Overall Image Quality

A tiny camera with big camera performance. Ok, it's not as sharp as its Carl Zeiss clad brothers the S70 & F505V but for its size the P1 packs an image quality punch to put many bigger cameras to shame.

Metering was impeccable, exposing the scene perfectly without loosing any detail in shadows or blowing out light areas... That 12-bit DAC provided a large dynamic range time after time, although the LCD is a little deceiving, while out shooting it appeared as though many shots were over exposed, on return to "base" checking the images on a computer monitor it was apparent that the P1 had captured much more than we'd expected. Indeed the P1's images reminded me of the "compressed dynamic range" you'd expect from a Pro SLR.. Looks like Sony have been tweaking their image processing algorithms.

Colours were excellent, "pleasing" but not fake or over saturated. Metering was on the whole very good and with the choice of spot metering and twilight exposures if you need them you should be able to shoot in pretty much any situation. That's not to say the camera is completely flawless, read on...

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

A consequence of packing a 3 x lens into such a small space, something had to give. The P1 suffered from fairly pronounced chromatic aberrations (purple fringes) on wide angle shots. This, confirmation that the problem is simply the interaction of the lens (not Carl Zeiss this time, but a Sony lens) with the microlenses on the CCD made worse by the effects of blooming (overflow of charge from one pixel to the next). Zoom in a little at these aberrations disappear.

There are several techniques to avoid / remove this: (a) use a negative exposure compensation to reduce the effect, (b) zoom in slightly where possible, (c) use a third party application to remove the chromatic aberrations.

It's a shame because I quite like this shot, of course I never saw the aberrations reviewing the image on the LCD screen, if I had I may have retaken with a -0.7EV compensation which would reduce if not totally remove them.
A perfect example of chromatic aberrations, and fairly extreme. Last time I saw aberrations like this the camera had C-3030Z written on the side.
Our now standard chromatic aberration test shot.

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The P1 has the "normal" (it's a shame we're even aware of a normal) amount of barrel distortion and very little pincushion distortion. On the whole it's a pretty amazing feat for such a small lens system. Distortion calculated as the amount of distortion to the horizontal line (from left or right to its center) as a percentage of image height.

Barrel Distortion, 1.05% @ Wide Angle Pincushion Distortion, 0.5% @ Full Tele

White Balance

Just as with the S70 I find the P1 White Balance control leaves a lot to be desired. Offering only four options: Auto, Hold (freeze auto white balance at current reading), Indoor and Outdoor. This makes getting the right white balance a bit of a point and hope affair, I personally would have preferred the standard Incandescent, Cloudy, Sunny, Fluorescent (1, 2 & 3) and (now that we've seen it on the Coolpix 990) fine tuning of white balance. (Sample images below recorded at 1280 x 960)

Outdoors, Auto White Balance Outdoors, Outdoor White Balance
Incandescent, Auto White Balance Incandescent, Indoor White Balance
Fluorescent, Auto White Balance