My new toy the Sony DSC-N2 Digital Camera (10.1MP, 3x optical zoom) 3″ LCD is an awesome little toy.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 is an upgrade of the existing DSC-N1 model. The Sony N2 derives its higher ten mega pixel resolution from a 1/1.7″ CCD imager, rather than the eight mega pixel 1/1.8″ imager used in the previous camera. This is coupled with the same popup Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens, which offers a 3x optical zoom range equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera. Also retained for the Sony DSC-N2 is is the N1’s whopping 3.0″ LCD display – ideal for showing off photos immediately that they’re captured, or using the camera itself as a portable photo album. Given the size of the display, there’s little room for buttons on the rear of the Sony N-series cameras, so the company opted for a touch screen on the display, useable either with a fingertip, or with an included stylus.
As with the DSC-N1, Sony has taken advantage of the LCD in the Sony N2 to let the camera function as a digital photo “wallet” of sorts. As you capture each image, it is saved twice. One copy is saved at your chosen resolution on the camera’s flash card, or in 26MB of memory reserved for image storage. The other copy is stored at VGA resolution in a further 26MB of memory that is reserved for a photo album. The user can then select favourite photos from the album for protection, or delete images they don’t like. As you continue to capture images and eventually the 26MB of album space (enough for 500 VGA images) runs out, the oldest non-protected image is automatically discarded whenever a newer photo is captured. This simple method should ensure that owners of the Cybershot N2 always have a good selection of photos on-hand to show off, with a minimum of fuss.
Also retained in the Sony N2 is a slideshow mode with a range of transitions including pans, zooms, wipes, and fades, all selected automatically by the camera, and accompanied by music stored in the camera. The user can replace the music with their own selections using the accompanying software, which will transcode the user’s personal music to MPEG1 format to replace the existing four background music selections that are built into the camera. 6MB of memory is reserved for the music to be stored in. As with the T50 model it is announced alongside, the Sony N2 adds a “normal” slideshow mode to the N1’s functionality, however.The Sony N2 draws power from an Info Lithium NP-BG1 battery, with the useful ability to give an indication of remaining battery life in minutes. It includes both video and USB connectivity, offers some manual control over images (including both Aperture- and Shutter-priority modes), and also provides a selection of eight scene modes to offer an easier way for beginners to get the results they’re looking for. Other changes from the N1 include a slightly stronger “smart zoom” mode, a minimum shutter speed of 1/2000 second, tweaks to the shutter speeds at which noise reduction is applied, and slightly reduced burst capture rate / depth. As with the T50, the Sony N2 also includes Sony’s Picture Motion Browser v1.1 software package.
Sony’s newest Cyber-shot, the DSC-N2, is quite a departure in interface design for digital cameras. In this day of Blackberries and Treos, stylus and touch screens arenâ€™t really that revolutionary in themselves. We use touch screens everywhere: at the ATM, ticketing kiosks, even when we vote. But the last place I thought about using touch-screen technology was on a digital camera. So when I pulled the Sony N2 out of the box, I was thrilled to see its minimal controls and maximized LCD screen. Now granted, Sony has been using touch screens on their video cameras for a while, so it’s a natural to put one on a digital still camera. The use of the touch screen on the Sony N2 and N1 is genius, as it greatly simplifies the interface and keeps the camera body nice and clean. With most of the controls accessed through that bright 3.0-inch colour LCD display, there’s really no need for a mess of buttons cluttering up the camera body.
The Sony N2 is quite attractive, with a brushed metal finish on the front panel and a super sleek body that isn’t trapped by a myriad of buttons, dials, and switches. Dominating the rear panel is the huge 3.0-inch LCD monitor, with only three tiny control buttons lining its right side. Those with larger hands may find the Sony N2 a little difficult to keep a good grip on, but the camera fit my own hand well. You’ll definitely want to keep the wrist strap on when you’re shooting, though, as the camera’s smooth surface can be a bit slippery at times. The included stylus is attached to the wrist strap, so it’s always at the ready for making changes via the LCD interface, but I found a fingernail or fingertip just as useful.
The ability to make menu changes literally by touching the screen saves quite a bit of time in camera operation once you get used to it. Sony set up the menus logically, with large virtual buttons to accommodate fingertips as well as the stylus. My only minor complaint is that the Sony N2’s LCD monitor does end up with a few smudges on it if you do choose to use your fingertips, but they wipe off easily with a soft cloth.
What’s interesting about the DSC-N2’s touch screen is its Paint function, found in the camera’s Playback menu. Paint mode offers a mini image editing interface, with options for painting lines, stamping, cloning, and rotating. While any serious retouching is better left to a more complete software package and a larger display, it is fun to be able to alter images in the camera and then print them directly to a PictBridge device. However, take note, the Sony N2 automatically saves any altered file at 640 x 480 pixels, which is really only best for printing snapshots and sending as email attachments. I don’t know if the Paint utility will be useful for serious photographers, but some consumers may get a kick out of imprinting graphics on a photograph, or circling an area of interest with the paintbrush tool.
A small quibble with the touch screen interface is that the large semi-translucent buttons overlay large portions of the image. You can remove the buttons by pressing the touch screen button, but then you lose your ability to change to another image. So you end up having to press the physical touch screen button a lot to properly show off your images in their full splendour; better might have been to have a lighter, more translucent button for image playback mode than the rather than such bold and dark buttons.
Aside from the LCD menu, the most useful touch screen function is using your fingertip to indicate the AF point in Spot AF mode. I found this useful in dealing with off centre subjects, as I could literally tell the Sony N2 exactly where to focus.
Another bonus to the Sony N2 is its Manual exposure mode. You can manually adjust the shutter speed and lens aperture, with a maximum shutter time of 30 seconds available in Manual mode, perfect for low-light shooting. While the Sony N2 does offer a full range of automatic and preset Scene modes for novices and amateurs, it’s nice to have the option for manual control when you want it. ISO speeds go up as high as 1,600, though image noise is really quite high and obtrusive at the 800 and 1,600 equivalents. The maximum 30-second exposure time serves the camera well in low light and near darkness, as we were able to capture very bright images at the lowest light levels we test at (much darker than average city street lighting at night). Though noise becomes a factor, particularly with the higher ISO settings, the Sony N2 can still capture quite usable images under very dim lighting, though you’ll definitely need a tripod or some other form of stabilization to get the best results.
An advanced slideshow function lets you build multimedia presentations out of your photos, complete with MP3 music accompaniment, as well as sophisticated wipes, fades, and even “Ken Burns” effects, where the camera pans and zooms across a picture.
Equipped with a 10-megapixel CCD, the Sony N2 captures image resolutions as high as 3,468 x 2,736, which is quite large. With a suggested retail price of $449.95, this is a lot of resolution for the money (plus a host of unique, fun features to boot). The Sony N2 is quite versatile, offering image contrast and sharpness adjustments, as well as colour modes and useful tools like bracketing and Multi-Burst shooting. Overall, I’d say the Sony N2 is another good bet from Sony. It’s easy to operate, dextrous in a multitude of exposure conditions, and is pretty to look at. The Sony N2 captures good-looking images with good colour and exposure, and though image noise can sometimes be a factor at the higher ISO settings, the Sony N2 is flexible in its exposure capabilities. All in all, a good value for the money.
- 10.1-megapixel CCD
- 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera)
- Max 3.4-17x digital Smart Zoom (depending on selected resolution) plus 2x Precision Digital zoom.
- 3.0-inch color LCD monitor, with touchscreen capability
- Automatic, Program, and Manual exposure modes, plus eight Scene modes
- Built-in flash with five modes and an intensity adjustment
- 25MB internal memory
- Sony Memory Stick Duo storage (no card included), compatible with Memory Stick Pro Duo
- USB 2.0 computer connection
- Single Li-Ion rechargeable battery and charger included
- Software for Mac and PC
- Beach, Fireworks, High Sensitivity, Landscape, Snow, Soft Snap, Twilight, and Twilight Portrait preset modes
- Paint option in Playback mode offers in-camera editing/cleanup tools
- Movie recording mode (with sound)
- Burst, Multi-Burst, and Auto Exposure Bracketing shooting modes
- Email modes
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 1/8 second in Auto mode, 1/2,000 to one second in Program mode; and 1/1,000 to 30 seconds in Manual mode.
- Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/16, depending on zoom position
- Image Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, plus Image Color options
- Self-timer for delayed shutter release
- Macro (close-up) lens adjustment
- Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi-Metering modes
- Adjustable AF area (Center, Spot, or Multi-Point options)
- Single and Monitor (continuous) AF modes, plus five fixed focus settings
- Auto ISO setting or 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 ISO equivalents
- White balance (color) adjustment with six options
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing compatibility
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Sony DSC-N2 camera
- Wrist strap
- One Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack, a case, and charger
- USB cable
- AV cable
- Software CD containing Picture Package (ver. 1.6 for Windows), Pixela ImageMixer VCD2 (for Mac), a PC-based tutorial and USB drivers.
- Quick-guide manuals and registration information