Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Sunday, June 16, 2002
review of this camera is now complete. Photos have been re-shot
where needed, and all sample photos were taken with a production-level
P-series line of digital cameras can be a bit confusing. They are
actually split into two groups: the single digit models (DSC-P2,
and the double digit models (DSC-P31,
Despite the higher model numbers, the double digit models are actually
inferior to the single digit models. You're probably more confused
now than before you started reading this.
DSC-P71 ($400) reviewed here is a 3.2 Megapixel camera with
a 3X optical zoom. The body style is reminiscent of the single digit
P-series cameras, though the P71 is a little larger.
P71's siblings, the P31 and P51, are both two Megapixel cameras,
with the P31 having a fixed focal length lens, and the P51 having
a 2X optical zoom lens. I've covered the P31 in a separate
in the Box?
DSC-P71 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Cyber-shot DSC-P71 camera
AA NiMH rechargeable batteries
featuring Pixela ImageMixer software and drivers
what's the big news with the three new P-series cameras? Sony has
ditched the proprietary battery! While the old P-series cameras
gave you the option of using AA or proprietary, the new cameras
use two AA batteries. Sony includes two high capacity 1750 mAh batteries,
plus a charger with the camera. They've managed to squeeze out over
90 minutes of battery life per charge.
see this is a big win for the consumer. While proprietary batteries
do last a long time, they are expensive, and you can't just buy
another one at Disneyland when your first one dies.
estimates that you'll have 100 - 120 minutes of shooting time, with
mixed LCD use. One feature that disappeared when the InfoLithium
batteries went away was the handy timer showing how much battery
life you had left, down to the minute. Now it's just a little battery
symbol, and when it gets empty, it's time to recharge.
thing I do recommend is that you buy another set or two of NiMH
batteries to complement the ones included with the camera. Another
suggestion -- you may want a better battery charger, as the one
Sony includes only holds two batteries, and takes a whopping 13
hours to charge them.
has started giving out larger Memory Sticks with their cameras,
and the P71 includes a 16MB stick. Even so, you'll probably want
to buy a 32MB or larger stick -- prices have really come down in
the last few months.
camera has a built-in lens cover, so no lens cap is needed.
DSC-P50 that this camera replaces had a number of optional lenses
and filters available, though I couldn't find any for the P71.
camera is compatible with Mac OS X, iPhoto, and WindowsXP. I did
not try the Pixela ImageMixer software, so I can't comment on that.
more great news: the new P-series cameras have an improved manual!
It's a much more user friendly manual compared to other Sony cameras
I've tested in that past, and I'm very happy to see it. Perhaps
my complaining had something to do with this improvement, in some
DSC-P71 has lost some weight since the old P50 model. It's closer
now to the DSC-P9, minus the cool metal body. While there is some
metal on the P71, most of it is "high grade plastic."
The camera is very easy to hold, with one hand or two.
dimensions of the P71 are 5.0 x 2.38 x 1.75 inches (W x H x D),
and it weighs just 284 grams with batteries and Memory Stick installed.
The camera easily fits in your pockets, even though it's pretty
DSC-P71 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.
above and left from the lens is the AF illuminator, which helps
to light up the subject in low-light situations, to ease focusing.
Why can't all cameras have this?!
to the left is the flash, which has a working range of 0.5 - 3.8
m (wide-angle) and 0.5 - 2.5 m (telephoto). Not surprisingly, there's
no support for an external flash on the P71.
the back of the DSC-P71.
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). Nose smudges will be a problem if you use the optical
viewfinder with your left eye.
of the optical viewfinder, it's right in the middle of the camera,
and is on the small side. In addition, there is no diopter correction
to help focus the image for those of us with less than perfect vision.
the right of the viewfinder is the mode wheel, which has five choices:
Scene mode has three choices: landscape, night scene, and night
scene/portrait (flash slow sync). I'll have more on the other modes
later in the review.
to the right, you can see the zoom controls. The zoom moves fairly
smoothly, if not a bit noisy.
the left side of the LCD are more buttons. The Menu and Display/LCD
buttons are self explanatory, as is the four-way switch below.
addition to controlling the menu system, the four-way switch also
does the following:
Review (shows the last shot taken)
plastic covers, you'll find the I/O ports. On the lower left side,
you'll see the Video Out and USB ports. The DC in port is on the
there's a speaker on the left side, in the photo above. The P71
does not have a microphone, however.
isn't too much to see on the top of the P71. The power button and
shutter release can be found over to the right, and that's about
it. 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.
not much to see on this side of the camera...
but on the other side, you'll find the battery compartment, as well
as the Memory Stick slot. Let's open those up.
you can see where the 2 AA batteries go, as well as the Memory Stick.
but not least, here's the bottom of the P71. The only thing of note
down here is the metal tripod mount. There's also a mysterious "reset"
hole down here as well.
the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71
P71 turns on and is ready to go in just over three seconds. Auto-focus
usually takes under a second, though it can take a bit longer if
the AF illuminator is used. Shutter lag is barely noticeable on
the P71. Shot-to-shot speed is excellent -- just over a second elapses
before you can take another shot.
introduced Sony cameras (like the P71) 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 P71:
photos on included 16MB Memory Stick
the new P-series, the uncompressed TIFF mode has gone the way of
the dinosaur. I'm not sure why (maybe since few people actually
use it?), but it's gone now. Most of the other Record Modes (Text,
GIF, etc) seem to have disappeared as well.
DSC-P71 uses the familiar Sony "overlay-style" menu. It's
easy enough to figure out. 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) -
lots more options here than on old models
(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, Normal) - E-mail is a 320 x 240 photo saved with
a regular full size image
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Black & White, Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
(-2 to +2)
white balance mode has been expanded on the new P-series. No more
indoor, outdoor, or hold choices. Too bad there's no manual white
balance. 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.
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.
take a look at some photo samples now.
DSC-P71 did a pretty nice job with our night shot. There isn't much
noise, thanks for the Slow Shutter NR feature. It's slightly over-exposed
and some purple fringing can be seen -- but overall, great stuff
from a low-cost camera. (Do note that I rotated this image, as it
was a bit crooked.)
P71 also did a nice job with our usual macro subject. The subject
(which is about 3 inches tall, by the way) is sharp, and the colors
look good. You can get as close to the subject as 10 cm (wideangle)
or 50 cm (telephoto).
camera's built-in redeye reduction feature did a nice job, as you
can see in the sample above. Do note that I blew up the sample to
200% so you can get a closer look.
didn't get to take as many pictures as I would've liked with the
P71, but the photo quality was impressive in most cases. I did have
some trouble with the camera totally overexposing some shots that
I took at the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, but that was the only
instance. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) was not a problem.
Take a look at the photo gallery and
judge for yourself.
have good news and bad news about the movie mode on the new P-series.
The good news is that you can use a new "HQX" mode (MPEGMovie
HQ + MPEGMovie EX = HQX). This lets you record higher quality video
(320 x 240, 16 fps) until the card is full! On a large 128MB Memory
Stick, that's over 5 minutes of HQX video.
bad news is that no sound is recorded on the new P-series cameras.
If you want sound, you'll have to pony up another $100 for the DSC-P7.
bad news: despite not recording any sound, the P71 won't let you
use the zoom lens during filming.
a sample movie for you to look at. Sorry it's so short... just a
Click to play movie (1.6MB, MPEG format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
DSC-P71'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 &
of the "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.
P71 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 seconds later.
Does it Compare?
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71 is one of my favorite low-cost cameras.
With a list price of $399, you get a great point-and-shoot camera
that takes nice photos in most situations. There are a decent amount
of controls compared to the competition, as well. One thing the
P71 has that most of the competition does not have is an AF illuminator.
Thank you, Sony, for that one. It also takes just two AA batteries,
and can last for 2 hours per charge -- not bad at all. My only real
complaints surround the movie mode: no sound is recorded, and the
zoom lens cannot be used during filming. If you can live with that,
the P71 is a great 3.2 Megapixel camera.
good photos in most situations
easy to pocket camera; well built.
just 2 AA batteries, and still lasts for 2 hours
mode lets you record until Memory Stick is full
illuminator, a rarity on most lower cost cameras
amount of controls for low cost camera
I didn't care for:
sound or optical zoom in movie mode
a fan of Memory Stick format (personal bias)
slow battery charger; but at least they included one!
are some other lower cost 3 Megapixel cameras to check out: Canon
PowerShot S30, Kyocera
Finecam S3, Nikon
Coolpix 885, Olympus C-3020Z
Optio 330, Sony
DSC-P7, and the Toshiba PDR-3300
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the DSC-P71 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?
out a review of the DSC-P71 at 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.