Sony Cyber-shot DSC N2 verdict
As with many 2006 compacts, the Sony Cyber-shot N2 is basically an enhanced version of its predecessor. Sony’s essentially taken the earlier N1, fitted a slightly higher resolution sensor, increased the sensitivity, added support for the optional GPS accessory and swapped the silver finish for gold.
In terms of the enhancements, the N2 is certainly capable of resolving plenty of detail under the right conditions. We suspect our sample may have suffered from some optical issues as seen on the resolution results page, but even then at 100 ISO it resolved similar degrees of detail to a 10 Megapixel DSLR. This result is similar to the 10 Megapixel Canon A640 though, and while impressive for a compact it’s crucial to realise the quality, unlike a DSLR, will greatly reduce at higher sensitivities. That said, keep the Sony N2 at 100 or 200 ISO and it’ll deliver great images, although you might wish to turn the somewhat enthusiastic default sharpness down a notch.
Along with higher resolution, Sony’s also increased the maximum sensitivity to 1600 ISO. Like most compacts at this kind of sensitivity though the results ain’t pretty and it’s really for emergency use only. The 800 ISO setting is just about acceptable on smaller prints, but you really want to keep the N2 between 100 and 400 ISO for the best results. Again though in these respects it’s no different from most compacts.
One aspect we wished Sony had improved from the N1 though are the choice of exposure modes: like the N1, there’s a full manual option, but no Shutter or Aperture Priority modes. There’s also no custom white balance, the burst mode is poor, and while the live histogram is an unusual and welcome feature to find on a compact, optional grid lines would surely be more practical for everyday use, not to mention easily added. Certainly if you’re after a 10 Megapixel compact with greater creative control, the Canon A640 is a better choice.
The most impressive thing about the N2 though remains the same as its predecessor: its huge 3in touch-sensitive screen. This is what separates the N2 from the competition and while arguably a novelty, it is quick to learn and a lot of fun to use; certainly if you’re into gadgets or having something that’s different from the crowd, the N2 is sure to please.
The Pocket Album facility, again inherited from the N1, is also really neat. It’s great to carry up to 500 of your favourite photos around with you and have the N2 automatically prepare new ones as you go along. The animated slideshow transitions and optional MP3 music of your choice also illustrate how much better Sony is at this kind of thing than Nikon was with its D80 slideshows – but remember to delete any images from the N2’s Album you don’t want everyone to see!
So like many new cameras this year, much of what’s best about the N2 was present in its predecessor, and while the N2 is capable of recording more detail, the difference between 8.1 and 10.1 Megapixels isn’t great in practice. Ultimately the N2 is a gadget-packed, stylish compact that delivers great quality pictures at lower sensitivities, and as such comes Highly Recommended, but if you happen to find an N1 at a bargain price, you might want to snap it up instead. To see the N2’s highlights, check out our video tour, and please visit our Compact digital camera Buyer’s Guide for an update of the best buys in this category.
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