Sony Cyber-shotŪ DSC-S600 6-Megapixel Digital Camera - An Excellent Update To Sony S40
Written: Feb 1, 2006 (Updated Feb 24, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Price, resolution, wide angle, features, performance, size, uses 2 AA batteries, powerful flash
Cons:Proprietary Memory Stick Duo, slow flash recycle, noise at ISO 400-1000
The Bottom Line: I recommend Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S600 if you an inexpensive 6-Megapixel digital camera with good wide-angle capability, features and performance. It is...
After using the 4-Megapixel Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S40 , which cost me $158, I got the new 6-Megapixel Sony Cuber-Shot DSC-S600. At $180 it was only $22 more and features a larger screen (2-inch vs. 1.5-inch) and higher resolution (6MP vs. 4MP). Otherwise, it turned out to be pretty similar to the S40, including its, wider than usual, wide angle zoom end and the control layout.
I took pictures of the camera and also sample photos that you can see at the address below (copy and paste it into your browser's address area):
What Is Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S600?
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S600 is a 6-Megapixel compact digital camera with a 3x optical zoom (31-93 mm equivalent), a 2-inch LCD screen, Carl Zeiss optics, powered by 2 AA batteries. Two alkaline batteries included, rechargeable batteries recommended.
The camera stores pictures on a proprietary Sony Memory Stick Duo or Memory Stick Duo Pro and features fast USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to PC and Mac computers. It has 32 MB of built-in memory to get you started. The camera has a focus-assist light and an optical viewfinder.
The camera has no A/V out.
Upon the camera arrival, I discovered that, although the box was sealed, the camera itself had evident fingerprints on its front and the shutter release button. Weird. Nonetheless, I inserted my two trusty rechargeable NiMH AA batteries and was ready to shoot.
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S600 looks nice and feels sturdy in your hand. It looks and feels durable. The controls of the camera have good tactile feel and the lids open and close snugly. The battery compartment lid is a bit stiff, but feels sturdy.
The camera is relatively compact. It has an on/off button on the top deck, which powers the camera on/off when depressed and held. Once powered, the camera opens the lids that protect the lens and extends its lens forward.
It happens pretty fast and you are ready to shoot in about a 2 seconds after you turn the camera on. The shutdown is also fast. The lens retracts and the lid closes.
The camera's top deck also has a shutter release button and a LED that lights up when the camera is on. The bottom of the camera has a Memory Stick card compartment lid as well as a standard threaded tripod mount (offset to the side and is made of black plastic). The side has a USB port cover and another has a sturdy battery compartment lid.
The rear panel of the camera houses a 2-inch LCD monitor, control buttons, viewfinder and a zoom buttons as well as the switch between shooting, review and video modes.
The camera is very easy to use. I have not read the manual, but was able to use the camera and all its features in no time. The camera can be used by any member of the family and by photographers of all levels of expertise from novices to advanced ones (albeit it will not give you much control over the shutter speed or aperture).
The Sony cameras use menus that look almost exactly the same. If you are upgrading from another Sony model or getting a second camera with the first one being also Sony, the learning curve might be nonexistent. The menus are easy to use and give you quite a lot of flexibility.
The camera comes pre-set to Auto mode. You do not have to do anything other than point and shoot - the camera takes care of the rest. The camera uses 5-area smart autofocus (you can also select spot autofocus). You press the shutter release button halfway to make camera focus (the camera shows you that it focused and beeps to confirm focus) and then you take the picture by pressing the shutter release button all the way.
You zoom in and out by using the zoom buttons on the rear of the camera. The camera has an optical viewfinder and a 2-inch LCD screen that is accurate, fluid (slightly less fluid in the dark) and works well in the sun and dim light (gains-up). But the resolution of the screen is not as high as some of the competitors provide. Still, it is adequate.
If you want more control, you can select one of the scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Show, Beach, etc.) For even more control, you can select Program mode, in which you can select ISO (up to 1000), white balance, exposure compensation, metering mode (multi, spot), etc.
The camera is reasonably fast in operation. In single-frame mode, the camera could snap pictures as fast as I could push the shutter release button - about once every 1-2 seconds. The focusing takes less than a second and the shutter lag (the time between the moment you push the button and the moment when the picture is taken), when pre-focused, is much less than a second.
In dim light, the focus-assist light illuminates the target area and helps the camera focus. Focusing in dim lights takes up to a second at wide angle and can take up to 3 seconds at telephoto. There are occasions when the camera fails to focus altogether, but it is rare.
When taking pictures with flash, the pictures can be taken at about 6-7 second intervals. The flash is quite powerful for the camera size. I was pleasantly surprised how far it could reach.
The zooming is relatively slow (3 seconds from wide angle to telephoto or back) and a bit noisy, but it is rather precise and lets you fine-tune your composition well. The camera has a 3x optical zoom (31-93 mm equivalent focal length) with f/2.8 maximum aperture at wide angle, f/6.3 at telephoto, which is rather good. The 31-mm wide angle is rather wide for a consumer-level digital camera (usually they start at 35-39 mm). It means that you can get a wide coverage, which is especially useful indoors or on narrow streets. You do not have to move far back to get everything you want in the frame.
The camera lets you select the resolution for your images up to full 6 Megapixels. You also get a choice between Standard and Fine quality of JPEG compression. The images in Fine mode can reach up to 2.7 MB.
The camera has 32 MB of built-in memory. You will definitely need to get a memory card (Memory Stick Duo or Memory Stick Duo Pro).
The camera uses a two-step aperture, which is a big step forward in comparison with the S40 that had fixed aperture.
The camera has a 2-inch non-articulated (fixed) LCD screen and an optical viewfinder. The LCD coverage as about 100% - you can see exactly what will be recorded. The LCD is bright, fluid (unless it is dark), has good visibility in sunlight or darkness and decent (but not great) resolution.
The camera also has an optical viewfinder that is on the tight side. You will not see everything that will end up on the picture you take, but it is a usual situation with zooming optical viewfinders and is preferred to the opposite (having thought something will be in the frame and then not finding it in the resultant picture).
The camera uses USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to transfer pictures to a computer. You can also remove the Memory Stick Duo memory card (if you use it) and use a memory card reader (if you have one).
I used the camera with the USB cable supplied. I did not need to install any USB drivers on my Windows 2000 SP4 computer. The file transfer was very fast at about 1,700 KB/s using built-in memory. This is very fast and you might be able to get faster speeds with Memory Stick Duo Pro.
I have not used the software that was provided with the camera since I have Adobe Photoshop CS2.
The camera itself is rather quiet in operation, aside from the zoom, which is slightly noisy. You can customize the sounds it makes through its speaker and their volume (e.g. sound when the camera obtains focus, shutter release sound, etc.)
Build Quality and Ergonomics
The camera has a solid feel and good build quality. The major controls are within easy reach and the tactile response is good overall. The camera has a compact shape that makes it not the most convenient to hold, but it is not too bad overall. The lids for battery and memory compartments are sturdy and the battery polarity is well marked.
I have not read the manual, yet was able to use the camera in all modes. I like Sony's menus less than recent Canon menus or Panasonic ones. But they are certainly usable, it just takes more time to do the same thing with Sony menus than it does with Canon or Panasonic. It takes especially too much time to get to the Setup menus. But the selection of resolution is one button push away.
The S40 has auto white balance or you can choose among several presets including halogen, incandescent, sunny, cloudy, etc. The camera's automatic white balance favors warmer color casts, but does a good job overall.
The camera has very good auto white balance system. The S600 produces very good photos with well-exposed, sharp, contrasty and richly-colored images. Overall, the picture quality is very good. I was not able to find much chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in the areas of high contrast. There is a small amount of blurring in the corners of the frame, but it does not extend far into the image and is very minimal.
Overall, a very impressive performance, especially considering the price and size of the camera as well as its wide-angle capabilities (31 mm). The camera lets you select automatic ISO or set ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 or 1000. I was surprised to see that the camera lets you select ISO higher than the usual upper limit of ISO 400. But the results were not surprising as there is a lot of noise even at ISO 400, let alone ISO 800 and 1000.
The image noise is virtually absent at ISO 80, slight at the ISO 100 in the shadows, gets more pronounced at ISO 200 and gets worse at ISO 400 (and some fine detail get softer to suppress noise). ISO 800 and 1000 are barely usable for prints no larger than 6x4. If you are printing 6x4 or 5x7 pictures, the noise should not be visible at all and will only be visible at ISO 200-400 with larger prints. The 6-megapixel photos let you print sharp photos at up to 10x8 inches with good detail (ISO up to 200) or soft, but wall-mountable photos at 13x19 at ISO up to 200.
I was pleasantly surprised with the S600. In comparison with the previous-generation camera (Sony S40), it has higher resolution (6MP vs. 4.1MP), slightly wider wide angle (31 mm vs. 32 mm, both of which are better than average), two-step aperture (vs. fixed), larger LCD (2-inch vs. 1.5-inch). And all this for only about $30 more!
I recommend Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S600 if you an inexpensive 6-Megapixel digital camera with good wide-angle capability, features and performance. It is easy to use and works well.
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