Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 ($330) is an updated version of the popular
DSC-P71 from last year (see
our review). You get a refined, smaller body, new MPEG Movie
VX mode, support for Memory Stick Pro cards and USB 2.0, sound
recording, and more.
other new models in the Cyber-shot P series include the DSC-P32
($230), a smaller, zoomless camera, the DSC-P52 ($280), a camera
with a 2X optical zoom, and the DSC-P92 ($500), which is the
same as the
except with a 5 Megapixel CCD.
Cyber-shot DSC-P8 ($400) and DSC-P10 ($600) are even smaller,
slightly more advanced cameras, with 3.2 and
respectively. These two models also use Sony's InfoLithium
battery, rather than AA batteries.
to learn more about the Cyber-shot DSC-P72? Keep on reading!
in the Box?
DSC-P72 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Cyber-shot DSC-P72 camera
AA NiMH rechargeable batteries
featuring Pixela ImageMixer software and USB drivers
page manual (printed)
has done a great thing with these lately P series cameras: they've
increased the battery life substantially. How did they do it?
By including 2100 mAh rechargeables in the box, of course!
just two of these batteries, you can get about 200 minutes of
battery life with 50% LCD usage -- pretty darn good. Of course,
to get that kind of life with replacement batteries, you'll need
to make sure that they're 2100 mAh as well -- and they're not
that easy to find. Being the kind folks that they are, Sony would
be happy to sell you some, of course (hope you caught the sarcasm
it's time to charge, just pop the batteries into the included
charger. This isn't one of those "plug right into the wall" chargers
-- you'll have to plug the AC cable into it. The charger included
with the 2003 models is substantially improved over last year's
model: it takes 6 hours to fully charge the batteries, instead
of 13. If six hours is still too slow, there are faster chargers
Memory Stick news is good and bad. The good news is that the
2003 models now support the Memory Stick Pro format, with capacities
as high as 1GB. The bad news is that the card included with the
DSC-P72 is only 16MB. I highly recommend buying a 64MB card at
the very minimum.
camera has a built-in lens cover, so no lens cap is needed.
are a surprising number of accessories available for the P72.
That includes wide-angle and telephoto conversion lenses, filters,
and even an external flash. This slave flash (HVL-FSL1A) attaches
to the tripod
mount -- I've never seen one myself, but it may be a good solution
for those who want more flash power. Other accessories include
boring stuff like camera cases and card readers.
included Pixela ImageMixer software is alright, but is no substitute
for Photoshop Elements. You can view and organize your photos
as you can see above.
can also do basic editing, like adjusting color, brightness and
contrast, and redeye. The Windows version of ImageMixer can also
be used to produce a Video CD (VCD).
software is not Mac OS X native -- you have to run it in classic
mode. Once there, you're kind of stuck in it until you quit,
because Pixela chose not to follow Apple's interface guidelines
(this seems fairly common with these kinds of products).
camera itself does work in OS X with iPhoto and Image
Capture. The camera and software work with modern versions of
Windows, of course.
manual included with the P72 is decent, but still has a lot of
that "VCR manual" feel.
DSC-P72 has a new, smaller body than its predecessor, especially
in the width dimension. It's still made of the same high grade
plastic, and is just as
to hold. The P72 isn't nearly as small as Canon's Digital ELPH
line, but it still fits in most pockets with ease.
P71 on top, P72 on bottom
dimensions of the P72 are 4.75 x 2.38 x 1.31 inches (W x H x
D), and it weighs just 259 grams with batteries and Memory Stick
For the sake of comparison, the P71's numbers were 5.0 x 2.38 x
1.75 and 284 grams, respectively.
DSC-P72 has an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens, with a focal range
6 - 18 mm. That's equivalent to 39 - 117 mm. The lens is not threaded.
to the left of the lens is the AF illuminator, which helps
to light up
the subject in low-light situations, to assist in focusing.
The light on this new model is orange, as opposed to a bluish-white
on the older models.
the AF illuminator is the microphone, a new addition on the P72.
the top left, you'll find the flash, which has a working range
of 0.5 - 3.8 m (wide-angle) and 0.5 - 2.5 m (telephoto). Those
numbers are identical to the P71.
already mentioned the optional external flash that you can
the back of the DSC-P72.
1.5" LCD is average-sized for a smaller camera. It's of
very good quality for a lower-cost camera, with good brightness
and resolution. One annoyance though is the fact that the image
on the LCD becomes choppy at lower light levels, at least when
you're at ISO 100.
of the optical viewfinder, it's right in the middle of the camera,
and is average-sized. The placement of the viewfinder helps
prevent nose smudges on the LCD display. There is no diopter
correction to help focus the image for those of
the lower-right of the viewfinder is the mode wheel, which has
the mode wheel are three buttons, plus the four-way switch. The
three buttons are for:
- turns LCD on/off
size / Delete photo
four-way switch is mainly used for menu navigation, and each
direction also adjusts one camera setting:
- Flash (Auto, forced flash, slow synchro, flash off)
Review - jumps to playback mode
the top right,
you can see the zoom controls. The zoom moves fairly smoothly,though
it's a bit noisy. It takes two seconds to go from wide-angle
the zoom controls, under a plastic cover, you'll find the camera's
I/O ports. Let's take a closer look:
I/O ports include DC-in (for optional AC adapter), USB, and A/V
out. The USB port supports the new USB 2.0 format, or the original
USB 1.1 standard that most folks have.
isn't too much to see on the top of the P72. The power button
shutter release can be found over to the right, and that's about
only thing to see over here is the Memory Stick slot, which has
a plastic cover. The P72, along with all the 2003 Sony models,
supports both the
Memory Stick as well as the new Memory Stick Pro. The latter
supports capacities as large as 1GB, though they are very expensive
at this point.
the other side, you'll find the battery compartment. As I mentioned,
the P72 uses two just AA-sized batteries.
tour ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. The only thing
to see down here is the metal tripod mount, which is neither
in the center of the camera, nor inline with the lens.
the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72
P72 starts up very quickly -- taking just over two seconds to
extend the lens and "warm up" before you can begin
lag times (how long it takes to lock focus when you half-press
the shutter release button) vary depending on the situation.
In good lighting, focusing is almost
hard to focus on, it can take a second or so. The shutter lag
(time between half and full press of shutter release button)
also varies depending on the shutter speed used. It's barely
there at faster speeds, and noticeable at slower speeds. Of course,
at this speeds, you should be using a tripod anyway.
speed is excellent -- just over a second elapses before you can
take another shot. If the Slow Shutter NR (noise reduction) is used,
it will be a little longer. By default, the P72 doesn't show
the photo you just took on the LCD. To see it, you must keep
holding down the shutter release button when you take the photo.
a look at the image size/quality choices on the P72. Sony no longer
lists the image size in terms of horizontal x vertical resolution
-- now it's just Megapixels. Have a look:
photos on included 16MB Memory Stick
(2048 x 1536)
(2048 x 1365?)
(1632 x 1224)
(1280 x 960)
(640 x 480)
are also some other resolutions that I'll cover when I get to
the menus in just a second.
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.
DSC-P72 uses the familiar Sony "overlay-style" menu,
but with a snazzy new font. The Sony menus are some of the easiest
to use of any consumer digicam out there. Many of these options
are locked unless you're in Program mode. I'll show the options
only available in Program mode in bold.
- Camera (Auto, program, twilight, twilight portrait, snow, beach)
- see below
Compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
- Focus (Multi AF, Center AF, 0.5m, 1.0m, 3.0m, 7.0m, infinity) - more
mode (Spot, multi)
Balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent)
- ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
Quality (Fine, Standard)
Mode (Voice, E-Mail, Burst 2, Normal) - more below
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Black & White, Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
camera menu is totally new. In Auto mode, the P72 is totally
point-and-shoot. If you want some more control over the settings,
use Program mode. It's not a real manual mode -- just an "advanced
point-and-shoot". The other choices are all scene modes, where
the camera chooses the best settings for each situation.
have always liked the fact that Sony gives you a kind of manual
focus on their cameras. You can choose a set distance, which
greatly reduces the time it takes to take a picture. The two
auto focus modes are Multi AF and Center AF. The former will
select the AF point from one of three areas in the frame. The
latter always focuses on whatever is in the center, as the name
Rec Mode menu has been expanded on the 2003 models, but it's
still missing the TIFF mode of old (I think most people don't
mind though). 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 chosen. Burst 2
mode will take two shots consecutively, with an interval between
shots of 0.5 seconds.
Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here
are the interesting ones:
Image (MPEG Movie, Clip Motion, Multi Burst) - explained later
(Day & Time, Date, Off) - whether date/time is printed on
numbering (series, reset)
Rec folder - for managing images on a Memory Stick
brightness (Bright, normal, dark)
backlight (Bright, normal, dark)
connect (PTP, normal) - you may need to change this depending
on the operating system on your computer
is kind of an awkward part of the review to discuss the P72's
Smart Zoom feature, but here goes. 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 digital
zoom that can be used depends on the chosen resolution.
||Max Digital Zoom
||Max Total Zoom
that you cannot use the Smart Zoom at the higher resolutions.
This system allows you to take pictures using digital zoom with
much better results than with the old system.
enough about all that. Let's
take a look at some photo samples now.
DSC-P72 did a pretty good job with our night test photo (look,
a new location!), though the's a bit of noise. The noise isn't
sky, but rather in the shadows on the bridge tower. The only
way to get the long exposure needed for this shot (2 sec) was
to use the night scene mode. If you want to see an "ideal" version
of this shot, click
here to see the photo I took with my Canon
D60 at the same time.
macro test results were also positive, though the red is, for
lack of a better word, too red. This seems to be fairly common
with Sony cameras I've used. The rest of the colors are spot
on, as is the image detail. The minimum focus distance in macro
mode is 10 cm at wide-angle, and 50 cm at telephoto.
camera's built-in redeye reduction didn't completely eliminate
this annoying phenomenon, but it's not terrible either. Redeye
can usually be removed by software on your PC. Note that this
crop was enlarged slightly so you can see the detail.
distortion/vignetting test shot is a new one here. It does a
good job of showing the amount of barrel distortion created by
the P72's lens. What it does not show is any vignetting (darkened
corners), which is a good thing.
really have no complaints about the P72's photo quality. Photos
were colorful, well-exposed, and noise free. The camera performed
very well in my purple fringing test (AKA the Stanford hallway
shot) as well. But why take my word for it? Have a look at the
photo gallery and decide for yourself.
2003 Sony cameras have the brand spankin' new MPEG Movie VX system,
which is one of the best movie modes anywhere.
can record at VGA resolution (that's 640 x 480), with sound,
until the Memory Stick fills up. Obviously it doesn't take a
long time to fill up the included 16MB card, but with a larger
card you can record for quite a while. Just to throw out some
numbers, the max recording time is 42 seconds with a 16MB card,
5 min 54 sec with a 128MB card, and a whopping 44 mins 23 seconds
with a 1GB Memory Stick Pro. Wow.
that resolution is too high for you, there's always 160 x 120.
this all sounds too good to be true, keep in mind that you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming.
a sample movie for you to look at, recorded at the VGA resolution.
Click to play movie (6.4MB, MPEG format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
are two other movie-like features on the P72. Multi Burst mode
takes 16 frames in a row, at the interval of your choosing (1/30,
1/15, 1/7.5 sec). The frames are compiled into one 1.2M image.
Clip Motion lets you take up to ten shots, and the camera combines
them into an animated GIF file. I guess it's for those people
interested in very short stop motion animation movies.
other Sony cameras, the
DSC-P72's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on
most point-and-shoot cameras. Those basic features include
DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom &
zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom up to 5X
into your photo, and then scroll around in it. It's not the fastest
implementation of this feature that I've seen, but it works well.
When zoomed in, you can also use the trim feature I'll describe
in a second.
of the more advanced playback features include:
- change an image's size. You can upsize an image, but the
quality will be degraded. The original image is not deleted.
- cut sections of movies
- when zoomed into an image, you can crop the image down to
selected area. You choose the resolution of the new image (the
old one is kept). Same rules that applied to resize function.
basic photo information shown on the LCD is very limited. However,
you can get more information about photos by zooming out twice.
get a scrollable list of information that you can see above.
nice improvement over previous models: a delete button on the
back of the camera. Before you had to do too much button pushing
-- now it's much easier.
P72 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
two seconds later.
Does it Compare
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71 was a camera I recommended last year,
and I like this year's DSC-P72 even more. It offers just about
everything you could want in a camera: great pictures, robust
performance, easy-to-use menus, a superb movie mode, and more.
It's not an "enthusiast" camera in any sense of the word -- it's
strictly point-and-shoot. I would've liked manual white balance
and shutter speed control, but you can't have everything.
If a point-and-shoot camera is what you're looking for, the P72
good photo quality
well-designed, easy to pocket camera
battery life, especially with bundled batteries
rate movie mode
for high capacity Memory Stick Pro cards
add-on lenses and flash
I didn't care for:
manual white balance or shutter speed controls
- 6 hour battery charger still a little slow
- Reds a little too saturated
other (lower cost) 3 Megapixel / 3X zoom cameras to consider
include the Canon
PowerShot S30, Fuji
FinePix A303, Kodak
DX4330, Nikon Coolpix 3100 and 3500,
and the Olympus D-550Z and Stylus
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the DSC-P72 and it's competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.