Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200|
Reasonaably priced 7-mp Sony for everyone
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
The Cyber-shot P200, the third 7 megapixel Sony in a mid-2005 lineup, is barely larger than a flip-phone. It measures approximately 4 x 2 x 1 inches and weighs just five ounces -- making it the second-lightest here, after the Casio Exilim EX-Z750. Yet, despite its small size, this is a powerful 7.2 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3X zoom lens, a bright 2-inch outdoor-viewable LCD screen, and a wealth of all those Sony micro details we've come to know and love.
In terms of design, the P200 is very different from the boxy DSC-W7 and, of course, the much bigger DSC-V3. It is playfully styled, with one side square and the other swooping around three bright concentric circles in the midst of which sits the P200's zoom lens. In fact, almost everything on this camera is lusciously rounded and curved -- buttons, lines, inserts, even the tiny little flash window, and a long concave molding around the left side of the camera which is probably there so that you can more easily hold the P200 with the index finger and thumb of your left hand.
Just as was the case with the many different CLIE PDAs Sony offered in, and then withdrew from, the US market, it is not entirely clear why Sony needs so many different lines of very similar digital cameras. As is, you could say that the Cyber-shot P200 is for people who like very small cameras and also prefer style and elegance over angular shapes, but is that enough to justify yet another line? Only sales figures can tell, and Sony apparently sells enough P-Series cameras to make it worth their while.
Regardless of model line politics, the P200 is certainly a perfect match for many customers' expectations -- a nice, small high-resolution camera with a quality 3X optical zoom lens and a large-enough 2.0-inch LCD. You also get 30 frames-per-second 640 x 480 movies with sound (though that requires a Memory Stick PRO storage card). As long as Sony made the camera this small and slender, we would have liked an internal, foldable zoom like the T-Series has instead of one that moves out an inch when you power up the camera.
In daily use, the P200 does almost everything well. It is small enough to fit into any pocket. The optical zoom can be multiplied by either a standard 2X digital zoom or Sony's "Smart Zoom" that employs unused pixels to enlarge an image taken in one of the camera's lower resolution modes. A small optical viewfinder helps when the LCD washes out too much outdoors. The controls are easy to figure out although I'd suggest a pass through the 100-page manual. You'll learn all the tricks the P200 can do, plus gain insight into some of the less obvious stuff.
While many P200 customers may never venture beyond the automatic point & shoot mode, the camera also has a P(rogram) mode where it controls aperture and speed and leaves the rest to you. There is also a M(anual) mode where you control everything. Items such as macro, flash, or resolution are easily changed by pushing one of the four directional controls, which is a good thing as the P200's onscreen menus are neither always obvious nor always easily visible.
Overall, the P200 is pleasant enough. It doesn't get in the way, has long battery life, and takes good, but not great, pictures with almost no purple fringing. The display offers plenty of information, including a live histogram. Controls, icons and text are a bit small, and the P200 is only average in autofocus and recycling speed, but it's quick enough.
All of this makes the Cyber-shot P200 a good choice for those who want a small and very reasonably priced high-res camera with the Sony name and cachet.
Not so much:
- Small and handy
- Long-lasting battery
- A lot of camera for the money
- Only average autofocus and recycling speed
- Not many features compared to competition
- Tiny mode wheel and zoom control