Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1 Review
Timing & Performance
The L1 feels very, very fast in use, and the test results bear this out. Shot to shot times and shutter lag are outstanding, as is playback speed, whilst focusing is not only incredibly fast, but also very reliable (especially at the wide end of the zoom). Zooming is slow (as it always is with Sony cameras), but this is more to do with Sony's desire to make the zoom both super-smooth and silent than a performance issue. Overall you cannot help but be impressed with the performance of the camera in everyday snapping. Burst mode (continuous shooting) is nothing special, but then this isn't the kind of camera you'd buy for sports action!
All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2304 x 1728 Fine JPEG image (approx. 1,615 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 128MB Sony Memory Stick Duo.
|Power: Off to Record||2.0|
|Power: Off to Play||Image displayed||2.4|
|Power: Record to Off||All activity ceased||1.8|
|Power: Play to Off||When buffer is empty, lens retracted||~0.0|
|Record Review||Image displayed||~0.8|
|Mode: Record to Play||<0.2|
|Mode: Play to Record||<0.2|
|Play: Magnify||To full magnification (5x)||2.9|
|Play: Image to Image||Time to display each saved image||<0.2|
|Play: Thumbnail view||3 x 3 thumbnails||~0.7|
|Zoom from Wide to Tele||35 to 420 mm (3 x)||2.2|
|Half-press Lag (0->S1)||Wide angle||~0.4|
|Half-press Lag (0->S1)||Telephoto||~0.5|
|Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)||LCD live view||<0.1|
|Full-press Lag (0->S2)||LCD live view, wide angle||~0.4|
|Off to Shot Taken||LCD live view||~2.5|
|Shot to Shot||Flash off||1.5|
|Shot to Shot||Flash on (with red eye reduction on)||2.5|
|Shot to Shot||Flash on (with red eye reduction off)||1.7|
Lag Timing Definitions
|Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
|Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
|Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)
The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. The media used for these tests was a 128MB Sony Memory Stick Duo card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.
Continuous drive mode
The L1 has a single burst mode plus a 'multi burst' setting, which produces a single 1280x960 pixel image containing a grid of 16 consecutive exposures in around 0.5 seconds. The burst mode is nothing special - at best managing around 1.1 frames per second (1MP, fine JPEG). You can only take a limited number of shots in a single burst - 4 at the 4MP/fine setting, rising to 10 at 1MP/fine.
Frames in a burst *1
|2304 x 1728 JPEG Fine||Burst||1.0 fps||4||~10s delay *3|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG Standard||Burst||1.0 fps||6||~9.5s delay|
|2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine||Burst||1.0 fps||4||~8s delay|
|2048 x 1536 JPEG Standard||Burst||1.0 fps||7||~9s delay|
|1280 x 960 JPEG Fine||Burst||1.1 fps||10||~10s delay|
|*1||In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).|
|*2||Once the buffer is full the L1 stops for around 8-10 seconds, displaying the word 'recording' as the images are saved to the Memory Stick.|
|*3||We would expect this figure to be reduced by the use of a Memory Stick Duo PRO card, which unfortunately we did not have available for this test.|
Not a terrible performance, but nothing to write home about, especially given the lightning fast responses the L1 has in just about every other department. Clearing the buffer is obviously a bottleneck, and though there are cameras that will make you wait longer, it's still a shame.
File Write / Display and Sizes
Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 128MB Sony Memory Stick Duo card.
Time to store
Time to display
File size *1
Images on a *2
|2304 x 1728 JPEG Fine||~2.9||<0.2||1,615 KB||65|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG Standard||~2.9||<0.2||930 KB||121|
|2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine||~2.9||<0.2||1,245 KB||82|
|1280 x 960 JPEG Fine||~2.9||<0.2||520 KBS||203|
|*1||All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).|
Write times - around 3 seconds per image - are the same whatever file size/setting you use, indicating that most of this time is down to processing. The L1 obviously uses thumbnails and caching for image playback, as it really is lightning-fast (almost instantaneous for all image sizes). File processing/writing for 4MP/Fine images works out at around 810 Kb/Sec, which is fairly standard for this class of camera.