[A word about the pictures: I took these “creative” images using the DSC-S85. The camera pictures were done using a mirror and some Photoshop magic. They may appear “blurred” or out of focus, but I did this for the impact of the image. Also, there are weird angles, which are actual photographs taken with the use of several mirrors. For “real” images of the DSC-S85, go here.]
I’m sorry that I have been away for some time now. The reason is two-fold – 1) I was away on a business for 2 weeks, and 2) more importantly though, on that business trip, I was ROBBED! Yup, careless me got taken by a band of criminals in Milan, Italy so I lost it all. Laptop, digital camera, mobile phone, you name it, GONE! Took me another 4 days to get a new passport, plane ticket, etc. just so I could leave Europe. In the end I made it back to Hong Kong and it’s been a mixture of anger, fear, relief, and sadness. I’m mad that I lost all my stuff, but at the same time relieved that I wasn’t injured. I hate that I have to fear for my personal belongings and my own safety thanks to criminals. When all is said and done, I’m sad that I had to lose my stuff but thankful that I made it back.
Instead of getting down about losing my stuff, I decided to pick myself up and try to find a silver lining. Well you guys are it. I guess, now that I’ve lost so much, I’ll be buying a whole bunch of new stuff. I’ve already got a new mobile phone (a review will come). A laptop too will also follow in due time. But I thought for the purpose of theVooner.com and High Gear, it would be impossible to function without a digital camera.
So here I am, sans a digital camera. I knew I didn’t want to just buy the same Nikon 880 again, even though I loved the camera. (Not to mention that I still have the charger because they only stole my briefcase, bastards!) I looked at the market to see what’s available. BTW, for a really in-depth look at what’s available for digital camera’s not to mention a detailed review of the DSC-S85, go to www.dpreview.com. From the cameras that I remembered, I leaned very heavily in favor of the Canon Digital Ixus or the Sony P1. But I just could not accept the lower 2.1 megapixel resolution of the Ixus nor the fact that Sony now had a better model available.
There are only a few 4+ megapixel cameras available at the moment. First to market has its advantages. My choices were fairly limited. No Nikon; no Canon. There’s Fuji, Sony, and a few others. My preference for brands, in case you didn’t already know, is pretty much Sony first, others next. So I already had a bias for the Sony.
I read the spectacular review on dpreview.com and I have to admit that I was pretty much sold. So I went out, and after about 45 minutes of price shopping, I purchased my new digital camera. As I mentioned right at the beginning, I apologize if the pictures featured here are not that detailed as some of the other reviews. I don’t have another digital camera to take a picture of this digital camera, so you’ll have to excuse me as I find other creative ways to show you the camera.
The DSC-S85 (why is there no catchy name like the VAIO?) is shaped like the DSC-S75 model. It looks and feels very much like a standard 35mm camera. First of all, this DSC-S85 is a very beautiful metallic black. It is extremely sturdy and has an excellent finish. One thing that did strike me though was that the camera is heavy. Relative to what I remember of the Nikon 880, this camera is much heavier. I think it has to do with the fact that this seems to have a very strong metallic body whereas the Nikon had plastic elements. Anyway, it’s great in feel and appearance, but I don’t know if the weight will be a hindrance for daily usage and traveling.
The buttons are easily accessible, and I really like that there are a lot of different buttons for different functions available on the back of the camera (next to the LCD screen). This provides a user with access to a number of functions and options with just the flick of the button. There’s a jog-dial at the side of the camera, which also is very useful when you are flicking through different options, like adjusting the white balance, focus, etc.
So far, this is the best designed digital camera that I have owned. Aesthetics, ergonomics, and just plain balance has this as a winner, let’s see if the pictures are any good…
It takes beautiful pictures. Enough said. Yes, 4.1 megapixels is great. Subjectively they look as good if not better than the 3.3 megapixel. Intuitively, it has to be. I tried taking a few pictures of similar things to try to get a far comparison. The automatic setting on the Sony is a bit better. But I did like the different “function” choices you got with the Nikon. I’m still learning the Sony so this is all new. So far it’s been really good. Easy to use and once I learn all the functions and buttons, this camera will really fly. There really isn’t much else to say. It takes great pictures. Yes, I’m aware that this is not a true 4.1 megapixel, but to me these are semantics. The resolution, detail and quality of the images are just better than what I took before.
You get a standard 6X digital Zoom which is actually very good. The Carl Zeiss lens is pretty much standard these days with Sony cameras. I do like the video function. With the switch of a button, you’re taking video mail. You get decent time because they do a good job compressing the file, and it was easy to send the file on e-mail. Other cameras have similar functions, but this one is particularly easy to use. Set the dial to the movie selection and push a button. I remember my old Nikon, I had to choose “options”, select video clip or something, then press enter, etc. This one just seemed easier. You get about 90 minutes of video on a 128MB Memory Stick.
Battery life is AWESOME. One thing I didn’t like too much with the Nikon was that the battery tended to die before I got through a 128MB card (about 80 images). This one survived my picture frenzy and had a bunch of battery life still left. On the downside though, this is a Sony battery so if you do happen to run out of power, you’re out of luck unless you want to purchase an extra one. Also, the charger for the Sony is huge. This sucks because I had hoped it would be small so that traveling with it is simple. But then again, the Nikon 880 was no picnic as well as the charger was just as big. I also want to say that I hate the fact that Sony creates so many different battery sizes for different products.
One comment on the memory stick: Ok, it sucks that Sony has created this proprietary memory format. Yeah, it’s more expensive. So far the cheapest I could find a 128MB for is US$130 versus the <US$100 for an equivalent compact flash card. Compact flash has a 256MB and upwards while the memory stick actually just came out with the 128MB version. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for a 256MB version? I did just see on the Lexar website that they will soon have Memory Sticks available. I’ll be waiting. On the other hand though, I now have a number of products (minus one Vaio) that use the MS so I guess as a memory format, I can only support it.
Installing the software and the driver for the DSC-S85 is a breeze. Remember, I initially had problems with the Nikon 880, having to go to their website to download the right driver. I just put in the CD-Rom and we were off and running. You only get a USB cord, but what else would you need these days? You also get a nice “Sony” shoulder strap, but in truth, for a camera like this, you need a strong hand strap. So I had to borrow the one for my mobile phone.
You also don’t get a cover for the camera, which is pretty standard these days (not to get one, that is). Luckily, to ice the deal, the electronics shop I bought the DSC-S85 from threw in two different bags. Not a big deal though because I still have a few digital camera bags from my Nikon.
In the end, what can I say? I had to lose my digital camera to find this one. As one of the first 4.1 Megapixel cameras, the Sony DSC-S85 is a spectacular wonder. For what I paid, I have to admit that it wasn’t a bad deal (I paid about US$850 for the “original” version). However, a few days later, a colleague of mine paid just US$700 for the “unofficial” version (i.e. parallel import). That’s not a bad deal at all. As a digital camera, the DSC-S85 is a winner and your ESSENTIAL buy. So while it unfortunately took me losing my Nikon 880 for me to find this camera, I’m glad it was available because it’s the best thing out there right now.