Aperture Priority

Aperture priority is where you designate the aperture and the camera calculates the best shutter speed, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the aperture will flash red on the LCD screen. However used properly Aperture Priority can be invaluable as it has a direct effect on depth of field (the distance in front and behind the focal point which will be in focus when taking the shot). Example of aperture priority (simple example F8 produces more depth of field than F2.8) - for more read my digital photography glossary:

Aperture Priority mode:
F2.8 (1/30s)

Aperture Priority mode:
F8.0 (camera still reported 1/30s)

Available aperture settings: F2.8 (wide), F3.4 (tele), F4.0, F4.8, F5.6, F6.8, F8.0

Shutter Priority

Shutter priority is where you designate the shutter speed and the camera calculates the best aperture, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the shutter speed will flash on the LCD screen. For more read my digital photography glossary. Oddly the F505 gives a different range of shutter speeds depending on the selected video output (a throwback to it's manufacturers origins?)

Camera set to NTSC:

1/8s, 1/15s, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/90s, 1/100s, 1/125s,
1/180s, 1/250s, 1/350s, 1/500s, 1/725s

Camera set to PAL:

1/6s, 1/12s, 1/25s, 1/50s, 1/75s, 1/100s, 1/120s,
1/150s, 1/215s, 1/300s, 1/425s, 1/600s

Manual Focus

Auto / Manual focus switchManual focus on the DSC-F505 is enabled by flipping a small switch at the end of the lens barrel and using the fly-by-wire focus ring. I tended to prefer manual focusing for shooting macro, and of course it's always useful for creative shooting or in circumstances where the AF cannot lock properly on the subject. In the sample below you can see four shots side-by-side where focus was progressively manually set on subjects further and further away.

Manual focus (click for larger image)

The fine grained focus ring implementation of manual focus on the F505 is considerably better than found on other recent digicams which use the method of having a limited number of preset focus distances. I found it quite easy to use and get the correct focus using the focus ring, especially combined with the on screen AF indicator.

Internal Flash

The pop-up flash on the F505 worked fairly well, it's not the best I've ever seen (that was on the Oly C2000Z). On occasion it actually got the white balance wrong when shooting a flash shot which ended up with a terrible blue-cast image, other times it's just too powerful which kind of raises the question just how is it controlled? There's a manual adjustment of low, normal and high which can make a big difference but I did find myself taking flash shots more than once just to get the power just right...

Skin tone test: Taken with a low power setting still washed out a little, colours were a little pasty. Kind of disappointing. Macros with the pop-up flash are a no-no, because of its location you'll get a shadow cast by the lens barrel if you try to flash anything close to.
This one, even though it looks over exposed is actually fairly good, if you get it into Photoshop and push the midtones down a little you get a good sharp image.  

Optical / Digital Zoom

The Optical zoom on the F505 is superb, combining the quality of glass used (Carl Zeiss) with a big focal length range (38mm to 190mm) means you've got a very usable range of zoom (though a wider bottom end would have been useful for those landscape / indoor real-estate shots, perhaps 30mm to 150mm?).

Readers of my reviews will know I'm not a huge fan of digital zoom as it's often a badly implemented and seldom used (by owners). On top of the F505's huge 5x optical zoom, it also has a progressive digital zoom all the way to 2x (giving 10x zoom in total).

No zoom (38mm) Full optical zoom (190mm, 10x) Full optical + 2x digital zoom (380mm, 10x)
No zoom (38mm)
Full Optical Zoom (190mm)
Full Optical + 2x digital

When "blowing up" the cropped sections of the image the F505 does do some in-camera interpolation of the pixels. This is better than most, and is almost a match for the interpolation in Photoshop (Bicubic). Below the image on the left was created by cropping a 120x120 pixel portion from the full optical zoom image and blowing it up to 240x240 using Photoshop's bicubic interpolation, the image on the right is the same image portion just cropped 240x240 from the 2x digital image, this comparing the interpolation techniques used.

2x digital zoom simulated using
Photoshop's Bicubic interpolation
2x digital zoom as produced by the
Sony DSC-F505

Playback digital zoom and cropping

One interesting feature of the DSC-F505 is the ability to create new cropped images from previously take images. You do this by entering Play mode, zooming into any image (up to 5 times), use the cursor pad to select the area to be cropped and press the Shutter Release button. This will generate a new image of resolution 640 x 480 (VGA) of that cropped portion. Very interesting...

(Click for larger image) (Click for larger image)
Original image (rotate 90 degrees for
Zoomed in to 5x in playback mode and pressed shutter release to produce this VGA image (rotate 90 degrees for clarity)