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Sony N1 Review: (Part 6 of 6)

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A detailed real-world review of the Sony N1 compact digital camera.

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What I liked:

  • AF in good light is pretty good.
  • Impressive battery life.
  • Manual mode, and a proper Program mode.
  • Adjustments over Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness.
  • Nice big screen. Sharp in playback. Not so sharp in record mode.
  • Great implementation of Spot focus; just touch where you want in focus.
  • High ISO shots not terrible, they clean up nicely.
  • 8 megapixels means a lot of detail.
  • Pocket-sized for spur-of-the-moment shooting.
  • Stylish metal body; very good overall build quality
  • Pleasing overall performance, WB and colour both quite good.

  • What I didn't really like:

  • Downright miserable continuous shooting.
  • Red AF-assist lamp is very annoying (turn it off).
  • Contrast-detect AF hunts in low light.
  • Blown highlights.
  • No handgrip, handles like a bar of soap.
  • Touch-screen is flashy, but not as good as hard buttons.
  • LCD extremely prone to fingerprints and smudges. No protective filter.
  • Poor lens. Not very wide (38mm equiv.), and slow at full zoom (f/5.4)
  • No custom WB
  • Deleting an image takes long and is cumbersome

  • Conclusion

    I didn't have very high hopes for the Sony N1. Often, these compacts tend to be compromised photographic tools that put form over function. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

    After testing the N1 extensively, plus 6 months of experience with it, I can say that its image quality at lower ISOs exceeds its price and competes very well with higher-end cameras. Its images are sharp, contrasty, with heaps of detail and great colour. Truly class-leading performance. Despite this, I somehow wasn't completely satisfied. They still had that certain "digital look".

    The decent startup time, acceptable focusing speed, good build quality, and slim profile means it's pretty well suited to street photography. Fortunately the N1 has a Manual exposure mode. This, for me, is a huge advantage over some other compacts in a similar price range.

    However, one thing struck me about the Sony. As nice as it is, I'll never grow to love this thing. It isn't really "photographer's camera". Pick up the N1 and you'll immediately notice that there's no grip. You'll then notice that there's no viewfinder. This camera was designed to be held at arm's length.

    Using the menus and the interface further enhances the feeling that this is not really well-suited to photographers. For example, adjusting exposure in Manual mode means touching an arrow on screen. Selecting ISO is a real chore.

    Sometimes, I felt like I was fighting the camera to get it to work the way I wanted it to. Even after using it for a long time, the lack of buttons is still a bitter pill to swallow.

    On the other hand, the Sony N1 can really sing. I can recommend this camera to social snappers as well as (very) patient photographers. Its image quality at lower ISOs can sell by itself for me.

    OVERALL RATING: 6.5 / 10


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