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Sony Cybershot DSC-S60 / S80 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 02/06/05
Rating: Recommended!

Buy Now: £165 (S80) | $229 (S60)


Introduction: The Sony Cybershot DSC-S60 / DSC-S80, is available from around £165 (it's know as the S80 in Europe) | $229 (it's known as the S60 ouside Europe). It's a 4 megapixel digital camera, with a 3x optical zoom lens, and a large 2" TFT screen, and is from Sony's new 'Stamina' range, which is what the 'S' stands for. The camera is enclosed in a silver /grey plastic body. It records unlimited 640 x 480 / 30fps videos with sound. The camera's size is: 96.6 x 64.4 x 40.1 mm. (without protruding parts), and weighs 249g (including the battery and memory card)

Sony have this to say about the camera:

"Get superior battery life with the powerful Cyber-shot® DSC-S60 digital camera from Sony. Featuring Stamina® technology, it provides up to 110 shots with the supplied alkaline batteries and up to 550 shots with optional NiHM rechargeable batteries. Other highlights of the DSC-S60 include an amazingly detailed 4.1 Megapixel image capture, 3X optical zoom Carl Zeiss® Vario-Tessar® lens, 32 Megabytes of built-in memory3, and a huge 2-inch LCD monitor4. It also includes Sony’s own Real Imaging Processor™ for fast start-up, fast shutter speeds, and maximized battery performance."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's fairly compact and made out of silver/grey plastic.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, optical viewfinder, focus-assist lamp.


Back - the 2" TFT screen, speaker, optical viewfinder, zoom control, display button, menu button, 4 way controller, ok button in the middle, picture size / delete button.


Top - mode dial, shutter, power button, and microphone.


Bottom, under the camera there is a metal tripod mount (under the battery clip), and the battery and memory compartments.


Left Side (from back).


Nothing on this side (apart from the strap hole).

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison next to the smaller metal bodied Canon Powershot A520.

Specifications / Features:

  • 4.1 Megapixel (2304 x 1728 Pixels)
  • 3X optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar lens
  • 2.0" LCD monitor
  • Stamina® Battery Life
  • Cyber-shot® Station compatible (sold separately)
  • 32MB internal flash memory
  • Smart Zoom® Feature: 0 – 10X (at VGA Resolution)
  • Digital Zoom: Precision, 0 – 2.0X Range, 6X Total
  • Filter Diameter: 30mm, by required VAD-PEB adaptor
  • Movie: MPEG VX Fine with Audio (640 x 480 at 30fps),

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • “AA" Alkaline Batteries x 2,
  • A/V & USB Multi-cable,
  • Wrist Strap,
  • Software CD-ROM
  • 101 page user manual

Average box contents - a case, and recharagable batteris would have been nice.

Battery usage: Up to 100 images with alkaline batteries and 440 images with fully charged Ni-Mh batteries according to Sony (this is slightly better than the S90) - as this camera takes AA batteries I would highly recommend you get some high power Ni-Mh rechargable batteries and a charger to go with this camera. Battery life seemed very good - I managed about 90+ photos using the supplied Alkaline batteries.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode (manual) Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a good resolution (115k), and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available and the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: The electronic viewfinder is a bit small for me as I wear glasses, however it's not as small as some I've seen.

Photo menu options are: Exposure compensation, Focus (Multi, Center, 0.5m, 1m, 3m, 7m, infinite), Metering mode, White balance, ISO, Picture Quality (Fine, Standard), Photo mode (Multi burst, burst, normal), Flash level, Picture effect (Sepia, Black and White, Normal), Saturation, Contrast, Sharpness.

Further photo options can be accessed in the Camera setup menu, as shown below. The options are: AF mode, Digital Zoom, Date/Time, Red eye reduction, AF-illuminator, Auto Review, and Enlarged Icon.

Camera menu Setup Menu

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) LCDbacklight (Bright, Normal, Dark), Beep, Language, Initialize, File number, USB connect, Video out, Clock Set. There's also a 'Memory Stick Tool' menu, the options are: Format, Create REC folder, Change REC folder, and Copy.

Movie size options are: Quality (640 Fine, 640 (Standard), and 160. Further options are: Exposure, Focus, Metering, White Balance and Effect.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is fairly quick up to 5x.

Playback menu options: Folder, Protect, DPOF, Print, Slide, Resize, Rotate and Divide.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 32mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
  Fine Standard
4mp (2304x1728) 16 30
3:2 (2304x1536) 16 30
3mp (2048x1536) 20 37
1mp (1024x768) 50 93
VGA (640x480) 196 491
Video 640x480 30fps 14 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the 32mb memory card - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, and there is a good choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Find the latest prices from Amazon.co.uk: 256mb, 512mb.

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos. The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also fairly quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 5x. The camera has a quick continuous shooting mode. The camera shutter response seemed fairly quick. Overall the camera is fairly quick, slightly quicker than the Canon Powershot A520, but not as quick as the Canon Digital IXUS 30.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use. The camera is compact although not as compact as other cameras. The menus are responsive, easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a fully automatic mode as well as various scene modes for simple point and shoot operation.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt very good ergonomically, although it seemed quite heavy.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Group photo (ISO200)

Inside: The camera has good colour. It has a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing the majority of the time. Red-eye didn't seem to be a problem. Noise seemed quite low.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO80, 100, 200, and 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.


Noise test photo - flash on

ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels

Noise levels appear low at ISO80 through to ISO200. At ISO400 noise is visible, but still quite low, although it appears as though detail may be being lost due to noise reduction.

Outside:

Shops Hilton, Colombo, Sri-Lanka

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail, although images were slightly soft. Noise seemed low. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 2x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. The camera also has a 'Smart Zoom' mode which enables a 10x total zoom in VGA mode.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 3x Optical, 2x digital zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are 8 steps between wide and telephoto. This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was very low.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 8cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in macro mode.

Macro Watch (ISO 80) Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is fairly average, in that you can't get very close to the subject, but the camera does a good job of toning down the flash, and colours and detail are good.

Movie: 640x480 - 30fps with sound, when used with a Sony Memory Stick Pro card. You can't use the optical zoom / digital zoom whilst filmign. The movie is recorded as an .MPG file. Length is only limited by the memory card size. The quality of the movie(s) is very good - the VGA mode is also good, 30fps is also good.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good, the images have good colour, saturation, contrast and good detail with very low purple fringing - although images are a bit soft. The camera did a good job focusing. There is a good range of image sizes and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is average. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be quite good. Red-eye was controlled well. The movie mode is very good as the resolution and framerate is 640x480 / 30fps with sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and is designed well - the camera feels comfortable in my hands. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a good choice of features and options to suit nearly all levels of experience, shutter/aperture control, scene modes, live histogram etc, although some may be dissapointed by the lack of custom white balance and manual focus. The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response. Battery life is also very good.

Alternative 4 megapixel digital cameras: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS1 (£155), Kodak Easyshare DX7440 (£129 - 4x optical zoom - read my review), Canon Powershot A85 (£171), A520 (£183 - 4x optical zoom), Pentax Optio S40 (£149), Fuji FinePix A340 (155), Sony Cybershot S40 (£149), Sony Cybershot P73 (129), Olympus Camedia C-470 (£149 - read my review), Olympus Mju Stylus 410 (£159), Olympus Mju Mini Digital (£169 - read my review), Nikon Coolpix 4100 / 4200 / 4600 (read my review), HP Photosmart R507 (4mp, £163 - read my review).. Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices. See more suggestions sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Sony Cybershot DSC-S60 / S80 is a good all-round 4 megapixel digital camera, with a very good movie mode, and very good battery life. Image quality is good, and the camera offers some manual controls, but unfortunately lacks custom white balance and manual focus. The camera is on the expensive side, especially if you take into consideration the high cost of Sony Memory Sticks. The Sony Cybershot S60 is a good all round camera, and if you don't mind the price, then I would recommend this camera.

If you require more control, such as manual focus, custom white balance, and would like more zoom power, and a smaller metal body, then you would be better off with the Canon Powershot A520.

Sony Cybershot DSC-S60 / S80 Rating: Recommended!
Buy Now from Amazon: £165 (S80) | $229 (S60)

What I like:

  • Good-Very good image quality, good colour, saturation and detail
  • Manual Shutter / Aperture settings
  • Long battery life
  • Excellent movie mode (with Memory Stick Pro)
  • Takes AA batteries
  • Low purple fringing
  • Low noise

What I don't like:

  • No Manual White Balance
  • Sony Memory sticks are the most expensive memory card available
  • Camera is on the expensive side
  • Average maco mode

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.