Sony's camera designers have never been shy about trying something different, which explains a lot about the DSC-F707. Introduced in 2001, it was a follow-up to the DSC-F505V, running with that camera's 'swiveling lens attached to a body' design. The F707 appears to be more lens than camera, resulting in what we called 'a surprisingly usable and ergonomic design' when we reviewed it. Here's what the F707 had going for it:

  • 5MP 2/3" CCD sensor
  • 38-190mm equiv. F2-2.4 lens
  • 1.8", 123k-dot LCD
  • Built-in EVF
  • 2.8 fps burst (capped at 3 frames)
  • ISO 100-400
  • Memory Stick slot

The F707 had more than a few tricks up its sleeves, something you might guess from its Swiss Army Knife-like appearance. So just what set it apart?

Frickin' laser beams

The camera was capable of focusing in total darkness thanks to a Hologram AF feature, which throws a Class 1 laser pattern onto its subject and uses that to acquire focus. We found it required some workarounds when trying to focus on certain subjects. And sure, AF assist lamps get the job done now reasonably well, but they're not nearly as cool as lasers (though nearly as blinding.)

The F707 projected a cross-type pattern with its onboard laser, which it used to focus. The top two "holes" on the list are IR blasters, while the laser can be found toward the right side.

Sadly, NightShot disappeared after the DSC-F717 that followed the F707. Why that happened is unclear, though one wonders if people just didn't feel comfortable having a laser shined in their eyes.

Night vision... sure, that's not creepy

The F707 offered Night Framing and Night Shot modes, flipping the Infrared filter out of the way and engaging two IR lamps on the front of the lens. The image on the LCD would turn green, just like night-vision goggles. NightShot mode actually took 'green' photos which, while cool, was of limited use. Night Framing, on the other hand, could capture regular color (flash) photos in total darkness. You composed your shot in 'green' and when you pressed the shutter release, up came the flash and a color photo was taken.

Here's the NightShot version of a sunflower, taken in total darkness. Photos by Jeff Keller. And here's the results you get using Night Framing.

NightShot is probably most famous - or infamous - for different reasons. Sony camcorders (and the F707/F717) equipped with NightShot could be modified to 'see through' clothing and other objects. So, if you happen to see an F707 with a dark IR filter on it, run the other way.

Is it a lens? Is it a camera?

The F707 offered an unusual camera-to-lens ratio, which at first seemed unwieldy. But when you stopped fighting the F707's unconventional design, you found a camera that was surprisingly comfortable to use. Like we said in our review, 'You find yourself carrying the camera by the lens and using the rear 'body' more as a viewing / control platform, which was after all the design aim.' We chalked it up as a 'love it or hate it' feature in our conclusion, ultimately coming down on the side of 'love it.'

We may have taken a shine to it, but the design eventually trended toward the DSLR-shaped ultrazoom we know today – the DSC-F828 took another stab at the swiveling lens, but 2005's DSC-R1 embraced a traditional, non-swiveling design. You've got to hand it to Sony, though. They haven't all enjoyed longevity in the market, but some of their ideas have certainly looked well outside of the box.