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Sony DSC-P5 Digital Camera Review

Sony DSC-P5 Digital Camera Review - Sony DSC-P5 test

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Sony DSC-P5 in Compact Cameras

Sony DSC-P5 Digital CameraReplacing the Sony DSC-P1, the DSC-P5 is aimed at the 'ultra-compact point and shoot' market and is likely to be just as popular as its predecessor. It is one of the smallest and stylish 3 megapixel digital cameras available. Camerascan't get be judged purely on looks of course, so lets lookin more detail at what the P5 offers.


Main features

  • Small 105x36x56mm body
  • 3x Zoom lens f2.8-5.6
  • 1.5' TFT screen
  • 3.2 megapixels
  • AF Illuminator
  • 14-bit DXP A/D Conversion
  • Weighs 214g with battery and memory stick inserted
  • Costs 599

What you get in the box

  • Sony DSC-P5
  • AC Power adapter
  • Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery
  • A/V Connecting cable
  • 8Mb Memory stick
  • USB Cable
  • Driver CD-ROM
  • Carrying strap
  • Manual

Ultra compact camerasalmost alwayssacrifice some handling qualities allowing them to be small and stylish, the P5 is no exception. In terms of handgrip the P5 was usable, but you wouldn't want to use one all day with just stippled plastic provided for comfort.

Sony DSC-P5 Digital Camera

All the commonly used buttons for zoom and the shutter release are well located, and the camera is very straightforward to operate. By placing the lens at the end of the camera, and rounding the body around it Sony have made the camera more comfortable to grip when using both hands.

The lens extends quite gracefully out of the case, and the built in shutter cover is great for keeping the lens clean and protected.

Fitting nicely into most pockets this is a camera you can carry with youand forget about until you need to take a shot, great for many people who like to travel light.

Because it is quite easy to use it will appeal to a wide range of people who may be new to photography and want something small and basic. For those of you who've had a digital camera before, and are looking for something with more features to allow you creative control this is unlikely to be the camera for you.

Sony DSC-P5 Digital Camera

Build quality throughout the camera is of a high standard, with typical Sony precision. This makes the camera not only feel solid, but also gives it a sense of quality appropriate for its high price tag.

Menu System
Sony have been slowly improving the menu and control systems for their cameras, and they are now quite good. There is a four-way controller to navigate the menu and items can be changed by pressing the controller in its center. The table below shows the settings you can change in the relevant menus.

Menu Function settings
Menu Moving image type, Date/Time display, Digital Zoom, Red eye reduction, AF illuminator
Format Format, File number, Language, Clock set
Setup 1  
Setup LCD Brightness, LCD Backlight, Beep, Video out, USB connect, Power save
Setup 2  
Setup Exposure value, Focusing, White balance, Spot meter, ISO, Image size, Picture quality, Record Mode, Flash level, Picture effect, Sharpness levels
Record mode  

The record mode shown above, allows for basic manual focusing. However not enough control is really provided for it to be of much use. The method of setting exposure compensation, and changing white balance and other settings quickly via the on screen menu is very useful and easy to use.

The manual provided was 100 pages long, which is a lot considering this camera doesn't have that many features. There are useful tips explaining things like white balance clearly for those new to digital photography.

Camera modes
As we've mentioned already this camera doesn't have many manual controls, so the mode dial appears only half full.

Camera Modes

You can choose between five different modes, which are:

Twilight - A special mode for using in night scenes
Record - Standard capture mode
Playback - Playback of taken photographs
Movie - Allows you to record moving images
Setup - Accesses setup items of the camera

We found the focusing speeds to be quite good considering this is not meant to be a super fast camera. However, the focusing system is not very sophisticated and can be fooled quite easily, so it's always worth checking those important shots for correct focus before you leave the scene.

When there are low light levels, or the auto focus is having trouble focusing, the camera emits a bright red light. The image on the lower left shows how intense the light is coming from the camera, and the lower right shows the pattern it projects.

Low Light Levels

Viewfinder and LCD screen

Sony don't use the same type of screen on all of their cameras, with some of the larger screens being particularly susceptible to fingerprints and dust. The P5's screen however has a plastic coating which makes it very easy to wipe clean. The only problem with it is that it protrudes to far from the back of the camera, making it easier to scratch accidentally, so you may want to buy a case.

The viewfinder doesn't provide any diopter adjustment for those who wear glasses and there is no AF frame. Three lights provide information on Self-timer/recording, AE/AF lock lamp and Flash charge.

The small LCD above the larger TFT screen shows basic information on battery life and remaining shots. Useful when the TFT is turned off.

View finder and LED screen

Power, USB and video out connectors sit side by side. A power adapter is provided in the box, with all necessary cables, though one minor niggle is that Sony's USB cables are always half the length of everyone else's. Meaning you have to leave the camera right on top of the computer it's plugged into. Connections

Build quality on this camera is high, the cover for battery and memory stick slides smoothly into place. A small red LED shows if the memory stick is being accessed or not, and both the battery and memory stick are held firmly in their slots. Memory

The P5's NP-FC10 battery is tiny, about the size of a pack of chewing gum. It uses Sony's infolithium technology to display an estimate of the cameras remaining battery life. The only flaw with this system is if you start using the flash a lot, then the time remaining will shoot down and you might be caught out.

The time taken for a full charge is approximately 150 minutes. Battery life is quoted in the manual as 60 minutes with the LCD screen on, and 90 minutes with the screen off. We didn't find ourselves getting quite those times, but we've been having a lot of cold weather here, (not surprising for the British climate) and lithium-ion batteries perform worse in the cold. To help get the most out of the battery there is an optional power saving mode.

Extra features
On the CD-ROM provided in the box are the camera's drivers and MGI Photosuite and Videowave.

The MGI VideoWave software is interesting, providing quite advanced video editing functionality. Though we suspect many will people will rarely use it because the P5's video capabilities are limited.

Photosuite on the other hand offers broader appeal. When it opens up a wizard-type interface is shown, providing the following options:


The image editing functions it provides are quite basic and lack the sophistication of products like Jasc Paintshop Pro or Adobe Elements.

Image quality
For a ultra compact digital camera the P5 produces good photographs. They show vibrant colours, which we found to be quite accurate. There are low levels of noise, and the cameras metering and focussing systems are reliable for the less demanding type of shots a point and shoot photographer is likely to take. Looking closer at the photographs taken, they can appear a little soft, but will still produce very good 6x4 prints.
Image Quality

Sample Pictures
Sample Image
The P5 manages to capture good levels of detail, even in shadow areas as shown in the blown up portion of the image. Little noise is visible, and the metering has done a good job. Overall however the image appears a little soft, let down slightly by the lens.

Sample Pictures
Colours in most of our tests were vibrant, with only occasional cases of over saturation. The camera doesn't provide any adjustment for colour levels unfortunately.

Sample Pictures
The P5's metering system coped quite well with some tricky statue and grave shots, although it cannot be totally relied upon. Luckily the standard Sony preview button allows you to quickly review the last photograph taken, to check it for accuracy but no histogram is provided.

Sample Pictures
Allowing you to get as close as 10cm from a subject, the P5 isn't going to win prizes for macro ability, but still performed quite well.

You must factor in the cost of another Memory Stick when buying this camera, as we were only getting a handful of shots each time on the supplied 8mb. You can buy a 128mb Memory Stick for about 100 now, allowing you to almost forget about storage concerns or a 64mb one for around 50. The battery life not being great, we'd also recommend another battery if you plan on using the camera regularly.

Competition is strong, with the 100 cheaper Pentax Optio 330 we've tested here very worthy of consideration too. The unique factor of the Sony has to be its ease of use, with cut down features compared to some of the other ultra-compacts available. Build quality is the best in its class, and so is styling.

If you want a no-frills, easy to use, pocketable, stylish digital camera, that will give you good quality prints, and you can manage without many manual controls then this is a great camera to buy. It'll appeal to families where both young and old will be able to take pictures easily and share the results.

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Photographs taken using the Sony DSC-P5

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