Familiar, and yet somehow different. The DSC-F707 sticks to the original unconventional F505 design in that the majority of the camera's size and weight are constituted by that large 5x lens. You find yourself carrying the camera by the lens and using the rear 'body' more as a viewing / control platform, which was after all the design aim. The rear body of the F707 is attached to the lens by a swivel and can be rotated through approximately 77 degrees upwards (LCD facing up) and 36 degrees down.
People's normal initial reaction to the F505 / F707 design is one of amused bewilderment, but after they hold it themselves and start shooting they soon realize that the idea of cupping the lens in your left hand and using your right to control the camera is quite natural.
Unlike the F505 the F707 has a viewfinder, the EVF variety (a small LCD with an eyepiece), also new is the chunky rubber coated hand grip (which now has space for the larger capacity InfoLithium M battery). Other design changes are the addition of a dummy hot-shoe, strap eyelets on either side of the camera, relocated connectors (with spring loaded doors!) and the general control layout, which is more like the DSC-S85.
The entire camera body is constructed from a strong magnesium alloy finished in a matte gray (darker than the original F505). The body colour does tend to take on the colour of surrounding lights which is why it may look slightly brown in some of our product shots (thanks to incandescent studio lights). Build quality is excellent, it's finished off to the finest detail and everything feels very solid and robust.
Here's the DSC-F707 beside Nikon's Coolpix 995, we're not intending to compare these two cameras (one is 5 mp, one is 3 mp), this picture is purely here for a size comparison as most people know roughly how big the Coolpix 9xx digital camera's are.
In your hand the new rubber caoted grip is chunkier than the old F505V and fills your hand much better. The swivel is stiff enough to hold the lens in whatever position you've twisted it. Alternatively I preferred the two handed grip, with the left hand cradling the lens and the right pressing the buttons... Becomes quite natural after a while.
The main LCD is clear and bright, has an anti-reflective coating and several adjustments (through the SETUP menu) which allow you to control both the image brightness and the backlight level (at the expense of battery life). The LCD itself is bright and clear, combined with the anti-reflective coating it's probably one of the easiest to use outdoors of any digital camera.
Below you can see the 'body portion' of the camera rotated to its three logical stopping points, first angled down as far as it will go (approximately 36 degrees), secondly locked into the horizontal position (it clicks firmly here) and lastly angled upwards as far as it will go (approximately 77 degrees).
We measured the LCD's frame coverage as 98% which is very good and will ensure that your final image will reflect exactly what you framed.
We measured the EVF's frame coverage as 98% (same as the rear LCD).
Storage / Battery Compartment
In the right of the cameras hand grip is the combined storage and battery compartment, the spring loaded compartment door opens towards the front of the camera revealing the Memory Stick slot and battery compartment. The F707 takes Sony's proprietary Memory Stick format, the camera is provided with a 16 MB Memory Stick, with the camera set to JPEG Fine (approx. 2.2 MB image) you'd be able to store around 6 images (not good, 64 MB next time please).
Clearly one issue we could raise with the F707 is storage capacity, the maximum capacity Memory Stick currently available is 128 MB. Each FINE quality 5mp JPEG weighs in around 2.2 MB, that doesn't offer a whole lot of shooting ability on one stick. It will be interesting to see how quickly Sony can get 256 and 512 MB Memory Sticks into the market, but for now you should be aware that you may end up carrying a pocket full of Memory Sticks.
Gone is the decidedly under powered InfoLithium NP-FS11 of last year, now the F707 takes the larger InfoLithium NP-FM50 battery, this provides 1200mAh at 7.2V (8.5Wh) which translates into some 4 hours of non-stop shooting (in our battery tests - see later in review). The battery charges in-camera, simply connect the provided charger/AC adapter to the camera's DC-IN connector and a yellow LED on the back of the camera will indicate that the battery is charging.
On the rear of the camera under a sprung door are the AV Out and DC-IN connectors. The sprung door is a nice touch, I'm glad to see the back of those rubber grommet doors. On the right side of the lens barrel you'll find another sprung door behind which lurks the USB connector (it's clear that the designers were running out of places to put connectors...)