DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S75
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2001
Last Updated: Friday, June 28, 2002

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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S75 ($699) is Sony's entry into the high end 3.3 Megapixel market. The S75 has some tough competition: Olympus, Nikon, Canon, and Toshiba all make excellent 3 Mpixel cameras as well. The DSC-S75 has a ton of features... but is that enough to stand out from the crowd? Find out below in our review...

What's in the Box?

The DSC-S75 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.3 Mpixel Cyber-shot DSC-S75 camera
  • 8MB Memory Stick
  • NP-FM50 InfoLithium battery w/charger and AC adapter
  • Lens cap w/ strap
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring MGI PhotoSuite software and drivers
  • 97 page manual

There really isn't much to comment here since the bundle is good. If I was to complain about anything, it would be that the 8MB Memory Stick is way too small for a 3 Megapixel camera. I won't go into the fact that the Memory Stick is a proprietary format -- you won't find many non-Sony products that support it.

Like all of Sony's cameras and camcorders, the S75 uses the InfoLithium battery. This battery tells you how many minutes are left until the battery dies. The included NP-FM50 battery will last for roughly 165 minutes before needing a charge. Recharging the FM50 takes about 150 minutes.

Additional kudos to Sony for including a lens cap with strap.

Updated 6/20/01: The DSC-S75 is indeed Mac OS X friendly. First, though, you must visit the Setup Menu and change the USB Mode to "PTP". Once that's done, the Image Capture app. will launch when the camera is connected under Mac OS X.

I find Sony's manuals not very user friendly. The layout and organization needs work -- they're just like the one included with your VCR.

Look and Feel

The DSC-S75 is pretty traditional looking and should be easy for first-timers to pick up and use. The body is a mix of metal and plastic and feels solidly constructed. It is a bit bulky so don't expect to keep it in your pants pocket. The dimensions of the camera are 4.625 x 2.875 x 2.625 inches, and it weighs 426 g (1 lb) fully loaded [Sony didn't provide the empty weight that I normally reference].

The front of the S75 is the first stop on our review. The "Carl Zeiss" lens looks familiar -- I think we've seen this one before on Canon, Epson, and Toshiba cameras. This F2.0 lens has a focal range of 7 - 21mm, which is equivalent to 34 - 102mm. The lens is threaded (52mm) and a number of filters and lenses are available.

The other item of note on the front is the AF illuminator, for focusing in low light situations.

The back of the DSC-S75 is where most of the action is. The 1.8" LCD is bright and fluid, though it seems to attract thumb and nose prints.

Above the LCD is the info display most often found on top of most cameras. This display basic information, which in this case is battery life, shots remaining, and flash setting, as well as the shutter speed and aperture.

Just right of that is the zoom control, which is well-placed for easy thumb access. To the right of that is the thumb wheel (which is also a button) that is used for adjusting manual settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation.

On the other side of the LCD info display you'll find an optical viewfinder. The size is just right, and there's diopter correction for our fellow glasses-wearers.

Below that you'll find the four-way switch, which is use for menus and basic camera functions as well. This includes:

  • Flash
  • Macro
  • Self-Timer
  • Quick Review

Below that you'll find buttons for:

  • Menu
  • LCD on/off
  • Exposure compensation
  • Spot metering
  • Focus (Auto/Manual)
  • AE Lock

At the lower right of the photo, you can see (under a rubber cover) the port for the AC adapter (included with camera).

On the top of the camera, you'll find the mode wheel, shutter release button, microphone, and a shoe for an external flash.

The flash shoe is "cold" and uses a proprietary flash sync port that you'll see on the side of the camera in a second. I wasn't able to figure out what flashes are supported (nothing is mentioned in the manual about external flashes at all).

The mode wheel (which has the power switch below it) has a very "notchy" feeling (that's a good thing) and has the following options:

  • Setup
  • Scene Mode
  • Full Manual
  • Aperture Priority
  • Shutter Priority
  • Auto Record
  • Playback
  • Movie Mode

Some further explanation on these:

  • Scene Mode: Choose between Twilight, Portrait, and Landscape. The camera picks the best settings for these situations. I don't like how you have go to to the Setup Mode to change this though.
  • Aperture Priority: You pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. The choices range from F2 - F8 and will vary a bit depending on the focal range used.
  • Shutter Priority: exactly the opposite, you choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the correct aperture. You can choose from a number of speeds ranging from 8 sec - 1/1000 sec.
  • Full Manual: You choose both the shutter speed and aperture. The values available are the same as above.

On this side of the camera, you can see the speaker, accessory port (for external flash?), USB port, and A/V out port. Those last two ports are kept under a sturdy plastic door.

Not much is happening on the other side of the camera. Where's that Memory Stick slot then?

Much to my surprise, the slot is in the battery compartment! Here you can see the bottom of the S75 with included FM50 battery and 8MB Memory Stick. Also of note down here is the metal tripod mount.

Using the Sony DSC-S75

Record Mode

The camera turns on with much fanfare and takes about 4 seconds to "warm up" before you can start taking shots. When the shutter release is pressed halfway, it takes less than a second to lock focus. The delay between the time the button is fully depressed and the shot is taken is minimal. Between shots, you'll only have to wait about two seconds. The zoom controls were also speedy and accurate.


The view from the LCD in record mode

The DSC-S75 has a number of choices for image size and quality. Check out this table which describes them:

Image Size Quality
# Standard on 8MB Stick # Fine on 8MB Stick
2048 x 1536 9 5
2048 (3:2) 9 5
1600 x 1200 15 8
1280 x 960 22 12
640 x 480 118 48

There is an uncompressed TIFF mode on the S75, but you can't fit a single TIFF on the included Memory Stick.

The S75's menu system is pretty simple, since many functions are buttons rather than buried in the menu somewhere. Let's take a look at the various menu items and what they do:

  • White Balance (One-push, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor)
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • Image Size (2048 x 1536, 2048 (3:2), 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480)
  • Photo Quality (Fine, Standard)
  • Rec Mode (TIFF, Text, Voice, E-Mail, Burst2, Normal) -- more on this below
  • Flash Level (High, Normal, Low)
  • Photo Effects (Solarize, Black & White Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
  • Sharpness (-2 to +2)

I think that's the shortest list in some time. The "one-push" white balance mode is indeed a manual WB mode. Shoot a piece of white paper or whatever you want to be white, and you'll be able to get accurate color in almost any lighting.

Here's more details on those Rec Mode choices:

  • TIFF: uncompressed large image - won't fit on 8MB Stick. Only one fits on 16MB Stick.
  • Text: records a GIF in black & white
  • Voice: Records an audio file along with a still image
  • E-mail: Records a 320 x 240 image in addition to the recorded image
  • Burst2: Records two images continuously

In Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here are the interesting ones:

  • Scene Mode Selection (twilight, landscape, portrait)
  • Moving Image (MPEG Movie, ClipMotion) - explained later
  • Digital Zoom (on/off)
  • Red-eye reduction (on/off)
  • AF illuminator (on/off)
  • File numbering (series, reset)
  • Conversion lens (on/off)
  • LCD brightness

The DSC-S75 performed admirably in our macro test, in both color accuracy and sharpness. The shot above used manual (one-touch) white balance. You can get as close as 4 cm (1.6") in wide-angle mode, and 20 cm (8") in telephoto mode.

The camera was about average in the nightshot test. For some reason, all the lights in the picture are white rather than the yellow as seen by the naked eye, and recorded by other cameras that same night. Aside from that, there are no "unnatural stars" in the sky caused by hot pixels.

Overall, I was very pleased with the quality of the photos from the S75. But don't take my word for it, judge for yourself in the DSC-S75 photo gallery!

Movie Mode

Sony's movie modes is one of the best out there: the video and audio quality is very good, and you can fill up the Memory Stick with video in non-HQ modes. The only downside is that you cannot use the zoom (optical or digital) during filming.

There are three sizes available in movie mode:

Movie Size # of seconds on 8MB Stick
320 (HQ) 20
320 x 240 80
160 x 112 320
80 x 72 (Mobile) 350

The quality is highest in 320 (HQ) mode, but you're limited to 15 second clips. In the other modes you can record until the Stick fills up.


Watch a thrilling 8 second MPEG video (2.8MB)

There is also a feature called ClipMotion which will take 10 images and put them into an animated GIF for you. You can do some stop motion animation with this I guess.

Playback Mode

The DSC-S75's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on most cameras. Those include slideshows, DPOF print marking, protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom & scroll".

These advanced features include:

  • Copy - copies an image
  • Resize- change an image's size
  • Rotate
  • Divide - splits movies in half
  • Trim - 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 image quality.

If anything is missing, it's the ability to get information about your photos, such as the aperture and shutter speed that was used.
Update 5/18/01: As it turns out, there is a way to get this information. If you hit the zoom out button, it will go to 9 thumbnail mode. Hit zoom out again and it will show 3 thumbnails, and exposure info for each. That's better than nothing but I'd still like it on the main full-size page.

I also would've liked a delete button, rather than having to invoke the menu every time I want to remove a photo.

The S75 moves between images quickly in playback mode, and it shows a low res version before a high res one replaces it.

How Does it Compare?

With the Cyber-shot DSC-S75, Sony has a very competitive entry in the crowded 3 Megapixel field. The feature-set, easy-of-use, photo quality, and price are all impressive. Most of my concerns are with the Memory Stick format: it's proprietary, and the included Stick is way too small. Obviously the second issue can be resolved, while you're out of luck with the first one. If you're comfortable with the Memory Stick format and like what you've seen, I can definitely recommend the DSC-S75 as a great 3.3 Megapixel camera.

What I liked:

  • Feature packed
  • Very good photo quality
  • Very good bundle (except for Memory Stick)
  • Manual white balance
  • Simple menus mean it's easy to use
  • Great movie mode with sound!

What I didn't care for:

  • No zoom in movie mode
  • Proprietary (and too small) Memory Stick format, and external flash port
  • No image info in playback mode (except when you zoom out twice)
  • Nightshots could be better

The 3 Megapixel market is crowded, so you have your work cut out for you. Do consider the following other cameras before you buy: Canon PowerShot G1, Casio QV-3500EX, Nikon Coolpix 880, 990, and 995, Olympus C-3000Z, C-3030Z, and C-3040Z, and the Toshiba PDR-M70.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DSC-S75 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out Steve's Digicams review of the DSC-S75. If that's still not enough, A-Digital-Eye, Imaging Resource, and DP Review all have them as well.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com.

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