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Front

The front of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is designed with simplicity in mind. The brushed aluminum surface covers the classic Cyber-shot frame, which looks like a rectangle with a rounded right side (when viewed from strait-on). The round side accentuates the 3x optical zoom lens, which rests in the center of the curved right side. Around the rim of the lens are the words, "Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 2.8-5.2/ 7.9-23.7," in small black lettering. In the top left corner of the front is the brand name, "Sony," highlighted in polished aluminum letters. To the right of the brand name is a skinny ovular flash, followed by an optical viewfinder and an AF assist illuminator. In the bottom left corner of the P200 is the series name, "Cyber-shot," also in polished letters. To its right is the phrase, "7.2 Megapixels," in black lettering.

Back

The design on the back of the P200 is similar to the front: simple. The buttons are neatly laid out and thoughtfully placed. On the left side is the 2-inch LCD screen, with the brand name "Sony" in white lettering at the bottom. Centered above the LCD monitor is the real image optical viewfinder, with two LED lights to its right. To the right of the viewfinder and LCD are all of the camera’s function buttons. In the top right corner is the zoom lever, represented by a "W" and a "T" on a polished metal surface. To the left of the lever is the Mode Dial. The following options are available on the dial: Playback, Auto, Program Auto, Manual, Scene, and Movie.

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Below the dial and directly to the right of the LCD screen is the four-way navigational dial, along with three buttons. The dial looks circular, but is made up of five separate buttons: four in each direction and one in the middle. Each of these buttons performs a secondary function in addition to its navigational and selection purposes. The top button selects flash modes; the bottom button selects the self-timer mode. The left button acts as an escape button; the right doubles as a focus mode selector. The middle button is used to make selections. There are three buttons surrounding this dial. If the dial was a compass, the buttons would be on the northwest, southwest, and southeast corners. The button on the northwest corner is an LCD view button. When this button is pushed, the LCD will darken to offset bright lighting. When the button is pushed again, histograms and image information will appear on the screen. The button in the southwest corner is the self-labeled "Menu" button - Self-explanatory. The button in the southeast corner is the Delete button.

On the very right side of the back is a series of nine dots meant to act as a thumb grip for the camera. There is also a slight lip to its right to prevent the thumb from slipping during shooting. Overall, the back of the Sony P200 is attractive and organized looking. There is not an overwhelming amount of buttons or controls, but enough to know that you do have control.

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Left Side

The left side is the rounded side of the rectangle. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has a wide groove embedded into the top of the camera. As the curve extends downward, so does the groove. It extends all the way to the bottom, allowing the user’s fingers to grip the entire length of the camera. The grooved panel is made out of a textured aluminum and appears brighter than the rest of the camera body.

Right Side

The top of the right side has a tiny recessed loop to thread the wrist strap into. However, the loop is so deeply recessed that the initial attachment of the strap could cause high blood pressure. A needle or something long and skinny will be required to get the silky rope through the polished metal loop. Below the loop are two rubber doors to various jacks. The top door goes to the USB and AV out jacks, while the bottom door houses the DC in cable jack.

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Top

The top is fairly banal. There is a polished, but still textured, brighter silver-colored panel that runs across the top of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200. There is a wide groove in the panel that not only adds an element of interest to the sleek design, but acts as a grip for the left fingers. There are two buttons on the top: the power button on the left and the shutter release button on the right. There is also a microphone on the left of the power button.

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Viewfinder

The P200 does have a real image optical viewfinder, but it is quite small. The field coverage is unknown, but it cannot be 100 percent because it is above and to the left of the lens, giving it a slightly altered perspective. It’s safer to use the LCD screen unless low on battery power, when it is nice to have the viewfinder as an option.

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LCD Screen

The 2-inch TFT color LCD screen does have a 100 percent field of view, making it more reliable than the viewfinder. The 2-inch screen takes up the entire left side of the camera’s back; a nice feature for failing eyes. The resolution is decent at 130,000 pixels, but not amazing. The screen projects views, menus, information, and histogram displays. It is easy to see all of this because of the P200’s Auto Bright Monitoring that adjusts the brightness of the screen according to the current lighting situation.

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Flash

A built-in ovular flash provides the P200 with enough light to take decent shots in less than perfect lighting. The flash covers an area in front of the camera from 20 cm to 3.5 meters, which is an average distance for a compact camera’s flash. The following options are available by pushing the top of the four-way dial: Auto, On, Off, Slow Synchro, and Red-Eye Reduction.

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Zoom Lens

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x optical zoom lens attached to its front. The lens extends out from the camera in two segments to reach from 7.9-23.7 mm. In 35 mm format, this is equivalent to a 38-114 mm lens. There is an additional 6x digital zoom to supplement the optical zoom. The lens has an aperture range from f/2.8-f/10 from its widest to most telephoto setting. Carl Zeiss lenses have maintained a good name and strong reputation in the imaging world and continue to be utilized by the Sony Cyber='-shot' line for both image quality and marketing benefits.

Model Design / Appearance

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is fairly attractive, although there are no incredibly distinguishing features to separate it from the sea of brushed aluminum digital cameras other then the curved left side. The camera body shape is typical of the Cyber-shot P-series. It is a compact rectangle with one rounded side around the lens. The rounded corner does add some visual interest. The wide groove running along the top of the camera also adds an aesthetically pleasing element, but also functions as a left finger grip. Overall, the camera has an attractive — but not sexy — design and an even more attractive functionality.

Size / Portability

The P200 remains quite light because of its brushed aluminum alloy body. The shell weighs 5 ounces; with the battery and memory card, the camera weighs 6.3 ounces. The point-and-shoot camera remains rather compact at 4.2 x 2 x 1.1 inches (9.24-inch3). At this size, the Cyber-shot can easily fit into a pocket. It is about the size of the palm of a man’s hand, so toting it around shouldn’t be a problem. There is also a wrist strap that connects to the right side of the camera for added portability ease

Handling Ability

The mantra of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is functionality and style. The attractive design makes the user want to handle the camera; the functionality makes handling the camera enjoyable. The P200 is designed to be ergonomically pleasant with grips and grooves throughout the camera body. A wide groove awaits the left finger tips. A series of gripping dots and a lip keeps the right thumb from slipping while shooting. These functional aspects do not compromise the looks either; this Sony Cyber-shot remains sleek in design.

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Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

Consumers familiar with Sony camera controls will not see any surprises on this model. The Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has relatively small buttons, but they are all clearly labeled and protrude enough to locate easily. All of the camera’s controls are located on the back of the camera next to the LCD screen. The controls are laid out neatly and look organized. This is another good example of Sony’s attractive, functional design; the layout looks great while allowing perfect placement for quick shooting changes.

Ease of Use

The Cyber-shot DSC-P200 was specifically built for beginning users who want to dress-to-impress while learning the craft. The mode dial is easy to switch and easy to understand; i.e. the green camera icon is the automatic shooting mode. The buttons are laid out neatly and within thumb’s reach, making shooting comfortable. The palm-sized P200 is functional and easy to use without sacrificing its ever-important stylistic quality.

Movie Mode

As with most of the models in the Cyber-shot series, the P200 has an above average movie mode for a compact camera. The Movie mode captures clips in 640 x 480 resolution at a rate of 30 frames per second in MPEG file format. The movie clips are recorded and played back with audio. There are three settings within the Movie mode: Fine, Standard, and Economy. The Fine setting is the aforementioned 640 x 480 at 30 fps; the Standard setting has the same VGA 640 x 480, but at 16 fps; the Economy mode operates at 320 x 116 and 8 fps. This Movie mode lets the user records clips high-quality enough for television and low-quality enough for easy e-mailing.

Drive / Burst Mode

The press release materials from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 claim that the Sony Real Imaging Processor enables fast start-up and burst shooting. Sony advertises the P200 will take 1.3 seconds to power up and take its first shot. The menu on the camera reveals three shooting speed modes: Multi-Burst, Burst, and Normal. The Multi-Burst mode takes 16 consecutive shots at 320 x 240 resolution and stitches them together to

form a single 1280 x 960 picture. The Burst mode can take five pictures consecutively at a rate of 1.1 frames per second when at full resolution. This model’s burst mode isn’t very impressive when other manufacturers are introducing reasonably priced cameras that can shoot 2 or 3 frames per second at full resolution.

Playback Mode

This Sony doesn’t have any incredible features on its Playback mode, but certainly enough to function comfortably. The 2-inch LCD is large enough to see pictures clearly, but the 5x playback zoom certainly helps. Pictures can be resized and printed. Movies can be shown with audio and slideshows can be played.

Custom Image Presets

For users that need special settings in a short amount of time, there are nine preset scene modes: Twilight, Landscape, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Candle, High Speed Shutter, Twilight Portrait, and Soft Snap. These settings cover almost all of the basics, although a setting optimized for portraits in daylight would be nice.

Focus

Auto

The auto focus on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has several modes: five-area multi-point auto focus, center auto focus, and a 5-step manual focus. There is an assist lamp in the front of the camera to aid the auto focus in tough lighting. The P200 can focus as close as 50 cm in Normal mode and 6 cm in Macro mode. That is a great range for a compact digital camera. The only complaint I have is that this model does not have a continuous auto focus function, so it takes a moment or two to focus before a shot can be taken.

Exposure

These exposure modes are available on the Mode Dial: Manual, Auto, Programmed Auto, and Scene. If lighting settings still don’t make the cut, there is an exposure compensation mode that lets the user choose from -2 to +2 in 1/3 increments. This is a standard range for a compact camera.

White Balance

White balance options are just as abbreviated as the ISO range on this model. The Cyber-shot P200 has the following options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash. Unfortunately, there isn’t a manual setting. But it does at least cover basic indoor and outdoor lighting setups.


ISO

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has a limited range of ISO options: 100, 200, and 400. This range is standard for a compact point-and-shoot at this price, but occasionally a camera will go above and beyond and add a 50 and an 800. Not this one.


Shutter Speed

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 also has a fairly standard shutter speed range that is sufficient for point-and-shoot users. In the Auto mode, shutter speeds range from 1/8th-1/2000th of a second. The range widens in the Program Auto mode, where it reaches 1-1/2000th of a second. Manual mode moves to the slower end of the scale, but is still sufficient to capture both low light and fast action shots at 30-1/1000th of a second.

The P200 has a hand shake alert that appears on the LCD screen if a shutter speed is too slow. This is a nice option for beginners who don’t want to see their learning curve in their pictures.

Aperture

The Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x optical zoom lens has a decent aperture range. In its widest setting, it boasts apertures from f/2.8-f/5.6. In the telephoto setting, the lens has apertures of f/5.4-f/10.

Resolution

The P200 has 7.2 megapixels on a 1/1.8-inch Super HAD CCD with a Sony Real Imaging Processor. The amount of megapixels is well beyond sufficient for any point-and-shooter using this digital camera. 7.2 megapixels can produce prints larger than 20 x 30 inches without looking pixilated. The camera has other resolution settings, so as long as it’s kept at a decent or full resolution, images should never look pixilated or distorted — unless the user is trying to produce a billboard.

Picture Quality / Size Options

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has a nice wide range of image quality settings. With 7.2 megapixels, this model has plenty of room for its options: 3072 x 2304, 3072 x 2048, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, and 640 x 480.

Picture Effects Mode

There are two color modes on the P200: Black & White and Sepia. There are also three effects that can be found on the main menu: Sharpness, Saturation, and Contrast. These settings can be controlled with a sliding bar and the four-way dial and offer the user a bit more control then most equitable cameras.

Connectivity

Software

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 comes with the following software on its CD-ROM: Picture Package for Sony v1.6 for Windows, Pixela, ImageMixer VCD2 for Macintosh, SPVD-012.1 USB Driver, and the Cyber-shot Life tutorial for Windows.

Jacks, Ports, Plugs

The P200 can plug into an optional Cyber-shot Station USB cradle and charge the batteries while transferring pictures, printing, or playing slideshows on the television. Since the accessory is optional, Sony made it possible for all of these functions to be done without the cradle. The USB can connect directly to the camera. There is also an AV out jack that is compatible with the American (NTSC) or European (PAL) formats. A DC in cable completes the selection of jacks and ports.

Direct Print Options

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is PictBridge compatible. Photos can be transferred with the USB cable directly to the printer from the camera or optional USB cradle.

Memory

The Sony P200 comes with a 32 MB Memory Stick, but can also accept Memory Stick Pro cards up to 1 GB. The camera saves images and movie clips as JPEG and MPEG-1 files to the memory.

Other Features

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 does have a self-timer that waits for 10 seconds before snapping a picture.

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Value

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150 was released in August 2004 for $499. The new P200 will be released in February 2005 and has similar features — including the 7.2 megapixels — but it will go for a hundred bucks less. For the cheaper price, you also get a larger LCD screen and a grip for the left fingers. This is one example of where it paid to wait out the price war. It appears the price per megapixel is dropping in general; $399 is a great price for 7.2 megapixels, but other manufacturers are following suit. The P200 is easy to use, comfortable to handle, and compact — everything a novice could ask for.

Conclusion

The ease of use and comfortable handling make this Cyber-shot model an attractive digital camera for the right type of user. The high megapixel count and larger 2-inch LCD make this camera an even better bargain at $399. The 7.2-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and will be released to the consumer market in February 2005. The compact point-and-shoot has a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x optical zoom lens that extends from the camera body when powered up. The P200 is easy to use for the style-driven beginner and only gets better with increased photographic knowledge and utilization of manual functions.

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Meet the tester

Emily Raymond

Emily Raymond

Editor

Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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