Sony Digital Cameras
Due in large part to the company's reputation for quality in consumer
electronics, Sony digital cameras rank among the most popular models world-wide.
From the pocket-sized DSC-P72 to the high-end F828, Sony cameras offer a range
of prices and features. On this page you can view ratings, features, and prices
of the Sony digital camera line.
Encompassing the most popular Sony digital cameras, the Cybershot line ranges
from tiny 2-megapixel point and shoots to the advanced 5-megapixel DSC-F717.
With new models continually being added, the CyberShot lineup is representative
of the latest Sony technology. Check back frequently to see reviews and pricing
for the rest of Sony's Cybershot digital camera line.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F88 Digital Camera
With its thin body and clever rotating lens design, the Cyber-shot DSC-F88 presents yet another twist in Sony's innovative Cyber-shot digicam line. While the idea of a rotating lens is nothing new, Sony's implementation of the concept has evolved to handle changing consumer needs and camera attributes. With the DSC-F88, the rotating component of the camera is oriented horizontally and very compact, so it protrudes only slightly from the front panel in its operating position. Thus, the DSC-F88 has small, pocket-friendly dimensions (at least for larger coat and shirt pockets), while offering the benefit a 300-degree lens rotation. The lens component also acts as a power switch, activating the camera when rotated from its "stowed" position. The camera's thin, almost square shape and control layout take a little getting used to, but the DSC-F88's operation becomes intuitive fairly quickly. Because the lens front can be neatly stowed away, there's no need for a lens cap, as the lens is protected by the camera body when closed. The DSC-F88's 3x zoom lens features automatic focus control, with several fixed focus settings available, as well as an adjustable focus area. The 5.1-megapixel Super HAD CCD produces high resolution, print quality images, with a range of lower resolutions available as well. Combine this with the availability of both manual and automatic exposure control, a large selection of preset "scene" modes, and the quality of the Cyber-shot line, and the DSC-F88 is an excellent choice for novices and more experienced users alike.
The DSC-F88 is equipped with a 3x, 6.7-20.1mm internal-zoom lens, equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera (a slightly conservative wide angle to a moderate telephoto). Normal focus ranges from approximately 19.7 inches (50 centimeters) to infinity, with a Macro setting that lets you get within 3.1 inches (8 centimeters) when the lens is zoomed to its wide angle position, and 9.8 inches (25 centimeters) at its telephoto setting. The DSC-F88 also offers a Magnifying Glass preset scene mode, which lets you focus on objects as close as 0.4 inches (1 centimeter). In addition to automatic focus control, the DSC-F88 offers a range of fixed focus settings through the Record menu, as well as Center AF and five-point Multipoint AF focus area options. You can also choose Single or Monitoring AF modes through the Setup menu. (In Monitoring AF mode, the camera continuously adjusts focus as the subject moves.) An AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera helps focus at low light levels, a very useful tool in poorly-lit surroundings. The DSC-F88 employs Sony's "Smart Zoom" technology, which offers a maximum of 4x digital zoom. According to Sony, Smart Zoom lets you digitally enlarge the image without any significant loss of image quality. It does this by avoiding resampling of the cropped image, limiting the amount of zoom available based on the currently selected image size. The DSC-F88 also features Sony's Precision Digital Zoom, to a maximum of 2x. Only one digital zoom mode is available at a time, and the setting is made through the Setup menu. Keep in mind though, that any form of digital zoom trades off image resolution for magnification. For composing images, the Sony F88 offers a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.8-inch, color LCD monitor with adjustable backlight setting and live histogram display mode.
Exposure can be automatically or manually controlled on the DSC-F88, meeting the needs of novices and casual users looking for simplicity, as well as those of more advanced digital photographers. An On/Off button on the side of the camera powers the camera on, or you can simply turn the lens to face forward. A Mode dial quickly selects between Playback, Auto, Program AE, Manual, Scene, Setup, and Movie modes. The Automatic setting turns the F88 into a pure "point & shoot," removing all user control, with the exception of flash, macro, and resolution. Program mode keeps exposure control automatic, but you now have control over all other exposure variables. The Manual setting is a full manual exposure control mode, letting you adjust both aperture and shutter speed using the arrow keys of the Four-Way Arrow pad. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 30 seconds, depending on the exposure mode. Scene mode offers a nice selection of preset shooting modes for special situations, including Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Soft Snap, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, High Speed Shutter, and Candle modes.
The Record menu offers additional exposure options, including White Balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, and Incandescent settings), Exposure Compensation (+/-2 exposure equivalents, EV, in one-third-step increments), Spot Metering, and ISO (Auto, 100, 200, and 400 equivalents). The DSC-F88 also offers a Picture Effects option, which lets you record images in black and white or sepia monotones. Image sharpness, contrast, and saturation settings are also available, increasing the camera's flexibility. The DSC-F88's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync modes, with an adjustable intensity setting. (The Red-Eye Reduction setting is enabled through the camera's Setup menu.)
In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 640 x 480-, or 160 x 112-pixel resolution moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available storage space. (Sony has been one of the leaders in continuous video recording in digicams.) A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, giving the photographer time to run around and get into the picture. Also available on the DSC-F88 are Burst and Multi Burst modes. Standard Burst mode captures a series of nine images at approximately 1.6 frames per second while the Shutter button is held down (depending of course on the resolution and quality settings, and the amount of memory card space). Multi Burst mode captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames per second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (This is a great tool for analyzing golf and tennis swings.)
The DSC-F88 stores images on Sony Memory Sticks, available separately in capacities as large as one gigabyte. A 32MB Memory Stick comes with the camera, but I'd recommend also purchasing a larger capacity card so you don't miss any shots. For power, the DSC-F88 uses a single NP-FR1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, but does not come with a battery charger. Instead, the included AC adapter can charge the battery in-camera, and is also useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images. I'd recommend picking up and additional battery and charger, and keeping one battery freshly-charged and on-hand. The DSC-F88 features a Video Out jack, for connecting to a television set, and a USB jack for downloading images to a computer. (A USB multi-cable is included for connections to computers and printers.) A software CD is loaded with Picture Package and Cyber-shot Life for Windows users, and Pixela Image Mixer VCD2 software for the Macintosh, enabling image downloading and organizing. USB drivers are also included, though on Windows Me, 2000, or XP computers, or Macs running OS 8.6 to 9.2, no separate USB driver software is needed. The camera shows up on the desktop automatically when it is plugged in.
With its compact body and versatile rotating lens design, the DSC-F88 is yet another evolution in the Sony Cyber-shot line. The lens component rotates 300 degrees, enabling you to take pictures at a variety of angles. (I can see where this would be useful for snapping images above a crowd, or getting around obstacles such as fences, signs, etc.) More significant than the simple fact that the lens element rotates though, is that it also incorporates an optical viewfinder, unusual to find in such a small rotating element. The camera's sleek, smooth styling is free from any significant protrusions when the lens is stowed, and the lens projects less than half an inch beyond the front of the camera in its front-facing position. The DSC-F88's dimensions of 3.8 x 3 x 1.06 inches (98 x 74 x 26 millimeters) makes it just small enough to fit into larger shirt pockets, as well as most coat pockets and purses. (It's about the same size as a typical men's wallet.) The all-plastic body keeps the DSC-F88 light weight as well, at just 5.7 ounces (163 grams) with batteries and memory card.
The front of the DSC-F88 is flat when the lens is closed, with only a very small raised ridge of a finger grip on the right (viewed with the camera facing away from you) and the camera's tiny microphone just beneath the Sony logo. With the lens facing forward, the flash, optical viewfinder window, and Self-Timer / AF Illuminator LED are also visible.
On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) are the battery / memory card compartment, Mode dial, and Power button. A sliding plastic door protects the compartment, which locks into place to prevent it from accidentally flying open while shooting. The outside edge of the Mode dial features a textured surface, making it easy to turn the dial with your right thumb and forefinger while holding the camera in shooting position.
The opposite side of the camera features only the DC In connector jack, beneath a flexible, rubbery flap that remains tethered to the camera.
The DSC-F88's top panel is rounded when the lens element is closed, with the optical viewfinder window and LEDs recessed into the left side. The Shutter button remains fixed on the right side when the lens swivels. A series of ridges on the top of the lens component makes it easy to turn with your right thumb, though you'll need your right fingers to complete the turn.
The remaining few camera controls are on the back panel, along with the 1.8-inch LCD monitor. When the lens faces forward, the optical viewfinder window is also visible from the rear panel. Three LED lamps next to the optical viewfinder report camera status, indicating when focus is set or the flash is charging. A series of raised bumps in the upper right corner provide a thumb grip. Below these is the Zoom rocker button. The Display, Menu, and Image Size / Erase buttons surround the Four Way Arrow pad, which dominates the right portion of the rear panel. Also visible is the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap, in the lower right corner.
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the DSC-F88's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the DSC-F88's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge!
Sony's Cyber-shot line of digicams have consistently offered a winning
combination of build quality and image quality, with feature sets that satisfy a
range of interests from novice to enthusiast. The DSC-F88 delivers exceptional
capability in a very compact package, with good to excellent image quality, a
sharp lens, good color accuracy, lower than average image noise, surprisingly
long battery life, and an amazing macro capability. The light weight, smooth
profile, and excellent battery life all make the DSC-F88 a superb traveling
companion. Its dead-simple full-auto mode and rich set of 10 preprogrammed scene
modes make it a good choice for novices, while its optional full-manual mode,
saturation and contrast adjustments and 30-second maximum exposure time offer
the sort of control craved by enthusiast shooters. All in all, a great camera
for all-around use, travel, use by families with both novice and expert
shooters, or for duty as a "second" camera for the pro or advanced amateur.
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