The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2's menus themselves could also use some refinement. For instance, the first screen you come to includes seven choices--shooting mode, flash mode, focus mode, resolution, exposure compensation, timer on/off, and macro/magnifying glass on/off--as well as a menu button. That menu button leads you to a second level of menus, which lets you adjust other settings, such as ISO sensitivity, white balance, color mode, metering mode, JPEG quality, and others. It also has a button to lead you to the Setup menu, where you can adjust still more settings. This means you have to toggle past the main menu page every time you want to change the ISO, and you have to navigate past two pages just to format a memory card or turn the red-eye reduction preflash burst on or off.
Besides the 3-inch touch screen and the 10-megapixel sensor, the DSC-N2's features are rather mundane. While hardly ugly, it's a great deal chunkier and less streamlined than Sony's style-minded Cyber-shot T-series cameras. The inch-thick, 6.4-ounce camera is a nondescript, rounded metal rectangle that seems designed more for simplicity than fashion. It feels comfortable enough to use, but the tiny zoom rocker and edge-mounted mode switch makes one-handed use feel awkward and off-balance.
It uses a fairly standard 38m-to-114mm-equivalent lens with no image stabilization or any other low-light/high-speed features besides its ISO 1,600 sensitivity boost. While the DSC-N2 has a few manual focus settings, you have to select a specific focal length such as 7 meters or half a meter in the menu, rather than tweaking the focus while framing your shot. Like all Sony snapshot cameras, the N2 uses Sony's Memory Stick Duo card format. The camera includes 25MB of internal memory, but that'll get you just 10 or so 10-megapixel shots.
In good light, the shutter lagged just 0.3 second. In low light, however, even with the focus-assist lamp enabled, we experienced a lengthy 2.2 seconds of shutter lag. Otherwise, the camera's performance was quite satisfying. After a 1.4-second wait from power-on to first shot, we could take a frame every 1.8 seconds. Even with the flash enabled, that wait increased just 0.2 second to 2 seconds. Burst mode took 1.1 shots per second, a respectable rate for a 10-megapixel camera.
Compression artifacts and noise are the DSC-N2's biggest weaknesses. The camera's aggressive JPEG compression that gave nearly all of our images a mottled, feltlike texture that softened and distorted fine details. This problem magnified when shooting at greater than ISO 400, when noise made already fuzzy pictures look like a television screen. Lens distortion was minimal, but we noticed significant chromatic abberations (colored fringes) along high-contrast edges. The N2's colors were slightly warm and, like most cameras, its automatic white balance produced a yellow pallor under incandescent light.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 is a responsive, 10-megapixel shooter you can easily fit into your pocket. Unfortunately, compression artifacts hurt its images, and its touch screen controls feel awkward. The slightly smaller and more conventionally designed Canon PowerShot SD900 offers cleaner shots at the same resolution.
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|