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Sony Ericsson Satio Camera Phone Review

Will we be sated by the 12MP camera on the Sony Ericsson Satio mobile phone?

|  Sony Sony Ericsson Satio mobile phone in Camera Phones
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Sony Ericsson Satio phoneReview by Gary Wolstenholme.
Just as the megapixel race appears to be slowing with compact digital cameras and SLRs, the competition is still well and truly alive with camera phones. Could this be the perfect phone for budding photographers on the move?

Phone Specification:
  • Size - 112 x 55 x 13mm
  • Weight – 126g
  • 360x640 pixel screen
  • MicroSD compatible
  • Supports GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA data protocols
  • Talk Time – up to 11 hours on 2G or 4 hours 50min on 3G
Camera Specification:
  • 12.1Mp
  • Auto focus
  • 16x digital zoom
  • Face detection
  • Xenon flash
  • Geo-tagging support
  • Image stabiliser
  • Smile detection
  • Red-eye reduction
  • Built-in video light
Sony Ericsson Satio Camera Phone

The design of the Satio isn't too different from other multimedia phones currently available, although this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The sleek silver and black appearance of the review handset looks quite classy, without looking too much like an iPhone. A large 16:9 ratio LCD touchscreen interface dominates the front of the phone, and most operations are completed via this screen. I found the menu layout took a little getting used to, but as with anything new it makes perfect sense once you've given yourself time to adjust. I do find the touch screen interface a little laggy at times, especially when typing using the QWERTY keyboard, but again given time I got used to this. A hard glossy cover protects the screen from damage, and also makes it very difficult to see what you are doing in bright conditions. I often found myself hunching over it in an attempt to shield the screen from the sun.

An accelerometer is used to gauge which way the phone is being held, and the touch screen controls adjust to the required position, which is a nice touch. Three buttons at the base for making and receiving calls and for returning to the menu at any point. Several wizards and apps are provided for popular email and social networking accounts such as Gmail and Facebook (no Twitter though) which make using the phone online very simple and straightforward.

The Camera
Panoramic shot on the Sont Ericsson Satio camera phone
The panoramic mode works well, although sometimes it fill in the gaps itself, as can be seen on the edge of the lampshade near the top of this image.
A sliding lens cover protects the lens and buit-in flash unit from damage in a pocket or purse. When the lens is revealed, the phone automatically switches to camera mode. This process takes about 2-3 seconds to prepare the camera for picture taking, which may be a little frustrating when a quick snap is required.

When using the camera, you'd almost be forgiven for forgetting that this is in fact a phone rather than a compact camera. The shutter button falls neatly under my index finger and dedicated buttons are provided for playback of images and for switching between still and movie modes, just like on many compact cameras. Anybody who has used one of Sony's touch-screen enabled Cybershot cameras will feel at home with the user interface. Icons for the various settings menus are located down each side of the screen, the only difference being that there is an icon to leave camera mode in the top right. Down the left are icons to select your shooting mode including some of the usual suspects such as Portrait, Landscape, Flash modes and Exposure Compensation. A few other more novel shooting modes are included; an automatic panoramic mode that takes the images as you move the camera, a mode that will only take pictures of people smiling, and one that allows you to focus off-centre by touching the screen. I did find using this last feature slightly infuriating as it takes a good 3-4 seconds to achieve focus in all but the very best conditions. The last of these, called BestPic, will be familiar to those who have ever used an older Nikon Coolpix digital camera. This feature rapidly takes a series of shots and automatically selects the sharpest one, greatly improving your chances of getting a good shot under difficult lighting conditions without the flash. This mode works well, although it can be a bit disconcerting to use, as the screen blacks out as it takes a series of images leaving you with no idea of what you are taking.

There are three aspect ratios to choose from, each affecting the pixel count of the camera. The highest resolution images can be achieved by selecting 4:3, which can take advantage of the full 12Mp. The 16:9 aspect ratio drops the resolution to 9Mp and 3:2 records a respectable 10Mp.

Contrast on the Sony Ericsson Satio camera phone Digital Zoom on the Sony Ericsson Satio Camera
 Although detailed, images often lack contrast and noise is present, even in good light.  Digital zoom makes images blotchy like a pointillist painting.
Flash on the Sony Ericsson Satio phone gig photo taken on the Sont Ericsson Satio phone
 The flash is powerful enough and illumination is even.  Although there is plenty of noise present, this image taken under challenging conditions would make a respectable 6x4 print.
 Night portrait on the Sony Ericcson Satio Phone  Night shot on the Sony Ericsson Satio Camera
 The twilight portrait mode gives a good balance between flash and ambient exposures.  When taking images at night, highlights blow out easily, and shadows can be quite noisy.
 Shutter lag on the Sony Ericsson Satio camera  Landscape mode on the Sony Ericsson Satio camera
 I pressed the shutter as the silver car entered the right hand side of this image to test the shutter lag.  A strange purple colour cast is present in this image taken using the landscape mode although the level of detail is still impressive for a phone.

Detail on the Sony Ericsson Satio camera phone image
The level of detail recorded is impressive for a camera phone.

As I mentioned earlier, it is sometimes easy to forget that this is actually a phone, not a camera and for a phone, the camera is very impressive indeed. Like many camera phones, there are limitations, such as with dynamic range, and the general lack of contrast and colour. The auto focus system is slow, and the shutter lag is quite noticeable. Still, it is able to take images in a wide variety of conditions, often with an impressive enough level of detail, especially for a phone.

In summary, the positive points of the Sony Ericsson Satio are:
  • Impressive level of image detail for a phone
  • Easy to forget you're using a phone, rather than a compact camera
  • Excellent built-in flash (although prone to cause red-eye)
  • Good selection of built-in apps
  • Fast internet access
The negative points are:
  • Slow AF
  • Shutter lag
  • Noise in all images
  • Lack of contrast
ePHOTOzine Highly recommended award



For more information visit Sony Ericsson's website.

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