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Conclusion - Pros

  • Eight megapixel sensor delivers a clear resolution increase over five megapixel
  • New RGBE four color CCD delivers more pleasing color balance than DSC-F717 it replaces
  • Big and very fast seven times optical zoom lens which starts at a wide 28 mm
  • Excellent mechanically linked zoom ring
  • Fast operation, very fast startup, auto focus and short shutter release lag
  • Impressive file write performance (over 2 MB/sec with a good card)
  • Availability of image parameter adjustment, although not enough latitude
  • Focus-by-wire manual focus ring works quite well
  • Major camera controls on exterior of camera
  • Backlit status LCD
  • Superb movie recording capability, 640x480 @ 30 fps, but still not MPEG-4
  • Program AE has "program shift"
  • Histogram display in live view, record review and playback
  • RAW file format (although oversized and locks camera while writing)
  • RAW conversion software has plenty of flexibility but is slow to use
  • High resolution EVF (can switch to night framing in low light)
  • Range of accessories increasing
  • Advanced hot-shoe supports features of HVL-F32X flash unit
  • Fast camera to computer transfers thanks to USB 2.0
  • Excellent battery life


Conclusion - Cons

  • Strong visible chromatic aberrations in backlit or reflections in bright sunny conditions
  • Higher noise levels than the current crop of five megapixel digital cameras
  • Potential hue shift on overexposed greens
  • Visible sharpening 'white halo' around black lines
  • Barrel distortion at wide angle (although expected of such a wide angle DC lens)
  • Difficult to get good macro performance without barrel distortion
  • Annoying shutter release locking issue where you must wait before re-pressing
  • Would have been nice to have Adobe RGB color space option
  • Average buffer size, not used for RAW or TIFF images which lock the camera during write
  • No user settings / memories
  • No blinking highlights in histogram playback mode
  • Unrequired separate play mode, should have shooting priority full play mode via QV button
  • Very small photosite compromising image quality (marketing over quality)?


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Sony DSC-F828: (8 megapixel prosumer):

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 8
Image quality 7.5
Lens / CCD combination 7
Ease of use 8
Value for money 8

There's no doubt that physically the DSC-F828 is one of the most unusual and arguably best designed prosumer digital cameras. It took the successful design of the F717 to the next level with a mechanically linked zoom lens, full black metal body, new control layout and improved EVF among others.

Sony has clearly concentrated on giving digital camera owners the full SLR experience without the need to carry multiple lenses. Performance was on the whole very good, with fast startup times, short shutter release lag and better than average focusing speed. From a feature set point of view the F828 is strong although still not up with the likes of Minolta's excellent DiMAGE A1 nor the Nikon Coolpix 5700.

It's a shame that Sony couldn't directly document that the 'Real color' mode of the camera is actually mapped to a known color space (sYCC) and perhaps even have provided the color profile for this color space so that owners could make proper use of it.

Where the F828 starts to disappoint is image quality, many observers had concerns about the very small pixel pitch of the camera's eight million pixel sensor knowing that it would most likely lead to noisier images but what we weren't prepared for were chromatic aberrations. This came as a surprise especially considering the F828's lens carries not only the Carl Zeiss name but also the 'T*' notation indicating the use of special lens coatings. So in reality the F828's biggest issue becomes chromatic aberrations, with noise a second place.

Throughout the latter part of writing this review I had an 'Above Average' rating fixed in my mind, higher than average noise at ISO 100, the green hue shift issue and the chromatic aberrations problem dominating the final conclusion.

However after going back through the advantages the camera offers, the extra resolution, the ability to produce very good images with a little experience, the flexibility of the lens (wide angle, reach, fast maximum aperture, mechanical zoom), the improved build quality and feature set the DSC-F828 just scraped through to a Recommended rating. (That said I am still on the edge of an 'Above Average' rating).

Recommended
(only Above Average for the inexperienced user)

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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