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Three new DSC-P digital cameras from Sony

By dpreview staff on Feb 20, 2002 at 04:00 GMT

Pre-PMA 2002: 17:01 EST: Sony has today announced three new 'entry level' DSC-P digital cameras. The DSC-P31 and DSC-P51 are both two megapixel digital cameras, the P31 with a fixed 33 mm equiv. lens, the P51 with a 2x optical zoom (41 - 82 mm equiv.). The DSC-P71 has a three megapixel CCD sensor plus a three times optical zoom lens. All three cameras feature a new three area multi-point AF mode, Memory Stick storage, 320 x 240 MPEG HQX video recording, a new full range of white balance settings and take two AA batteries.

Press release:

SONY'S NEW CYBER-SHOT CAMERAS MAKE THE DELETE BUTTON PRACTICALLY OBSOLETE

Models Include Built-in Technologies to Ensure Better Pictures Every Time

PARK RIDGE, N.J., Feb. 20, 2002 - The need to delete out-of-focus or improperly exposed pictures is almost a thing of the past with the powerful hidden capabilities of Sony's new Cyber-shot digital still camera models (DSC-P31, DSC-P51 and DSC-P71), unveiled at a press conference today.

Rather than focus only on pixels and price, the three new models possess behind-the-scenes technology that eliminates the frustration and disappointment of having to retake pictures due to camera limitations, making the switch from film to digital photography more compelling than ever.

Back to Basics

Sony's new Cyber-shot P Series cameras concentrate on the essentials of good picture-taking sharp focus and accurate exposure. Technologies like multi-point auto focus, multi-pattern and pre-flash exposure metering, and scene modes work transparently to give amateur photographers the headstart they need.

"This is the next step in the development of digital cameras," said Takashi Kondo, senior vice president of Sony Electronics' Digital Imaging Product Division. "After all, the real benefit of improved digital imaging technology is obtaining better pictures with less hassle."

Better Focus and Exposure - Automatically

Sony's newly developed multi-point auto focus is one feature that takes the guesswork away from the picture-taker. It allows the camera to intelligently evaluate three different focus areas and select the best focus setting for the subject instead of the background. This ensures that the star of the photo is always the clearest, crispest part of the picture even if they aren't in the center of the frame.

For greater exposure accuracy, Sony's pre-flash exposure metering calculates exposure with light from the flash itself. When the picture is taken, the flash fires twice once to illuminate the subject and determine the correct exposure, then a second time to record the image with the best exposure possible. All of this is done effortlessly in less than a blink of an eye.

To provide accurate exposure in uneven lighting, multi-pattern metering divides the scene into a matrix of 49 separate cells, each of which can be metered independently. This stealth feature calculates exposure when highlights and shadows exist outside the center of the frame, like a beach scene with the sun in one corner and a shaded hammock in the other.

Special Lighting Problems Solved

It's difficult for most amateur photographers to take a picture that correctly exposes both the subject and the background. So, for example, nighttime pictures of people standing in the middle of New York's Time's Square can lose the exciting backdrop details.

When selecting the new Twilight Portrait scene mode, a pre-figured exposure control steps in to invisibly handle the challenging shooting situation. To best capture the light and image from the background, it slows the shutter speed for a long exposure and, to properly illuminate the person in the foreground, it adds the flexibility of a flash.

To make the picture even more clear and "frameable," Sony has added a mechanism that was previously found only in more expensive, professional-grade cameras slow shutter noise reduction. It eliminates the "visual noise" that often appears in long exposure time digital camera images as grain, by capturing two successive pictures. The first captures what the photographer sees. The second closes the iris and captures the noise. The camera then subtracts the noise pattern from the picture, resulting in a beautiful lowlight photograph that is virtually noise-free.

Useful Recording Options

In addition to taking high-resolution digital images, the three new Cyber-shot models offer modes that extend their usefulness.

Multi-frame burst mode is a recording option that captures action by taking 16 rapid-fire sequential pictures at any of three selected intervals. Saved as a single digital file, these images can be beneficial in analyzing a golf, tennis or baseball swing.

All three cameras also feature the new MPEG Movie HQX video mode that allows users to capture nonstop, full-screen, high-resolution MPEG videos to the capacity of the Memory Stick media.

Tools for Added Convenience

In low light situations, advanced LCD auto bright monitoring automatically increases the brightness of an image on the LCD display so photographers can see and frame objects.

For reliable, long-lasting operation, all three models are supplied with rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries and a charger.

Lastly - Resolution, Zoom and Price

The new DSC-P31 and DSC-P51 models offer 2.0 megapixels (effective) of resolution, while the top-of the-line DSC-P71 provides 3.2 megapixels (effective) from its CCD imager.

The 8.5-ounce DSC-P31 is smaller than the other two Cyber-shot models and features a 3X digital zoom. The DSC-P51 and DSC-P71 both weigh about 10 ounces. The DSC-P51 has a 2X optical / 3X digital zoom and the DSC-P71 has a 3X optical / 2X digital zoom.

The DSC-P31 and DSC P71 Cyber-shot cameras will be available at the end of March for about $220 and $400, respectively. The DSC-P51 will be available at the end of April for about $300.

Sony DSC-P31, DSC-P51 and DSC-P71 new features

  • Wider range of white balance modes (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent)
  • New 3 area multi-point Auto Focus (fully automatic, no option to select AF point)
  • New scene modes (twilight, twilight & portrait, landscape)
  • New noise reduction algorithm (based on that first implemented on the F707, but improved)
  • Multi-pattern metering
  • Slow shutter noise reduction (dark frame subtraction - again first seen on the F707)
  • Multi-burst continuous mode (16 frames on a single JPEG - 30 / 15 / 8 fps)
  • MPEG HQX movie (320 x 240 unlimited @ 8 fps - 5 mins 55 sec on a 128 MB MS, no audio)
  • 2 x AA batteries (no Lithium-Ion at this price) - rechargeable NiMH and charger included
  • 16 MB Memory Stick now standard (apart from the DSC-P31 which comes with an 8 MB Memory Stick)

Sony DSC-P31, DSC-P51 and DSC-P71 specifications

  Sony DSC-P31 Sony DSC-P51 Sony DSC-P71
Price $220 $300 $400
ETA Apr 2002 May 2002 Apr 2002
Sensor 1/2.7" 2.11 mp CCD 1/2.7" 2.11 mp CCD 1/1.8" 3.34 mp CCD
Effective 2.0 mp 2.0 mp 3.2 mp
Lens Sony fixed F2.8 Sony 2x zoom F3.8 Sony 3x F2.8 - F5.3
Focal len. 33 mm equiv. 41 - 82 mm equiv. 39 - 117 mm equiv.
Digital zoom 3x 2x
Native size 1600 x 1200 2048 x 1536
Other sizes 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960,
640 x 480
3:2 mode Yes
Manual focus 5 step
Auto focus Auto Multi-point 3 area
AF Illuminator Yes (Orange lamp), On/Off
Focus distance Norm: 10 cm (3.9 in)
Macro: Auto
Norm: 8 cm (3.1 in)
Macro: Auto
Norm: 50 cm (19.7 in)
Macro: 10 cm (3.9 in)
A/D converter 12 bit 14 bit
ISO Auto / 100, 200, 400
White bal. Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent
Metering Multi-Pattern / Spot
Aperture F2.8 / F8.0 F3.8 / F8.0 F2.8 / F8.0
Shutter speed Auto: 1/30 - 1/1000 sec
Night Sc: 2 - 1/1000 sec
Auto: 1/30 - 1/2000 sec
Night Sc: 2 - 1/2000 sec
Noise reduction Clear color / Luminance NR / Slow shutter NR
Scene modes Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Landscape
Exp. compen +/-2 EV in 0.3 EV steps
Image settings Sharpening (5 levels)
Flash range 0.4 - 3.8 m (1.3 - 12.5 ft)
Flash modes Auto, On, Off (Red-Eye option)
Flash level Auto, High, Low
Movie modes MPEG HQX (320 x 240, only storage limited) - No audio
Multi-burst mode 16 frames on a single 1280 x 960 image, 7.5, 15 or 30 fps
Clip motion Animated GIF
LCD 1.6" 61,000 pixel 1.5" 123,000 pixel
Viewfinder Optical
Storage Memory Stick
Supplied 8 MB Memory Stick 16 MB Memory Stick
Connectivity USB 1.1, Video out
Power 2 x AA batteries (NiMH rechargeable supplied)
Charger Included
Dimensions 106 x 58 x 40 mm
(4.2 x 2.3 x 1.6 in)
127 x 58 x 47 mm 125 x 58 x 44 mm
Weight (loaded) 231 g (8.5 oz) 275 g (10.1 oz) 284 g (10.4 oz)

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Sony DSC-P31
DSC-P31
Sony DSC-P51
DSC-P51
Sony DSC-P71
DSC-P71
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