The lens barrel is the weight and major structure of the camera, it's easily twice the weight of the back, containing a 5x zoom (7.1mm - 35.5mm) lens system by Carl Zeiss, the 1/2" 2.11 megapixel HAD CCD, pop-up flash and mounting various "at hand" controls. The lens has a fly-by-wire focus ring on the front with a 52mm filter thread. On the base (located dead center) of the lens barrel is a metal tripod mount surrounded by a thick metal mounting plate.. very reassuring.
The back of the camera is attached to the lens on its left extreme by a very strong and stiff 140 degrees swivel, the swivel itself locks at dead center and has an upper rotation limit of +90 degrees and a lower rotation limit of -50 degrees. The back contains the electronic guts of the camera, the LCD, controls, connectors, battery and MemoryStick slot. The back is light yet sturdy, that said you really do find yourself supporting the camera in your left hand gripping the lens barrel.
Overall the camera is oddly ergonomical, when you first see it you think "Interesting, but how am I going to hold it?" but after your first three or four shots it feels very natural and just rests firmly in your left hand with your right hand on the controls. Typically I was shooting with the screen tilted upwards about 30 degrees, outside I'd increase that tilt to about 60 degrees to get the best reflectivity out of the superb Hybrid (reflective and optionally back-lit) LCD.
What no viewfinder? I'm going to stir things up a little now, with this Sony you just don't need one. There, I said it... Now, I couldn't have said that on (say) the Nikon Coolpix 950 or other cameras with lesser LCD's, but the new Hybrid LCD on the F505 is simply superb, the first time using it with the backlight off outside in very bright Singapore sunlight and I could see every detail on the screen, brighter and clearer than even indoors with the backlight on.. Truly a step in the right direction, I was totally at home using this camera without holding it up to my eye...
Yep, it's on the lens barrel, and yes it's dead
center to the lens axis and by the looks of its positioning directly
below the CCD which means it's just perfectly positioned for shooting
panoramas... It's also positioned perfectly from a weight balance,
LCD positioning (you can rotate the LCD upward without having
to rotate the tripod head (at last I can use the spirit level
on my tripod head!) and firmness of hold on the lens. Oh, and
yes, you can change batteries and MemoryStick while it's mounted
on the tripod!
Below is a shot of the F505 next to a Nikon Coolpix 950. Here you can see the VAST difference in the size of the lens, and zoom.
Interestingly, loaded with batteries and flash memory they both weigh in at 480g (16.9 oz). This demonstrates the trouble Sony have gone to to make the rear "back" as light as possible to balance the weight of the lens. The F505 is a comfortably weighted camera.
It's worth noting that the F505 only has one LCD display, that is to say there's no "top LCD" displaying camera settings, all the settings are displayed on the main LCD on the back of the camera. This makes the camera more compact but increases the reliance on the main LCD.