Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P50
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, July 5, 2001
Friday, October 26, 2001
has one of the broadest digital camera product lines out there.
There are cameras for people who want their images stored on floppy
or CD-ROM. There are cameras with lots of manual controls and high
resolution, and there are simple point-and-shoot cameras.
Cyber-shot DSC-P50 falls in the middle. While it doesn't have
manual controls, the P50 has some nice features that make it stand
out among other point-and-shoot cameras. Not bad, considering the
P50 costs under $400. Read on to find out more about the DSC-P50!
in the Box?
DSC-P50 has a decent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
2.1 Mpixel Cyber-shot DSC-P50 camera
AA alkaline batteries
cap w/ strap
featuring MGI PhotoSuite software and drivers
only real negative comments I have here is the skimpy 4MB Memory
Stick, and the included 2 AA non-rechargeable batteries.
you can see the optional NP-FS11 battery, included Memory Stick,
and the unique battery compartment.
does redeem themselves with the batteries, however, with a feature
that I believe is unique to their P-Series digital cameras. You
can use AA batteries OR Sony's InfoLITHIUM rechargeables! As you
can see in the shot above, the battery compartment looks like it
holds AA batteries just fine. But the InfoLithium is more of a rectangular
shape! No problem... when you insert the InfoLithium battery, those
round guides move out of the way. I wish all cameras with proprietary
batteries could pull this off!
the included alkaline batteries, you'll get 30-60 minutes of usage
before they end up in the trash. Sony's optional NP-FS11 battery
($60) is 1140 mAh, and will last for 90-120 minutes. One nice thing
about the InfoLithium batteries is that they tell you how many minutes
are left before the battery will die
option is to buy 1600 or 1700 mAh NiMH
rechargeables. Those will last even longer, and for a lot less
thoughtfully includes a lens cap and strap, which always gets points
a point-and-shoot camera, the P50 has an overwhelming amount of
optional accessories available. That includes telephoto and wide-angle
lenses (there's even a "high grade" version), polarizing
and neutral density filters, and several battery chargers.
P50 is compatible with both Mac and PC computers. For compatibility
with Mac OS X, you'll need to go into the Set Up menu and change
the USB Mode from "Normal" to "PTP".
manuals aren't great. They remind me of the one that comes with
the VCR that most people can't figure out how to program.
its more expensive sibling, the DSC-P1, the DSC-P50 is made entirely
of plastic (the P1 is metal). It does feel solid, however, and not
"cheap" like some other plastic cameras. The P50 is very
light and easy to hold with one hand (or two). It's barely pocket
sized, since it's pretty long.
dimensions of the DSC-P50 are 5 x 2.5 x 2.1 inches, and it weighs
260 g. The P1, by comparison, is a bit smaller and lighter.
the front of the P50. The F3.8 3X optical zoom lens has a focal
range of 6.4 - 19.2mm, which is equivalent to 41 - 123mm. The lens
is threaded for 37mm attachment, and a number of them are available,
as I mentioned earlier. One nice thing (in my opinion) about the
P50 is that the lens never comes out of the body -- it's self-contained.
flash on the P50 has a working range of 0.3 - 2.0 meters.
nice feature on the P50 is the AF illuminator, which uses a bright
light to assist with focusing in darkness.
moving onto the back of the camera. The 1.5" LCD is a bit smaller
than those found on most cameras, but it's still very bright and
fluid -- as is typical with Sony cameras. Nose smudges will be a
problem for those who use their left eye with the optical viewfinder.
of which, the optical viewfinder is quite small, and it lacks diopter
correction for those of us with glasses. Just to the right of the
viewfinder, there are three lights: self-timer/recording, focus
lock, and flash/battery charge.
right of those lights is a button for turning the LCD on and off.
Keeping the LCD off will greatly increase battery life, especially
on a camera that only uses two AA's. Just right of that is the well-placed
the left of the LCD, you'll find the four-way switch and menu button,
which are used for menus and basic camera functions as well. These
Review (shows the last shot taken)
onto to the top of the camera. From left to right, you can see the
speaker, power button, mode wheel, and shutter release button. It's
kind of strange that the camera has a speaker, considering the fact
that it has no microphone.
mode wheel has the following options:
cover these in more detail later in the review.
here's one side of the P50. Under the rubber cover, you'll find
the USB and Video Out ports. There is no serial support for this
or any Sony Cyber-shot cameras.
already saw the innovative battery compartment open, so here's a
shot of it closed. Just below that is the slot for the Memory Stick.
The slot is spring-loaded, which makes the card easy to remove.
the bottom of the P50. I had to punch a hole through the sticker
put on the camera (by Sony PR) to get to the tripod mount. Your
camera will not look like this. The tripod mount is made of metal.
the Sony DSC-P50
camera turns on and warms up in just 2 seconds - very quick. I'm
sure the fact that the lens doesn't have to extend has something
to do with that.
you depress the shutter release button halfway, it can take up to
a second to lock focus. When you press the button all the way down,
the photo is taken with no delay. Shot-to-shot speed is impressive
-- just 2-3 seconds before you can take another shot. Writing a
TIFF file takes considerably longer. Unfortunately, you can't even
fit a TIFF on the included 4MB Memory Stick, so I can't tell you
just how long it takes!
zoom control on the P50 was silent, and responsive.
DSC-P50 has quite a few choices for image size and quality. Check
out this table which describes them:
photos on 4MB Memory Stick
the record, you can get one TIFF file on an 8MB Memory Stick. It's
probably in your best interest to buy a much larger card than the
one included with the camera.
DSC-P50's menu system is pretty simple and easy to learn. Let's
take a look at the various menu items and what they do:
Compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
(Auto, 0.5m, 1.0m, 3.0m, 7.0m, infinity)
Balance (Hold, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
Size (1600 x 1200, 1600 (3:2), 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
Quality (Fine, Standard)
Mode (TIFF, Text, E-Mail, Normal) -- more on this below
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Black & White, Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
(-2 to +2)
is no manual white balance on the P50, unlike some of the more expensive
Cyber-shots. The "hold" white balance mode is for use
with single-colored subjects or backgrounds.
more details on those Rec Mode choices:
uncompressed large image - cannot fit on 4MB stick (need at least
records a GIF in black & white
Records a 320 x 240 image in addition to the recorded image
Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here
are the interesting ones:
Image (MPEG Movie, ClipMotion) - explained later
numbering (series, reset)
connect (normal, PTP) - put it in PTP mode for Mac OS X only.
enough about all that boring stuff, let's take a look at our photo
P50 did a great job with the usual macro subject (I should be getting
royalties from Disney for this, sheesh). No white balance problems
at all -- Auto mode worked just fine for a change. You can get as
close as 3 cm at full wide-angle, and 80 cm at full telephoto.
camera did pretty well in our not-so-usual night shot test as well.
The noise level is acceptable (to me) and there aren't any hot pixels,
as you can see. This was shot in "Night Scene" mode.
photo quality was impressive overall. In some shots taken on cloudy
days, the images were on the underexposed side. But otherwise, color
and sharpness looked good. Check out the photo
gallery to judge for yourself.
movie mode isn't nearly as nice as that found on higher-end Sony
cameras. There's no HQ mode, and even worse, no sound. Still, if
you don't mind silent movies, the quality is decent, and you can
fill up the Memory Card -- there are no limits on the length of
your movie clips. Sony's marketing term for this feature is MPEGMovieEX.
you can use the optical zoom during filming.
are two sizes available in movie mode.
# of seconds on 4MB Memory Stick (approx.)
is also a feature called ClipMotion which will take 10 images and
put them into an animated GIF for you.
is an unexciting sample movie for you:
to play movie (448k, 5 sec, MPEG format)
DSC-P50's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on
most point-and-shoot cameras. The basic features include slideshows,
DPOF print marking, protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom &
less common, "advanced" features include:
- change an image's size
- splits movies in half
- 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 only thing to remember here is that if you
take a small area of an image and then blow it up, you'll lose
can get more information about photos by zooming out twice. You'll
get a scrollable list of information that you can see above.
would have liked a delete button on the camera itself, rather than
having to invoke the menu every time I want to remove a photo, but
that's a minor gripe.
P50 moves between images quickly in playback mode, and it shows
a low res version before a high res one replaces it. The low-res
image shows up almost instantly, with the high res arriving about
three seconds later.
Does it Compare?
you pardon the bad cliché, the Sony DSC-P50 is an oasis in
a desert of point-and-shoot cameras. It has great pictures, fast
processing speeds, excellent usability, and lots of extra features
that most other cameras in its class skip over. The only things
not to like are the lack of sound recording in movie mode, and its
proprietary (and too small) Memory Stick format. If you're looking
for a point-and-shoot digicam, take a close look at the P50!
good photo quality
use proprietary battery or AA's
use zoom in movie mode
of accessories available
I didn't care for:
sound in movie mode
Memory Stick - 4MB way too small
continuous shooting mode
other low cost, 2 Megapixel zoom cameras you'll want to consider
include the Canon PowerShot
FinePix 2400 Zoom, Nikon
Coolpix 775, Olympus C-2040Z
and the Toshiba
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the DSC-P50 and its competitors (if there are any when you're there)
before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
Digicams review of the DSC-P50. If that's still not enough,
Resource has one too.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not ask for personal camera