Conclusion - Pros

  • Unparalleled image resolution at its price and at the time of writing this review
  • Good metering, good white balance, good colour balance (more 'neutral' than S75)
  • Fast, sharp, high quality lens is able to deliver resolution to the sensor
  • Low image noise at higher sensitivities
  • 4 megapixels!
  • Good build quality
  • Good external camera controls, easy to change settings without entering menu system
  • Jog-dial makes selecting value settings easy (though doesn't work with LCD turned off)
  • Excellent range of photographic options, large range of aperture and shutter speeds
  • Fairly quick shot-to-shot times considering the image size
  • One-push manual white balance works well
  • Anti-reflective coating over LCD
  • AF assist lamp
  • MPEG EX storage space unlimited MPEG movies
  • Excellent battery life, supplied charger / AC adapter
  • Relatively good macro ability
  • USB connectivity
  • EPSON Print Image Matching compliant
  • Good value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • Slow startup times (lens extension)
  • Zoom controller does not have enough increments / multiple zoom speed
  • Memory Stick compartment on the base of the camera
  • Auto exposure limited by minimum 1/30 sec shutter speed
  • Flash synch terminal is proprietary (only supports Sony flash units)
  • Flash hot-shoe is a "dummy" (has no contacts / is not standard)
  • Cheap rubber door over DC-IN connector
  • Badly positioned tripod mount
  • Lens suffers from barrel distortion at wide angle
  • Some (slight by comparison) chromatic aberrations / purple fringing / blooming
  • Sadly lacking white balance options

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Sony DSC-S85: (4 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8.5
Features 8.5
Image quality 9
Lens / CCD combination 9
Ease of use 9
Value for money 9

Many people expected 2001 to show the same evolution in image resolution that we saw in 1999 and 2000. That is another megapixel to be added to the top range of digital cameras offered. PMA 2001 was an indicator that this wasn't going to happen so quickly, however it didn't mean that manufacturers weren't/aren't working on higher megapixel digital cameras. Sony are the first off the block with a 4 megapixel consumer level digital camera, though we must give credit to Olympus for the E-10 (which sits on the borderline between consumer and professional digital).

There's always a risk when releasing the first of a new 'step' in the megapixel race that you rush the camera out of the door, perhaps that's why Sony have chosen to release the S85 in the middle of 2001 rather than at PMA. Well, Sony certainly haven't rushed the S85, nor have they skipped on its quality. The S85 delivers everything we'd expect of a 4 megapixel and then some, resolution is there as is overall image quality, colour balance (more neutral than the S75). The S85 proves itself every time you pull images off the Memory Stick, to see that for yourself you must dive into our samples gallery.

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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