As you can see from the image above the 'lens dominant', split body design of the DSC-F505/F7x7 remains a fundamental part of the F828. The body and lens are attached by a very strong swivel at the left edge of the body. This allows the lens to be rotated downwards 30° and upwards 70°, at the mid point there is a fairly stiff 'click' locking position. The most dominant visual differences must be the lens with its mechanically linked zoom ring, the flash housing which sits a little awkwardly on top of the lens and the metallic mode dial. The F828 gets a meaner, more professional and purposeful look from the black body.
I'm going to be controversial and say that the ugliest thing about this camera is the flash housing, it looks like an unfortunate afterthought. Here's a brave idea for Sony's R&D department: For the next flagship prosumer digital camera make the flash unit removable, something which slides onto the hotshoe and can be removed when not required. That way the camera becomes smaller and sleeker and gives people the option to carry the standard flash or one of the newer Sony flash units.
The DSC-F828 feels a completely different camera to the DSC-F717, this comes about from several factors. Firstly the metal used in the construction of the body feels to be of a much heavier gauge than the F717, it's the same kind of strength Nikon has used on the Coolpix 5x00 series. Secondly the color and finish, black always looks / feels more professional, the paint applied to the metal has a rough stippled finish. Thirdly the hand grip is much deeper than the F717 and has a softer rubber coating which gives a better and more satisfying hold. Lastly is the overall weight of the camera, the F828 is almost 250 g (8.8 oz) heavier than the F717, a lot of this I presume comes from the heavier gauge body metal, overall larger size and the new lens.
Side by side
We couldn't post this review without giving you a direct comparison to the F717. Below you can see side by side shots of the DSC-F828 and DSC-F717, anyone who has seen, used or owned an F717 should be able to clearly visualize the size difference. The last image below shows the F828 beside HP's eight times optical zoom five megapixel Photosmart 945 and Sony's own four times optical zoom five megapixel Cybershot DSC-V1.
In your hand
Thanks to its new deep hand grip with a softer rubber coating the F828 is certainly more comfortable, it fills your hand and feels very steady. As with the F717 the camera is obviously lens heavy and this does mean that the camera pulls hard anticlockwise, although the F828 can be shot single handed most people will settle into holding the lens barrel with their left hand when shooting.
The DSC-F828 has a 1.8" TFT LCD with 134,000 pixels and a gloss anti-reflective coating (the same as used on the DSC-F717 / V1). In use the screen appears to be bright and color accurate with plenty of resolution, the anti-reflective coating works well even outdoors.
The FINDER / LCD switch is located just to the bottom left of the LCD which allows you to switch the image between the electronic viewfinder and the LCD monitor.
Status Panel LCD
On the top of the F828 is a new small status panel LCD display, it provides a quick reference of current camera settings (flash mode, drive mode, metering, white balance etc.), exposure and remaining frames. Note that the panel has a green backlight which can be switched on by pressing the backlight button. The backlight comes on automatically in low light.
The F828 features a 235,000 pixel 0.44" LCD electronic viewfinder. The glass part of the eyepiece appears to be slightly larger than the DSC-F717 and the view through the EVF does appear to be slightly larger. Thanks to its high resolution display I would say that this is one of the better electronic viewfinders we have used. The EVF has a dioptre adjustment lever located below the eyepiece.
Battery & Memory Stick Compartment
In the bottom of the camera's hand grip is the combined battery and Memory Stick compartment. The compartment door is opened by pushing a lock lever to the left and sliding the door forwards, the door is metal hinged and sprung. The DSC-F828 takes the same 1200 mAh 7.2 V (8.5 Wh) NP-FM50 Lithium-Ion battery used in the DSC-F717, this is held in place by a small clip. Beside the battery is the Memory Stick slot, the F828 supports standard Memory Stick as well as the new Memory Stick Pro. It's also the first Sony digital camera to support the advanced features of MS Pro such as high speed parallel writing.