Review: Sony Mavica MVC-FD200
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, February 11, 2001
Monday, February 11, 2002
love the Sony Mavica cameras -- they've been some of the best-selling
digital cameras of all time.. My guess is that it's the floppy format
that they love the most, even though they can't hold many photos,
and are very slow to read/write. Still, floppies are amazingly cheap
compared to other storage media -- they're basically free.
never been a big fan of the Mavica line in the past, due to my anti-floppy
bias. The Mavica
MVC-FD200 ($499) tries to make the "floppycam" a bit
more modern, adding a much-needed Memory Stick slot. The floppy
is still there, but you'll want to use the Stick as often as possible.
It writes much faster, and holds a ton more photos.
those who want to save money and don't mind a 1.3 Megapixel camera,
the MVC-FD100 is also available for $399.
more about this new Mavica in our review!
in the Box?
Sony MVC-FD200 has a good bundle, with almost everything you need
right in the box. It includes:
2.0 (effective) Mpixel Sony Mavica MVC-FD200 camera
rechargeable InfoLithium battery
adapter / battery charger
featuring Pixela ImageMixer and drivers
page manual (printed)
includes everything you need, except something to save those photos
onto! Whether you're going the floppy or Memory Stick route, you're
going to need to be one of them before you can start using the camera.
from that, the news is all good. Sony includes the excellent InfoLithium
NP-F330 battery with the camera. There's also an AC adapter which
charges the battery in-camera (or just powers the camera). The NP-F330
will last for about 75 minutes before needing a recharge (which
isn't that long). If you need more "juice", you'll want
to pony up for the NP-F550, which will last for twice as long.
The nice thing about these InfoLithium batteries is that they can
tell you, practically down to the minute, how much power they have
includes a lens cap and strap with the camera. For those who want
some accessories, conversion lens and filters are available from
Sony at additional cost.
FD200 is also fully compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP. Apple's
iPhoto software will work as well.
manuals aren't great. They're like the ones that come with your
Wega TV or a VCR -- not very clear, in other words.
Mavica FD200 isn't what you'd call a small camera. It's bigger than
almost any other camera out there, especially considering it only
has a 3X zoom lens. Why is it so large? The answer, of course, is
that floppy drive that makes the camera appealing to so many. Thought
it is bulky, it's remarkably easy to hold, even with one hand. There's
plenty of room for the other hand, as well.
camera is made of what I'd call "high grade plastic".
The official dimensions are 5.5 x 4.0 x 3.0 inches (W x H x D),
and the camera weighs a healthy 645 grams (with battery and floppy
disk inserted). Let's start our tour of the MVC-FD200 now:
FD200 has a relatively slow F3.8 lens, with a focal range of 6.4
- 19.2 mm. That's equivalent to 41 - 123 mm. The lens is threaded
for 37 mm attachments, and as I mentioned, both lenses and filters
are available. The lens on the FD200 never comes out of the body.
sticker just to the left of the lens is very misleading. It says
"up to 1600 shots / up to 2.5 hours battery life". Well,
that's if you buy the high capacity battery for $60!
that sticker is the flash, which has a working range of 0.5 - 2.0
m. In real world usage, the flash didn't do a very good job, as
you'll see later in the review. There is no support for an external
flash on this camera.
is no AF illuminator on this camera, so focusing in low light is
tough. Too bad they didn't put the Hologram AF feature found on
the more expensive DSC-F707 on this one!
the top left of the photo, you can see the zoom control. The lens
moves silently and smoothly. The shutter release button is just
the back of the FD200 now. If you're wondering what happened to
the optical viewfinder, well, there isn't one. You have to rely
on the LCD for everything, which consumes the batteries that much
said, the 2.5" LCD is beautiful -- it's very large, bright,
and fluid. There's a window at the top of it, which can let light
through if you shut off the backlight (see switch just below the
screen). Using natural light for the LCD only works outdoors with
are two switches directly below the LCD. The one one on the left
is the aforementioned LCD backlight switch. The next one is for
changing between Playback, Still, and Movie mode.
four buttons below that are for:
(Macro, 0.5, 1.0, 3.0, 7.0 m, infinity)
AE (Twilight mode, Twilight plus mode, landscape mode, panfocus
mode, spot metering)
- turns info on the LCD on/off
quick note about those Program AE modes. Panfocus mode will quickly
change the focus from a close subject to a distant one -- this is
great for people-pictures in front of landscapes. I don't know why
spot metering is here, but this makes the camera judge the exposure
using a small area (a spot) that you determine.
the right of those four buttons is the familiar four-way switch,
which is used for menu navigation mostly.
two switches to the right of the LCD are for power and to move between
the Memory Stick and floppy mediums.
the far right of the photo you can see the release for the floppy
drive, the Memory Stick slot, and down at the bottom, the USB port.
I'll take a closer look at the storage options a bit later in the
really isn't anything to see on top of the FD200. There's no LCD
info display (a shame, considering how much real estate they have
on this body), but I guess it doesn't matter since you have to use
the main LCD anyway. The shutter release button can be seen top-right.
this side of the camera, you can find some more I/O ports. To the
left, normally under a cover is the DC in port. You'll plug in the
AC adapter into that slot. The video out port is to the right.
side of the camera says that it has a 6X precision digital zoom.
I suppose this is true, but in reality it's a 3X optical zoom with
a 2X digital zoom if you want it. Using digital zoom will reduce
the quality of your photos, so I recommend keeping it turned off.
an angled look at the other side of the camera. You can see where
the Memory Stick and floppy drive are located. The floppy drive
is rated at 4X, which is four times faster than a really, really
slow floppy drive.
another look at the side of the FD200. Ejecting the disk is manually
done, but easy enough. The drive clicks along fairly quietly while
it's in use.
here is the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery
compartment and metal tripod mount. The NP-F330 battery is also
shown -- it's big!
the Sony Mavica MVC-FD200
there's no need to extend the lens, the FD200 starts up in just
two seconds. When you press the shutter release button halfway,
the camera takes a rather sluggish second or more to lock the focus.
When you fully press the button, the photo is taken with minimal
subject of shot-to-shot speed helps illustrate why I don't like
floppy cameras. When using the Memory Stick, you'll wait about 2.5
seconds before you can take another shot. However, if you use the
Floppy Drive, it will lock up the camera for 6.5 seconds.
capacity is the other "beef" I have with the floppy disk
format. Again, the Memory Stick wins big in this category. This
chart should explain:
photos saved (approx.)
(3:2 aspect ratio)
(Extra Compression Mode)
1600 (ECM) mode is only available for floppy images. The ECM mode
compresses the images ever more than they already are. Here's an
example of the differences in compression:
Stick: 812 KB
Floppy Drive: 324 KB
Stick: 876 KB
Floppy Drive (ECM mode): 152 KB
can this be? Well, in order to stuff those measly four high res
photos onto the floppy disk, the Mavica has to turn up the JPEG
compression even more. In ECM, they add even more compression. The
more JPEG compression, the cruddier the image quality. Since there's
more "breathing room" on a Memory Stick, images are much
FD200's "overlay-style" menu system is pretty simple.
Let's take a look at the various menu items and what they do
(on/off) - 10 seconds
Effects (Solarize, Black & White, Sepia, Negative Art,
(Day&Time, Date, Off) - whether or not the date/time is
printed on your photos
Copy - copy one floppy to another
numbering (Series, Normal)
Motion (160 x 120, 80 x 72) - make animated GIFs of up to
Size (see chart above)
Mode (TIFF, Text, E-Mail, Normal) -- more on this below
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
(-2 to +2)
Balance (Hold, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor)
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
(the usual stuff)
is no true manual white balance or continuous (burst) mode on the
FD200, unlike some of the more expensive Sony cameras. The "hold"
white balance mode is for use with single-colored subjects or backgrounds.
more details on those Rec Mode choices:
uncompressed large image - requires at least an 8MB Memory Stick
records a GIF in black & white
Records a 320 x 240 image in addition to the recorded image
enough about menus already, let's take a look at our photo tests!
MVC-FD200 did a fine job in our macro test. You'll want to have
good lighting when doing shots like this, as my first attempts with
lower light levels did not come out so well. You can get as close
as 3 cm (at wide-angle) in macro mode on the FD200.
night shot test didn't turn out quite as well. Before you say "but
your location isn't a good one for this shot", I can tell you
that we also took an old Coolpix 950 out too, and it ran circles
around the Mavica. The above shot was taken in Twilight Plus mode
and that's the best I could get out of it. It's not bad, but it
would be better with some real control over exposure.
brings up a related subject. I did some "real world" shooting
(more than I usually do, at least) with the FD200, when I took it
and the Olympus D-40 on a trip to Sacramento. I attempted to take
pictures (with and without the flash) inside the CA State Railroad
Museum with both cameras, and the pictures always came out poorly.
The flash on the FD200 seems to be weak -- even at full power.
don't have any side-by-side comparison photos to show you, but if
you look at the FD200 gallery along side
the D-40Z gallery
you will see the difference. What's scary is that the cameras are
very close in price, even though the D-40 has double the resolution.
the Mavica FD200 fared better. Images were sharp and the colors
were accurate. It's when things aren't so bright that I had problems.
Chromatic aberrations (also known as purple fringing) wasn't a major
problem. Take a look at the photo gallery
and judge the quality for yourself.
FD200 can record silent movies in MPEG format. You can record up
to 60 seconds (with the shutter release button held down) at 160
x 112, or up to 15 seconds just by pressing it once. At the 320
x 240 mode, you're limited to 15 seconds no matter what. There is
no "HQ" or "EX" mode like on some other Sony
can use the zoom lens during filming (yea!). Here is a very unexciting
to play movie (MPEG format, 1.2MB)
view it? Download Quicktime.
playback mode on the FD200 is pretty basic. Some of the features
available include slideshows, resizing, "zoom and scroll",
DPOF print marking, and image protection.
can copy images from the Memory Stick to the Floppy and back again.
You can also do full floppy-to-floppy and Stick-to-Stick transfers.
"zoom and scroll" feature (as I call it) let's you zoom
in as much as 5 times into your photo, and then move around in it.
nice feature, though it takes some button-pressing to reach, is
the ability to select a group of photos to delete. You'll need to
be in the thumbnail (index) mode to get there.
FD200 doesn't tell you anything about your photos other than their
number and the date/time they were taken. It would be nice to see
the exposure information as well.
Does it Compare?
had mixed feelings about the Sony Mavica MVC-FD200. You already
know that I'm not a big fan of the floppy disk storage format due
to speed, storage space, and power consumption issues. It's great,
then, that the Memory Stick is there as well. If you end up mostly
using the Memory Stick, what you really have is a heavy, expensive,
2 Megapixel camera. The camera took nice pictures outdoors but was
less impressive in lower light situations. The feature set is pretty
basic, though most people will be happy with it (I would've preferred
some real manual controls). If you're sold on the floppy format,
you're probably going to buy this camera no matter what I say. If
you're on the fence, I'd take your $500 and buy another camera that's
smaller, faster, and more full-featured.
quality, ergonomics good, despite its bulk
good photo quality outdoors
storage options - camera is pretty fast while using Memory Sticks
I didn't care for:
disk storage - slow, uses too much power, adds bulk to camera
for a 2MP camera
media included with camera
low light performance
features found on other $500 cameras (sound in movie mode, manual
you're looking for a floppy-camera, the Mavica is really the only
game in town. The MVC-FD97
is also 2 Megapixel, but has 10X optical zoom. The MVC-FD100
is a 1.3 Megapixel version of the FD200. Panasonic also makes a
that can read both floppies and SuperDisks, but it's not great.
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the FD200 and it's competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a few more opinions?
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests
for personal camera recommendations.