DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot N1 Review
Brad Soo - August 24th, 2006

The Sony N1 is an 8 megapixel ultra-compact camera with a huge 3 inch touch screen. You could say that this camera is a souped up W100. So how does this camera perform? Find out now.

Size and Weight

The N1 is an average sized camera - about the same as the T30.

Open up the Box

The Sony Cyber-shot N1 comes with:

  • NP-BG1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • Stylus
  • USB + A/V multi-connector cable
  • User's manual
  • CD-ROM

Storage and Power

As always, the internal memory provided by manufacturers are petty so do get at least a 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo. The price Memory Stick PRO Duos are about the same as Secure Digital cards nowadays. The Sony Cyber-shot N1 has an above average battery life of 300 shots (CIPA Standard).

 

Extras

The N1 is compatible with an external slave flash and underwater case.

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot N1 is available in silver only.

The N1 features a 3X zoom lens on the front. The lens is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm though it's a little slow in terms of aperture. The aperture range is f2.8 - f5.4.

A little window near the flash is the AF-assist beam/self-timer lamp which lights up red in low-light or when counting down. The flash itself is fairly powerful - with a maximum range of 5 m at wide-angle and 2.6 m at telephoto.

The Sony Cyber-shot N1 has a large 3 inch LCD which has 230,000 pixels. The LCD is a touch screen so there are minimal buttons on the back. Indoor and outdoor visibility were both fairly good.

On the top right of the N1 is the zoom controller followed by the mode switch lower down. The mode switch modes you between movie, shooting and playback modes.

Since most of the functions are accessed within the screen, there are only two other buttons on the N1's back. The touch access button toggles the menu icon on the screen to prevent accidental "touching" while the display button toggles the info shown on the screen. Pressing the menu icon on the screen brings up some frequently changed settings on-screen as shown above. Those settings are:

  • Shooting mode (Auto, program, manual, twilight, twilight portrait, candle, soft snap, landscape, beach, snow, fireworks)
  • Exposure compensation (2 in 1/3 increments)
  • Autofocus (Multi, center, spot, preset distance)
  • Flash setting (Auto, on, slow sync, off)
  • Self-timer (On/off)
  • Macro (On/off)
  • Image resolution

The MENU icon enters a deeper menu for even more stuff.

The top of the N1 is just as simplistic: a speaker, power button and shutter release button. I found the shutter button placed just too close to the side of the camera.

One side of the N1 features its speaker while the other, a compartment for your memory card and battery.

At the bottom, you'll find a metal tripod mount and dock connector, which is also the port for using the multi-function connector cable.

Shooting

The N1's display screen is complete, showing most settings, a battery indicator (not shown here) and exposure information. A live histogram is shown as well.

 

There are other manual controls on the N1 as well:

  • Metering mode (Multi, center, spot)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent, flash)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800)
  • Exposure bracketing (3 shots with 0.3, 0.7 or 1)
  • Flash intensity
  • Photo effects
  • Saturation, contrast and sharpness

The N1 has an average 6 cm macro mode.

 

There are even more menus in "setup" mode with things like AF mode and the date and time to change.

 

One issue though is that the internal memory is very slow in processing so you might wanna get a real memory card instead.

A manual exposure mode on the N1 gives you full control over shutter speed (with a range of 30 to 1/1000 second) and limited control over aperture (3 options at a time)

Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot N1 does the same thing as other Sony cameras: it can take VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. This requires a Memory Stick PRO Duo card (but nowadays, who doesn't have one?). Just in case you have a normal Memory Stick Duo or want to record longer movies, you can record VGA movies at 16 FPS or 160 x 112 movies at 8 FPS!

Exposure is automatically adjusted while recording but you can't zoom.

Audio and video quality was great as well.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot N1 starts up and extends its lens in a below average 2 seconds. Focusing takes around 1/3 to 1/2 a second while shot-to-shot speed was 1 shot every 2 seconds. Flash recharge time using fully charged batteries was 11 seconds.

In continuous shooting, the N1 took 6 photos at 1 shot per 1.5 seconds which is both slow and limited. The camera is useable during this time though. The lens takes 2 seconds to reach telephoto and powers down in 3 seconds.

Image Quality

Using my test chart, here's how the Sony Cyber-shot N1 fares in image quality:


ISO 64 (f4.0, 1/8 sec)


ISO 100 (f4.0, 1/13 sec)


ISO 200 (f4.0, 1/25 sec)


ISO 400 (f4.0, 1/60 sec)


ISO 800 (f4.0, 1/100 sec)

At ISO 80, things are clean. Go up to ISO 100 and ISO 200, noise is getting visible. At ISO 400, noise levels are going up but the photo was still usable. Some details are getting lost at ISO 800 but the quality when downsized was still acceptable.

Barrel distortion is slightly noticeable while pincushion distortion is not. Colors look as they should except the two purples and blues. There was some red-eye in my test photos. Chromatic aberration (color fringing) was below average. Overall, image quality was good.

Photo gallery

Lots more photos in the Sony Cyber-shot N1 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot N1 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as do all this: Protect image, print marking, slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies.

You can also magnify still photos by 5x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info about your photos. A histogram is shown both while shooting and in playback.

The album feature is well implemented and saves a VGA copy of your photos (up to 500 of them). They override the oldest one when you reach 500 photos but you can save your favorite shots. A rather gimmicky feature is "paint" which allows you to draw on your photos via the touch screen.

 

Conclusion

The Sony N1 is a fantastic camera. It has two things which may fool you but the result is always otherwise and great: 1. The 8 megapixel imager produces surprisingly good images (at ISO 800 too!) and 2. the great 3 inch touch screen is sharp and viewable... and the N1 has above average battery life even with that LCD.

The other versatile features include a powerful flash, some manual controls, an excellent movie mode and enhanced playback features. Performance was snappy as well, except in continuous shooting, and the on-screen menus were smooth and respond instantly.

Overall, the N1 receives a definite recommendation from me. You could get it now and be happy with this great camera... or wait for the N2 which will have 10 megapixels (Or so I heard from the whispering wind).

What's hot:

  • High resolution sensor with ISO 800
  • Good battery life
  • Large 3 inch LCD (It's a touch screen too!)
  • Limited but nevertheless useful manual mode
  • Fairly powerful flash range
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Fancy playback and slideshow features
  • Good image quality with useable high ISO shots

What's not:

  • Slow and limited continuous shooting
  • No white balance or manual focus controls
  • Overall performance could be faster and better

Recommended Accessories

  • 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo card

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