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Sony N1 Review: (Part 2 of 6)

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

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Build Quality

The N1 is made mainly out of metal which is cold to the touch. It has a feeling of luxury and exclusivity as soon as you pick it up. However the battery/card door is made out of flimsy plastic. The sides and top are also made of plastic by the way, not that you'd notice. Overall, very good build quality. Mine has a mark on the bottom, the metal is slightly dented, but that's only because of my negligence.


The N1 looks and feels very nice. Sony seem to have taken cues from Apple's design. The front is a sort of texture - concentric circles radiating from the lens. A nice effect. On the top of the camera there's the shutter release and power button, as well as the microphone. On the sides, there is the battery/card compartment. The botton of the camera shows the cable socket, and the tripod thread. The thread isn't aligned with the centre of the lens, which sucks for panoramic work.

The back is slightly busier, but not much. It is dominated by the 3.0" screen. There is a little 3-way switch, that toggles between movie-mode, still camera shooting, and playback. Towards the top-right there is the very small zoom rocker, and near the bottom are two discreet buttons.

The Sony N1 tries very hard to look welcoming and non-intimidating to the average newbie. There are very little external controls (sadly), but as a result it's a treat to look at.


Handling in one of the Sony N1's bad sides. It handles similar to a bar of soap. The camera has no external controls and no hand grip whatsoever. You're going to have to fumble through the menus to change any settings. Granted, the menu system is easy to get used to, and interaction using the touch screen soon becomes easy. However it never begins to feel intuitive.

The camera seems to have been designed to repel as much user-involvement as possible ("Leave it to me sir, I know what I'm doing").

In use, you get the feeling that the menu wasn't designed by photographers. It takes 4 screen touches to delete an image. However in fairness the menu itself is fairly quick, and you don't really leave your subjects waiting too long. The touch screen interface is a little faster than up/down/left/right buttons here.

LCD screen

Possibly the biggest feature of the Sony N1 is its screen. It's a 3.0", 230,000-pixel, touch-panel. Wow! Viewing photos on it is quite fun, images are pretty sharp when played back.

Unfortunately, the live view doesn't really seem to take advantage of the high resolution. It's in image playback where the screen really shines. Be wary of excessive smudging and fingerprints!

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