The Sony DSC P200 is a seven megapixel digital camera with a high quality Carl Zeiss lens. The lens provides three times optical zoom. The features available on the DSC P200 are a clear step up from a basic point and shoot model. Although this is not an ultra slim digital camera it still has a relatively compact design and you should have no problem carrying it around with you.
This camera is likely to suit someone who is looking for a camera that is easy to use, can cater for all the usual social photo opportunities, but has an extra touch of class and quality.
As a set of images I would say that those taken with the DSC P200 are as good as any I have managed to produce in all the tests I have carried out so far. The outdoor shots are very impressive. The first test shot includes many light and dark areas and really finds out how well the camera handles the level of contrast you find in many typical photos. The DSC P200 had very little trouble indeed. The light areas are reproduced very well, but it is that dark areas that particularly impress me with the detail showing clearly in the shot.
Indoors photos are just as impressive. Many digital cameras struggle to focus in poor light and have difficultly in exposing a picture correctly. Many come out either too light or too dark. The sample image showing the bottles is taken in near darkness yet the picture produced is bright and clear. Likewise the indoor portrait comes out very well too. Again the photo is well lit and I think the skin tones are very good. The only area where I can find fault is with a loss of detail in the dark area of the hair. This is a very common issue throughout my tests.
So are there are areas that could be improved? Although the colours are well balanced perhaps they could be a touch more vivid. The macro test shot comes out very clearly, but there is a hint of a blue colour caste and a sign of purple fringing around the outside of the watch used for the test.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
Shutter lag is the time it takes to capture each picture. A constant criticism of digital cameras is the delay in between clicking the shutter button, the picture being taken and also the camera being ready to take the next picture. From a pure shutter lag view the DSC P200 took a picture and recorded it in 0.18 seconds. This is a relatively new test, so I feel a degree of caution is called for, but I have to say early indications are that this is a very fast time.
In terms of recycling times I was able to take five pictures in the space of 11.95 seconds. That works out at a rate of 2.39 seconds per picture. I am not claiming that this is the most scientific tests, but it should give you an indication of the recycling speed of the camera. Although someway short of the fastest time this is still a better result than the majority of digital cameras are capable of producing. My test is carried out indoors under standard conditions and it is possible that you would see better results outside.
When you first buy the camera it is likely that you will want to turn it on and start taking pictures. The simplest way to do this is by using the fully automatic mode. All you have to do then is point the camera and press the shutter button. To help the camera take the best possible picture in a variety of differing photographic conditions there are nine predefined scene modes you can select from. These are: Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, High-speed shutter and Candle. If you are feeling adventurous there is also a manual mode that lets you set aperture and shutter speeds. It is worth noting though that aperture and shutter priority modes are not available.
For composing photos and accessing the menu system you can choose to use either the 2" LCD screen or the optical viewfinder. For when you would like to appear in the picture there is a self timer with a ten second delay.
When the light is low or you are indoors you may wish to use the flash. The built in flash unit has a maximum range of 3.5m. This falls to 2.5m when the zoom lens is being used. The flash modes you can use are automatic, always on, always off and slow synchro. To help the camera focus in poor light there is an Auto Focus Illuminator. This is an underrated, but very useful feature.
To back up the 3x optical zoom there is a 6x digital zoom feature, plus a 14x smart zoom capability. Close up photography is catered for by a macro mode that lets you get in as close as 6cm.
For anyone who likes to use a digital camera to shoot short movies you will find an advanced movie mode capable of shooting TV quality movies. The maximum resolution is 640x480. Movies can be shot at a rate of thirty frames per second and the duration of each movie is only limited by the space available on the memory card.
More advanced controls include white balance settings for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent and Flash, ISO sensitivity settings of Auto, 100, 200, 400, shutter speeds between 30 and 1/2000 seconds. Exposure compensation is available as is multi pattern and spot metering.
You can also enhance the capabilities of the DSC P200 by adding a conversion lens.
Sony supplies all the necessary cables to connect the DSC P200 to a computer, television set and a PictBridge compatible printer.
Ease of Use
I tend to find that the majority of Sony digital cameras are easy to use and the DSC P200 is no exception. If all you want to do is turn the camera on and start taking pictures then you can. If you would like to be a little more adventurous and try using the scene modes and other features then they are relatively easy to get to grips with. Shooting movies, reviewing images you have already taken, setting the flash etc. are all easy to do. The menu system is also straightforward and you should soon start to find your way around without too much trouble.
You can pick up a Sony DSC P200 for around £240. This compares to around £285 for a Nikon Coolpix 7900 and £315 for an Olympus C-70.
The DSC P200 is a typical shiny, sliver digital camera. Like a number of other Sony models this one has a standard rectangular shape, but one end is rounded in a semi circle. The advantage of this is that it helps the camera to fit into your hand. This makes it easier to keep everything steady and take sharper photos.
The DSC P200 weighs in at 144g and has dimensions of 104 x 51.5 x 27.9mm
Batteries and Memory Cards
Power is supplied by a rechargeable Info Lithium battery. Sony supplies both the battery and a charger with the DSC P200. All you need to ensure is that the battery doesn't run out at the vital moment.
Memory Sticks are used to store images on. A 32mb Memory Stick is supplied with the camera. Although this is generous compared to the memory card supplied with a lot of cameras it will still soon fill up if you are shooting seven megapixel images or shooting TV quality movies. Therefore I would recommend picking up a high capacity Memory Stick to go with the camera. Click here to save money on Memory Sticks
Points I like:
Overall picture quality
Ease of use
Style and design
Where it is not so hot:
Nothing really strikes me.
As you can tell I think Sony have produced a winner. I am a big admirer of the DSC P200. The seven megapixels give you plenty of scope for producing large prints or to crop your shots. The high quality lens produces clean, clear shots without much effort required on your part. Throw in an advanced movie mode and if you are looking for a standard digital camera that is that bit better than its rivals then the DSC P200 is well worth taking a good look at.
Sony DSC P200 Front View
Sony DSC P200 Back View
Sony DSC P200 Top View