Cyber-shot DSC-P150 ($499) is an ultra-compact,
ultra-responsive digital camera with a whopping 7.2
Megapixel CCD. Other features include a 3X zoom lens,
limited manual controls, VGA movie mode, and an AF-assist
lamp. The P150 is available in silver, blue, or black
In the last six months the 7 Megapixel
field has grown tremendously, with new competition
from the likes of Canon, Olympus, and Pentax. How does
the P150 perform? Find out in our review!
What's in the Box?
The DSC-P150 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
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Sony Picture Package
software, ImageMixer VCD2, USB drivers, and Cyber-shot
- 125 page camera manual (printed)
Sony includes a 32MB Memory Stick
card with the P150, which holds a grand total of 9
photos at the highest quality setting. That means that
you should factor the cost of a larger card into the
purchase price of the camera. I'd recommend a 256MB
or 512MB Memory Stick pro card as a good starter size.
Do remember that Memory Stick cards tend to cost quite
a bit more than the CompactFlash or Secure Digital
cards used by some other cameras. Also note that a
Memory Stick Pro card is required to use the MPEGMovie
VX Fine movie recording mode.
The P150 uses the same NP-FR1 InfoLithium
battery as the more expensive DSC-V3. This compact
battery packs a modest 4.4 Wh of energy, but Sony's
done some things to make the most of it. You can take
a whopping 320 photos with the LCD, using the CIPA
battery life measurement. The P150 easily destroys
the competition in this area. The Canon PowerShot S70
takes 140 shots, the Olympus C-7000Z gets about 175
(not measured with CIPA standard), while the Pentax
Optio 750Z takes 245.
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 P150
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 over
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 P150 includes a
built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap to worry
about. As you can see, this is one small camera!
Despite looks like just another ultra-compact
camera, the P150 has quite a few "big camera" accessories
available. Have a look at this chart for the details:
||Why you want it
||Brings the wide end of the lens down by
0.7X to 26.6 mm; conversion lens adapter
required (see below)
|Super telephoto lens
||Boosts focal distance by 2.6X, up to a
whopping 296.4 mm. Requires conversion lens
||Boosts focal distance by 1.7X, up to 193.8
mm; requires conversion lens adapter
|Conversion lens adapter
||Lets you use 30 mm 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
||This is a slave flash (no physical connection
with the camera); get better flash shots
with less redeye
||Take your P150 up to 40 meters underwater!
|Portable battery charger
||External battery charger
||Charge the battery, connect to your TV
(remote control included), or transfer photos
to your computer with this
|| Cases to protect your camera
Just so everyone saw it, the P150
supports add-on lenses, an external flash (of sorts),
and an underwater case. There's also a camera dock
which isn't a necessary purchase for full enjoyment
of the camera. If you like playing back photos from
the couch, it might be a worthy investment, though.
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 your
images, but that's it. The software can also create
slideshows with music or burn your photos to a CD-R
Mac users don't get to use PicturePackage
(you can use the camera with iPhoto just fine). Instead,
they get ImageMixer VCD2 and the Image Data Converter.
ImageMixer is used to create a Video CD from your images.
VideoCDs are kind of like a poor man's DVD -- not as
good, but usable.
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,
but that shouldn't matter since Sony's cameras have
a lot in common with each other.
I don't think I've ever read a Sony
manual that I thought was good, whether on a $300 camera
or $3000 television. The one included with the P150
is complete, but cluttered, complex, and poorly-organized.
Look and Feel
The DSC-P150 looks exactly like its
lower resolution sibling, the DSC-P100. It's an ultra-compact
(though it's kind of wide) camera made almost entirely
of metal. It fits into any size pocket with ease. With
the exception of the plastic door covering the battery/memory
card compartment, the P150 feels very solid. It's easily
to hold with just one hand, with the important controls
in close reach of your fingers.
Here's a look at how the 7 Megapixel
cameras compare in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon PowerShot G6
x 2.9 x 2.9 in.
|Canon PowerShot S70
x 2.2 x 1.5 in.
|Casio Exilim EX-P700
x 2.7 x 1.8 in.
x 2.3 x 1.7 in.
|Pentax Optio 750Z
x 2.4 x 1.7 in.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150
x 2.1 x 1.0 in.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3
x 2.9 x 2.1 in.
As you can see, the P150 is quite
a bit smaller and lighter than the competition. The
P150 is the only one of the ultra-compact cameras to
support conversion lenses like the "big boys".
With that out of the way, let's begin
our tour of the camera now, beginning as always with
The DSC-P150 has a compact F2.8-5.2,
3X optical zoom Carl Zeiss lens. The focal range of
the lens is 7.9 - 23.7 mm, which is equivalent to 38
- 114 mm. With a starting point of 38 mm, this isn't
a camera for wide-angle lovers. As I mentioned in the
previous section, the P150 supports conversion lenses
and filters, which is quite a feat for such a small
To the upper left of the lens (right
next to the Sony logo) is the P150's built-in flash.
The flash has a working range of 0.2 - 3.5 m at wide-angle
and 0.3 - 2.5 m at telephoto, which isn't too bad for
a camera this small. The flash range is about equal
to the Canon and Olympus cameras, and inferior to the
Pentax 750Z. But don't fret; if you want more flash
power, consider the slave flash I mentioned earlier,
which effectively doubles the flash range.
Other items on the front of the P150
include the microphone and AF-assist lamp. The latter
is used by the camera to focus in low light situations.
On the back of the camera you'll find
a fairly standard issue 1.8" LCD display. It packs
a healthy 134,000 pixels, so everything is nice and
sharp. Outdoor visibility is just so-so; Sony's "hybrid" LCDs
do a lot better in those situations. In low light,
the LCD doesn't "gain up", which makes it
pretty hard to see your subject. Thankfully you've
got the optical viewfinder to back you up.
And speaking of which, just above
the screen is the optical viewfinder, which is on the
small side. As you can see, it lacks a diopter correction
feature, which focuses what you're looking at.
To the right of the viewfinder is
the mode dial, which has the following options:
|Auto recording mode
||Point-and-shoot, most menu items locked
||Still automatic, but with full menu access
|Full Manual (M) mode
||You pick the aperture and shutter speed.
Shutter speed range is 30 - 1/1000 sec; you
can choose between two apertures, which vary
depending on the focal length; at wide-angle
it's F2.8/F5.6, while at telephoto it's F5.2/F10
|| 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, high-speed shutter (action),
fireworks, and candle
||I'll list all these options
||More on this later
||More on this later
Back in my introductory paragraph
I said that the P150 had limited manual controls. One
example of this is the aperture options while shooting
in manual mode. You only have two choices at all times,
rather than the whole range on a camera with full manual
controls. You'll see this again later when I discuss
To the right of the mode dial is the
zoom controller. I do wish it had a bit more "play",
as it just doesn't feel right when you press the buttons.
It takes about two seconds to move the lens from wide-angle
to telephoto. I counted nine stops throughout the zoom
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 and selecting
manual settings. The other functions for the four-way
- 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,
which are self-explanatory.
The only things to see on the top
of the camera are the power and shutter release buttons.
Nothing to see here...
On the other side of the camera you'll
find the battery compartment, memory card slot, and
DC-in port. The P150 uses Memory Stick and Memory Stick
Pro cards. While you could use the Duo cards with the
appropriate adapter, there's no reason to do so. The
door covering all this is on the flimsy side, which
is disappointing considering the otherwise excellent
build quality of the camera. There's a smaller door
within the big door for the DC-in cable to pass through.
The included NP-FR1 battery is shown
On the bottom of the camera you'll
find the dock connector (for the optional Cyber-shot
Station), which is also used for USB 2.0 (high speed)
and video output -- plus there's also a metal tripod
mount and a speaker.
Using the Sony Cyber-shot
The P150 starts up very quickly, taking
just 1.4 seconds to extend its lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures.
A histogram is
shown on the LCD in record mode
Focusing speeds were quite good, with
typical focus times of 0.3 - 0.5 seconds. Low light
focusing was excellent thanks to the P150's AF-assist
Shutter lag was very low, even at
slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Sony has done a good job of getting rid of this annoyance
on all of their recent cameras.
Shot-to-shot speed was excellent,
with a delay of about 1.5 seconds before you can take
another shot (assuming the post-shot review feature
is turned off).
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 P150:
||# images on 32MB card
3072 x 2304
3072 x 2048
2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
1280 x 960
640 x 480
See why I recommended buying a larger
memory card back in the first section? The P150 doesn't
support the RAW or TIFF image formats -- you'll need
to pony up the bucks for the DSC-V3 for that.
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 P150 uses the 2004 Sony menu system,
which is very easy to use. 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:
- Scene (Twilight, twilight portrait,
landscape, soft snap, snow, beach, high-speed shutter,
fireworks, candle) - only shown in scene mode
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to
+2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Focus (Multi AF, center AF, 0.5
m, 1.0 m, 3.0 m, 7.0 m, infinity) - see below
- Metering mode (Multi, spot)
- White balance (Auto, sunlight,
cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten, flash) - no custom
option to be found
- ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
- Photo Quality (Fine, standard)
- Rec Mode
- Normal - regular shooting
- Burst - took 5 shots in
a row at about 1 frame/second at the highest
JPEG quality (based on my tests using a MS
- Multi burst - takes 16 shots
in a row (at interval selected in menu) and
compiles them into one 1 Megapixel image (like
- 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
challenging. Also, you can take more shots in a row
at the lower image quality settings, but the frame
rate remains the same.
Also, the manual focus option isn't
really manual, and there's no custom white balance
either, hence my "limited manual controls" comment
There's also a setup menu (accessed
via the mode dial), which has the following options:
- Camera 1
- AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
- Digital zoom (Off, smart, precision) - see
- Date/Time (Off, date, day & time) - whether
date/time is printed on your photos
- Redeye reduction (on/off)
- AF illuminator (on/off) - turns the AF-assist
lamp on and 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
- Memory Stick Tool
- Card format
- Change/create rec folder - manage folders
on the memory card
- Setup 1
- LCD backlight (Bright, normal, dark)
- Beep (Shutter only, on, off)
- Language (English, Japanese, Spanish, French,
- 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.
The camera 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,
The P150 did a very nice job with
our usual macro test shot. Colors are very saturated,
though the red is a little too orange for my taste.
The subject has a very "smooth" look to it,
without any noticeable grain. The tungsten white balance
setting handled my 600W quartz lamps with ease, so
a custom white balance option wasn't needed here (though
I still would've liked it).
You can get as close to your subject
as 6 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto, which
is about average.
The P150 did a decent job with the
night test shot. There's a little more noise than I
was expecting, and some detail has been lost. In addition,
there is a bit of purple fringing to be seen here (a
bit surprising at F5.2), and you can try using a smaller
aperture to reduce this. With shutter speeds as long
as 30 seconds, you can easily bring in enough light
for night shots like this.
Using that same scene, let's take
a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity affects
the noise levels in images:
ISO 100 and 200 aren't terribly different,
though the noise gets a lot worse at ISO 400. Even
so, you could probably get a high quality 5 x 7 inch
print out of that picture.
There's just mild barrel distortion
at the wide end of the lens. While there's some vignetting
(dark corners) on the test chart, I didn't see any
in my real world photos.
Ready for a big surprise? There was
absolutely no redeye in our flash picture test! I was
shocked... so shocked that I repeated the test several
times, but the result was always the same. Well done,
Overall the image quality on the DSC-P150
was excellent -- it competes well with the best cameras
in the 7MP class. Exposure and color were both very
good, and images were plenty sharp. If you're coming
from lower Megapixel cameras, you'll find noise levels
to be higher than what you're used it, but this is
normal for cameras with tiny sensors and lots of pixels.
Purple fringing showed up a few times, but it was not
a major problem.
Don't just take my word for all this,
though. Have a look at our photo
gallery and decide if the photo quality meets your
expectations. I also encourage you to print the photos,
just like you would if they were your own.
The DSC-150 has the same, top-notch
movie mode as Sony's other higher-end cameras. 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, with sound. All the other compact 7MP
cameras can do this as well, though only the P150 and
the Pentax 750Z offer unlimited recording.
The VX Fine mode requires a Memory
Stick Pro card, so you can't use the included 32MB
card for the fancy video mode. A 1GB Pro card can hold
about 12 minutes of video at the highest quality setting.
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 (14.5 MB, 640 x 480, VX Fine mode, MPEG
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Cyber-shot DSC-P150 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 camera is PictBridge-enabled, allowing for direct
printing to compatible photo printers.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom up to 5X into your photo, and then
scroll around in it. This is useful for checking the
focus in a photograph. Sony's done a good job at making
this feature nice and snappy.
Some of the more advanced playback
- Resize - change an image's size.
The original image is not deleted.
- Divide - cut sections of movies
Strangely enough, the P150 lacks the
image cropping tool that the less expensive P100 offers.
The camera gives you quite a bit of
information about your photos, including a histogram.
The V3 moves between images very quickly
in playback mode. If you go one image at a time, the
next one appears instantly, without any low resolution
placeholder. If you really start flipping through them,
you'll see a low res placeholder followed by the high
res image a half second later.
How Does it Compare
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150 is a
very good little camera for those who want ultra-high
resolution photos, but don't mind giving up some manual
controls. The P150 is a very small camera made almost
entirely of metal. The only disappointing things in
terms of build quality are the flimsy battery/memory
card compartment door and the zoom controller, which
just doesn't feel right to me. Camera performance is
superb in all areas, from startup to shutter lag to
shot-to-shot speed. Low light focusing is great as
well, thanks to the P150's AF-assist lamp. On the whole,
photo quality is very good, with nice color, exposure,
and fairly low purple fringing levels. There's a bit
of noise, but that's typical for ultra-high resolution
cameras like this. Did I mention that there's no redeye?
Other nice things about the P150 include above average
battery life, support for USB 2.0 High Speed, and a
first-rate VGA movie mode (assuming you have the Memory
Stick Pro card for it). And finally, I think it's pretty
cool that a tiny camera like this supports conversion
lenses, filters, an external slave flash (that attaches
to the side of the camera), and an underwater case.
So what's not to like? While the P150
has some manual controls, they're still fairly limited.
You can only choose between two apertures at any time,
there's no real manual focus, nor is there a custom
white balance feature. Using the LCD in low light was
difficult, since it doesn't really gain up much. The
continuous shooting mode wasn't terribly exciting,
with a slow frame rate and LCD "blackouts" between
shots. Last, but not least, the software bundle isn't
In case you didn't notice, I like
the P150 -- quite a lot. It's a great camera for those
who want a small camera that can make big prints.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality
- Ultra-compact, stylish metal body;
comes in three colors
- Robust performance
- Limited manual controls
- AF-assist lamp; good low light
- No redeye, amazingly enough
- Supports conversion lenses, external
flash, underwater case
- First-rate movie mode
- Live histogram in record mode
- USB 2.0 High Speed supported
- Impressive battery life
What I didn't care for:
- Image noise slightly higher than
I'd like to see
- Limited manual controls (see, it's
both a good and bad thing!)
- Unimpressive continuous shooting
- LCD hard to see in low light
- Software bundle isn't great, though
the tutorial is helpful
- Flimsy plastic door over MS/battery
compartment; I didn't care for the zoom controller
Some other cameras worth looking at
include the Canon
PowerShot S70, Olympus
C-7000Z, and the Pentax Optio 750Z. For an even
more expandable (and thus larger) camera, the Canon
PowerShot G6, Casio
Exilim EX-P700, and Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-V3 are worth a look.
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the DSC-P150 and
its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our photo
Want another opinion?
Read other reviews at Digital
Photography Review and Steve's
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.
To discuss this review with other
DCRP readers, please visit our forums.