Operation and controls
The DSC-L1 has no pretensions to being anything but a straightforward 'point-and-shooter', offering only the most basic of manual intervention. The majority of record mode settings are accessed via a single menu, which follows exactly the same format as all other Sony compact cameras. That said, most of the the important everyday controls (flash mode, self-timer, image size) get their own external buttons, as does spot metering - though as mentioned previously this is not necessarily a good thing! Overall the DSC-L1 easy to use (due in no small part to the almost entirely automatic operation), and the friendly user interface works surprisingly well on such a small screen.
Rear of camera
The DSC-L1s main shooting controls are ranged to the right of and below the LCD screen. Below the screen sit the dual image size/delete button (function changes according to the mode you're in), display button (used to change the amount of on-screen information and to turn on and off the screen backlight) and the menu button. To the right of the screen is a small four-way 'joystick', which is used to navigate the on-screen menus. In record mode the controller also offers fast access to flash mode, metering mode, self-timer and quick review mode. The spot meter button is disabled in 'auto' mode.
Top of camera
|The top of the camera is home to the power switch, microphone, main mode switch (record/playback/movie), shutter release and zoom slider.|
Display and menus
Sony's basic menu system hasn't really changed in years - and with good reason; it works perfectly well. The on-screen display can get a bit crowded in record mode (this is a very small screen), but you can reduce the information displayed if you prefer your previews clutter-free. The menus are simple and intuitive, though changing simple things like AE compensation takes several button pushes, which can be a little infuriating until you've completely mastered the interface. Fortunately you don't need to use the menus that often.
Apologies for the low quality of some of these screenshots, the DSC-L1 does not have a video output, so the screen was photographed directly.
|The most basic preview screen in record mode. Only the focus area, focus mode and flash mode are shown.||Half-press the shutter and the display changes to indicate the focus area(s) selected, and the exposure chosen.|
|Pressing the display button increases the amount of information on display - and gives you a live histogram.||Pushing the four-way controller to the right toggles between the default multi-pattern to spot metering (except in auto mode, where most controls are inaccessible).|
|The record menu (not available in full auto mode). The various menus are navigated using the four-way controller. Here you'll find options for everything from AE compensation to metering and drive mode, ISO setting, White Balance and image parameters (sharpness, saturation and contrast).||The image size menu has its own button below the LCD screen and offers a range of options from the top 4MP setting down to VGA (640 x 480 pixels).|
|The setup menu (the last choice in both record and playback menus) contains camera-related settings (date, time, card formatting etc). It's also home to some photographic options (single/continuous autofocus, red-eye reduction on/off, AF illuminator on/off, digital zoom).||You have three options in playback mode; no information, basic information (date, time, filename, resolution and battery status) or - as shown here - the whole hog, including exposure information and a histogram.|
|The left zoom button switches to a 3x3 thumbnail view...||...the right zoom button enlarges the image - up to 5x in 17 steps.|
|Playback menus are again ranged along the bottom of the screen, and offer the usual options (protecting, slide shows, printing) and a few less common; resizing, rotating and very basic movie editing.||In each case highlighting one of the items in the menu brings up options that are navigated using the four arrow keys.|