
or two to let in more light. That said, there really isn't any noise
to speak of here, which shows that Sony's Slow Shutter NR really
P7 did a fine job with our new redeye test. The eyes have a bit
of a glow to them but it's certainly not bad compared to other cameras
I've tested. Note that this image was enlarged to show detail.
was very pleased with the DSC-P7's photo quality. Images were well-exposed
and colorful, and purple fringing was not a problem. Take a look
at the photo gallery and see if you agree!
the other recent P-series cameras, the P7 supports the new MPEGMovie
HQX mode. What does this mean? It means that you can film until
the Memory Stick fills up, even in the "high quality"
mode. Sound is recorded, as well.
are recorded in MPEG format at 320 x 240 (high or standard quality),
or 160 x 120. This chart shows you how long each movie can be on
the included 16MB Memory Stick:
movie length on 16MB stick
(320 x 240, high quality)
those times are for the included 16MB Stick. If you buy a longer
one, you can take longer movies. The zoom lens cannot be used during
is a sample movie for you to check out. It was taken in HQX mode
and is quite large (4.8MB):
Click to play movie (4.8MB, MPEG format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
DSC-P7's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on most
point-and-shoot cameras. The basic features include slide shows,
DPOF print marking, protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom &
zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom in as much as 5X, and then
"scroll" around in the photo. It's handy for making sure
that your image is in focus.
of those "bonus 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
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 camera into thumbnail mode (zoom out once), invoke the menu,
and choose Delete, then Select and you'll see what I mean.
DSC-P7 moves between images fairly 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 seconds later.
Does it Compare?
their DSC-P7, Sony has again created a digital camera that's easy
to use, fairly loaded with features, and capable of taking great
pictures. The P7 is a very small camera that has a decent amount
of controls -- though none of them what I'd call manual -- that
are easy to work with. Their movie mode is top-notch, thanks to
the ability to record until the memory card is full. And to my surprise,
the P7 even supports an external flash. Some other similarly priced
cameras (e.g. Toshiba PDR-3300) offer a lot more manual controls,
but not in body this size. The P7 is definitely a camera you'll
want to check out.
good photo quality
easy to pocket camera; well built.
mode lets you record until Memory Stick is full
illuminator for low light focusing
for external flash (sort of)
Marine Pack for underwater photography
I didn't care for:
optical zoom in movie mode
a fan of Memory Stick format and proprietary batteries (personal
Memory Stick too small for 3.2MP camera
true continuous shooting mode
are some other lower cost 3 Megapixel cameras to check out: Canon
PowerShot S30, Kyocera
Finecam S3, Nikon
Coolpix 885, Olympus C-3020Z
Optio 330RS, Sony
DSC-P71, and the Toshiba PDR-3300
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the DSC-P7 and it's competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
we're the only review out there right now!
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.