Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200
Review Date: October 24th 2005
Ease of Use
With its brushed aluminium body, distinctive curve and rock-solid build quality, you can instantly see why the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has proved so popular for so long. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is a stylish camera that thankfully doesn't concentrate solely on good looks at the expense of ease of use and functionality. It's perhaps not the most pocketable of cameras due to its slightly elongated body which is just over 10cms long, but it is surprisingly light despite the all-metal construction at around 140 grams without the battery and memory card fitted. The front of the camera is dominated by the lens mechanism and the curve of the body which follows its contours. If the appearance of your digital camera is important to you, then you won't be disappointed with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200. I did find however that both the large 2 inch LCD screen and the metal body of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 are susceptible to fingerprints, so it's probably best to buy a suitable case to protect it.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is very comfortable to hold. Your right thumb naturally rests just below the Zoom lever, and Sony have thoughtfully provided a dimpled area to aid grip and also a raised groove to prevent your thumb from slipping off the camera. The zoom button is a little on the small side but is easy to operate and the camera feels well-balanced in your hands. The other external controls follow the lead of the zoom button by also being on the small side, particularly the 3 small Display, Menu and Delete buttons. People with large hands may find this off-putting, so it's best to try before you buy if possible. Overall the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is extremely well constructed and should survive years of abuse.
|Display / Guide / Arrow Pad / Image Size/Delete Buttons||Exposure Mode Dial|
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 doesn't have too many external controls, just 8 in total. You can directly access the various flash, macro and timer options by clicking the arrows on the arrow pad. Unfortunately, Sony have chosen to bury some commonly used features, such as ISO speed and Exposure Compensation, in the menu system. I would have preferred to see dedicated buttons for these options. All 8 external controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology. Overall the camera body feels well-designed and not too cluttered, despite the presence of the large 2 inch LCD screen. A small optical viewfinder is included, which is welcome for moments when it is difficult to use the LCD screen i.e. in very bright sunlight.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow 98-page manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Sony have chosen to go against recent trends and provide it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD.
|Zoom Lever||Speaker / Power Button / Shutter Button|
The menu system on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is straight-forward to use and is accessed by a dedicated button next to the LCD screen. It includes most of the camera's main settings, including white balance, exposure compensation and ISO, so you will quickly get used to it! A row of icons along the bottom of the LCD screen represents the various options, and as you move from one to the next the options for that setting pop-up on the screen as a list. Navigating to the Setup option at the end of the row opens a sub-menu containing less used settings, although annoyingly you will find the Red-Eye Reduction option here. Due to the large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only a few are shown onscreen at one time.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 offers full photographic control in the form of a Manual exposure mode, although for some unknown reason Sony have not included aperture and shutter priority modes. Once you have progressed beyond the full Auto mode and different scene modes, you have to progress from letting the camera decide everything for you to having complete control over exposure, instead of having the interim steps of aperture and shutter priority. Changing aperture or shutter speed in the Manual mode is quite simple - press the center button the arrow pad and then use the up and down arrows to change aperture and left and right to change shutter speed. The camera also displays an EV value to show how close you are to the correct exposure that it has calculated. It's a simple enough system to use, although not very quick in operation and therefore better suited to slower moving subjects.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The start-up time from turning the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 on to being ready to take a photo is quite quick at around 1.5 seconds, although it takes about 2 seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest, and back again, disappointing given that it only has 3x magnification. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations thanks to the powerful focus assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 2 inch LCD screen are perfectly acceptable. It takes about 1 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no LCD blackout between each image. In the normal burst mode the camera takes 5 photos at 1.1 frames per second at 7M Fine quality, not exactly lightning fast. All in all the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is above average in terms of operational speed.
Once you have captured a photo, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, zoom in and out up to 5x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, resize and rotate an image. You can also divide movies, useful if you have run out of space on your memory card but want to keep part of a movie file. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the aperture, shutter speed and ISO rating, and there is a small histogram available during both shooting and playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure.
In summary the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 is a very stylish, very well built and easy to use digital camera that offers something for the beginner and more experienced photographer alike. It's a shame that Sony didn't include aperture and shutter priority modes, but the Manual exposure mode is very welcome.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.