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Sony Cyber Shot P review: Sony Cyber Shot P

Sony Cyber Shot P

Theano Nikitas
5 min read
This 5-megapixel, 3X optical zoom member of Sony's Cyber Shot budget line is, aside from its larger sensor, a clone of the 4-megapixel DSC-P73 and costs just a few dollars more. Snapshooters who want ease of use plus basic manual controls will find pretty much all they need in the compact DSC-P93--except great photo quality. Nicely curved lines signal Sony's trademark Cyber Shot design. Even though it's solidly built, the compact DSC-P93 is highly portable, weighing 8 ounces with batteries and media. A shiny silver petal-shaped indentation for your right thumb helps with hand placement to keep errant fingers from blocking the flash.

A mode dial sits atop the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P93, next to the power button, with access to both standard shooting options as well as scene modes. The dial clicks in nicely to each setting, but it's a little too easy to activate the rear zoom lever while switching modes. Minimal control buttons--flash, macro, self-timer, image size/delete, and display--on the rear of the camera are comfortably arranged.


Sony Cyber Shot P

The Good

Compact and portable; solid mix of snapshooting basic and manual features; accepts accessory lenses; captures 30fps VGA movies.

The Bad

Manual aperture limited to two settings; tiny screen with tinier icons and text; weak photo quality.

The Bottom Line

This snapshot camera delivers a bit more than the basics but offers merely adequate photo quality.

But as has been the case with the Cyber Shots from the beginning, the 1.5-inch LCD is small and the display information even tinier--so tiny that people with less than excellent eyesight may have trouble identifying the display's icons and other data. On the other hand, the menu is bright and clear with easy-to-understand icons and text. Likewise, the optical viewfinder is of the Lilliputian variety, and aside from a bit of distortion, it's bright and clear, as well as usable in a pinch.

The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P93's feature set is based on simplicity, with a dash of manual controls. All the standards are here: six scene modes, white-balance presets, multi- and center-weight autofocus, and black-and-white and sepia effects. On the more advanced side, the P93 also has a manual mode for adjusting shutter speeds and aperture. With shutter speeds ranging from 30 seconds to 1/1,000 of a second, the P93 is poised for both long night shots and for stop-action capture. Aperture selection is paltry, with only two choices at wide and at telephoto, f/2.8 to f/5.6 (wide) or f/5.2 to f/10 (tele), respectively.

Choosing image size is made somewhat simpler with the P93's megapixel options: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and VGA. The camera features a function with which you can resize your original image up or down. We recommend only decreasing the size of the image; otherwise, you'll end up with a lower-quality version. Since the P93 saves the resized image as a separate file, you'll retain your original for printing or storage.

In addition to the standards, the P93 now has a live histogram, available in both capture and playback modes. Like everything else that appears on the monitor, the histogram is small, but the visual mountains and valleys that indicate the balance of highlights, midtones, and shadows are clearly legible.

More pleasant surprises for the P93 include optional wide-angle and telephoto conversion lenses. Landscape and outdoor photographers will want to take advantage of the wide-angle accessory since the P93's zoom starts at a rather narrow 38mm and ends at a moderately telephoto 114mm (both in 35mm-equivalent terms).

The P93 now has an A/V output for displaying slides and movies on the TV. And the camera comes with two AA nickel-metal-hydride rechargeable batteries and a charger. One of the Cyber Shot features we've always loved is the camera/accessory dual-voltage capabilities. This means that when you're traveling overseas, you need to bring only a plug adapter and won't have to lug around a transformer, which helps reduce space and weight.

On the other hand, you're going to want to spring for a high-capacity Memory Stick because you're not going to fit more than six high-resolution images on the bundled 16MB card. The good news is that the P93 works with the Memory Stick Pro and, at the time of this review, has been tested to work up to 1GB. You'll need one to take advantage of the camera's ability to capture 30fps, VGA-resolution movies up to the capacity of the card.

While not the fastest camera on the market, the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P93 holds it own when it comes to performance. From a power-off position, we were able to start up the camera and click off the first shot in less than 3 seconds. An average of about 3 seconds--give or take a few, depending on whether the flash was used--was also acceptable. And the P93 managed a respectable burst-shooting rate of 1.4fps. With our standard 1,850mAh nickel-metal-hydride AA batteries, the P93 kept on going for almost 1,000 shots.

Shooting speed
Measured in seconds (smaller bars are better)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Time to first shot  
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P10
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P93
Casio Exilim EX-Z55
Canon PowerShot S500

Continuous-shooting speed
Measured in frames per second (longer bars are better)
Typical continuous-shooting speed  

The zoom is stepped, so you can't always stop precisely where you want, but it's quiet and moves smoothly through the focal range. Extending only to about 8 feet, the P93's flash won't light up a room, but you can power it up or down one step, which is especially helpful in macro shots. Run a test shot at full power first; some of our macro shots were underexposed with the flash at low power.

Thanks to an AF illuminator, the DSC-P93 can focus in the darkest places. But the monitor doesn't gain up, so even though your image may be sharp, you won't know ahead of time what the heck you took a picture of.

The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P93's photos are acceptable, but that's about it. On one hand, it rendered color relatively accurately, and the dynamic range was broad enough to differentiate between the red of chili peppers on a rose-colored plate. Saturation was, for the most part, well balanced.

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Photos aren't quite as sharp as we expect from a 5-megapixel camera.
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Sharpness falls off quickly from the center of the lens, and you can spot fringing along the edges of the pastels.

While we noticed little purple fringing, the DSC-P93 sometimes created halos around the edges of objects, regardless of the edge contrast. When faced with high-contrast scenes, the Cyber Shot also has a tendency to blow out whites and highlights. Futhermore, we spotted poorer than usual image noise in photos taken at ISO 100, which got progressively worse at higher ISO settings.


Sony Cyber Shot P

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Image quality 6