Sony seems to love touch screens. First, it put a touch screen on its 8-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-N1. Then, it put touch screens on several of its camcorders, including the high-definition Handycam HDR-SR1 and the HDR-UX1. Then, it put a touch screen on the ultracompact Cyber-shot DSC-T50. Now Sony has come full circle with the Cyber-shot DSC-N2. This little camera isn't especially stylish, but its big, 3-inch touch screen and its 10-megapixel sensor make it an attractive little shooter as well as a worthy upgrade to the N1.The almost entirely touch-screen-driven control scheme results in a menu system that's finicky and awkward to use, and display that's not quite crisp or colorful enough to frame shots. The worst part is that touch screens often aren't as responsive as hard buttons. I often ended up pressing the virtual buttons multiple times before they worked. Unlike the T50, the N2 doesn't come with a built-in stylus. My best advice is to keep your fingernails long enough to use them when navigating the camera's menus. The screen is more responsive to fingernails than to softer fingertips.
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.