Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1 Review
The DSC-L1 has the same simple, clean, fuss-free design as the Cyber-Shot U series, though the overall look and finish also has echoes of Sony Ericsson's latest latest cell phones. It's certainly small, though at just over an inch thick it's a little less shirt-pocket friendly than ultra-slim models such as the Canon SD300 or Pentax S4i. The rounded front wasn't to everyone's taste I showed it to, but no one could deny the build-quality (virtually all metal body, subtle use of different surface textures) is superb. External controls, though still fairly minimal, are more extensive than on the DSC-U40, and include a four-way 'joystick' that not only allows much easier navigation of on-screen menus, but also offers quick access to flash mode, self timer, metering mode and quick review mode. Alongside the dedicated image size button this means the majority of 'point and shoot' controls are accessible without entering the menu system.
In your hand
Camera manufacturers aiming to design the smallest possible camera always risk sacrificing handling and general usability; there's only so far you can go with miniaturization before you lose stability and the average user feels like their fingers have turned into bananas as they grapple with the tiny controls. The DSC-L1 doesn't quite get to this point, and indeed feels very stable in the hand (thanks in part to its less than featherweight 152g fully loaded). The lack of height and smooth exterior means holding it in one hand - even with the textured thumb-grip on the rear - doesn't feel totally safe, and I found myself more often than not using my left hand to support the lens end of the camera, especially when zooming.