DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 14, 2003
Last Updated: April 28, 2004

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The review has been finished using a production model camera. Product shots have been updated where necessary, and all sample photos are from this shipping model.

Just when everyone was getting comfortable with 5 Megapixel cameras, Sony has made a huge jump -- releasing the first consumer-level camera with an 8 Megapixel CCD -- the Cyber-shot DSC-F828 ($999). This CCD isn't special just for the resolution, though. It's also the first camera to use a new 4-color filter. This new filter adds an "emerald" filter to the RGB filters normally found in a CCD. Sony says this will produce photos with much more accurate color.

R G R G   R E R E
G B G B   G B G B
R G R G   R E R E
G B G B   G B G B
Traditional 3-color filter New 4-color filter

To transform the 4-color data into the 3-color data that your software expects, Sony has created a new "Real Imaging Processor", which has the convenient side effect of increasing both performance and battery life.

Another big feature of the F828 is its F2.0-2.8, 7X Carl Zeiss T* lens -- a nice upgrade from the 5X lens on the DSC-F717. It's also the first Sony camera with a CompactFlash slot -- never thought I'd see the day!

Is the DSC-F828 the ultimate fixed-lens camera? Find out in our review!

What's in the Box?

The DSC-F828 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 8.0 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-F828 camera
  • NP-FM50 InfoLithium battery
  • AC adapter / battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Lens hood
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Pixela ImageMixer software, USB drivers, and Image Data Converter
  • 159 page camera manual (printed)

The F828 is the first Sony camera that does not include a memory card. So you'll need to factor this into the purchase price. The F828 can use Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro cards, as well as CompactFlash. Yes, you read that correctly -- the F828 has a CompactFlash Type II slot. This is great news for people who are switching from a CF-based camera. The largest Memory Stick Pro card is 1GB, while there's a 4GB CompactFlash card now available (the F828 is FAT32 compatible, thus supporting those huge cards). You can use the Hitachi (formerly IBM) Microdrive without issue, as well.

The DSC-F828 uses the same NP-FM50 battery as the DSC-F717. While it's no longer the "king of batteries" (it's been surpassed by Minolta and Olympus), this 8.5 Wh battery still has plenty of juice. Sony estimates that you can take about 370 photos (around 185 minutes of shooting time) in record mode, or spend a whopping 470 minutes in playback mode. Using the power-hungry Microdrive will reduce the battery life a bit.

Do note the usual pitfalls of a proprietary battery like the FM50. First, it's expensive ($60 a pop). Second, if you run out of juice, you can't just stuff in a set of AA alkalines to get you through the rest of the day.

When it's time to charge the battery, just plug in the included AC adapter and wait for 2.5 hours. You can also use the AC adapter to power the camera -- which is recommended whenever possible.

Sony includes a lens cap and retaining strap, to protect that nice Zeiss lens. As you can see, the F828 is quite handful.

While not shown here, Sony also includes a lens hood in the box, which comes in handy when shooting outdoors. You'll see a picture of it in the next section.

There are tons of accessories available for the DSC-F828, and rather than go on and on about them, I'll just shove them all into this handy chart:

Accessory Model # Price Why you want it
Close-up lens VCL-M3358 $70 Lets you get closer to your subject at the telephoto end in macro mode (60 cm -> 33 cm)
Polarizing filter VF-58CPK $100 Suppresses reflections from glass and water; lens-protecting MC filter also included
Special FX filter VF-58SC $60 Soft focus & star filters
Neutral density filter VF-58M $50 Useful in very bright lighting; MC filter also included
Deluxe external flash HVL-F32X $200 Integrated with camera; TTL pre-flash exposure control; 52 foot range; Backlit LCD display
External flash HVL-F1000 $120 26 foot range
Infrared illuminator HVL-IRM $100 Improves Nightshot range by a factor of 10
Wired remote control RM-VD1 $50 Release the shutter from up to 59 inches away; cannot control the zoom (for obvious reasons)
Compact charger BC-TRM $60 Leave the AC adapter at home; plugs right into the wall
Stamina value kit ACC-CFM $90 Includes premium carrying case, extra battery, MC filter

There are additional accessories that aren't shown on my list, including tripods, memory cards and card readers, and carrying cases. As far as I can tell, you cannot add a wide or telephoto conversion lens to the F828!

We've now reached the part of this review where Mac users (such as myself) may want to cover their eyes: the F828 isn't terribly Mac friendly in the software department. Sony's standard software, Pixela ImageMixer 1.5, is included. It runs on Windows and MacOS 8/9. It's nothing to write home about.

Image Data Converter

The product that surprised me the most is Sony's Image Data Converter: it's currently for Windows only. If you shoot in RAW mode, you must use this to convert your files into another format (e.g. JPEG, TIFF). Not only does it do that, but it also allows you to tweak the settings of your RAW photo -- such as white balance, sharpness, and color -- as if you're taking the photo all over again. This is where the RAW format really shines, and Mac users are left out in the cold at the present time (no, Photoshop CS cannot view them either, as the RAW files are apparently encrypted). All may not be lost, though: Sony promises a Mac version in February 2004.

For those wondering: can Mac users use the F828 at all? The answer is "yes" -- connect the camera via the USB cable and it'll show up just fine.

The F828's manual is typical of those from Sony: not great. Brief descriptions, crazy layout, and lots of fine print.

Look and Feel

The DSC-F828 is the definition of a full-size camera -- it's "all lens". It's just like having an SLR -- it's bulky, and you'll want a nice carrying case for it. Even with its bulk, the F828 is exceptionally easy to hold, with a large right hand grip, and huge lens.

The camera is made up of a mix of metal and high-grade plastic, and it feels very solid.

Just like the 7x7 series cameras, the lens can rotate up 70° and down 30°. This gives you added flexibility, like when you're taking pictures with a big crowd in front of you (you can shoot over their heads while still viewing the LCD). It's not easy to show in pictures (see above), so it's something you'll have to try for yourself.

The official dimensions of the F828 are 134.4 x 91.1 x 157.2 mm / 5.4 x 3.6 x 6.3 inches (W x H x D) and it weighs 955 grams with battery, memory card, lens cap, and camera strap installed (why Sony can't publish the empty weight like everyone else is beyond me). Compare those numbers to those on the F717: 4.8 x 2.8 x 6.0 inches and 696 grams. So the F828 has bulked up quite a bit.

Let's begin our tour of this camera now.

Beside the 8MP CCD, the other big feature on the F828 is its new F2.0-2.8, 7X optical zoom Carl Zeiss T* lens. The focal length is 7.1 - 51 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 200 mm. With impressive wide and tele capabilities, you really get the best of both worlds with the F828. The lens is threaded for 58 mm accessories -- I mentioned those earlier.

Directly above the lens is the F828's pop-up flash. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 4.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 3.3 m at telephoto. An external flash can be used via the hot shoe, which I'll show in a minute. While hard to see here, just below the flash is the IR emitter, used for the Nightshot and NightFraming functions that I'll describe later.

Hologram AF pattern

To the left of the Sony logo is the Hologram AF laser. The laser projects a grid onto the subject (shown above), which greatly aids in focusing. This allows the F828 to focus in total darkness. Really! This system is quite a bit better than traditional AF-assist lamps, and the laser is safe to use on people.

On the other side of the Sony logo, you'll find the self-timer lamp.

To the left of the lens is the F828's microphone.

On the back of the F828, we find a 1.8" LCD display. The resolution of the LCD is 134k pixels, which is very good. Images on the LCD are sharp and bright, and motion is fluid. LCD brightness is adjustable in the setup menu.

To the left of the LCD is a large electronic viewfinder, or EVF. This is one of the better EVFs out there, with a 235k pixel resolution. Unlike on some other EVFs, the one on the F828 is always smooth -- even in low light. Speaking of which, the camera boosts the gain on the EVF, so you can still use in in low light. The EVF also has a diopter correction knob, which focuses what you see on the screen. As with the LCD, you can adjust the brightness in the setup menu.

Do note that EVFs put an extra strain on the battery -- something that a traditional optical viewfinder does not do -- and, of course, they're not as sharp and clear as the "real thing". At the same time, there's no parallax error with an EVF, and all the menus that you can see on the LCD can be seen on the EVF.

Directly below the EVF, under a plastic cover, are most of the F828's I/O ports. These include A/V, USB 2.0, and DC-in (for included AC adapter).

Now let's take a look at the items located below the LCD. From left to right, they are:

  • EVF / LCD switch - choose which to use
  • Display - toggles info displayed on the LCD/EVF
  • Self-timer / Thumbnail mode {playback}
  • Playback zoom & scroll
  • Quick Review - shows last photo taken

To the right of the LCD, you'll find the switch for which memory card slot to use (CompactFlash or Memory Stick), and the release for the CF slot door.

Above the LCD you'll find the following:

  • Menu button
  • Four-way controller
  • AE lock / Delete photo button
  • Command dial - for choosing manual settings

The only thing here worth discussing is the four-way controller. This is used for menu navigation, and also for selecting a focus point. Press the controller inward to switch through the focus modes (multipoint, center, and flexible spot). In flexible spot AF mode, you can move the target almost anywhere in the frame, and the camera will focus on it.

I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention the focal length labels on the lens. They're in 35mm-equivalent format. More on this subject in a bit.

The F828 has a real hot shoe, and it will work with the two Sony flashes I mentioned earlier, and also with with non-Sony flashes. These third party flashes will require you to use the camera in "A" or "M" mode, and you'll probably have to set the flash manually as well.

Right in the middle of the picture is the microphone. Just to the right of that is a small LCD info display, which shows flash setting, shutter speed, aperture, shots remaining, and battery life. The info display is backlit -- once you press the button just northeast of the mode dial.

Virtual mode wheel is shown when you turn the real one

Continuing to the right, we find the mode dial, with the power switch wrapped around it. When you turn the mode wheel, the LCD shows a "virtual mode wheel", so you can turn the wheel without actually looking at it (if that makes sense). The items on the mode wheel include:

  • Auto mode - nearly all settings locked up, totally point-and-shoot; shutter speed range of 1/8 - 1/3200 sec
  • Program mode - unlocks all settings, still point-and-shoot; shutter speed range of 1 - 1/3200 sec
  • Shutter priority mode - you choose shutter speed, camera chooses aperture; shutter speed range is 30 - 1/2000 sec.
  • Aperture priority mode - you choose aperture, camera chooses shutter speed; aperture range of F2 - F8; shutter speeds above 1/2000 sec only available above F7.1
  • Full manual - you choose both the shutter speed and aperture; shutter speed range is 30 - 1/3200 sec; shutter speeds above 1/2000 sec only available above F7.1
  • Scene mode - camera picks best settings for these situations:
    • Twilight
    • Twilight portrait
    • Landscape
    • Portrait
  • Setup
  • Movie mode
  • Playback mode

Everything up there should be self-explanatory, but I wanted to cover one feature found in program mode: program shift. This allows you to scroll through several aperture/shutter speed combinations by using the command dial. So, if you want a faster shutter speed (to reduce camera shake) or higher F-number (to increase depth-of-field) than what the camera chooses, here's an easy way to do it. The LCD will show the current mode as P* (instead of P) when you're using this feature.

Above the mode dial are buttons for white balance and exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments). The white balance modes are:

  • Auto
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Fluorescent
  • Incandescent
  • Flash
  • One push (custom)

Yes, that's a manual WB mode where you can shoot a white or gray card, to make sure you get the perfect color in any lighting. While some of the competition lets you store a few custom WB settings, the F828 only has room for one.

Diagram shown when changing settings (metering, in this case)

I already mentioned the F828's "virtual mode wheel". In addition to that, the F828 does something similar when you press one of the many buttons on the camera. A little diagram pops up on the LCD/EVF, showing you the current setting, and the next one. As you rotate the command dial, the diagram moves along with it. This is nice, as you can change settings without taking your eye off the screen -- assuming you know where the buttons are (which isn't easy).

The final item on the top of the camera is the well-placed shutter release button.

Speaking of buttons, there are plenty of them on this side of the camera. Before I get to those, let me talk a little about zooming and focusing on this camera.

The F828 has a real mechanical zoom ring, not an electronic one like on the F707/717. As I mentioned, Sony labels the focal range in 35mm terms on the lens barrel. The zoom ring has a nice feel to it, reminiscent of the lenses on my SLR.

Manual focus (looks like I still have some work to do)

The manual focus ring behind the zoom ring is equally nice, though it works electronically. When in manual focus mode, you can use this, along with the focus distance shown on the LCD, to get your subject in-focus. The LCD/EVF will enlarge the center of the frame, so you can ensure that your subject is sharp.

Okay, now for the buttons located in the center of the picture. I'm going to work my way top to bottom, left to right:

  • Flash release - this is an electronic release, the camera must be on to use it
  • Flash setting (Auto, flash on, slow sync, off) - redeye reduction is turned on in the setup menu
  • Metering (Multi-pattern, center-weighted, spot)
  • Macro
  • Burst mode / bracketing - see below
  • Focus (Auto, manual) - described above
  • Nightshot / Nightframing - see below

The F828 has three continuous shooting modes, plus AE bracketing. Speed burst takes photos at 2.5 frames/second, but it doesn't show what you're shooting on the LCD. Framing burst does, but at a slightly slower rate of 2.3 frames/second. I was able to take 7 shots in a row in both of these modes. The camera flushes out the cache very quickly -- it took just 9 seconds to finish writing those 7 shots to the Memory Stick Pro card.

Another continuous mode is called Multi Burst. This takes 16 shots in a row at an interval of your choosing (1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30), and puts them all into one 1 Megapixel collage.

AE bracketing will take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure (underexposed, normal, overexposed). You can choose the bracket step in the menu: ±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, or ±1.0EV. If you've got the space on your memory card available, bracketing is a great way to ensure a properly-exposed photo.

Nightshot lets you take greenish pictures in total darkness

If you've ever used a Sony camcorder (or the DSC-F707/717 or DSC-V1), then you know about Nightshot. The camera has an infrared emitter which bathes the scene in IR light. When you turn on Nightshot, an IR-blocking filter in front of the CCD is removed, and the camera records the scene in green. In total darkness, you may find that the camera wants to use a shutter speed that's just too slow for hand-holding the camera. In that case you'll want to set the ISO to "auto", which will avoid the blurry picture, at the expense of some serious noise.

And here's NightFraming. As you can see, Pete does not like having her picture taken.

NightFraming takes it one step further. You use Nightshot to compose the photo, then the Hologram AF system focuses, and the camera takes a flash picture in normal color. You can take a picture in complete darkness using this system, as you can see above.

On this side of the F828, you'll find the CompactFlash slot. This is a CompactFlash Type II slot, which lets you use the Microdrive and other high capacity cards. Don't worry, regular CF cards work as well. There's no doubt that Sony is trying to lure Nikon and Canon owners over to the F828!

While you can't really see it here, just below that label in the center of the photo is the ACC port. This is where you'll plug in the optional FL-1000 flash and wired remote control.

We end the tour with a look at the bottom of the camera.

The big thing here is the battery / memory card compartment, which are kept behind a fairly sturdy plastic door. The F828 supports both original Memory Stick and new Memory Stick Pro cards.

Right at the center of the lens are two metal tripod mounts. The F828 has a camcorder-style dual mount system (so the camera doesn't rotate while on a tripod).

The last thing to see here is the FM50 battery, shown at right.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828

Record Mode

The F828 starts up incredible quickly, taking less than two seconds. The fact that the lens doesn't need to extend certainly helps in that department.

Autofocus speed are excellent -- the camera locks focus almost as quickly as you press the button at full wide-angle, and in around a second at the telephoto end. And there's no need to worry about focusing in low light, thanks to the Hologram AF system. It really doesn't get any better than this in terms of focusing ability.

Shutter lag was not an issue, even at "tripod" shutter speeds. This is a great camera for action shots.

Shot-to-shot speed was also superb -- almost as good as a D-SLR. There was a delay of just over one second between photos, assuming you've turned off the Auto Review feature.

You cannot delete a photo right after you take it, as you can on some other cameras. You must first enter Quick Review mode.

Now, here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the F828. Sony no longer lists the image size in terms of horizontal x vertical resolution -- now it's just Megapixels.

Image Size # photos on optional 512MB memory card
RAW TIFF Fine Quality Standard Quality
(3264 x 2448)
22 17 121 223
3:2 ratio
(3264 x 2176)
N/A 18 121 223
(2592 x 1944)
23 17 188 354
(2048 x 1536)
25 18 302 537
(1280 x 960)
26 19 726 1320
(640 x 480)
27 19 2904 7261

In addition to the usual JPEG format, the F828 also supports both TIFF and RAW files. The chart above may give you the impression that you can shoot a VGA RAW file -- that is incorrect. For both TIFF and RAW, the camera shoots an 8M image (in TIFF or RAW format), plus a JPEG at the size of your choosing.

When you take a picture in RAW mode, the camera is locked up for approximately 13 seconds while the files are written to the memory card. In TIFF mode, the delay is about 9 seconds. I've seen cameras that can shoot in RAW mode without a delay (the Minolta DiMAGE A1 comes to mind), so I was a little disappointed to see this on Sony's flagship camera.

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 DSC-F828 has a snazzy, updated version of the typical Sony menus. The menu is overlay-style, meaning that its shown on top of the image you're preparing to shoot. Note that when you're shooting in auto mode,you can only change the image size and Rec mode. And now, here are the menu options on the F828:

  • Scene (Portrait, landscape, twilight portrait, twilight) - this option only available in SCN mode
  • ISO (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800)
  • Image size (8M, 3:2, 5M, 3M, 1M, VGA)
  • Quality (Fine, standard)
  • Rec mode (RAW, TIFF, voice, e-mail, normal) - more below
  • Bracket step (±1.0EV, ±0.7EV, ±0.3EV) - for AE bracketing
  • Multi Burst interval (1/7.5, 1/15, 1/30 sec) - described earlier
  • Flash level (High, normal, low)
  • Photo effects (Solarize, sepia, negative art, off)
  • Color (Standard, real) - see below
  • Saturation (High, Normal, Low)
  • Contrast (High, Normal, Low)
  • Sharpness (High, Normal, Low)

The Rec Mode submenu has additional image sizes -- I already mentioned two of them. Voice mode will let you record up to 40 seconds of audio with each picture. E-mail will save a 320 x 240 image along with an image at the resolution you've selected.

Standard color mode
View original

Real color mode
View original

There are two color modes. Standard (the default setting) should probably have been called "vivid". That's because "real" is more like "neutral". The two crops above show the difference you'll get in color.

The setup menu (accessed via the mode wheel) contains some of the F828's most unique features. Here are the items in the setup menu:

  • AF mode (Single, monitor, continuous) - see below
  • Digital zoom (Smart, precision) - see below
  • Date/Time (Day & Time, date, Off) - 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
  • Expanded focus (on/off) - enlarges the image on the LCD in manual focus mode
  • Hot shoe (on/off)
  • Pop-up flash (Auto, manual)
  • Card format
  • Change/create rec folder - manage folders on the memory card
  • LCD brightness (Bright, normal, dark)
  • LCD backlight (Bright, normal)
  • EVF backlight (Bright, normal)
  • Beep (Shutter only, all on, off)
  • Language (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese)
  • File number (Series, reset)
  • USB connect (PictBridge, PTP, normal) - I guess now you know that the F828 is PictBridge-enabled!
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Clock set

The AF mode choices are new features on Sony's 2003 digital cameras. Single AF is just like you're used to: press the shutter release halfway and the camera locks focus. Monitor AF (called continuous on other cameras) lets the camera focus constantly, even without the shutter release pressed. This helps reduce the time required to take a picture. Continuous AF will focus before the shot and will continue to focus, even with the shutter release halfway pressed. Continuous AF is especially useful for action shots, where the subject is constantly moving.

In the old days, digital zoom on cameras just enlarged the center of the image, regardless of the resolution. Quality suffered as a result. Sony has changed things around with their Smart Zoom system. The amount of smart zoom that can be used depends on the resolution chosen: the lower the resolution, the more Smart Zoom can be applied (up to 5.1X). By following this rule, you'll actually get nice digitally-zoomed pictures. Note that you cannot use the Smart Zoom at the highest resolution. In this case, you can use the old Precision digital zoom system, which does digital zoom the old (and bad) way.

Well that was exhausting. Let's continue now with photo quality tests.

The DSC-F828 took a beautiful photo of our usual macro test subjects (my new studio lights didn't hurt either). Color, detail, and sharpness are all excellent. The F828 lets you get as close to your subject as 2 cm at wide-angle, and 60 cm at telephoto (from the end of the lens).

F2.8, 3 sec

The F828 produced a good, but not great photo of my standard night test shot. My standard test is to take the shot at the lowest fixed ISO, in shutter priority mode. The end result is a sharp, well-exposed image with low noise, and quite a bit of purple fringing. The way the lights on the buildings all "melt" together is a little strange, as well.

So how do you get rid of the purple? Let's try closing down the aperture:

F2.8 (same shot as above)
View Full Size Image

View Full Size Image

View Full Size Image

As you can see, even at F4.5, there's still quite a bit of purple to be found. I'd recommend using an even smaller aperture.

Using that night shot, here's a look at how changing the ISO sensitivity affects image noise:

ISO 64
View Full Size Image

ISO 100
View Full Size Image

ISO 200
View Full Size Image

ISO 400
View Full Size Image

ISO 800
View Full Size Image

Noise levels are quite low below ISO 100, but after that, it gets noisy fast.

There's a bit of redeye in my flash test shot, but not much. If there's one thing I've learned about redeye, it's that "your mileage may vary". If you do encounter it, use photo editing software or an external flash to reduce it.

At wide-angle, the F828's lens shows mild to moderate barrel distortion. While the corners look a bit fuzzy, I'm chalking it up to my decaying foam board, rather than any weakness in the lens.

There's been a lot of excitement surrounding the DSC-F828 -- would its 8MP sensor live up to the hype? The answer depends on what you're comparing the camera to. Can you throw away your digital SLR? No. Does the F828 keep up with the best fixed-lens cameras? For the most part, yes. The F828 produces sharp images, with accurate color and exposure.

Most of the discussion about the F828's photo quality is centered in two areas: noise and chromatic aberrations (purple fringing). While I think the 828's images are slightly noisy (even at ISO 64), they're really no worse than other pixel-packed CCDs on a fixed-lens camera. They are, however, noticeably noisier than images produced by even the cheapest D-SLR.

What bothered me more was the purple fringing: there's too much of it, even at midrange apertures. It reminds me of some of the older ultra zoom models, before the manufacturers started adding ED lenses to their cameras. The purple problems aren't major, but they're still worse than I'd expect from a camera of this caliber.

What's the solution? For noise, you can either turn down the in-camera sharpening, or post-process your images on your PC -- I've heard good things about Noise Ninja and NeatImage. Purple fringing is more difficult. You can close down the aperture (as I did in the night shots above), but that's not always an option, especially when you're hand-holding the camera. You can remove the purple yuck in software, though that can take some work.

The bottom line is that you'll need to use some elbow grease to get the most of out of your F828.

I've said it a thousand times, but please view the photo gallery and make your own decision about the F828's photo quality. You are encouraged to print the sample photos, as well.

Movie Mode

The F828 has one of the best movie modes of any camera. The MPEGMovie VX Fine mode takes VGA resolution video (that's 640 x 480) at 30 frames/sec, until the memory card is full. The bit rate of the video is a whopping 10.5 MBps so you need a Memory Stick Pro or Microdrive to use it -- the camera won't let you use it if you don't have the right card. At that rate (around 1.3 MB/sec), you'll fill up a 1GB Memory Stick Pro in about 13 minutes.

If you don't have the fast memory card, don't fret. You can still use the very nice MPEGMovie VX Standard mode, which is still VGA, just at 16 frames/second. A smaller, 160 x 112 mode is also available.

Since you control the lens, you can zoom in and out as much as you want during filming.

Movies are saved in MPEG format.

Here's a sample movie for you. I'd like to take a better one, but it's pouring rain at the moment. One thing's for sure: cameras have a long way to go before they compete with camcorders.

Click to play movie (8.9MB, MPEG format, 640 x 480)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The DSC-F828 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 zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom up to 5X into your photo, and then scroll around in it. Just press the little magnifying glass button to enlarge, use the selector dial to zoom in further, and then use the four-way controller to move around. When zoomed in, you can also use the trimming feature I'll describe in a second.

Some of the more advanced playback features include:

  • Resize - change an image's size. The original image is not deleted.
  • Rotate
  • 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).

The F828 gives you quite a bit of information about your photos, including a histogram.

You can delete one photo, a selected group of photos, or all photos. A delete button on the back of the camera makes it easy.

The F828 moves between images quickly. A low resolution image is shown instantly, with the high res version arriving a second later.

How Does it Compare

It can be very tempting to compare the $999 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 with digital SLRs like the Canon Digital Rebel ($899 w/o lens). They have many similarities, such as high resolution image sensors, manual controls, and great performance. But as much as I love the Digital Rebel, it's not really a fair comparison -- and not for the reason that you'd expect. The Sony's stellar F2-2.8, 7X zoom lens cannot be easily (or inexpensively) duplicated on the D-SLR side: you'll need two lenses to cover the same focal range, and that'll cost you at least as much as the camera body. Comparing the F828 and Rebel is only fair if you can afford the price jump from $999 to $1999. If you can, then the D-SLR easily wins in all categories (unless movie mode counts).

Quick update 12/31/03: I suppose $1999 is a little high for the Digital Rebel and extra lenses -- $1400 is probably closer. Even then, those lenses are substantially slower than the F828's lens. Then again, the Rebel can take low noise shots at high ISOs to make up for that. Food for thought.

I'd rather compare the F828 with other fixed-lens cameras, like the Canon PowerShot G5, Fuji FinePix S7000, Minolta DiMAGE A1, Nikon Coolpix 5700, Olympus C-5060WZ and C-750UZ, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10. When you do that comparison, the F828 comes out on top in almost all areas, including resolution (unless you count the S7000's 12MP mode), focusing, performance, gimmicks (Nightshot and movie mode), and build quality. The F828's lens is stunning, as well. The dual memory card slots support both standard CompactFlash, as well as Sony's pricey Memory Stick Pro cards. Battery life is excellent.

So what areas aren't so hot? While I think noise levels in images are comparable, the F828 does tend to have higher levels of purple fringing (or whatever you want to call it) than the competition. Although the F828 has its fair share of manual controls, cameras like the DiMAGE A1 blow it away (saturation bracketing, anyone?). Most of the cameras I listed have a RAW mode, but the Sony's is a little more annoying than the rest. First of all, you must use Sony's Image Converter to do anything with them -- and there's no Mac version at this time. Secondly, there's a 12-13 second delay per shot while the camera saves the RAW file to the memory card -- the DiMAGE A1 keeps shooting as if nothing happened.

If I'm sounding a little negative on the F828, I'm not trying to be -- there's a whole lot to like about it. It's just not the "hey, let's throw away the EOS-10D" that some were hoping for, especially in terms of image quality. It is, however, a very worthy successor to the DSC-F717 that competes with the best fixed-lens cameras out there.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, 8 Megapixel resolution(though note issues below)
  • Fast 7X optical zoom lens
  • Amazing low light focusing abilities
  • Full manual controls
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • LCD/EVF are useful in low lighting conditions
  • Backlit LCD info display
  • Built like a tank; easy to hold
  • Rotating body allows for creative shooting
  • Excellent battery life
  • Live histogram in record mode
  • Manual zoom and focus rings
  • CompactFlash Type II and Memory Stick Pro slots
  • Gimmicky Nightshot, useful NightFraming features
  • Excellent macro mode
  • JPEG saved with each RAW and TIFF image recorded
  • VGA, 30 frame/second movie mode

What I didn't care for:

  • Images slightly noisy (esp. at higher ISOs, or when compared to D-SLRs)
  • Too much purple fringing for such an expensive camera
  • Can't save favorite settings to mode dial like other cameras
  • Not as many manual controls as other cameras
  • RAW files slow to save to memory card, slow to convert in software; can only convert RAW files using Sony's software
  • Mac-unfriendly software: ImageMixer is not OS X native, Image Data Converter does not exist (yet)
  • No memory card included

Other cameras worth considering include the Canon Digital Rebel and PowerShot G5, Fuji FinePix S7000, HP Photosmart 945, Minolta DiMAGE A1, Nikon Coolpix 5400 and 5700, Olympus C-750UZ and C-5060WZ, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DSC-F828 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

How does the photo quality stack up? Check out the photo gallery and see for yourself!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Everyone got to have fun with the F828! So check out reviews at Steves Digicams, Imaging Resource, DP Review, Luminous Landscape, and LetsGoDigital.

Buy it now

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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