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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSCN1

Sony includes several movie options, including a 640x480, 30fps mode, which delivers relatively high-quality videos.

The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-N1 is fairly speedy for its class, with a power-on-to-first-shot time of about 1.6 seconds. There was little shutter lag, and given decent light, the autofocus pounced quickly on its subjects. Low-light autofocus, although impressive in our formal tests, was not as consistently speedy in real life. The DSC-N1 moved quickly from one shot to another, taking 2.1 seconds with flash. Continuous shooting fell on the slow side, however; we were able to capture only 4 high-resolution or 15 low-resolution shots at 1.2 frames per second.

The LCD provided good visibility under most circumstances, though in low light the refresh rate became a little sluggish and the display somewhat grainy. Also, some angles of bright sunlight made it difficult to read the menu, and the monitor darkened when we stopped down the exposure, sometimes making it difficult -- if not impossible -- to view our composition.

The 38mm-to-114mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens moved quietly and slowly, allowing efficient and accurate focal-length adjustments. The camera's flash generally delivered even coverage. Though it rarely overexposed images, its intensity is adjustable up or down one step.

Shooting speed in seconds
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shutter lag (typical)  
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-N1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1
Olympus Stylus 800
Canon PowerShot SD550

Continuous-shooting speed in frames per second
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon PowerShot SD550
Olympus Stylus 800
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-N1

NOTE: Products in this test are for comparative purposes only and are not necessarily available in the Australian market.

Image quality
Like most Sony cameras, the Cyber Shot DSC-N1 provided mixed image quality. On the one hand, colous were accurate and naturally saturated. Exposures -- whether in auto, program, or manual mode -- were generally good. Though the camera has a tendency to blow out highlights, its dynamic range in the shadow area was usually good enough to reproduce details.

Auto white balance failed miserably under mixed lighting conditions indoors, delivering extraordinarily yellow images. The camera lacks custom white balance, so you'll need to choose one of the presets if you're shooting inside. In well-lit outdoor settings, however, the auto white balance performed admirably.

The levels of image sharpness and detail capture were mixed. Some of our test shots were crisply focused enough that we wouldn't hesitate to make large prints from them. We relegated others to the keep-'em-small folder because of their slight softness and lack of fine detail.

We noticed very little purple fringing in our standard trees-against-the sky image tests, but a bluish-purple outline appeared around a white logo on a red train car.

The DSC-N1 kept noise levels fairly well in check. Some images that we shot at ISO 800 exhibited very low grain and were surprisingly usable -- as long as we kept shadow areas to a minimum.

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