DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S40 Review
The Sony Cyber-shot S40 is one of the 3 new "S" digital cameras that Sony introduced this year, in early 2005. Though this is a great beginner's camera, Sony has at included some features which will please intermediate and some novice digital camera users such as a high-quality Carl Zeiss lens, unlimited VGA movies at 30 FPS and great battery life. The "S" stands for stamina, so it's no wonder that the DSC-S40 has such excellent battery life.
Size and Weight
Let's compare the S40's size and weight to other cameras of its class:
90.7 x 64.0 x 38.4 mm (180 g) - Canon PowerShot A520
The Sony Cyber-shot S40 is larger than most cameras in its class. The S40's "twin", the Sony Cyber-shot L1, is almost the same but is smaller. The S40's weight is average.
Open up the Box
In the box, you'll find the S40 plus:
Since there are so few things included, the box is also very small.
Storage and Power
The S40 uses two AA batteries which provide a battery life of 110 shots; 550 shots when using NiMH batteries (CIPA Standard)! Amazing compared to some other cameras of its class. Since only alkaline batteries are included, do get a set of 4 NiMH batteries. I only had to change batteries twice throughout my usage of the S40.
You may want to start off with a 256 MB Memory Stick since 32 MB of internal memory isn't much. As with most Sony cameras, the S40 doesn't take advantage of high-speed cards but does when using Memory Stick Pro cards. VGA 30 FPS movies require Pro cards while VGA at 16 FPS does not.
The only accessory the Sony S40 has is an external slave flash unit. You are unable to attach conversion lenses or "real" external flashes.
Unlike the Sony DSC-L1 (More or less the same as the S40), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S40 only comes in one color: Silver.
The Sony Cyber-shot S40 has a nice Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with a focal length of 32 - 96 mm and aperture value of F2.8 - F5.1, somewhere between moderate wide-angle and telephoto. The S40 has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/2000th of a second.
The AF-assist beam, also the self-timer light, is located to the upper left of the lens. It's bright and orange, and it helps the S40 focus in low-light. The built-in flash on the S40 has a maximum range of 3.8 m - Quite good. The optical viewfinder is the square-rish window on the right. It's bright and clear.
On the back, the Sony Cyber-shot S40 features a rather small 1.5 inch LCD. It looks bright and clear, though in reality it's only 67,000 pixels. The S40's LCD is okay outdoors and is good in low-light. There is an optical viewfinder on the Sony Cyber-shot S40 located at the top left.
The zoom controller zooms in and out when framing photos plus shows thumbnails or zooms into taken photos. The MENU button, well, brings up the menu. The display button (The button labeled with a box with a line on each size) turns the LCD on/off and toggles the amount of info on the LCD.
There's the 5 way controller which allows you to select and customize camera settings in the LCD menu. When the menu is closed and you're in any one of the shooting modes, the 4 of the 5 buttons act as shortcut buttons:
The mode switch on top of the LCD moves the Sony S40 around playback, shooting and movie mode. The Sony Cyber-shot S40 has a few scene modes (Though it lacks portrait and fast shutter):
On the top of the S40 is a microphone, power button and shutter button. There are two compartment for the battery and Memory Stick respectively, on each side. The doors are okay when it comes to quality. There is a tripod mount and speaker at the bottom.
The ISO speeds selectable on the Sony S40 are ISO 80, ISO 100, ISO 200 and ISO 400. The S40 has the average digital zoom and, unlike other cameras (And like most other Sony cameras), the Sony Cyber-shot S40 has Smart Zoom which avoids image quality loss with the catch being it only can benefit from small-sized photos. You get the full potential of Smart Zoom when taking VGA sized stills. The S40 has 10x Smart Zoom. The Sony Cyber-shot S40 has a simple battery indicator and a whole lot of preset functions (Aperture and shutter priority and manual focus). Preset functions mean that you don't have full control, just a few options, over those features.
Despite being a budget camera, the Sony Cyber-shot S40 has an excellent movie mode. The S40 is capable of taking VGA movies up to 30 FPS (Only 16 FPS with a normal Memory Stick Duo) which is limited only by the Memory Stick Duo capacity. The zoom lens cannot be used while recording a movie. Movies are recorded in the space-saving MPEG format.
The video and audio quality were both acceptable.
The Sony S40 starts up in 2.5 seconds when its 2-piece built-in lens cover both part away. The lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.8 seconds. It takes 2 seconds to focus in normal conditions and almost 3 seconds in low-light. In burst mode, the S40 took 4 photos (Full resolution) at about, according to my tests, 0.8 FPS. But on the other hand, it can take 16 (1 megapixel) photos in a row at a tremendously fast pace
Noise levels are low and there is a little bit of chromatic aberration (Color fringing); the fringe color was yellowish instead of the common purple fringing. Photos are rather soft and slightly over-processed. Noise levels are reasonable at ISO 200 and ISO 400 - This is a good thing. The S40 produces no red-eye at all! Just some reflection.
In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot S40 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, print marking, direct printing (The S40 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 S40 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 Sony Cyber-shot S40 is a great camera, comparable to others in its class. Battery life is excellent, especially even with the LCD on and using only 2 AAs. The S40 feels tough, even on the memory card and battery doors. Though they are limited and preset, the S40 still has some useful manual controls. Much of the S40's features were nice except the limited controls and slow, limited continuous shooting. Noise levels were very low - A good thing, in fact.
~A set of 4 AA NiMH batteries
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