Review: Sony Mavica MVC-FD95
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, June 29, 2000
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 5, 2000
DCRP readers know that I've been hounding Sony for some time to
send me their cameras for review. These same readers also know that
I've never been
a big fan of floppy-based cameras. The new Mavica still relies on
the floppy disc for storage, but thankfully, Memory Sticks are now
supported, though you have to shell out even more money to get that
($79) -- and the camera already costs a lot ($999).
camera was not sent to me by Sony -- though future models will be
-- special thanks to Advandig
for helping me out!
Mavica MVC-FD95 is a camera that bears a striking resemblance
to Sony's camcorders, especially the controls. That's not a bad
thing though. But what really stands out is the bulk of this camera
-- it's giant. Its dimensions are 5 x 5 x 7.25 inches, and it weighs
over two pounds! That's almost five PowerShot
S100s! But I found that if you don't mind the bulk, and either
get the Memory Stick adapter or have a lot of floppies, the Sony
is pretty cool camera.
in the Box?
MVC-FD95 has an OK bundle in the box:
2.1 Mpixel Sony Mavica MVC-FD95 camera
InfoLithium battery w/charger
including ArcSoft PhotoStudio v2.0SE and VideoImpression v1.0
page manual for camera
was nice for Sony to include a lens cap (with strap) and a hefty
shoulder strap with this camera. It's easy to carry around (though
it's heavy) and your lens is always protected.
no USB or serial support on this camera -- it's floppy or nothing.
This is a problem for our fellow Mac users, who no longer have floppy
drives. A product that I discovered that makes life a lot easier
for us Mac users is VST's Tri-Media Reader. This small gray USB
device reads floppies, SmartMedia, and CompactFlash! Read my review
of this product for find out more!
AC adapter and InfoLithium battery
big news here in Sony's InfoLithium battery, which is also on their
camcorders. Sony claims that the included NP-F330 battery can last
for 65 minutes, or 650 images, which is probably about average.
If you buy the $60 NP-F550, Sony says that you can go for 150 minutes,
or 1600 photos! Of course those are best case scenarios, so your
mileage will vary.
cool thing about the InfoLithium battery is that the LCD show how
many minutes are left before the battery dies. I'm not sure how
accurate that is, though.
battery charger also doubles as the AC adapter, which strangely
plugs into the side of the lens barrel, under a hard to open door.
manual is just OK -- nothing wondrous.
already established that the FD95 is very big and bulky, so I won't
dwell on that anymore. It does give you plenty of room for your
hands, though. The construction is very solid, and all the doors
stay shut. Let's get right into our tour.
you look up at the first photo on the page, you'll see a few important
things. First is that huge F2.8 lens-- it's a 10X optical + 2X digital
zoom. Be warned, once you get into digital zoom territory, the quality
starts going down. See the photos of the airplanes in the gallery
to see what I mean. Even if you just use the optical zoom, the range
is really amazing - it's equivalent to a 39 - 390mm lens in a 35mm
on the front is a microphone for making movies, and the zoom controls.
The zoom is smooth, and totally silent - I really noticed the camcorder
onto the back of the camera -- I wasn't kidding when I said this
thing was huge!
optical viewfinder isn't really optical -- it's an LCD. While it
does provide a through-the-lens view, I found it hard to use outdoors.
It has a faux diopter correction for those with glasses, which helps.
A nice thing is that the viewfinder projects well behind the LCD,
so nose smudges won't be a problem.
main LCD display is huge - 2.5 inches - and is of excellent quality
to boot. Everything you need to know is on that LCD, especially
since the usual LCD info display isn't on this camera.
other buttons of note on the back:
on/off (you have to pop open the flash first, of course)
(shows more or less info on LCD)
switch: Play, Still, Movie
can also see the floppy eject button, which is well designed so
you don't accidentally eject a disc, and the speaker for playing
back sounds and movies.
want more buttons? Here they are! I actually like having these buttons,
since it's easier to change functions than having to go through
tedious menus. The buttons are (starting at the top):
balance: Auto, indoor, outdoor, manual
Aperture priority, shutter priority, twilight mode, twilight plus
mode, landscape, "panfocus" mode (changes the focus
quickly from a close subject to a distant subject)
below that is the a/v out terminal, for hooking into your television.
few notes about some of these things... first of all, SteadyShot.
This is an image stabilization system first seem on Sony's camcorders,
and it really does make a difference. Try zooming all the way in,
and toggle the switch-- you'll see the difference.
focus takes some getting used to. There is indeed a manual focus
ring at the front of the lens, but it's not mechanical in any way--
it's digital. You'll see the image on the LCD double in size, and
you can adjust the focus accordingly. I didn't care for this feature.
aperture priority mode, you can choose from 9 different aperture
values, ranging from F2.8 to F11. In shutter priority mode, you
can choose from 17 different values, ranging from 1/500 sec to 8
twilight modes gave me some strange results on my night shot test
that you'll find in the next section -- purple or red sky? Weird.
onto the top now -- you really get an idea of how big this thing
is -- you can see the flash, shutter release button, and what's
this -- a hot shoe? Yep, just to the right of that, under a little
plastic cover, is a flash sync terminal. It seems to be proprietary,
with Sony selling the $119 HVL-F1000 external flash (and no mention
about using anything else).
a look at the floppy drive. While it's a 4X speed drive, flash memory
is substantially faster. Even with the FlashPath adapter
for Memory Sticks, it's way behind.
the bottom of the camera, you'll find the battery slot, as well
as a metal tripod mount.
the Sony Mavica MVC-FD95
going to cover three areas in this section: Still, playback, and
boot-up time of the FD95 seems to vary. In playback mode, it takes
around 10 seconds, while in still mode, it takes roughly 5 seconds.
While there's a bit of lag during auto-focus and shutter release,
it's barely noticeable. The real slowness happens after you take
the photo -- it takes around 7 seconds to write the photo to the
floppy disc! Apparently (according to Steve's
Digicams), the FlashPath adapter takes twice as long to write
to the Memory Stick as it does to the floppy! Aie!
pictures is a real piece of cake -- compose the picture, push the
button down halfway, let it focus (wait for the green dot on the
LCD), and then press the rest of the way to take the shot. Sony,
being Sony, has a phony shutter sound that is played when you take
a photo (you can turn it off if you like).
you cannot approve a photo before it's saved to disc, you can hit
the left button (on the four-way switch) to review the last photo,
and delete it if you wish.
photo above shows the LCD display in Aperture Priority mode. That
little hand is telling me to keep still, and there's only 9 minutes
left on the battery. It's in 1600 x 1200 mode, and there are no
photos on the disc yet. Strangely, the FD95 doesn't tell you how
many photos are remaining; rather, it tells you how many you've
taken. Considering you can only hold FOUR per floppy at 1600 x 1200,
this isn't a big deal.
the options you commonly change are on the side of the camera (shown
in the previous section), so menu usage isn't needed often. But
here's a look:
up on the four-way switch to get here
up again, and right once to get to here
here are your choices - just push in the four-way switch to
what can you change in these well-designed menus? Here's what:
Effect - various special effects such as solarize, black &
white, sepia, etc
- shows the date and/or time on your pictures
tool - format or copy discs
numbering - series or normal (start over each new disc)
Size - shown in menu above
mode - Text (records a GIF file in black & white), Voice
(adds a sound to your image), E-mail (saves a 320 x 240 JPEG
in addition to full-size), normal
time set - How long movies are - 5/10/15 sec
play-only settings (DPOF, slide show, etc)
+2 to -2
level - high, normal, low
compensation - +2.0EV to -2.0EV
images (play mode only)
out - NTSC or PAL
sound (shutter only, beep on/off)
how about some photos already?
review would be without this shot! It ain't a Coolpix 950/990, but
the FD95 takes respectable macro shots as close as 2cm (0.8")
away. It actually did better in the white balance department than
my CP950 usually does!
what I was talking about weird night shots. The sky was definitely
not this color in real life! This was shot with a 1 second exposure.
Aside from that, there isn't a lot of noise and the detail is pretty
good. Locals should know where I am :-)
is no uncompressed TIFF mode on this camera.
are lots more photos in the gallery for
mode is pretty run-of-the-mill: slideshows, zoom and scroll, DPOF,
and thumbnail mode (Sony calls this index mode, and it shows 6 images
zooming into the photos is very smooth (and very precise), scrolling
isn't quite as fast.
can delete one, all, and get this -- multiple images! FINALLY someone
else besides Nikon realized that it's nice to delete two or three
photos at the same time! Bravo, Sony!
can resize your images to a smaller size if you wish, and you can
copy images from one disc to another.
the camera doesn't give you any details about what settings were
used to take the photo!
have a few options in movie mode on the MVC-FD95. You can just hit
the button and it will record for 5 seconds (or 10 or 15, if you
change the default). Or, you can hold down the button and keep recording
until the disc fills up.
have two choices for movie size - 320 x 240 or 160 x 112. You are
limited to 15 and 60 seconds when you hold the button down, respectively.
The movies are saved in MPEG format.
the full movie (15 sec, 1.3Mb. rated PG)
apologize up front for not having a more interesting movie to show
off, but it's pretty late and there's not much to tape at night.
While my movie above won't win any awards, the one I taped certainly
can use the optical zoom while filming these movies - I only mention
this because there are some cameras that cannot.
Does it Compare?
Sony Mavica line is really one of the kind, and the MVC-FD95 stands
out as the top of the line, at least until the CD1000 model ships.
Though it's very large and bulky, it's designed extremely well and
is very easy to use. The photo quality is generally good, though
JPEG compression is obvious in some cases.
real downer here is the floppy support - you can only store four
photos for disc, and it's very slow reading and writing the disc.
The optional FlashPath Memory Stick adapter will certainly take
care of the capacity problem, but not the speed problem. And with
the camera selling for $1000, shouldn't they just give you the FlashPath
adapter in the box?
very good user experience
amazing optical zoom
photos most of the time
bright LCD display
battery; included charger and AC adapter
helps a lot when zoomed way in
I think needs work:
method means no capacity, slow access speeds; FlashPath adapter
only makes access speeds worse.
prefer a real optical viewfinder
camera useless to owners of modern Macs
you want a camera with floppy support, you only have one choice:
Sony Mavica. The MVC-FD95 is very good at what it does, though the
limitations of the floppy are apparent. The upcoming CD1000 model
($1399) will burn photos onto a 3" CD-ROM disc, which means
increased capacity (though I'm not sure about speed). If you've
got $1000 to burn (plus more for the FlashPath adapter, which I'd
recommend), and must have a floppy drive, then this is the camera
for you. If you want a good 2 Megapixel camera and don't care about
the floppy, you can do better for a lot less. There are many other
Mavica models -- most recently, the MVC-FD85
that you might want to consider as well.
always, we recommend heading to your local reseller to try the camera
before you buy!