Why pull out the point-and-shoot again? Didn't we buy Big Fancy Camera to get away from the inferior point-and-shoot? Photographer Dawn Kubie gives seven good reasons to pull out your point-and-shoot...
I have been a photographer for almost twenty years. I have used many different
types of cameras, mainly SLRs. My camera of choice before the digital revolution
was the Canon AE1 Program, an excellent camera that was capable of stunning
shots. When the digital revolution began, I held out until I heard great things
about the Nikon 885, also an excellent camera that produced amazing results for
me. Last winter I caught wind of a new camera that was supposed to redefine the
digital camera, the F828. Its predecessor, the 717, had been touted as the best 5
megapixel prosumer camera ever made so naturally there was significant buzz about
the F828. I did the research, searched the forums, looked at the samples, and
finally decided to go for the F828 as my new "go to" camera. I must say that
after 3,000 pictures, I have yet to be disappointed.
What grabs you initially is the camera's feel. It feels like you're holding an
SLR from the past. It's sturdy, feels good in the hand, and gives you an
unquestionable feel of a "real" camera. Now, I love my Nikon 885, but it never
felt like I was really a photographer when I was using it...there was always
something missing. It feels very touristy, almost like the pictures I'm taking
are going to end up with thumbprints on them, discarded in some drawer. I feel
like I'm taking great pictures with the F828 and this confidence definitely
carries over when you're using it. Once you hold the F828, you will know what I
The Sony DSC F828 has 8 megapixel resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio. It can
also take 7.1MP images with a 3:2 aspect ratio, 5MP, 3MP, and 1MP images. 8MP is
enough to make a very large print and still see no difference between it and a
film print. The lens is fixed but what a lens it is. It stretches from a wide
angle 28mm all the way to a telephoto 200mm. This gives the photographer plenty
of range to work with. Also, the zoom is activated on the lens itself unlike most
prosumer cameras that have a left/right knob that controls the zoom. With zoom on
the lens, it feels more like a "real" camera. Also, when manual focus is
selected, the manual ring on the lens is used, also giving the photographer a
more natural feel. My favorite features of this camera are:
Manual zoom ring
Long battery life (over 5 hours of continuous use with review)
28-200 mm lens
Super fast auto-focus
Magnesium alloy body
The sensor is 2/3" (8.8 x 6.6 mm) with a top resolution of 7.99 million
pixels. You can switch to other resolutions as below:
8M: 3264 x 2448 (7.99 million pixels)
3:2: 3264 x 2176
5M: 2592 x 1944
3M: 2048 x 1536
1M: 1280 x 960
VGA: 640 x 480
These changes are helpful when on the road but all of these changes can be
made with a post-processing program like PhotoShop. The most useful is the 3:2
which is good when the camera is flipped upright for a long, vertical shot.
These are typical file sizes. Note that all resolutions can be saved as Jpeg
(fine or standard), Tiff or RAW
RAW: 16.5 MB + 2.4 MB JPEG (8M FINE)
8M TIFF: 22.9 MB
8M FINE JPEG: 2.4 MB
8M STD JPEG: 1.6 MB
5M FINE JPEG: 1.7 MB
3M FINE JPEG: 1.1 MB
1M FINE JPEG: 0.5 MB
VGA FINE JPEG: 0.1 MB
The lens is a Carl Zeiss, very durable and very fast. At the widest focal
length, 28 mm, the maximum aperture setting is 2.0. At the maximum telephoto
setting, 200mm, the maximum aperture is 2.8. The smallest aperture setting is f8
for both ends of the focal length. The lens is all glass with a magnesium alloy
barrel. It's extremely beautiful. When I hold the lens, it feels heavy, not too
heavy to carry, but rather a heaviness that allows me to feel confident in the
capabilities of the lens. This is extremely important because, as a photographer,
one needs to feel confident that what is seen will translate to the sensor. The
fact that the lens isn't removable doesn't concern me because the range of the
camera is sufficient. After all, if I needed to go 400 mm, I'd get a different
camera. This lens makes one feel like the shot will be there after you snap
The exposure modes on the camera cater to all kinds of photographers. You have
complete control with this camera. There is full manual, aperture priority,
shutter priority, full auto, as well as four scene modes: twilight; twilight
portrait; landscape; portrait. These will allow any photographer from beginner to
expert to craft their shot with ease. There is also a movie mode that allows
640x480 video at 30 fps provided you are using a memory stick pro or a microdrive
(the F828 supports both storage formats - another significant plus).
My favorite shooting mode is shutter priority since I shoot mainly outdoor
street shots. The dial on the F828 allows you to make rapid changes to the
shutter speed making that dark picture brighter with a simple spin of the dial.
The live histogram helps tremendously here as the LCD will become brighter as you
make the shutter speed slower and vice versa. Making the background blurry has
always been great fun for me as I like the bokeh effect. My old digicam, the
Nikon 885, would give me some but the F828 really delivers.
In aperture priority mode, the ring can be opened all the way to f2 and closed
down to f8. This isn't a great range as some DSLRs go to f32 but for what I do,
it's plenty. At f8 the entire frame is crisp and sharp and at f2, the bokeh I'm
looking for to achieve that distinctive look can be had. While in these two
modes, the lightness and darkness can still be tweaked some more in EV mode
making the photographer almost fully in control. Now, if you want to go all the
way you can, in manual mode. Here you control everything and it's a joy to do so.
The exposure mode on the F828 is phenomenal.
The ISO settings go from 64 through 800. The noise above 200 is too much for
my style of photography but, as I only shoot 64, this is never a problem for me.
In lower light I simply use 100 or 200 and grab my tripod. ISO 800 is noisy but,
depending on what you shoot, shouldn't be a problem especially if you
post-process which, in my opinion, is just as important as the shot itself. The
lack of a crisp ISO 800 may deter some, but you must decide which features you
need in a camera. If you're going to shoot in low-light situations where crisp
images are a must, then you probably need a different camera. But for outdoor
photography or indoor with sufficient light, the F828 will never let you down.
One of the main reasons for this is that it has hologram assisted auto focus that
will focus in complete darkness. So, if you're using a flash, your picture will
always be crisp, even in low light. However, if you're shooting with available
light, the F828 will be grainy.
The auto white balance works quite well for me. Only on very sunny days do I
change it to the sunny setting. Sony did an excellent job with the auto white
balance. There is also a manual setting that saves like a custom function. The
dial that controls the white balance is very conveniently located at the top of
the camera for easy access. Other cameras have this adjustment buried in menus
but the F828 has it right there for you. This is a great feature since going from
inside to outside is a common occurrence and having to stumble through menus and
miss your shot is frustrating. Sony makes it easy with all the dials you need to
control major functions available without menu navigation.
There are three autofocus modes, single, monitor, and continuous. Single
focuses one time. Monitor lets the camera focus constantly, without pressing the
shutter halfway. Continuous focuses all the time, even when the shutter is
pressed halfway. This is primarily useful for sports/action photography. With
autofocus and manual focus with the ring, the F828 allows the photographer to
work in almost any situation giving the photographer what he or she wants the
There are 3 metering modes: multi-pattern, center-weighted, and spot. There
are advantages to each and here once again Sony has given control to the
photographer. The spot mode is my favorite because it allows you to expose for
the spot where you're aiming regardless of the surrounding area. Then you can
lock the exposure, again, conveniently on the outside of the camera, and continue
without having to expose again and again. The multi-pattern gives you the overall
best exposure for the whole frame while the center-weighted exposure exposes for
the center of the frame, good for portraits. Great options.
The viewfinder is electronic meaning that when you look through it you are
actually viewing a smaller LCD screen, not the actual image as you would see
through a traditional viewfinder. I have adjusted to this digital change and now
hardly notice that when I look through the viewfinder, I am looking at a very
small screen. Since I take mostly street photographs, I usually use the main LCD
on the body. The image inside of the viewfinder is really clear and crisp. It
displays the same information that is displayed on the LCD on the outside. This
is great because it allows you to change your settings without taking your eye
away from the subject.
The 1.8 inch LCD screen is very large and very clear. It's really good for
shooting from the hip. If you are into street photography as I am, the swivel
body with the rear LCD allows you to shoot pictures of people without their
knowing. It may not be ethical, but it does work well. Both screens are very
clear and are adjustable in two levels for background and brightness of the
lettering. I like this because it allows me to have a bright screen with more
gentle writing. I have experienced no problems with it as far as getting the shot
in bright or dim situations. It is 134,000 pixels.
The main LCD screen displays all the data you would need and even gives you a
choice of what info to display. By far the best display option is the live
histogram which alerts you to extreme situations as far as lighting. There is a
zoom function available during playback that is very useful when deciding if and
where you want to crop. The screen displays which mode you are shooting in, your
white balance mode, EV adjustments if any, remaining frames on your card or
memory stick, battery life remaining in minutes (very useful!), flash setting,
megapixels being shot, shutter and aperture settings, metering mode, and ISO. You
can show all of these with the live histogram or you can choose to shoot with
only shutter and aperture displayed.
The built-in flash is very effective and allows low, medium, and bright
settings. The camera also boasts a very good red-eye reduction feature. When
shooting in night framing mode, the camera focuses in complete darkness using the
hologram focus (projected laser) and then fires the flash for a crisp picture.
You can also disable the on-board flash and insert a more versatile flash (i.e.
one with a tilt and swivel head for bounce flash) in the hot shoe.
The camera goes from off to taking a picture in under one second. This is the
fastest non-SLR I have ever used. There is virtually no delay when taking
pictures except if you are shooting in RAW. A RAW picture takes about 5 seconds
to write. If you mainly shoot in JPEG, this will be no problem for you. I find
that when shooting on a typical day, I never miss a picture, even if the camera
is off, because it starts up so quickly. Once it's on, the very fast focusing
will keep your camera up to speed with your eye.
The camera comes with a very long-lasting battery. The replacement batteries
are easy to find and cost around US $30. They last over five hours per charge so
buying an extra is a good idea, but not necessary for most casual photographers.
I always carry a spare and I never have had to use it. You must charge the
battery in-camera unless you buy the external charger separately which I
recommend. The battery life changes depending on the mode you're in and which
kind of media you are saving to. I've found that the battery lasts longer when
writing images to the memory stick pro but even when using the compact flash, the
battery never dies on me. You can get about 310 minutes from using the
memory stick and about 270 with the compact flash. In either mode you can get a
full day of shooting done without replacing the battery or typically somewhere
around 500 shots with 20% flash use
The software is not very good. I use PhotoShop and would recommend it as a
standard software for digital photography. The software that comes with the
camera is sufficient for basic manipulation, but for any degree of deeper
post-processing, PhotoShop is the answer.
The pictures that the Sony produces are incredibly sharp and natural. As far
as the "purple fringing" issue, for me it wasn't a problem. In 3,000 frames, I've
seen it maybe four times. I have no idea why there is such a focus on this issue
in the various forums on the web. I've read that there are ways to get around the
issue, but really, it hasn't been an issue for me. I feel safe in saying that
with the type of images I shoot, I have not experienced a purple fringing problem
with the F828.
There is a nice option on this camera that allows you to turn on a shutter
sound. This may sound silly, but it feels like you're taking a picture when this
sound is turned on. There is also an option that gives a beep sound when you
snap, and there's a silent mode. When I'm walking around casually, I use the
shutter sound but if I'm trying to be sneaky, I turn it to silent. It's a cool
This is the best digital camera I have yet used. I give it a 9 out of 10
rating only because nothing is perfect. The Sony DSC F828 is pretty close though.
A great camera for the enthusiast and beginner alike. It allows the beginner to
grow, the enthusiast to progress, and the professional to get the shots he needs.
If you already have a DSLR, I recommend this camera as a backup as its not as big
as a DSLR and takes high quality photographs.
Where to buy
The following vendors support photo.net when purchases are made via these
links. This support enables photo.net to continue bringing you new articles,
forums and gallery features, so please consider purchasing from these suppliers.