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Operation and controls

Essentially a beefed-up point and shoot camera, the P200 follows the usual Sony pattern - friendly and easy to use, but a little fiddly if you want to access the more advanced functions. On the positive side the most important options; flash mode, macro, self timer and image size; all get their own dedicated buttons, and the on-screen display is well designed. The zoom control is a little close to the edge of the camera to make single-handed shooting completely comfortable, but the positioning of the external controls is, in general, logical and well-designed for quick snapping. In truth most users of the P200 are going to be shooting in Program mode most of the time, which is fine, since it generally works perfectly well (more of which later), so the 'hiding' of more advanced options in menus is not likely to be a serious problem.

Rear of camera

Although it's been redesigned slightly, the P200 is too all intents and purposes identical to the P150 with two exceptions - a slightly larger screen (2.0-inch as opposed to 1.8-inch) and the removal of the setup option from the mode dial (it's now all done in menus).

All the camera's main photographic controls sit to the right of the LCD screen. At the top we have the main mode dial and zoom buttons. Below the mode dial is the display button, used to toggle the various display modes and to turn the screen on and off. Next down is a circular group of buttons used to navigate the on-screen menus (the middle button is 'enter'). Each of the four arrow buttons also has an icon next to it, indicating its purpose when not inside the menu system (see above). Finally, down near the bottom of the camera is a menu button (for activating the menus) and a dual purpose button: image size (in record mode) and delete (in playback mode).

Top of camera

Looking down at the P200 from above gives you some idea just how slim it is. The low-carb body doesn't leave much room for controls on the top (or sides), so all you'll find here is the main power switch and the shutter release, which is perfectly positioned for fumble-free snapping.

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 (Sony likes to give you as much information as possible), 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.

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. In manual mode you get two apertures to choose from (F2.8 and F5.6 at the wide end, F5.2 and F10 at the tele end), and shutter speeds from 30 secs to 1/1000. The screen indicates how far over or under you are from the metered exposure.
The record menu (not available in full auto mode). The left and right arrows scroll through the various menus, the up and down arrows select the menu options. Here you'll find options for everything from AE compensation to metering and drive mode, ISO setting, White Balance and image parameters. Note that we've used a black background for clarity - normally this menu is overlaid on the preview image. Turn the mode dial to SCN (scene) and a new menu appears, offering nine subject based modes. Some of the other menu options are not available in some of the scene modes (for example, focus is fixed at infinity in the fireworks mode).
Pressing one of the arrow keys without the menus on-screen changes the flash/macro/ self timer setting; a large yellow zooming icon lets you know what you've changed - useful given how easy it is to accidentally press buttons on such a small camera. Changing modes with the main dial produces a nice - though pointless - rotating animation. Switching modes is, however, very fast.
The setup menu (activated by turning the mode dial to setup) 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.
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