Built-in image "effects"

Sorry, but I'm not a big fan of built in imaging effects, but as a comprehensive review I like to cover everything available (and most digicams at least feature a Sepia and B&W mode). The DSC-F505 has many more, but again it's the normal set found on the DSC-F55 and other Mavica models.

No effect
Negative Art Sepia B&W Solarize

Other program AE modes

The four remaining program AE modes which I've not covered are Night, Night + and Landscape. Landscape is essentially an infinity lock, it locks focus at infinity allowing you to shoot the landscape without the camera focusing on a closer object first. Night and Night+ allow for longer exposures (the exact exposure isn't available on screen and the JPEG files contain no EXIF information so I can't report exactly how much longer).

No program
Night program Night+ program

Here's a comparison of the noise on each of the above images:

No program
Night program Night+ program

As you can see using Night+ program makes a significant difference, both to the exposure length and removal of noise. For reference purposes here is the same image taken with the Nikon Coolpix 950 (1/2" exposure at DEF sensitivity):

Nikon Coolpix 950 (click for larger image)
Nikon Coolpix 950 reference image 1/2"

Low light performance was kind of disappointing, I had hoped that Sony would give us plenty of low light flexibility but the 1/8s longest shutter speed is fairly limiting, and if you shoot out of Night+ mode you'll get lots of grain and noise.

White Balance

The DSC-F505 shows some of its parentage, the ability to set the white balance manually is implemented in the same way as on the DSC-D700 & D770, simply select manual white balance (press the white balance button on the lens barrel) and then press the white balance hold button (small button below the main white balance button) to re-read white balance from a white object (wall / piece of paper).. This works VERY well, and is one of the nicest features on the F505, white balance can easily ruin a perfectly good image, being able to set white balance easily is very important.

Auto WB
Incandescent WB Manual "hold" WB set from wall behind subject

JPEG Compression levels / Image sizes

Unfortunately the DSC-F505 doesn't have an uncompressed mode, this is a big disappoint on such a good camera. First disappointment out of the way, here comes the second, even the FINE JPEG compression is still (in my opinion) too heavy. By my calculations it's about 1:8, that is a raw 1600 x 1200 x 24bit image would be 5,760KB, in FINE compression JPEG images from the F505 are roughly 550KB, where as (for example) on the Nikon Coolpix 950 and Olympus C2000Z the FINE (SHQ on the Oly) compression level is around 1:4 which results in a lot LESS detail loss and a lot less JPEG artifacts. Add the fact that most other digicams of the F505's spec have an uncompressed mode and all in all it's just a pure SHAME that you can't squeeze the best image quality out of this camera.

The only reasoning I can find behind this is that the F505 is sold with a very small 4MB MemoryStick, at FINE compression you can only fit around eight (8) images on the stick, a less aggressive compression ratio would have meant between four (4) and six (6). So again, the capacity of the storage medium affects the best image quality potential of the camera (a bit silly really as Sony recently announced a 64MB MemoryStick and 32MB are already starting to come onto the market).

Note. We don't know if the F505 is upgrable by a software update.

Here's a comparison of FINE and NORMAL compression: (an area blown up 200%)

FINE compression, 1600 x 1200 (478KB)
NORMAL compression, 1600 x 1200 (291KB)

Additional JPEG artifacts are clearly visible on the shot taken at NORMAL compression which is far too aggressive. FINE compression copes fairly well and is at the same level as other cameras "NORMAL" compression. Here's the same scene shot at 1024 x 768 and 640 x 480:

FINE compression, 1024 x 768 (478KB)
FINE compression, 640 x 480 (291KB)

MPEG Movie capture

The F505 will capture a short MPEG clip at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 112. However it's file limit is 1,336KB, curiously similar to the amount of data you'd be able to store on a floppy disk (throwback to the Mavica's me thinks). So at 320 x 240 you can capture about 15 seconds, at 160 x 112 you can capture 60 seconds max.

This video is 320 x 240, 15 seconds. Warning: this is a 1.3MB download.

(Click to play 15 second MPEG movie)
Click to download/play MPEG Movie (1.3MB)