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Macro Focus

The DSC-F717 delivers optimum frame coverage at approximate one quarter zoom with the lens positioned just a couple of centimetres away from the subject. This however introduces three problems: (a) lighting the object being photographed (the big lens casts a large shadow), (b) barrel distortion and (c) lens sharpness / distortion at the edges of the frame. As you can see below lens sharpness at this very short subject distance means that a large portion of the border of the image is very soft.


Flash Performance

The DSC-F717's flash unit is unchanged from the F707 with a range of 0.5 - 5 m (1.6 - 16.4 ft) which is pretty powerful by digital camera standards. The F717 performs flash metering TTL (through the lens) by firing a pre-flash just milliseconds before the main flash. Note that in manual exposure mode with either the internal or external flash enabled the display will automatically return to a 'normal' brightness.

Skin tone test: Good colour, no cast (perhaps a little warm), good metering and flash power. Good exposure with very little visible drop off (or vignetting) at the corners. Color patch test: Good exposure, well metered with very good colour.

BFS / LEVBFS

BFS and LEVBFS are acronyms given to issues with the DSC-F707's flash system by our very own Sony Talk Forum (STF). BFS (Blue Flash Syndrome) was an almost random occurrence of blue cast (incorrect white balance) in automatic flash exposures, this was solved by Sony and existing F707's were fixed. LEVBFS (Level Blue Flash Syndrome) appeared after the original fix and affected manual flash exposures, higher shutter speeds produced bluer and bluer exposures. The problem appears to be related to the way the camera measures white balance (before the flash exposure).

Manual flash exposures in darkness

Good news here, no evidence of any blue cast when taking manual flash exposures in darkness.

F2.2, 1/30 sec F2.2, 1/250 sec F2.2, 1/1000 sec
F6.3, 1/30 sec F6.3, 1/250 sec F6.3, 1/1000 sec

Manual flash exposures with incandescent light

Colour cast exhibited below is what we would expect of an automatic white balance system in a mixed light situation. The camera selects its auto white balance based on the dominant light source in the image. At F2.2, 1/30 or 1/250 sec and F6.3, 1/30 sec this is an incandescent white balance (hence blue cast). Otherwise the camera selects a flash white balance, which produces the correct white balance.

F2.4, 1/30 sec F2.4, 1/250 sec F2.4, 1/1000 sec
F6.3, 1/30 sec F6.3, 1/250 sec F6.3, 1/1000 sec

Compared to the Nikon Coolpix 5700

Although not as visible the F3.7, 1/250 sec shot below definitely exhibits the same 'problem', the camera not knowing which way to go with the white balance. The Coolpix 5700 does allow you to select a 'Speedlight' (Flash) white balance which does produce more consistent results once the shutter speed is fast enough to eliminate much of the ambient incandescent light.

F3.7, 1/30 sec, Auto WB F3.7, 1/250 sec, Auto WB F3.7, 1/1000 sec, Auto WB
F3.7, 1/30 sec, Flash WB F3.7, 1/250 sec, Flash WB F3.7, 1/1000 sec, Flash WB

Flash hot-shoe

The DSC-F717 now features a flash hot-shoe (with contacts) compared to the 'cold shoe' of the F707 (no contacts). This means you can mount Sony's dedicated digital flash (HVL-F1000) directly onto the camera or even trigger third party flash systems. A word of warning about using this contact to trigger studio strobe systems, always check the trigger voltage to avoid damaging your camera. When the 'Hot-shoe' option is enabled through the SETUP menu the camera's manual exposure mode no longer dims the live view display.

Internal flash Canon 550-EX bounced off ceiling
Not very good white balance...
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