Sony Cyber-shot DSC P150

Based on the 5MP Sony P100, the P150 is a handsomely pocketable digicam and the first ultra-compact digicam with a resolution normally the preserve of professional or high-end ‘prosumer’ models.

At 108x52x26mm and weighing 145g including its InfoLithium rechargeable battery, the P150 is a remarkable little camera. It’s fast in terms of both the amount of time it takes to get ready to shoot, once you’ve pressed the top plate on/off button and in terms of its responsiveness; shutter lag is almost non-existent.

Although the camera is only around an inch thick, it’s easy to use thanks to a logical control layout that provides separate controls for key functions such as adjusting resolution. A separate Menu button allows control of shooting options such as white balance, AutoFocus (AF) settings (you can use a single, spot AF or five-area multi-AF) and exposure compensation to +/-2EV.

Disappointingly I found the Multi-AF to be a tad unreliable, prone to indication AF had been achieved but actually focusing on the ‘wrong’ part of the frame without sufficient indication. Switching to single AF helped sort this out though. The P150’s built-in flash is effective as a fill-in but, given the camera’s compact dimensions, it is a small unit and so lacks power for meatier tasks.

A small mode dial on the camera’s back plate is spun to select options such as Set Up, an Auto shooting mode, Program, Manual, Movie recording (at 640x480-pixel resolution and 30fps) and provides access to nine scene modes, which include Portrait, Snow, Landscape and a Firework modes among others. Images are stored on Sony Memory Stick and/or Memory Stick Pro.

One of the recognized problems of cramming so many pixels into such a small space - the P150 uses a 1/1.8-inch Super HAD CCD - is increased image noise, essentially caused by electrical interference between the densely packed pixels. It can become evident as random red and/or blue pixels in images shot in low light for example or in some areas of uniform colour in a shot.

Sony’s worked hard to minimise the problem on the P150 and it is surprisingly well controlled but still evident in some shots. However, on the plus side, the P150’s high resolution enables prints easily up to A3 - if you require them. Even so, this still looks like overkill given users of such compact cameras typically only print ‘standard’ 10x15cm (or 6x4-inch) prints.

To aid printing the P150 is PictBridge compliant (for direct printing with compatible printers, so you don’t need and intervening PC) and has fast USB 2.0 connectivity for fast connection to PC or your printer.

The above notwithstanding, metering and colour control are good and although the camera’s default sharpening mode leaves images looking a tad soft and slight blue pixel fringing is evident in areas of high contrast, image quality is pretty good overall.

Verdict

Beautifully made, the Sony P150 is a classy little camera that offers a level of resolution not normally the preserve of such small digicams. Despite some image noise, fringing and a slight softness to ‘standard' images, the camera offers an accomplished specification, modicum of manual control and fast operation all within a camera that easily fits into a shirt pocket and yet priced so that it won't burn a hole in said pocket.