The DSC-P150 is Sony's latest salvo in the megapixel wars, and the first truly compact 7 megapixel camera. It's based closely on the current P100, with the only differences - resolution aside - being the brushed metal casing and a new 'Real Image Processor' LSI, claimed to speed up most aspects of operation. We managed to get our hands on an early pre-production sample for a hands-on preview (unfortunately we cannot publish any sample images as yet).

Sony DSC-P150 hands-on Preview

The P150 is obviously based on the current P100; the body design and control layout appears to be identical, though the new model sports a natty brushed metal finish on the front. As with the P100 the lens retracts fully into the body, meaning the camera is - at around an inch thick - easily pocketable. The new 'Real Image Processor' (RIP) is claimed to speed up startup, focus and other important functions, and we certainly found this pre-production sample to be no slouch.

Side by side

The image below should give a good impression of how the P150 compares size-wise with a typical ultra-compact 6 megapixel camera (the Konica Minolta DiMAGE G600). Although it is shorter and around the same thickness, the elongated design of the P series means it is a touch wider than most similar models.

In your hand

It's small, but not too small to actually hold and use. In the hand the P150 feels reassuringly solid (thanks to the full metal jacket), but the lack of any kind of grip or texturing - along with the long thin body shape - means it doesn't feel that stable when used for single handed operation.

Design elements

As befits a camera with 7 million pixels crammed into a 1/1.8-inch chip the P150 sports what should be a decent lens: a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x (38-114mm equiv) F/2.8-5.2 zoom. Of course what remains to be seen is if this combination of lens and sensor actually produces any more recorded detail than the current 5MP mode. We await a production camera with interest!

The P150 has a combined battery/card slot that accepts Memory Stick (including the PRO variety) and a proprietary Sony NP-FR1 InfoLithium (STAMINA) cell. The battery has a locking catch to stop it falling out when you change cards, and in our initial tests there seems to be some basis for Sony's claims of extended battery life.

Operation

Control layout and functionality appears to be identical to the P100 - a nicely knurled main mode dial is joined by a four-way controller for menu navigation. Flash, macro, self-timer and delete functions get their own dedicated buttons; everything else is buried in the menu system. The 1.8-inch (134K pixel) screen is pretty standard stuff, and is bright and clear, though Sony's claims it works better in bright light than other screens should be taken with a pinch of salt. One nice touch is the inclusion of a live preview histogram.

Screens

The menus follow the usual Sony style, though they've been updated slightly with the addition of a bit of animation - this also includes functions accessed via on-body buttons (macro mode etc). The icons now zoom slightly and turn yellow to provide more positive feedback. Playback and setup menus and screens are very similar to those found on the P100, though they share the new 'animated' look (menu items 'bulge' slightly as they are selected).

Key Features

  • 7.2 effective Megapixels
  • Aluminium body (130cc)
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens (3x optical zoom)
  • F2.8-5.2, 38-114mm (35mm conversion)
  • Approx. No. of shots/STAMINA time: 320 shots / 2 hrs 40 min. (NP-FR1)
  • 1.8” LCD (134,000 dots)
  • Manual Exposure Function
  • Real Imaging Processor
  • Conversion lens compatibility via adapter
  • Scene Selection (9 modes)
  • Burst Mode: 5x (7 Mega/Fine), 100x (VGA/Standard) (0.9 fps)
  • Histogram Indication
  • USB Direct Print (PictBridge)
  • Memory Stick / Memory Stick PRO compatible (32mb Memory Stick supplied)