DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M2 Review
Brad Soo - January 11th, 2006

The new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M2 is the second of the Sony Cyber-shot M-series which feature a unique vertical design and excellent movie mode. Other than that, the Sony Cyber-shot M2 has 5 megapixels, a 2.5 inch LCD and a "hybrid movie function" with still photos.

Size and Weight

And the dimensions for the Cyber-shot M2 are:

51.2 x 123.1 x 32.0 mm (180 g)

The Cyber-shot M2 is held vertically instead of horizontally to take photos and video. But if you put the M2 on its side (Shown in the above picture), you'll notice that it is short but wide compared to most compact cameras (Such as the Sony W7 which measures 90 x 60 mm; width by height).

Open up the Box

The Sony Cyber-shot M2 comes with the following:

  • Rechargeable NP-FT1 InfoLithium battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and stereo A/V cables
  • Cyber-shot Station dock
  • User's manual
  • CD-ROM

Storage and Power

The Sony Cyber-shot M2 uses the NP-FT1 InfoLithium battery pack that most other Sony ultra-thin cameras use. The M2 has a battery life of 210 shots which is average for a camera with a 2.5 inch LCD. My recommendation would be to get a spare battery pack as you'll never know when you'll need it. Based on my usage, I got around 300 photos, taken with the flash used every now and then.

You may want to start off with a 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo since no memory is included with the M2. The M2 doesn't take advantage of high-speed cards and Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. But, since all Memory Stick Duo cards from 256 MB onwards are "PRO", you wouldn't have much of a choice anyway.

While the M2 doesn't have any memory for photos, it has internal memory to store 1,100 VGA-sized copies of photos you've taken and you can view them using the album feature.

Extras

The Sony M2 is not compatible with external flashes or conversion lenses.

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot M2 is available only in silver unlike its black-colored predecessor, the DSC-M1. The Cyber-shot M2 uses the same Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 38 - 114 mm (35 mm equivalent), F3.5 - F4.4 lens (That's a mouthful!) as most of Sony's other ultra-thin T-series cameras. The lens is internal and does not protrude at any focal length.

The AF-assist beam, also the self-timer light, is located right next to the lens. It's bright and orange, and it helps in low-light focusing. The built-in flash on the M2 has been repositioned to a better place - above the lens. The flash placement on the old M1 usually lead to it being blocked by fingers. Still, the flash is quite weak with a maximum range of 2.6 m.

On the other side of the LCD, there's the Cyber-shot M2's stereo microphones.

When it's time to shoot, just flip the LCD part to the left (away from the "shutter buttons" and body) and the camera turns on. After that, you can rotate the LCD itself for self-portraits, ground level shots, above crowd shots, etc. Basically, the Cyber-shot M2's 2.5 inch LCD can rotate 180 degrees forwards and 90 degrees downwards. The LCD's resolution isn't high at 123,000 pixels and doesn't brighten much in low-light.

The shutter buttons are a little bit bigger than the ones on the M1, making them easier to press. Press the PHOTO shutter button to take a still photo. Flip the switch below it to activate "Hybrid" mode - A still photo is taken along with 5 seconds of movie before and 3 seconds after it's taken. So you'll get one still photo and two short QVGA movie clips recorded at 15 FPS.

Now, press the MOVIE shutter button to record a movie (More info on the M2's movie mode later). Flipping the switch on this side makes the M2 record movies up to 5 seconds each. Why anyone would want this is unknown to me.

One thing that hasn't changed is the zoom controller - It's still tiny and fiddly! Use it to zoom in and out when framing photos plus show thumbnails/zoom into photos in playback. The MODE button has become much bigger since the M1. As you change modes, the little lights above the MOVIE button light up. Those lights indicate that the battery is charging or camera is in shooting/playback.

Now let's close the M2 for a clearer view of the buttons next to the LCD:

The buttons next to the LCD perform these functions:

  • Top - Take a photo/Starts slideshow
  • Middle - Toggles amount of info displayed (None, standard, a lot)
  • Bottom - Record a movie/Album

The isolated button on the other side displays photo thumbnails in playback. The two others below allows you to quickly change image size/delete photos and bring up the menu.

The 5 way controller has "moved out" from the body to beside the LCD. When the menu is closed and you're shooting, 4 of the 5 buttons act as shortcut buttons for:

  • Up - Self-timer
  • Down - Flash setting
  • Left - Macro
  • Right - Metering method

The Sony Cyber-shot M2 has 9 scene modes:

  • Beach
  • Candle
  • Fireworks
  • High-speed shutter
  • Landscape
  • Magnifying glass
  • Snow
  • Twilight
  • Twilight portrait

On the side of the M2 is a microphone and power button. The M2 will turn on in playback mode if the power button is pressed and the LCD portion is not rotated.

There is a compartment for the battery and Memory Stick Duo at the bottom. The door is rather flimsy and gives me a sense that it might break off. The position of the tripod mount makes changing batteries/cards while on a tripod impossible.

Shooting

In burst mode, the M2 can shoot at an impressive 3 FPS but only up to 4 full-resolution photos. But on the other hand, it can take 16 (1 megapixel) photos in a row at a tremendously fast pace. The ISO speeds selectable on the Sony M2 are ISO 64, ISO 100, ISO 200 and ISO 400.

Using the Magnifying Glass function (Found under Scene Modes), you can go as close as 1 cm. The lens is locked at wide-angle and cannot zoom at this time.

Recording

One unique thing about the M2 is its movie mode. The Sony Cyber-shot M2 capable of taking VGA movies up to 30 FPS with stereo sound which is limited only by the Memory Stick Duo capacity. And unlike most cameras, the Sony M2 can utilize its zoom lens while recording a movie. Movies are recorded in the extremely space-saving (but high-quality) MPEG4 format. Using a 1 GB card, you can fill it up with 45 minutes of video at the highest quality and settings. Compare that to the Canon PowerShot S2 IS which fills up a card of the same size with just 8 minutes of video. Now don't get me wrong, the Canon S2 IS is a great camera too and can also record VGA 30 FPS movies with stereo sound except it uses the larger AVI file format.

Movie and audio quality were both excellent.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot M2 starts up and is ready to go at around 2 seconds. Focus times vary from half a second to 1 second depending on conditions. The lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.6 seconds.

Image Quality

Noise levels are rather high along with some softness along with a slightly over-processed look. All these are usually synonymous with internal lens cameras and sadly, the M2 is no different. The M2's flash is so close to the lens, most of my people-photos came up with red-eye.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot M2 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, print marking, direct printing (The M2 is PictBridge enabled), slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies. You can also zoom up to 5x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info about your photos. When it comes to histograms, the M2 shows a histogram in both shooting and playback. Excellent compared to some ultra-compact digital cameras which only show a histogram after the photo is taken. The M2 also inherits the Album and Slideshow features from the recent Sony Cyber-shot N1.

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot M2 is quite an interesting one of a kind hybrid camera. It combines 5 megapixels of resolution along with an excellent movie mode. The rotating LCD gives more room for "creative" photos and movies, given that it can rotate to almost any angle. Though the M2 can take 5 megapixel photos, I think its primary use is for movies. Lack of manual controls, a weak flash and so-so image quality - these 3 drawbacks make the M2 useful mostly for movies only.

What's hot:

  • Stylish design
  • Excellent movie mode with stereo sound and movie zoom
  • Large rotating 2.5 inch LCD
  • 1 cm Magnifying Glass mode
  • Larger and more strategically placed buttons (Compared to the Cyber-shot M1)
  • Hybrid mode which is hmm... interesting
  • Cool Album and Slideshow functions

What's not:

  • No manual controls
  • LCD is rather low in resolution
  • Weak flash
  • Flimsy battery/Memory Stick slot door
  • Lots of red-eye
  • Soft photos and high noise levels

Recommended Accessories

~Extra NP-FT1 battery
~1 GB Memory Stick Pro Duo card

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