With its light and compact shape, the Cybershot fits nicely in your pocket or purse, and its mostly metal case has a nice feel in your hand. Learning to use this camera is fairly quick and painless, owing to its uncomplicated button controls and easily navigated menus. If you like to shoot where it’s wet, the optional underwater case is solid and functional, with large buttons for most of the camera’s controls.
However, its tiny menu labels can be hard to see. The bundled 8MB Memory Stick card cannot hold even one of this camera’s high-resolution, uncompressed TIFF images; you’ll need to upgrade to a 16MB or larger card if you want uncompressed shots.
Also, this camera is not a great choice if you like plenty of control over focus and exposure: You get no manual focus, and exposure options are limited to exposure value (EV) and a programmed automatic that lets you select for five types of scenes, such as twilight, landscape, and spot-meter mode. Changing the EV up or down requires a trip into the menu system – it’s not hard, but it’s not quick or convenient, either. All of this makes the Cybershot a bit pricey for its features.
The camera uses a proprietary Sony lithium battery that lasted a relatively short time in our run-down tests compared with other cameras we’ve evaluated – one hour and 20 minutes, or 115 shots.
Our test shots were about average quality for a 3.34-megapixel camera. Our formal flash shots tended to be a bit overexposed, and some of the more subtle colours were lost. In our high-resolution still life, the Cyber-shot produced fine details but also fairly severe moire banding patterns on groups of fine lines.
Casual shots indoors and out looked nicely exposed, and colours seemed true overall. If you want, you can choose from several built-in image effects, including solarizing, shooting in B&W, or adding a sepia tone. It’s these kinds of things that the Sony Cybershot DSC-P1 excels at doing – making it useful for the novice but of no real use to the experienced professional.