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Pre-PMA 2002: As a prelude to a full review of the DSC-P71 we have a quick preview article and sample images available. This camera is aimed squarely at the entry-level portion of the market, priced extremely competitively the DSC-P71 offers a 3 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom and a variety of features such as unlimited MPEG recording (limited only by storage), new white balance modes and selectable ISO sensitivity. The P71 takes just two AA batteries (NiMH rechargeables are included) and stores its images on a Memory Stick.
The DSC-P71 continues Sony's 'long and narrow' design with the lens mounted on the far left edge. The design is reminincant of the DSC-P1 but the P71 is noticeably bigger than that camera. Other differences are in the build material, plastic for the P71 (although still very good build quality for an entry-level range camera). Everything is where you'd expect it to be with the LCD mounted centrally in the camera rear, various controls to the left of it and the main mode dial slightly overhanging the top of the camera. Also note that the two batteries slide in a door in the right side and that the Memory Stick slot is in the base of the camera.
With the three new DSC-Px1 cameras Sony has shown it listens to owners (and occasionally reviewers) by implementing several improvements asked for of their previous models. Gone is the limiting Indoor / Outdoor white balance to be replaced with a full range of white balance presets. Also new is a three point auto focus system, although you can't select the focus points this will improve the cameras ability to pick the subject out of the scene (three points are aligned along the horizontal center of the frame). There's now also multi-pattern metering for improved matering ability, a new noise reduction algorithm which takes the clear noise reduction system of the F707 a step further and dark frame (NR) subtraction for long exposures.
The DSC-P71 has a new 16 images on a single frame 'multi-burst' continuous shooting mode (we've seen something like this on Nikon Coolpix digital cameras for some time). Multi-burst can be set to either 8, 15 or 30 fps. Also new is MPEQ HQX which allows you record 320 x 240 8 fps movies for as long as you have space on the Memory Stick, a vast improvement over the 15 or 30 second clip lengths seen of other cameras (although no audio is recorded).
To keep the price of the DSC-P71 as low as possible (and making it easier to power in an emergency) the camera takes two standard AA batteries and is supplied with two AA NiMH rechargables and a charger.
The DSC-P71's resolution is extremely impressive at this price point. Indeed it exhibits roughly the same resolution as it's bigger (but older) brother the DSC-S75. Bear in mind that this shot is from a pre-production camera and will be updated when a production camera is made available.
Note the samples below are from a pre-production DSC-P71. Look out for our full review of a production DSC-P71 sometime in March or April.