Pro-quality digital camera: Cybershot DSC F828

Continuing a design introduced with the Cybershot F505 several years ago, the DSC F828 is an 8Mp digital still camera that allows you to print high-quality images at up to A3 or poster size. Standout features include a seven-shot burst mode and a more effective ring-based electronic zoom control, replacing the cumbersome rocker switch used on the Cybershot F717.

The 7X optical zoom lens rotates up by 70º and down by 30º around the main body of the camera, and offers a zoom range equivalent to 28-200mm on a traditional 35mm film-based camera. The speed of the lens is also impressive, and f2.0-2.8 means less need for flash support in low-light situations. A hot shoe connection provides dedicated support for Sony’s two flash units, and third party flash models can be used in Aperture priority or Manual mode. Ports for the F828 include the standard A/V, USB (2.0) and DC-in connections.

The 1.8in LCD viewfinder is clear and fast, with a 100 per cent field of view, and the optical viewfinder with dioptic adjustment provides a good alternative in adverse lighting situations. The electronic optical viewfinder offers all the information you need, including aperture and shutter speed information as well as flash and exposure mode. However, photographic enthusiasts moving from traditional film-based SLR cameras should be prepared for a lag time compared to a true optical viewfinder.

A new four-colour sensor promises to dramatically improve colour rendition in some parts of the spectrum by offering a dedicated chip for the colour ‘emerald’. On review, the colour reproduction is of high quality, on par with other 8Mp offerings such as the Canon PowerShot Pro 1 (opposite page). Images are stored on either Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro media (a 256MB Memory Stick Pro card is included), or less expensive CompactFlash Type I and Type II cards.

PictBridge support allows you to proof your images in the field or away from a PC. Simply plug the camera into a PictBridge-compatible printer and proof your prints before you get back to the office or studio.

Sony says that its new Real Imaging Processor has led to faster operation speed and lower power consumption, and there is no reason to doubt the claim. When working with JPEG images (even at the highest quality setting), performance is quick and sure when taking into account that the processor is dealing with substantial file sizes.

However, picture taking performance drops noticeably when using the RAW image setting and could frustrate users working out in the field or in fast action situations. The RAW picture file is an uncompressed and unprocessed image format preferred by most professionals for its ability to provide the purest possible image, therefore any drop in performance will affect the picture-taking options for serious photographers.

The included software package is adequate, although most professional and semi-professional users will prefer to use Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately, when the Sony DSC F828 was released, anyone wanting to use RAW files had to load and use the software supplied by Sony and save the file as a TIF. This method proved much less effective than simply opening the RAW image from within an imaging program such as Adobe Photoshop. Worse still, Mac users simply didn’t have the ability to use RAW files because Sony had not developed a conversion program for Macs (although one continues to be bundled for PC users).

Adobe has come to Sony’s rescue with the release of a special RAW filter update (www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html), but this is for Photoshop CS only. It provides support for several new cameras released over the past year, including this one. This added functionality allows Windows XP and Mac OS X users to simply plug their Sony DSC F828 into an available USB 2.0 or 1.1 port and bring the RAW images straight into Photoshop CS, ready for processing.

This lack of speed with regards to RAW image processing may be less of an issue if you intend to use the camera in a studio situation. Support for off-camera flash and strong macro features do make the DSC F828 an ideal studio camera.

Sticker shock might be one of the major issues with the DSC F828, as it costs around $1000 more than the model it is set to replace. However, you certainly get a lot more for your money.

In brief:


Professional build quality, a fast 7X optical zoom and support for both Memory Stick Pro and CompactFlash II cards place the DSC F828 squarely in the semi-professional category.
Price: $2599
Vendor: Sony Australia
Phone: Sony 1300 137 669
URL:www.sony.com.au

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