I'm not sure who Sony hired for the styling but this camera looks like the FD81 with a tin can stuck on the front. Jokes aside, many people who have seen this camera asked first if it was a video camera, for obvious reasons. It is a fairly comfortable camera to use and Sony have spent time getting the hand grips and weight balance just right (there's even small indentation on the top left back of the camera for your thumb).
The design is 'SLR-like' in that their is a traditional SLR hand grip on the right hand side and the zoom button has been placed on the barrel (similar to the Canon PowerShot Pro 70). This is one camera loaded with buttons and switches, to count over 10 on the back and 8 on the left hand barrel side. This may sound daunting but it soon becomes a quick and easy way to access the numerous features of this camera.
The LCD can be either folded flat against the back of the camera, tilted downwards about 30o or flipped up and over the top of the camera for those all important self portraits or self timer photographs.
The LCD itself is fairly clear with only a slight grid effect (a vast improvement over the older Mavica LCD's). During recording operation it displays all of the relevant information (switchable by pressing the display button) and usefully also has a little green flashing/still 'focus made' light (something missing from the Canon Pro 70 LCD display).
This camera also features Sony's excellent InfoLithium battery system and as such there is always a display in the bottom right of the LCD informing you of how many minutes battery life you have left (in reality the supplied battery will give you around an hour of snapping).
Note also with this camera the viewfinder is an LCD TTL type, this means that the image you see in the viewfinder is actually another LCD showing the image the CCD is seeing, useful for focus (if the LCD were up to the resolution).
Connectivty and Storage
Note, unlike older Mavica models there is
no 'second door' to open, you eject the disk by sliding a
small slider at the bottom right of the camera and the disk
just pops straight out.
The battery door also has a small rubber grommit which can be pushed out to facilitate the optional AC adapter.
There is no external flash connector or hot-shoe on this camera.
Here you'll find all of the major mode change operational buttons / switches, everything from the power, eject, flash, play/still/movie, spot meter and switch between viewfinder and LCD are here.
The small 'cursor rocker' below the LCD operates the menu system, you rock it left, right, up or down to navigate and then press the whole button in to select.
Barrel left hand side
Just above we have a little slider which pops-up and enables the flash.
Although this may seem overloaded it actually becomes quite easy to use 'without looking'. Although if you have big fingers like me you'll probably need to use your nail to press some of those thin buttons.
Those little hidden buttons
"Volume control??", I hear you cry, Yep, this camera can playback audio / audio captured with MPEG video and it even makes the traditional "cucchh-click" noise when you take a picture (fear not, you can switch this feature off).
One of the outstanding features of the camera is manual focus, although the focus ring (on the end of the lens) is not attached directly to any optics it operates the focus in a "fly by wire" sense. And leaves options for creativity wide open.
If there's anything this camera which makes the lens system scream "video camera" it's the 14x zoom, this system must be straight out of Sony's camcorder range and, as utterly amazing as it is (especially combined with the unique Steady Shot stabilzier system) it really does make you question what effect this has on image quality.
That aside, you can zoom in.. really.. really.. close.