DSC-F707 owners will find the above very familiar. Exterior changes are limited to a lighter silver body colour, a new arrangement of buttons on the side of the lens barrel, different ribbing on the zoom / manual focus ring and the flash Hot-shoe. For those who haven't handled a camera of this design before it's surprisingly natural. You will carry the camera by the lens and use the rear as the viewing / control platform.

The rear of the camera is attached to the lens by a swivel which can be rotated through approximately 77 degrees upwards (LCD facing up) and 36 degrees down. The entire camera body is constructed from a strong magnesium alloy finished in a light silver (lighter than the F707). Build quality is excellent, it's finished off to the finest detail and everything feels very solid and robust.

Side by side

Here's the DSC-F717 between two of the competition, Minolta's DiMAGE 7Hi and Nikon's Coolpix 5700. Both of these cameras have a stronger feature set than the F717, and indeed both have a longer zoom range (8x for the 5700, 7x for the D7Hi). That said the F707 (hence F717) lens has proved to be extremely sharp and may still hold the F717 ahead in the image quality competition.

In your hand

While it is possible to shoot the DSC-F717 one handed (as shown in the image on the left) it's certainly more comfortable and natural to cup the lens with your left hand and turn the LCD to face you. Thanks to the anti-reflective coating the LCD screen can be seen fairly easily outdoors and you'll find yourself shooting more and more at waist height.

LCD Monitor

The main LCD is clear and bright, has an anti-reflective coating and several adjustments (through the SETUP menu) which allow you to control both the image brightness and the backlight level (at the expense of battery life). The LCD itself is bright and clear, as mentioned above the anti-reflective coating works very well (it reminds me of the coating Sony use on their desktop computer monitors).

Below you can see the 'body portion' of the camera rotated to its three logical stopping points, first angled down as far as it will go (approximately 36 degrees) for overhead shooting, secondly locked into the horizontal position (it clicks firmly here) and lastly angled upwards as far as it will go (approximately 77 degrees).

We measured the LCD's frame coverage as 98% which is very good and will ensure that your final image will reflect exactly what you framed.

LCD Display - Record Mode (Still)

1. Recording mode 10. Histogram
2. AE LOCK 11. Low battery warning
3. AE/AF lock 12. AF range finder
4. Battery remaining 13. Spot metering cross hair
5. White balance 14. Image size
+ Mode dial 15. Image quality
+ Flash mode 16. Recording folder
+ Red-eye reduction 17. Remaining frames
+ Hot shoe 18. Memory Stick space
6. Date/time 19. Focus range
+ Conversion lens 20. EV level
+ ISO number 21. Aperture value
7. Sharpness 22. Shutter speed
+ Picture effect 23. Macro
+ Hologram AF 24. Self-timer
8. Metering modes 25. Hand shake blur warning
+ NightShot/NightFraming 26. Menu
9. Focus distance    

LCD Display - Play Mode (Still)

1. Recording mode 6. Image size
2. Protected 7. Change folder
+ Print mark + Playback folder
+ Volume 8. Memory Stick space
3. Zoom scaling 9. Image number / count
4. Histogram 10. Recording date
5. File name    

Diagrams reproduced from the Sony DSC-F717 manual by permission.

Electronic Viewfinder

The DSC-F717 has the same excellent 180,000 pixel Electronic Viewfinder we saw on the original F707. After Sony used this display on the F707 we saw it appear on the Fujifilm FinePix S602Z and Nikon's Coolpix 5700. As EVF's go this is one of the best.

The back of the viewfinder has a rubber eye cup and on top you'll find a dioptre adjustment for those who wear corrective glasses. We measured the EVF's frame coverage as 98% (same as the rear LCD).