So after that disaster of my last digital camera I set out to get something I could actually use. I still would perfer a swivel lens and a 5x or greater zoom but basically that combination does not exist. There are only 2 or 3 cameras period that have swivel lenses and there are only 2 or 3 consumer level cameras that have greater than 3x zoom so I was pretty much stuck settling for less.
I checked the reviews sites at it seemed like the Fuji Z2 was the current king of the consumer cameras. It’s got the highest rating and is selling like crazy. It’s very compact and its specialty is it has an ISO 1600 rating so it takes good pictures in low-light situations without a flash. That in particular is probably the best reason to own one.
So, I set off to go look at it and whatever else was available and while I was out I stumbled on the Sony DSC-N1.
It’s biggest noticble feature is a giant touch screen on the back of the camera.
After playing with the touch screen it’s hard to go back to the typical clunky menus on other cameras. All random reason disappeared and I wanted the DSC-N1. I waffled for about an hour looking at both the Fuji-Z2 which all the reviews recommended and the DSC-N1 and I finally thought I let rational thought win and decided to get the Z2. That was until I realized the Fuji cameras all use XD memory cards (yet another standard). I don’t have any XD cards and I don’t even have a XD card reader even though I have 3 7in1 card readers. So, that gave me just enough of an excuse to get the ignore reason and get DSC-N1 :-p
So, how is it? Well, I can say it’s a million times better than the previous crappy Coolpix S4 I got in September. (I sold that to a used gadget store at a $200 loss :-(). The first random thing I tried, I walked through my local supermarket and took pictures of things that are common in a Japanese supermarket that are probably not common in your local supermarket. I’ll post those some other day but the point is, the N1 had no problem taking them clearly and quickly with no flash, something the S4 would have completely failed at without a tripod and even then I suspect the S4 would have taken poor pictures. It turns out the N1 has a ISO 800 rating which is second only to the Fuji Z2 so it does a pretty good job without flash where other cameras would fail.
The N1, unlike the Coolpix, lets you optionally set almost every setting including letting you take up to 30 second exposures! Yes, you do need a tripod or some place to set the camera for that but it does take some amazing pictures.
A silly but fun never the less feature is that once you’ve taken a picture you can go into paint mode and draw on the picture using the touch screen. They’ve kept the options in paint mode pretty small, a few brush sizes, only 10 colors and the a set of shapes you can stamp. Still it’s surprisingly fun to take a picture of friends and instantly make fun of them drawing them doing something embarrassing.
Other features: it will take 640×480 30hz video. They come out as huge files but still it’s nice to be able to do it. It’s got a few meg of onboard memory so if you forget your memory card you can take a few pictures. It’s got a cool or silly, depending on your point of view, slideshow mode. You can pick different background music including loading up your own and then pick from 4 or 5 different styles of slidehow from the standard flipping between pictures all the way to fancy crossfades, wipe and scroll cuts and even one mode called Nostalgic mode which looks surprisingly like this screensaver except everything is shown in black and white.
A strange one is that in manual mode you can use the touch screen to tell the camera which part of the image you want it to focus on. Arguably you’d do that on a non-touch screen camera by pointing the camera at the focus point, pressing half way on the shutter, moving the camera to the angle you want to take the picture and then pressing the shutter all the way. That might sound complicated but it’s actually pretty easy. In other words, the ability to use the touch screen to do the same thing is not all that special but there’s still something fun about it.
Overall I’m very happy with it. It’s no bigger than a Canon IXY 50 or similar Canon and so far it’s taking pretty great pictures. At 8.1 megapixels there’s lots of room to edit as well.