Cyber-shot DSC-V3 ($699) is a total redesign
of the popular DSC-V1, a camera which I wasn't overly
enthusiastic about. I have no idea what happened
to the DSC-V2 -- probably the same thing that happened
to the PowerShot G4. The V3 has all kinds of new
features when compared to the "old" V1,
- 7.2 effective Megapixel CCD
- Nicely redesigned body
- Much larger LCD display (2.5" versus
- Dual media support: Memory Stick
Pro and CompactFlash
- Support for RAW image format
- MPEGMovie VX Fine mode
- Improved battery life
- PictBridge support
The V3 retains many of the nice features
of its predecessor, including a 4X zoom lens, full
suite of manual controls, hot shoe, laser focusing
system, and more.
It seems that full-featured 7 Megapixel
cameras will be all the rage this holiday season. People
who aren't quite ready for a digital SLR but don't
want the image quality issues of an 8 Megapixel camera
may find cameras like the V3 to be the best choice.
How does the V3 perform? Find out
now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The DSC-V3 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 7.2 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot
- NP-FR1 rechargeable lithium-ion
- Battery charger / AC adapter
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Sony Picture Package
software, Image Data Converter, ImageMixer VCD2,
USB drivers, and Cyber-shot Life tutorial
- 155 page camera manual (printed)
Following in the footsteps of the
DSC-F828, the DSC-V3 does not include a memory card.
That means that you'll have to buy one unless you already
have a collection of them sitting around. The V3 supports
two types of media: Memory Stick Pro (and regular Sticks
as well) and CompactFlash. Memory Sticks now come as
large as 2GB, but they tend to be quite expensive.
CompactFlash is an industry standard (unlike Memory
Stick), is higher in capacity, and it costs less too.
The V3 supports only Type I CF cards, which means no
Microdrive! I would recommend a 256MB card as a good
starting point for this camera.
One of the things I didn't like about
the DSC-V1 was its weak battery. I have good news and
bad news about the DSC-V3: it has a more powerful battery,
but it pales in comparison to the battery on the Canon
PowerShot G6 (currently the main competitor for the
V3). The V1's battery had just 2.8 Wh of energy, while
the NP-FR1 used by the V3 has 4.4 Wh. The G6's BP-511A
battery has a whopping 10.3 Wh of energy -- over twice
as much. Even so, Sony has managed to squeeze out the
same number of shots per charge as the G6: 300 (using
the CIPA battery life standard). Turn off the LCD to
increase battery life by a third.
The usual caveats about proprietary
batteries apply here. They're expensive ($50 a pop)
and you can't use "regular batteries" to
get you throw the day in an emergency. One thing I
do like about the InfoLithium battery used by the V3
is that it tells you exactly how many minutes you have
left before you run out of juice.
When it's time to charge the battery,
just plug in the included AC adapter. It takes about
3 hours to fully charge the NP-FR1 battery. You can
also use the adapter to power the camera and save your
batteries for when you're on the road.
The design of the V3 includes a built-in
lens cover, so there's no lens cap to worry about.
There are quite a few accessories
available for the V3, and I've put them into this handy
||Why you want it
||Brings the wide end of the lens down by
0.7X to 23.8 mm; conversion lens adapter
||Boosts focal distance by 1.7X, up to 231.2
mm; conversion lens adapter included
||Lets you get closer to your subject in
macro mode; by how much I do not know; requires
conversion lens adapter
|Conversion lens adapter
||Lets you use 58mm filters and conversion
|Polarizing filter kit
||Two polarizing filters in one package;
requires conversion lens adapter
|Special effects filter kit
||Soft focus and star filters; requires conversion
|Neutral density filter
||ND and MC protector included; requires
||Reduces lens flare when shooting outdoors
|Get much better flash photos and less redeye
|Remote shutter release cable
||Take pictures without touching the camera
|Portable battery charger
||External battery charger
|Car battery charger
||For powering the camera in your car
||Fitted case to protect your camera
Whew! That was some list! Let's move
on to software now.
viewer (Windows only)
Sony includes Picture Package for
Windows as the main image viewing application. And "viewing" is
about all it does -- you can print and rotate, but
that's it. It can also view and edit RAW files, though
the new Image Data Converter 2.0 is a lot more capable
than what's included with Picture Package. The software
can also create slideshows with music or burn images
to a CD-R disc.
Image Data Converter
2.0 (Mac OS X version shown)
The Image Data Converter software
included with the camera isn't great. It allows for
adjusting the white balance and exposure compensation,
and that's it. However, changes are on the horizon
-- Sony included a disc of version 2.0 (I assume it's
a beta) which offers many new features. You can tweak
white balance, tone curves, color, and sharpness. The
software can output to TIFF or JPEG formats. A Sony
representative told me that this new version will be
included with the DSC-V3 when it hits the shelves.
I'll have more about why RAW is good
later in the review.
Mac users don't get PicturePackage.
Rather, they get ImageMixer VCD2 and the Image Data
Converter. ImageMixer is used to create a Video CD
from your images. It's like a poor man's DVD. Thankfully
there's software like iPhoto to bail you out in situations
The best part of the software package
is the Cyber-shot Life tutorial, which is Windows only.
Here, a girl and her dog show you how to use your camera.
While it's a little cheesy, the tutorial is far more
useful for learning the ins and outs of your camera
than the manual. Do note that it's not camera-specific:
this is the same tutorial that came with the DSC-W1.
I don't think I've ever read a Sony
manual that I thought was good (and that includes things
other than cameras). The one included with the V3 is
complete, but cluttered, complex, and poorly-organized.
Look and Feel
If you need any reminder about what
camera is the main competitor of the DSC-V3, here it
The Canon PowerShot G6 shares much
in common with the V3: Seven Megapixel CCD, 4X zoom,
hot shoe, manual controls, support for lens accessories.
The V3 has been totally redesigned
since the days of the V1 and it's all for the better.
Being someone who likes to complain, I found several
irritating design flaws on the V1: the flash was poorly
placed, there was no diopter correction knob, the hand
grip was tiny, and the LCD was way too small. Well,
three of those have been fixed on the V3, and I'll
tell you more about that below.
As you can see, the V3 is basically
a new camera when put next to the V1. It has a stylish
design with a professional black finish -- a big improvement
in this reviewer's opinion. The body is made of a mix
of metal and plastic and it feels fairly solid. While
I don't like the feel of all the controls, they are
Here's a look at the dimensions of
the V3 when compared to DSC-V1 and G6:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon PowerShot G6
2.9 x 2.9 in.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1
2.6 x 2.3 in.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3
x 2.9 x 2.5 in.
It's not common to see a new revision
of a camera being larger than its predecessor but that's
the case with the V3! I've got no issues with the size,
though -- it's just right. Note that the DSC-V1 weight
in that table includes the battery and memory card,
so the real number is lower than 300 g.
Let's take a closer look at the V3
now, starting with the front.
One thing that hasn't changed since
the DSC-V1 is the V3's lens. It's still an F2.8 - F4.0,
4X optical zoom Carl Zeiss model. The focal range is
7 - 28 mm, which is equivalent to 34 - 136 mm. The
lens is threaded and conversion lenses are supported.
Directly above the lens is the V3's
built-in flash. When needed it flips into position.
One area in which the V1 was fairly weak was in terms
of flash range -- and sadly that hasn't improved on
the V3. The range is still a relatively short 0.4 -
3 m at wide-angle and 0.4 - 2.5 m at telephoto. Compare
that to 0.7 - 5.0 m at wide-angle and 0.7 - 4.0 m at
telephoto on the PowerShot G6. The camera does support
an external flash, thankfully. More on that later.
That tiny circle to the immediate
upper-right of the lens ring is the emitter for the
Hologram AF laser focusing system. When needed this
shoots a laser grid on your subject (don't worry, it's
safe) which allows the V3 to focus in near-zero light.
This is the best low light focusing system, by far,
and I'm glad to see it on the V3.
Just to the right of the laser is
the self-timer lamp and IR transmitter (for Nightshot).
A recent trend at Sony in 2004 has
been the inclusion of large LCDs on their cameras.
The screen on the V3 is a full inch larger (diagonally)
than the one on the V1 -- meaning it's 2.5". That's
great news for everyone, not just those with not-so-perfect
vision. The screen only has 123,000 pixels, so it's
not as sharp as it could be, but it's still very usable.
The screen is plenty bright and is easily visible outdoors.
In low light, the LCD "gains up" so you can
still see what you're looking at, as long as it's not
too dark in the room.
Quite often the arrival of the big
LCD means the departure of the optical viewfinder.
That's not the case here -- you'll find an average-sized
viewfinder right in the middle of the camera. One thing
still missing on the DSC-V3 is a diopter correction
knob, which focuses what you're viewing through the
To the left of the optical viewfinder
are four buttons, which do the following:
- AE lock - locks the exposure
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to
+2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Focus (Auto, manual) - see below
- Frame (Multipoint AF, Center AF,
Flexible Spot AF, Flexible AF frame movement) - see
The manual focus feature is pretty
much the same as it was on the V1. Press the focus
button and then use the command dial (at the top right
in the above photo) to choose the focus distance, which
is shown on the LCD. The camera doesn't enlarge the
center of the frame, though -- this is a useful tool
when trying to verify focus.
The frame button is new to the DSC-V3.
It selects the focus mode, and you've got a choice
of 5-point auto (Multipoint AF), center-point, or manual.
The manual focus point is virtually identical to the
FlexiZone system on the G6 -- you can position the
cursor anywhere in the frame -- save for a margin around
the edges -- and the camera will focus on that point.
Over on the other side of the optical
viewfinder is the switch for which memory card slot
to use (Memory Stick or CompactFlash). Next to that
is the zoom controller. While I have no problem with
the placement, I don't like how the buttons are nearly
flush with the back of the camera. The controller moves
the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.2
seconds. I counted twelve steps throughout the zoom
Above the zoom controller is the command
dial, which is used for manual focus and selecting
manual exposure settings.
Below the memory card switch is the
display button, which toggles the LCD on and off, as
well as what's displayed on it. Below that is the four-way
controller, which is used for menu navigation plus
some additional functions. Like the zoom controller,
I found the four-way buttons to not have enough "play".
The other functions for the four-way controller include:
- Up - Flash (Auto, forced flash,
slow synchro, no flash)
- Down - Self-timer (on/off)
- Right - Macro (on/off)
- Left - Quick Review (jumps to playback
Below the four-way controller are
the menu and image quality / delete photo buttons.
Just below that, under a plastic cover, is where you'll
find the DC-in port. This is where you plug in the
included AC adapter to power your camera and charge
The first thing to see on the top
of the DSC-V3 is its hot shoe. Here you can attach
one of Sony's flashes or one from a third party. Using
the Sony flash is advisable, as it fully integrates
with the camera; users of a non-Sony flash may need
to manually set the flash exposure settings before
The next item over is the camera's
microphone. After that you'll find the power and Nightshot/Nightframing
What are Nightshot and Nightframing?
In case you haven't used the DSC-V1 or DSC-F707/717/828,
I'll tell you. Nightshot uses infrared light to let
you take pictures in near darkness. Do note that your
photo will be green, just like those "night vision" videos
you've seen on TV. You'll get the best results with
the ISO sensitivity set to Auto, but the image will
be grainy. Nightframing takes things one step further.
The camera uses the Nightshot system to help you frame
the photo (since it's hard to see in the dark without
it), the Hologram AF system to focus the image, and
then the camera takes a flash picture with normal colors.
I find this to be far more compelling that the regular
Nightshot feature alone. Here are examples of each:
Taken in very low
light using Nightshot
this time using NightFraming
The next thing to see is the V3's
mode dial, which is made of metal and has a nice "notchy" feel
when you turn it. Also, when you turn the dial, the
LCD shows a "virtual mode dial", so you can
see what you're doing without looking at the actual
dial. The items found on it include:
|Auto recording mode
||Point-and-shoot, most menu items locked
||Still automatic, but with full menu access;
a program shift feature lets you choose from
several aperture/shutter speed combinations
|Shutter Priority mode
||You choose the shutter speed and the camera
picks the correct aperture. You can choose
from a range of 30 - 1/1000 sec
|Aperture Priority mode
||You pick the aperture, the camera picks
the appropriate shutter speed; aperture range
is F2.8 - F8.0; the 1/2000 sec shutter speed
becomes available at F5.6 and above
|Full Manual mode
||You pick the aperture and shutter speed.
See above for values and restrictions
|| You pick the scene and
the camera uses the appropriate settings;
choose from twilight, twilight portrait,
landscape, soft snap (warmer colors, soft
focus), snow, beach, and candle
||I'll list all these options
||More on this later
||More on this later
As you can see the DSC-V3 has a full
suite of manual controls, just as the DSC-V1 did.
Above the mode dial, at the top of
the grip, is the shutter release button.
On this side of the V3 you'll find
the I/O ports. The top one is the accessory (ACC) port,
which is where you'll plug in the HVL-F1000 flash or
a remote shutter release.
The ports under that plastic cover
are for USB 2.0 high speed (don't worry, it'll work
on your old computer too) and A/V output.
Nothing to see on this side of the
On the bottom of the camera are the
speaker, metal tripod mount, battery compartment, and
memory card slots. The tripod mount is located in the
center of the camera body.
The battery and memory cards are kept
under a plastic door of average quality. You may have
trouble opening this door if the camera is on a tripod.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, the V3
can use both Memory Stick / Memory Stick Pro and CompactFlash
Type I cards (no Microdrives!).
The included NP-FR1 battery is shown
Using the Sony Cyber-shot
It takes the V3 about 2.9 seconds
to extends its lens and "warm up" before
you can start taking pictures.
A histogram is
shown on the LCD in record mode
The DSC-V3 focuses very quickly, taking
about 0.3 seconds to lock focus at wide-angle, and
just slightly longer at telephoto. If the camera had
to "hunt" or use the Hologram AF laser then
it can take more like a second. Low light focusing
is excellent thanks to the laser focusing system. This
camera really can focus in total darkness!
Shutter lag was very low, even at
slower shutter speeds. Sony has done a good job of
getting rid of this annoyance on all of their recent
Shot-to-shot speed was excellent,
with a delay less than a second between shots (assuming
the post-shot review feature is turned off). In TIFF
or RAW mode, the camera is locked up for about 8 and
11 seconds, respectively, while the image is saved
to the memory card (a High Speed Memory Stick Pro,
in this case).
You cannot delete a photo right after
it's taken -- you must use the Quick Review feature.
Now, here's a look at the image size/quality
choices on the V3:
||# images on 256MB card
3072 x 2304
3072 x 2048
2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
1280 x 960
640 x 480
As you can see, the V3 supports the
RAW and TIFF formats. TIFF is a standard, uncompressed
format which offers an image free of JPEG artifacts
at the expense of hefty file sizes (20MB) and slower
write times. RAW images are also lossless (though not
necessarily uncompressed), and they contain unprocessed
image data. They're still large files -- about six
times larger than JPEGs -- and they require post-processing
on your Mac or PC before you can share or print them.
But here's the real advantage of RAW: it allows you
to edit things like white balance, color, and sharpness
on your computer without any loss of quality. Botch
the white balance? In RAW mode you can change it and
it's like taking the picture again.
Along with the RAW and TIFF file,
the camera also saves a JPEG image. You can choose
the size and quality of that image by changing the
image quality options. RAW and TIFF files are always
taken at the 7MP setting.
The file numbering system used by
Sony is quite simple. Files are named DSC0####.JPG,
where #### = 0001 - 9999. The numbering is maintained
as you erase and swap Memory Sticks.
The V3 uses the new Sony menu system
that was also featured on the DSC-F828. The menu is
overlay-style, meaning that its shown on top of the
image you're preparing to shoot. Here are the menu
options on the V3:
- Metering mode (Multi, center, spot)
- White balance (Auto, sunlight,
cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten, flash, custom) - the
latter lets you use a white or gray card/paper as
a reference, allowing you to get perfect color in
- ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
- Photo Quality (Fine, standard)
- Rec Mode
- Normal - regular shooting
- Burst - took 15 shots in
a row at about 1 frame/second at the highest
JPEG quality (based on my tests using a high
speed MS Pro card)
- Speed burst - took 8 shots
in a row at about 2.4 frames/second
- Exposure bracketing - camera
takes three shots in a row, each with a different
exposure value; choose the interval in the
next menu item (bracket step)
- Multi burst - takes 16 shots
in a row (at interval selected in menu) and
compiles them into one 1 Megapixel image (like
- TIFF - described above
- RAW - also described above
- Bracket step (±0.3, ±0.7, ±1.0)
- this option is only available when exposure bracketing
is turned on
- Multi-burst interval (1/30, 1/15,
1/7.5 sec) - for the multi-burst feature described
- Flash Level (Low, normal, high)
- Photo Effects (Off, black & white,
- Saturation (Low, normal, high)
- Contrast (Low, normal, high)
- Sharpness (Low, normal, high)
Hopefully everything up there is self-explanatory.
I did want to mention something about the burst modes,
though. The LCD does briefly turn black between each
shot, which may make following a moving subject a little
There's also a setup menu (accessed
via the mode dial), which has the following options:
- Camera 1
- AF mode (Single, monitor,
continuous) - see below
- Digital zoom (Off, smart,
precision) - see below
- Date/Time (Off, date, day & time)
- whether date/time is printed on your photos
- Redeye reduction (on/off)
- Hologram AF (on/off)
- Auto Review (on/off) - shows
images on LCD after it is taken
- Camera 2
- Enlarged icon (on/off) -
a visual aid for changing camera settings
- Flash (Internal, external)
- Memory Stick Tool
- Card format
- Change/create rec folder
- manage folders on the memory card
- Setup 1
- LCD backlight (Bright, normal,
- Beep (Shutter only, on, off)
- Language (English, Japanese,
Spanish, French, Italian)
- Setup 2
- File number (Series, reset)
- USB connect (PictBridge,
PTP, normal) - you may need to change this
depending on the operating system on your computer
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- Clock set
Single AF is just like you're used
to: press the shutter release halfway and the camera
locks focus. Monitor AF lets the camera focus constantly,
even without the shutter release pressed. This helps
reduce the time required to take a picture. Continuous
AF is like Monitor AF except that it continues focuses
even while the shutter release button is halfway-pressed
-- great for moving targets.
The DSC-V3 has two types of digital
zoom. Precision digital zoom is the same old "enlarge
the center" system that you should avoid. Smart
Zoom lets you enlarge the image without a loss in quality,
with the catch being that you can't use much of it
unless you're at a low resolution.
Let's move on to our photo tests now,
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now.
The DSC-V3 did a very nice job with
our macro test subject. The image has a smoothness
to it that reminds me of the PowerShot G6 -- not surprising
since they use the same sensor. Colors are accurate
and are quite saturated to boot.
Focus distances are unremarkable on
the V3. You can get as close to the subject as 10 cm
at wide-angle and 40 cm at telephoto. The G6 beats
those by quite a bit (5 and 15 cm, respectively). Sony
does offer a close-up lens for the V3, though I was
not able to find out how the focus distances change
if you use it.
The night shot turned out pretty well,
too. It's a bit soft, but the camera took in plenty
of light and there's not much purple fringing to see
(the G6 did worse in this area). Noise levels are fairly
low here. With shutter speeds as long as 30 seconds,
night shots like this are easy -- just remember your
Using that same scene, let's take
a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity affects
the noise levels in images:
The added noise at ISO 200 actually
sharpens the image a bit, but then things start going
downhill rapidly. A lot of detail is lost at ISO 400,
and I'm not sure if the ISO 800 can be saved.
There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion
at the wide-end of the V3's lens. I also see some vignetting
in the top-left corner of the chart, and this appeared
in quite a few photos in the gallery as
There was quite a bit of redeye on
the V3, unfortunately. Your results may differ, but
you've been warned.
Every serious digital camera review
site needs a test scene full of cheap booze (note the
choice of wine), and now we have one too! I'll pull
this thing out for comparisons every once in a while.
You can click on the links above to see the original
(and unrotated) images from the DSC-V3 and PowerShot
G6, or you can just look at my crops below. Photos
were taken with 600W quartz studio lamps at F4.0 on
both cameras (more on why I did this later).
DSC-V3 at ISO 100 (the lowest value available)
PowerShot G6 at ISO 50 (lowest value available)
DSC-V3 at ISO 400
PowerShot G6 at ISO 400 (highest value available)
DSC-V3 at ISO 800 (highest value available)
The first thing to point out is that
all ISOs are not created equal. While the G6 starts
at ISO 50, according to tests (I believe at DP
Review), it's really closer to ISO 80 or 100. With
that in mind, I would say that the V3 took sharper,
more saturated images than the G6 with both cameras
at their default settings. In addition, ISO 800 on
the V3 was comparable to ISO 400 on the G6. If you
really want to compare everything, view the full-size
photos using the links above the crops.
While shooting my G6
vs V3 shootout last week, I learned an important
lesson about how to get the best photo quality out
of the DSC-V3. For whatever reason, the V3 usually
preferred to use a small aperture (like F8), while
the G6 chose F4. At small apertures like that, the
photo quality on the V3 starts to go south, with
everything becoming soft and fuzzy. I'm told that
this phenomenon is known as diffraction. The trick
to getting sharp images is to make sure the aperture
doesn't close down that much (keep the F-number at
F6.3 or below), even if it means shooting in aperture
priority mode. These samples tell the whole story:
Pretty shocking difference, eh? Why
the DSC-V3 tends to use small apertures outdoors is
beyond me. So, force it to use a larger aperture and
it's all good. I should add that this only happened
while shooting outdoors in bright light - the typical
conditions for my test photos.
So, if you keep an eye on the aperture,
you'll get very good images out of the DSC-V3. Images
are very sharp at the larger apertures, but are quite
soft at smaller apertures, as you saw above. Colors
are accurate and saturated, and purple fringing isn't
bad at all. There is some noise to be seen here, a
direct result of having a lot of pixels on a tiny sensor,
but it's less than what you'd see on an 8 Megapixel
With all that out of the way, I can
now point you to our photo
gallery and G6
vs V3 shootout. I encourage you to print the photos
if you possibly can!
The DSC-V3 has the same, top-notch
movie mode as the DSC-F828. The MPEG Movie VX Fine
mode takes VGA resolution video (that's 640 x 480)
at 30 frames/sec, until the memory card is full. Sound
is recorded as well. This movie mode is vastly superior
to what the Canon G6 offers.
The VX Fine mode requires a Memory
Stick Pro card (a CompactFlash card apparently won't
cut it). A 1GB Pro card can hold about 12 minutes of
video at this quality.
If you don't have a Memory Stick Pro
card, don't fret. You can still use the very nice VX
Standard mode, which is still VGA, just at 16 frames/second.
A much lower resolution (160 x 112) option, known as
Video mail, is also available. A 1GB memory card holds
44 minutes in VX Standard mode and nearly 12 hours
(!) in Video mail mode.
As is usually the case, you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming.
Movies are saved in MPEG format.
Here's a sample movie for you. Be
warned, it's big.
to play movie (19MB, 640 x 480, VX Fine mode, MPEG
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Cyber-shot DSC-V3 has a pretty
standard (though well-implemented) playback mode. Basic
features include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image
protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom & scroll".
The V3 is PictBridge-enabled (as you'd expect these
days), allowing direct printing to compatible photo
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom up to 5X into your photo, and then
scroll around in it. This us useful for checking the
focus in a photograph. When zoomed in, you can also
use the trimming feature I'll describe in a second.
Some of the more advanced playback
- Resize - change an image's size.
The original image is not deleted.
- Divide - cut sections of movies
- 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).
I do appreciate how the V3 lets you
delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all
of them. (To do this, you must be in thumbnail mode.)
The V3 gives you quite a bit of information
about your photos, including a histogram.
The V3 moves between images extremely
quickly in playback mode -- you can move from one photo
to the next without delay or a low resolution placeholder.
How Does it Compare
When used at the right settings, the
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 takes very good photos that
compare nicely to my 7 Megapixel camera of choice,
the Canon PowerShot G6. A few days, I wouldn't have
been able to say that, but after someone very knowledgeable
pointed out the aperture issue I discussed above, my
opinion changed. For whatever reason, the V3 likes
to use small apertures (high F-numbers) outdoors, which
dramatically reduces image quality. By forcing the
camera to use a larger aperture (F4 worked great for
me), I got much sharper photos. Colors were saturated,
noise levels were comparable to other 7MP cameras,
and purple fringing levels were low. I did, however,
notice some vignetting in several of my photos.
Other nice things about the DSC-V3
include robust performance, manual controls, a huge
LCD, a great movie mode, and expandability. The camera
shoots quickly, with amazing autofocus talents and
no shutter lag. Shot-to-shot speeds are great, except
in RAW and TIFF mode where there's an 8-10 second delay
between shots. The camera has a full suite of manual
controls, including shutter speed, focus, and white
balance. I do wish there was a center-frame enlargement
feature in manual focus, as it can be hard to see if
your subject is sharp without it. While not high resolution,
the V3's 2.5" LCD is huge, and it's remarkably
visible outdoors. Low light visibility is fairly good
as well. The camera has one of the best movie modes
out there, with unlimited recording at 640 x 480 (30
frames/second) with sound. The V3 supports conversion
lenses as well as an external flash. Finally, the V3
supports both Memory Stick Pro cards as well as more
economical CompactFlash cards.
There are a few negatives to mention.
I've already discussed the image quality issue and
the workaround in detail earlier in the review. The
V3's flash range isn't great, but thankfully you can
add an external flash if that's a problem. Along those
lines, I found redeye to be a big problem on the camera.
Macro mode on the V3 is average, at best. Lastly, you
can't swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod
(on mine, at least).
In conclusion, I highly recommend
the DSC-V3 but store this message in your brain: watch
How does the V3 compare to the PowerShot
G6? They perform quite similarly in most areas, with
the V3 having sharper photos with more saturated colors.
Then again, I got better photos out of the box on the
G6, with no need for messing with the aperture. The
V3 focuses a bit faster than the G6, and the performance
gap widens considerably in low light situations. The
G6 has a few more manual controls, and I appreciate
the ability to save your favorite settings to two spots
on the mode dial. The G6 has a flip-out, rotating LCD,
though it's smaller than the regular LCD on the V3.
The V3 has a live histogram in record mode, while the
G6 does not. Finally, the V3 has support for USB 2.0
High Speed while the G6 does not. Both are good choices,
for sure, and it comes down to what features are more
important to you (read the G6
review for more on that camera). Personally, I'd
rather have a camera that takes great pictures without
having to worry about what the aperture is -- but that's
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (if you
watch the aperture)
- Large LCD display is usable in
bright outdoor light and in low light as well
- Full manual controls
- Robust performance
- Laser focusing system -- the best
- NightFraming lets you take color,
flash pictures in zero light
- Supports conversion lenses, external
- RAW, TIFF formats supported
- Supports two types of memory cards
- First-rate movie mode
- Live histogram in record mode
- USB 2.0 High Speed supported
What I didn't care for:
- Camera tends to use a small aperture
outdoors, greatly reducing image quality (workaround:
force the camera to use a larger aperture)
- Some vignetting
- Camera locks up for 8-10 seconds
between shots in RAW or TIFF mode
- Can't get very close to subject
in macro mode
- Battery/memory card slot can't
be opened while camera is on a tripod (most likely)
- No memory card included
Some other midsized, ultra high resolutoin
cameras include the Canon
PowerShot G6, Casio
Exilim EX-P600, Fuji
FinePix S7000, Nikon
Coolpix 8400, Olympus C-7000Z and C-8080
Wide Zoom, and the Pentax
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the DSC-V3 and its
competitors before you buy!
For plenty of photos, check out our standard
gallery as well as the G6
versus V3 shootout!
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me
asking for a personal recommendation.
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DCRP readers, please visit our forums.