Sony DSC-F505 All Round View (click for larger image)Sony DSC-F505 All Angle View (click for larger image)

As you can see Sony really broke the mould with the F505. Split into two distinctive sections, the lens barrel and camera "back" (for want of a better word).

The Lens

The lens barrel is the weight and major structure of the camera, it's easily twice the weight of the back, containing a 5x zoom (7.1mm - 35.5mm) lens system by Carl Zeiss, the 1/2" 2.11 megapixel HAD CCD, pop-up flash and mounting various "at hand" controls. The lens has a fly-by-wire focus ring on the front with a 52mm filter thread. On the base (located dead center) of the lens barrel is a metal tripod mount surrounded by a thick metal mounting plate.. very reassuring.

The Back

The back of the camera is attached to the lens on its left extreme by a very strong and stiff 140 degrees swivel, the swivel itself locks at dead center and has an upper rotation limit of +90 degrees and a lower rotation limit of -50 degrees. The back contains the electronic guts of the camera, the LCD, controls, connectors, battery and MemoryStick slot. The back is light yet sturdy, that said you really do find yourself supporting the camera in your left hand gripping the lens barrel.

Overall the camera is oddly ergonomical, when you first see it you think "Interesting, but how am I going to hold it?" but after your first three or four shots it feels very natural and just rests firmly in your left hand with your right hand on the controls. Typically I was shooting with the screen tilted upwards about 30 degrees, outside I'd increase that tilt to about 60 degrees to get the best reflectivity out of the superb Hybrid (reflective and optionally back-lit) LCD.

Design Elements

What no viewfinder? I'm going to stir things up a little now, with this Sony you just don't need one. There, I said it... Now, I couldn't have said that on (say) the Nikon Coolpix 950 or other cameras with lesser LCD's, but the new Hybrid LCD on the F505 is simply superb, the first time using it with the backlight off outside in very bright Singapore sunlight and I could see every detail on the screen, brighter and clearer than even indoors with the backlight on.. Truly a step in the right direction, I was totally at home using this camera without holding it up to my eye...

Tripod Mount

Sesibly positioned tripod mount (click for larger image)Look mommy, it's a sensible tripod mount!

Yep, it's on the lens barrel, and yes it's dead center to the lens axis and by the looks of its positioning directly below the CCD which means it's just perfectly positioned for shooting panoramas... It's also positioned perfectly from a weight balance, LCD positioning (you can rotate the LCD upward without having to rotate the tripod head (at last I can use the spirit level on my tripod head!) and firmness of hold on the lens. Oh, and yes, you can change batteries and MemoryStick while it's mounted on the tripod!

Swivel The swivel is implemented differently on the F505 than on other cameras, it's a thinner mount around to the lens barrel, this means that one edge of the barrel rests on a plastic runner (which makes for extra support) on the rounded front of the camera back (confused yet?).. Anyway, this all adds up to a light, well shaped yet strong construction that feels as though it'll last.

Below is a shot of the F505 next to a Nikon Coolpix 950. Here you can see the VAST difference in the size of the lens, and zoom.

Nikon Coolpix 950 (left), Sony DSC-F505 (right)

Interestingly, loaded with batteries and flash memory they both weigh in at 480g (16.9 oz). This demonstrates the trouble Sony have gone to to make the rear "back" as light as possible to balance the weight of the lens. The F505 is a comfortably weighted camera.

LCD Display

It's worth noting that the F505 only has one LCD display, that is to say there's no "top LCD" displaying camera settings, all the settings are displayed on the main LCD on the back of the camera. This makes the camera more compact but increases the reliance on the main LCD.

Luckily Sony have an excellent new 2" Hybrid LCD which works well backlit (indoors or in the shade) and in bright sunlight (trust me, sunlight is BRIGHT here in Singapore) with the backlight turned off. The LCD has a reflective surface below it which means that with the backlight off the reflected liight produces a very bright, vibrant and easy to see LCD. I personally found the LCD viewed best from about 30 degrees below perpendicular when used in it's reflective manner. This is different than the Hybrid LCD seen on (say) the FD-88 which uses a top mounted sunlight window. All in all the LCD on this Sony is the BEST I've seen so far.

Hybrid LCD (click for larger image)

This is an example of the normal information overlay (without menu bar) when shooting. Information displayed from left to right:

Battery minutes remaining, resollution and JPEG quality, shots taken on MemoryStick and "remaining space bar". Macro / program mode, flash mode, current zoom (only active during and a few seconds after zooming).

Note, there's no "live readout" of the current exposure, something a few shutterbugs may miss.

Normal shooting LCD view

(Arghhh, no.. not those teletubbies!)