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Conclusion - Pros

  • Very compact
  • Useful 32-96mm equiv. zoom range
  • Excellent build quality and finish
  • Very fast operation
  • Fast, accurate focus
  • Generally reliable exposure (though see below)
  • Clean results, decent resolution for this class of camera
  • Low noise
  • Well designed, easy to use interface
  • Good auto white balance in most circumstances
  • Typically bright, sharp, vibrant Sony results well suited to target market
  • Histogram and exposure information shown on-screen
  • Well priced

Conclusion - Cons

  • Memory Stick Duo cards not that common, and quite pricey
  • Highest quality setting is a little over compressed
  • Stupid tripod mount needs bulky adaptor
  • Design makes accidentally activating spot metering easy
  • Mediocre macro capability
  • Underpowered flash
  • Some corner softness, distortion and flare
  • Mild underexposure tends to fill shadows in high contrast scenes
  • No AV output

Overall conclusion

Another month, another cute, easy to use and reliable Sony point-and-shoot camera. The DSC-L1 offers little in the way of innovation, instead you get a simple, fast, very small, very nicely designed and well put together little camera you really can carry anywhere. Picture quality is fine, though of course any camera/lens this compact is going to present some kind of compromise, and the L1 compares well with competitors such as the Canon SD300 and Olympus Stylus Verve Digita (both of which sell for slightly more).

The price is good, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the DSC-L1 as a second camera - in the couple of months I've been testing it, this is the one camera that I've had with me virtually every waking minute. It is cameras like this that help maintain the significant advantage a dedicated camera has over a camera phone - and it's a lot smaller than most cell phones too. It doesn't do much more than point and shoot, but it does that very well (Canon et al could learn a lot about fast focus from Sony), and my only serious complaint is that I'd like a slightly more powerful flash - everything else is fairly minor.

In the increasingly competitive sub-compact market Sony - like everyone else - has a fight on its hands to stand out from the crowd, and the DSC-L1, which takes all that was good about the Cyber-Shot U series and adds a much-needed zoom and bigger screen, has as good a chance as any of grabbing a slice of the action.

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