Sony DSC-V1 Cybershot Digital Camera IRL Retro Review

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Sony DSC-V1 IRL Review- Announced in 2003, the DSC-V1 was Sony’s second from the top model (sitting under the DSC-F515/505), and a spiritual successor to the DSC-S85. The V1 was meant to be a powerful portable digital camera, vs a gigantic behemoth, like the DSC-F828 I just reviewed. Its competitors would have been the P series from Nikon, and G series from Canon, among others (I didn’t follow Konica Minolta, and OIympus as much). It aimed to provide great manual control, a good sensor, a great lens, and good handling overall for an enthusiast. It was also at a time when 5 MP was mind blowing, and everyone was used to 2MP being a massive leap over VGA resolution cameras (I know I was!I was using the Sony communicam attachment on my T300/T310 with 640×480 resolutiuon at the time as my only camera!). While it wasn’t a die hard model I had been aiming to get, I did always admire its design. Years later in 2016, I managed to score two for 40 bucks! After owning it for a few months, the following is my IRL (In Real Life) review of the Sony DSC-V1 camera.

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Design- Wow this is a brick of a camera. Keeping in the back of my head, that 2003 was a primitive time for cameras, the tiny (but typical) 1.8 inch lcd is dwarfed by the thick body. Its kind of weird. There’s a mixture of odd ball controls (not a fan of the zoom lever) on it, that don’t really have a cohesive design overall. While its not terribly bad, there isn’t anything really unique about the V1’s design that makes it distinctly Sony. Years later, the W series would adopt the boxy design, and then it would become a mainstream design….and die out as anything particularly neat. Personally, while I don’t find it that amazing, it does stand out amongst all the black bodied cameras I have, and for looking like a fat piece of brick. That’s it.

While a lot of G series Canons had neat specs on their own, including fast lenses, the V series was not remarkable at all. Its a 34-136mm non stabilzied lens f2.8-4.0. That’s not that fast, although F4 is decent on the tele end. Equivalents from Canon were faster, but not on Nikon’s side. It was a Zeiss branded lens, when Sony was only branding its flagship cameras with Zeiss, but I always took that with a grain of salt, and wasn’t that impressed with the branding (looks nice though to have the name there for marketing). A hotshoe was nice (the predecessor DSC-S85 was a dumb hotshoe, so this is nice- I’m still hunting for an HVL-F32X flash to put in here). The optical viewfinder is nice to have, but its mostly useless to me, because the framing is not 100% coverage. Its kind of helpful when you are trying to shoot at eye level- particularly with longer exposures, but that’s about it. I haven’t felt a need to use it, even in bright outdoor settings, because I mostly hate tiny tunnel optical viewfinders. I do kind of like the pop up flash- the cover on it is metal too! All in all, this is an unremarkable design for this camera.

Build Quality- Generally pretty good- its a mostly metal designwith some plastic elements. I’m not wildly impressed by it, but it does feel adequate for a top end digicam from the era. Not sure if its aluminum or magnesium but I do suspect aluminum. Generally, nothing feels cheap about this, including the battery compartment door.

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In use- SLOOOOOOOOOOw. Startup time, focus time, shot to shot time. Its slow. I usually don’t get bogged down by things like this, but when shooting with kids, speed is everything (in fact I think the only two cams I’m comfortable shooting with my kid is my Nikon D90 and Sony a6000; everything else is just too slow). The zooming mechanism is slow. I also don’t really like the zoom control toggle. I find the handling to be just odd- no real grip on this camera, and its just a fat brick in my hand. Its not the worst camera I have shot with, but its not great either, or even average. I don’t find the hologram AF assist light that much better than any other AF assist light. Which is a shame cause its really cool when you see the laser pattern sprayed out. I also don’t use the nightshot feature all that much- as I said in the DSC-F828 review, the nightshot is more novelty than anything. Furthermore, I don’t find the enthusiast focus on this camera to be satisfying- there just isn’t enough manual control in this camera to make me feel like handling has been taken to a new level.

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Image quality- again, I don’t find this high end digicam much better than any other same year competitors in the low and mid range. Compared to the DSC-F88, its pretty much the same- the IQ is not anything better. It just feels like another snapshot camera/point and shoot, rather than an advanced enthusiast level cam.  I understand its not an amazing sensor (1/1.8 inch) and its old, but I do expect it to have more of a punch than cheaper cameras. ISO is limited by noise (typical of this time, and its small sensor), which is then hampered by a slow lens. So I tend to make really blurry shots with no noise, noisy shots with no blur, or flash shots that look offensive to me. Its not the greatest generally, and it hasn’t held up to time well. That’s probably one thing that I am being critical about- there’s lots of features they tried to cram into this, and the IQ doesn’t live up to the price, or condensed technology in this package. The good thing is that its not as ambitious as the DSC-F828 in design, so I’m not as disappointed.

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Conclusion- The DSC-V1 is generally an unremarkable camera that didn’t really lead the pack compared to the competition. Design was not remarkable, and kind of odd being a big block. The build quality was good. The image quality was average, and nothing particularly different than lower and midrange cameras. Handling was not that much better, and disappointing for an enthusiast camera. It’s special features like havign a hot shoe, viewfinder, laser assist and night shot, were not fundamental advantages over lower priced peers. In general, it was mostly a forgettable camera, that didn’t really live up to its price/hype.

TLDR- this is a brick camera that doesn’t have a lot to offer, given its price tag

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