Externally the P200 is virtually identical to its predecessor, aside from a few design tweaks (including a smoother body and slight re-jigging of the controls) and a slightly larger screen. Aside from the power (on/off) and shutter release buttons, which sit on the top of the thin body, the cameras controls are all on the rear plate, to the right of the 2.0 " LCD. The lens retracts fully into the body when powered down, meaning the P2000 is truly pocketable. The all-metal body exudes quality, and feels remarkably solid in the hand. All the buttons and switches are metal too - mostly chrome - giving the camera a slightly more serious feel than appearances might suggest.
In your hand
It may not look it, but the P200 handles really well. At 180g fully loaded it is just heavy enough to feel solid and stable, and the lack of any grip on the front of the camera is offset by a small 'thumb grip' on the far right of the rear panel. This means it's perfectly safe to shoot one-handed, though I personally found the zoom a lot easier to operate if i supported the P200 with my left hand when shooting. The camera feels well balanced, but a word of caution; the lens is on the far left (looking from the back), and your hand is on the far right. This means camera shake is an ever-present threat when shooting single-handedly (a small movement of your hand can mean a big movement of the lens). We saw this in some of our quickly 'grabbed' shots at speeds as high as 1/200 second.
The combined battery/Memory Stick compartment sits under a sturdy spring-hinged 'slide out and swing open' door. Both battery and card click into place, so no danger of losing one when changing the other. Battery life from the Li-Ion cell (370 shots, CIPA standard testing) is excellent.
The P200 accepts Memory Stick and Memory Stick PRO cards (PRO cards are faster and offer higher capacities - up to 2GB).
The InfoLITHIUM battery is charged in-camera using the supplied mains adapter. This plugs into a small proprietary socket under a flap in the battery/card compartment cover.
The small flash is a little underpowered (a quoted range 3.5m), which is perhaps why Sony sells an optional bolt-on slave flash unit. The red-eye reduction (using a burst of pre-flashes) has to be turned on and off via the setup menu, which is fiddly, but you do at least get a slow synch function and a three-step output level control (-, normal, +). For social snaps of small groups or a little fill-flash it's fine, but don't expect miracles.
The P200 inherits the excellent 38-114mm equivalent 3x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens from the P100 and P150 before it. The F2.8 to 5.2 aperture is nice and bright at the wide end, but less useful at the long end of the range, which means slower shutter speeds or increasing the CCD sensitivity. The lens retracts fully (and very quickly) into the camera body completely when not in use, and can be extended with various Sony wide and tele adapters, and filter kits.
The combined data (USB) and audio/video (AV) port sits on the base of the unit, near enough to the tripod bush to disallow its use when the camera is tripod-mounted. The connector is so placed to slot into the optional 'Cyber-shot Station' - a camera dock for easy image transfer and battery charging.
The 2.0 inch screen boasts is slightly bigger than the P150's, but has the same number of pixels (134,000). It's bright and clear and has a high refresh rate, so the preview image is very smooth. On the downside it is nigh on impossible to see properly in very bright direct light, but is - to be fair - better than many in this respect. It does work well in low light, but - unusually - only automatically 'gains up' (brightens) when you actually half press the shutter and activate the AF illuminator.
The optical viewfinder is not that bad actually. Sure, it only shows around 85% of the scene, is too small and isn't even that clear, but it is at least usable, and near enough to the lens to avoid parallax errors in most normal shooting circumstances. Two LEDs indicate focus and flash status (a minor change from the P150, which had an extra LED to indicate movie recording).
The main mode dial - the P200 has four main shooting modes; auto, program (fully automatic but with many more menu options), full manual and scene (subject mode). The other positions on the dial are for movie mode and playback.
The remaining controls are clustered around the ubiquitous four-way controller on the rear of the camera.
There are only two buttons on the top of the P200; the main power switch and the chrome shutter release.