Conclusion - Pros

  • Class leading resolution (at the consumer level, at time of writing review)
  • Good metering (improved thanks to 'Multi-Segment' metering)
  • Bright, vivid colour reproduction (though saturation control is sorely missing)
  • Low noise (thanks to Clear Color Noise Reduction system)
  • High quality, sharp and very fast (F2.0 - F2.4) 5x optical zoom lens (some macro distortion)
  • Generally quick AF, Hologram (Laser) assist for low light works better for large subjects
  • Fast startup and operational times, short write times
  • Good selection of manual controls
  • Swivel body - you either love it or hate it, I (personally) love it
  • Well implemented manual focus (live view magnified, weighty, smooth focus ring)
  • EVF and LCD provide >98% frame view
  • Surprisingly good EVF
  • LCD anti-reflective coating
  • NightFraming feature is useful, NightShot of questionable use
  • Most camera controls / settings on exterior case of camera
  • Dual speed zoom works well
  • Excellent long exposures (up to 30 seconds, including noise reduction)
  • Unlimited MPEG movies with audio (limited only by storage space)
  • Good macro ability, though some distortion at close subject distances
  • USB connectivity
  • Well positioned tripod mount
  • Superb battery life, the best we've tested
  • Excellent build quality

Conclusion - Cons

  • Limited burst ability, very fast but only 3 frames
  • Visible sharpening 'white halo' around black lines
  • Bad lens distortion with wide angle macros
  • Barrel distortion at wide angle
  • Over saturated reds could lead to clipping for very bright red subjects
  • No control over colour saturation or tone output
  • No Fluorescent, Cloudy or Flash white balance
  • No control over record review time (too quick as it is)
  • Only two JPEG compression levels
  • Maximum capacity Memory Stick only 128 MB (at the time of writing this review)
  • Auto exposure limited by minimum 1/30 sec shutter speed
  • TIFF file save locks camera during write operation
  • Some may not like the design, camera must be held unconventionally
  • Flash hot-shoe is dummy, still only support for Sony flash units
  • No histogram / highlight indication in record or playback modes

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Sony DSC-F707: (5 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 8
Image quality 9
Lens / CCD combination 9
Ease of use 8
Value for money 9

Sony couldn't have been sure of the success of the F505 when they launched it, an unconventional design it wasn't exactly what people were expecting (especially following on from the D700). Sony followed up with the F505V which although essentially an F505 with another sensor shoehorned in, performed very well on its own merits.

With the F707 Sony have clearly stuck to what is a surprisingly usable and ergonomic design and yet they've paid attention to numerous comments made by F505(V) owners and reviewers alike (check my cons list for the F505V and compare it to some of the new features on the F707). The lens has had to be redesigned to accommodate the new sensor and there have been a myriad of small changes to the design and layout. Sony have essentially used the 'heart' of the DSC-S85 as a starting point for the cameras control and feature set.

The F707 is a superbly capable digital camera. It produces high resolution, well metered and vividly coloured images. Its resolution chart (and real life) results are nothing short of stunning, with about as much resolution as we could possibly expect from a consumer level 5 megapixel digital camera. I just wish Sony had taken a more cautious approach to their image processing algorithms in regards to sharpening and colour saturation.

Sony are out to show some of the traditional photo manufacturers that they mean business, and the F707 is without doubt their strongest product to date. What I've not talked about yet is price, with a street price under $1,000 the F707 is priced very aggressively. At this price it will almost definitely shake up the prosumer 3 and 4 megapixel market, not to mention any 5 megapixel competition.

UPDATE 5/September/2001: Based on the results from a production F707 I'm glad to report that the white balance green cast observed on the pre-production camera has now been addressed. The saturation of reds has been 'tuned' so that it won't be an issue for MOST users (though I'd recommend looking through the samples gallery to decide for yourself). Performance is also up (startup times are now sub-3-second). Definitely a 'Highly Recommended' digital camera.

Highly Recommended

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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