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Sony DSC-N1

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.

street near my house at 1am with 30sec exposure
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. :-)

  • http://muteao.blogspot.com/ chrissy

    Hi Gregg! So sorry you couldn’t go snowboarding last time, but there’s always next time! I’m glad you found a nice small camera, that touchscreen looks awesome. I like my Lumix but still can’t figure out how to use all the functions. I want a camera with a bigger lens!

  • albertj

    Sony always comes out with really cool stuff, but their reliability really sucks for some reason. Hopefully you’ll get lucky with that camera.

  • Pat
    Heya Gregg

    Ohisashiburi. :-)

    Cruised by to check out your blog again after a trip to a local sushi restaurant last night. Need to check the food section to see if you have an entry for it.

    Anyway, really nice review of this camera. My camera is five years old and HUGE. I never take it anywhere. I’m looking for something I can carry around and take good pictures. I’m wondering if 8.1 megapixels is overkill though? How do you think that will translate to 4×6 prints?

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman

    Hey Pat,

    Isn’t more better when it comes to printing pictures? 4×6 is pretty small. That comes out to 544 dpi. Considering most magazines are only at something like 150dpi for color images that’s pretty good.

  • RsGirl

    I believe in swivel lense.  Guess what I ended up with?  Canon PowerShot S2 IS.  It’s huge, but, I LOVE IT!

  • Pat

    More is absolutely better. I guess the producer in me always wants to know when you hit the point of diminishing marginal returns though. ;-)

    So I didn’t find the sushi restaurant on your site. It’s a place called Sasabune. It used to be on Sawtelle but recently moved to Wilshire. It’s run by a student of a famous sushi chef named Nozawa. I thought I had read about it on your site a long time ago. Anyway, went for the first time this past weekend, but wasn’t impressed for the price. Eichigo on Santa Monica is the same sushi for half the price. Anyway, good to chat again! Drop me a line the next time you’re in southern California!

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman

    I found out about a feature of my camera I didn’t know about.

    The camera has something like 27meg of static memory built in whiich you can use to take pictures even when you don’t have a memorystick plugged in. 

    What I didn’t know is that the camera keeps a VGA (640×480) sized copy of every picture in an “album” in that built in memory. I haven’t looked in the manual but I assume when it fills it will start deleting old ones but looking in there it’s got a copy of every picture I ever took with the camera since I bought it. (Including some embarrasing pictures I deleted).  You can manually delete them from the album.  Good thing I noticed :-p

  • alkim
    Sony DSC-N2

    Hello gregg

    Maybe you know, sony made the new model of this equipment; DCS-N2.

    Have you heard or tried this new model? And also in Japan, what are the prices of the overseas models of DCS-N1 and DSC-N2 in Japan?

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman
    DSC-N2

    I’ve heard of it but I don’t know the details. As far as I know it’s the same as the DSC-N1 except 10 megapixels instead of 8 and ISO 1600 sensitivity instead of 800. I really like my N1 and ISO 1600 would be great for dark shots like in restaurants etc.