Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P50 review

Started Aug 3, 2004 | User reviews
larrytucaz Contributing Member • Posts: 948
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P50 review

Good overall, but the metering to me can be tricky.

I have a Nikon Coolpix 5700 for more "serious" work and formerly owned a Nikon Coolpix 775 for more "casual" snapshooting. The 775 is about the same class of camera as the Sony DSC-P50.

I got the Sony as a replacement for the 775 because of the 775's tendencies to struggle with autofocusing in low-light sometimes. Well admitedly the subject matter was difficult--a black cat in low-light. Still, the autofocus assist of the Sony appealed to me.

The camera has given good results, however, I am starting to sort of wish I had the Coolpix 775 back. The main reason--the 775's matrix meter. Turns out--I didn't know this at the time--the Sony has an old-fashioned center-weighted meter. Makes a HUGE difference when you're, say, taking a photo of someone against a window with light coming through it. My Nikon typically saw through it and exposes properly--adding flash if need be. The Sony too often underexposes.

Sure, you get instant feedback since it's digital and you have the ability to use exposure compensation or force the flash on. But the fact that the 775 typically gets it right the 1st time is undoubtedly better.

It doesn't stop there. Indoors the Sony either has a tendency to (a) not use flash when it needs to, resulting in underexposure or (b) other times, at shorter distances especially, it way overflashes the subject. Sure, for the 1st situation you could always force the flash on; for the latter, there is a flash level ("High, Normal, Low") within the menus to take care of matters. But the 775 typically nailed those more consistently, and the whole point of using the Sony or the 775 rather than the Coolpix 5700 is that it's a "snapshooting" situation and I'm not being a "photographer" at the moment--but rather a snapshooter.

In such situations, I'm not using my photography brain I'm just being a snapshooter like anyone else--and I want automation to handle things for me. I must say, the 775 did that better than the Sony does. This is not to say that the Sony is always fouling things up--not at all. And again there are always ways around it. But the 775 nails it more often, and I prefer that. No doubt this has to be because the CP775 has the matrix meter while the Sony is center-weighted.

The camera is a good camera overall. When it does nail the exposure--which it usually does--the results are typically 2 megapixel--that is, plenty enough for 4x6s and even 5x7s (at least for everyday subjects anyway; I wouldn't expect a beautiful Sonoran desert sunset to be handled by either camera; that's when the Coolpix 5700 is taken out of the camera bag). It works fine for those aspects, as the CP775 did.

I like its beeps to verify autofocusing and taking of picture--and if you hate them (I like them) you can turn them off. I for one like that it does single autofocusing rather than continuous, which the 775 does unless you turn the LCD off.

On the other hand, the CP775's LCD is brighter--considerably so. And if you have to use the peephole on the 775 it's more accurate; the Sony's shows way less of the actual image than the 775 does. (Then again, with a point & shoot digicam, who uses the peephole?)

Also, it does have good battery life with the 2-AAs--if you use NiMh rechargeables, that is. I use I-C3 Ray-o-Vacs--2000 mAh--and they work great. You don't need Sony's special Lithium pack; just get good NiMh AAs and you'll be good to go. (I LOVE the RayoVac I-C3s; they recharge in 15 minutes, and last just as long between charges--a HUGE plus.)

I do like the autofocus assist light--it doesn't have as much of an edge over the CP775 as I thought it would, but it does help--and I like its quicker start-up time. I ESPECIALLY like the quieter zoom--it doesn't make loud noises the way the CP775 does. (It doesn't zoom out quite as wide as the CP775 does, and I miss that more than I thought I would; I find that more necessary than telephoto, which the Sony is better at to make up for the difference.)

The menus are plenty logical to me anyway. I don't have a problem with them. One annoyance--the playback menu offers a "rotate" choice. But that doesn't SAVE the image that way. Why have the feature otherwise, I say?

I do like the Sony better in that you can lock the ISO values. The CP775 will auto-increase the ISO to 200 (from the default 100) if the light is low, increasing digital noise. I don't like that; I prefer how the Sony lets you lock it. (It does offer AUTO as an option, too if you wish.)

I find the CP775 easier to hold with one hand; its grip is far superior. Still, the Sony is better than the "ultra-compacts" are in that regard. But the CP775 is considerably better than the Sony, ESPECIALLY if you try & zoom while holding it. Then, you practically have to use both hands with the Sony. The CP775 is way better.

The CP775 forgets some settings when you turn it off and reverts back to "default" settings with things like flash mode and exposure compensation--and with sharpness, too. The Sony remembers. (For the record--the CP775's replacement, the 2100 {and now the 2200} have fixed this--I THINK.) On the other hand, the CP775 allows you to vary contrast and saturation (I think), the Sony does not.

Of course I prefer the CP775's Compact Flash to the Sony's Memory Stick. Still, the Memory Stick is not obselete or hard to find--or priced THAT much higher anyway. (I got a new Lexar 128 Meg stick for $40.)

I like the "scene" modes the CP775 has; they make quick work, say, of tricky backlighting situations (ones which would fool either camera) and they improve landscapes in "landscape" mode by increasing the contrast (I think it looks better anyway). Sure the "scene" modes are a joke with advanced cameras; I sure don't miss them on my Coolpix 5700. But with a point & shoot where you can't vary the aperture & shutter speeds, it's helpful to at least have the scene modes as a snapshooting substitute.

Hmm, what else? The Sony does have a better movie mode--it saves it as a MPEG while the CP775 saves it in Quicktime (I prefer MPEG, just me). More than that, thoug, the Sony has no limit on length of the clip's length--only the size of your card limits you; the CP775 only does 30 seconds (I believe). But then, if I wanted motion clips, I'd use a camcorder.

Overall, I do like the camera. It does give pleasing results, its zoom is way quiet (not a small thing--especially in quiet settings), it uses common AA batteries and you can lock the ISO to prevent digital noise in low-light. I think, given a choice between the 775 and the Sony, I think I'd go back to the Nikon CP775. But the Sony is a viable alternative.


Meter not as accurate as others; it's center-weighted, not "matrix" or "evaluative," more prone to errors (which can be corrected by forcing-on the flash or using exposure compensation--or changing the flash output level).

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P50
2 megapixels • 1.5 screen • 41 – 123 mm (3×)
Announced: Feb 9, 2001
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