Sony Cybershot DSC-F88 and DSC-F77 review. Retro review indeed- my very first two digital cameras I ever owned (discounting the Sony Ericsson Communicam attachment that went on my SE T310- that’s for another day). I purchased the Sony DSC-F77 from an ad on EO (! holy nostalgia batman) from the Classifieds section in my first year of undergrad. It was way beyond what I was going to be spending but I just had to have it. I saw the design and it absolutely blew my mind (F77 on the left in above picture). The flipping lens module just looked incredibly neat- add to the fact that it was micro tiny (compared to digicams of its time), and I was sold. Alumnium build (don’t think its magnesium) and rechargeable Li-On battery….it stole my heart. It was at a time when the DSC-Fx77 was also released (BT version so you could transfer photos wirelessly, although painfulyl slow I’m sure). The DSC-F88 was a purchase from A&B Sound from a huge clearout price that my bud and I managed to luck out on. Similar in size but now with optical zoom….you get the picture. I loved them. The following is my review of these two very early digicams when digicams were hot hot commodities. At least 11 years of ownership (!) spills out the following.
Design– The biggest difference with these digicams compared to others (and still to this day) is the rotating lens element at the top- it could rotate nearly 360 degrees to take shots either in a forward, top or reverse position. This made selfies amazingly easy because you could frame it with the LCD. There was an optical viewfinder on both which was a reminder of the film era’s need for a optical viewfinder, vs. the viewfinders that are found on prosumer cameras in the modern era. These were not prosumer cameras- they were very much meant for the average joe schmo to pick up and shoot his friends bday shots. Both were solid metal with nary a creak in build. The DSC-F77 even had a metal battery compartment door- something that many cameras, including my Sony a6000 lack. While some reviewers argued this was more sturdy (DCresource) I didn’t find the plastic battery door on the DSC-F88 bothersome. Both cameras had a mode dial that was easy to use- I mostly shot in program or auto on these. They really lacked the technical prowness to build photography skills from. Small sensors and slow apertures meant they didn’t have much to offer. More on photo quality later. Suffice to say, I loved the mechanical style of these cameras – this absolutely atypical style is something that I find lacking in this day and age- very few companies dare differentiate their products with such wild style. Another plus from these- it was easy to set up long term exposure shots because the lens essentially sat on a rotatable axis like on a tripod. Finally, the TINY size of these cams was amazing for its time- most cameras were fat AA battery powered beasts and these were just svelte little pocketable items. This meant that they were very easy to handle- I found for a right hander, the buttons were all easily accesible and intuitive in use.
Photo quality– both of these cameras were very MEH in terms of photo quality. While this is in comparison to what I shoot with now (which is pretty unfair TBH), I was never blown away by their quality. One review (DCresource) put it best- it looked like still images taken from a video recorder. They were snapshots pure and pure. The DSC-F88 didn’t really improve upon the DSC-F77, although higher ISOs were less noisy. TBH anything above ISO 200 was a noisy mess. Considering the slow aperture (esp of the DSC-F88 at F3.5-4.2), this really cut the situations you could shoot at ambient light. Noise suppression was clanky and inefficient on both of these – lots of noise everywhere and not a lot of detail to salvage in post processing. The thing is, I rarely did post processing with these cameras- they weren’t designed for the serious shooter- they were designed for the casual user who wanted to take shots of his friends out on a night. Unfortunately the flash was really craptacular- everything tended to be overblown and highlights were lost. Small sensor, slow lens….overall there wasn’t a lot to be expected from these cams except making it fun to shoot with.
The DSC-F77 was a Japanese exclusive and never came to America. I felt like a celebrity shooting with it- it was a real head turner. It had a tiny LCD (1.5 inch) that was kind of standard for its time. It looks absolutely anemic compared to the giant LCDs we have to frame pictures with now (My VAIO Duo 13 can frame shots with its 13.3 inch screen and you will look like an absolute idiot doing that).
The DSC-F88 really added a much needed zoom to the picture and made it awesome for cropping shots. You’ll notice I don’t review video here- both cams had terrible video modes and were nothing to write home about. Low image resolution with noisy quality meant I rarely used the video modes. The F88 had a 1.8 inch LCD that was programmed absolutely stupidly to not gain up in low light- it would not over expose the image so you could see what you were shooting. The optical viewfinders on both of these was not 100% of the field view so they didn’t really help with low light or too bright light shooting. Meaning that in the dark or really bright light, you couldn’t see what you were shooting. Its quite remarkable how Sony has handled these problems- for instance in my SmartWatch 2’s LCD, it is transreflective, so the light from the outside reflects in a way that enhances the screen readability and makes it possible to read the LCD without the backlight turning onto 1 million CD. One thing I loved about both was that they showed percentage of battery remaining through their infolithium designs- no more bizarre battery icons to interpret. While the F77 had meh battery life, the F88 seemed like a tanker with gas to spare.
Conclusion– both of these cameras fulfilled the fun factor they intended to target- easy to use, FUN to shoot with and an early predecessor to the selfie movement (just too early for their time), they represent what everyone loves to do with their camera phones or selfie sticks now- take pictures of yourself with the super fun thing you are doing with your friends. Alas, they are part of a dead era – the current generation of casual shooters does not need to bring a fancy pants camera for selfies – its already built in their phones. The prosumer needs quality over convenience and fun (while small and powerful is a current trend, fun and powerful is not- hence hot cameras like the Sony RX100 series are great shooters but basic in design). I dont regret buying either (although the DSC-F88 was redundant- I really didn’t need that 3X optical zoom that badly). I just had fun with these cameras and feeling like a celebrity with these exclusive designs that nobody else had. Pros- fun and slick design, tiny, pocketable, build quality Cons- photo quality was lacklustre, slow aperture, small sensor, uses expensive MemroyStick cards, propriety charging cables (I know unfair to wish these charged through micro or mini USB, but it would have been nice).
TL;DR; Really awesome design, build quality, tiny size, did I mention really awesome design? Really meh photo quality, poor flash shooting with overexposure, noisy above ISO 100 (!)