by Don Sutherland
Published Spring ’09
Compact And Packed With Features
A lot of people looking for the best camera for snapshots mistakenly say, “I’m just an amateur, I don’t need a lot of features. I just want something simple.” Well, today’s “simple” camera comes standard with loads of high-end features. Sony’s DSC-G3 Cyber-shot includes face detection, smile shutter, touch screen LCD and even the ability to access the internet via wireless connection for transferring photos direct from the camera to popular photo sharing websites. All this, yet the camera is quite tiny, fitting inside a shirt pocket with room to spare.
With a camera so compact, you need never be without it; with so many features, there’s practically no picture you can’t take. That’s a lot of camera for a list price of $499.99 (or less—as this is written, we’re seeing it advertised for as low as $432.00).
Of all the novelties in the Sony G3, the most celebrated is its Wi-Fi Internet connectivity. Several pro cameras have this kind of feature, but the G3 is the first in the snapshot market. Under the right conditions, it can greatly expand the fun of taking and sharing pictures.
The benefits accrue to the traveling photographer, wherever a hot spot is to be found.
A wireless transfer, all other things equal, may be slower than a hardwired connection, but it’s a lot faster than none at all. If you have friends eager to see your photos and videos, the G3 is prepared to abide.
The wireless system in the G3 can communicate with its counterpart in your computer, although you may have to work your way through issues like encryption and firewalls before connecting (as you would with most devices). For uploading to online photo sharing sites, the G3 can connect directly to a half-dozen popular destinations including Picasa, Photobucket and YouTube.
The wireless transfer has the broadest benefits to users in the field—out at a location where their computers and drives and storage solutions are unavailable. Some may find it frustrating that only one file at a time can be uploaded to the sharing sites mentioned above, however. Batch uploading several photos at a time would eliminate the need to choose “the best” under conditions that might be hurried and distracting. I’m guessing this is a firmware consideration in the G3, and possibly future editions of the camera (or firmware upgrades) will correct this restriction.
There is also still the option to download images from your camera to your computer by removing the Memory Stick and inserting it in a reader. This is my preference, as it’s the fastest, simplest, and least error-prone approach. The G3 also comes with about 4GB of internal memory, which can be transferred to your computer by wireless connection, or using a special cable supplied with the camera.
Touch Screen Control
The G3’s monitor screen is quite large (about 3.5-inches wide) and very bright, but it still could be overwhelmed if struck directly by sunlight. An optical viewfinder, or eyelevel EVF, would have been a thoughtful addition for conquering those tough moments.
But also, a touch screen for camera settings instead of separate buttons in the camera body keeps costs down, as virtual “buttons” on a monitor screen cost nothing extra to construct. In addition, physical buttons create spaces through which moisture and dust can enter the system. A touch screen reduces this prospect.
One of the helpful features of this touch screen is that you can frame-up a scene and then touch the part of it on the monitor that you want the camera to focus on, and it will.
Face detection has taken the market by storm, and for good reason. By locking onto a face, the camera’s auto focus can follow it around the frame and maintain settings for the face itself and not other components in the scene.
Adult faces have different characteristics than children’s’ faces do, so the G3’s face detection mode can be adjusted for either kind, enhancing its accuracy according to subject.
In addition, the system can recognize a smile and cause the camera to do something in response— such as taking a picture. The smile shutter permits your stepping into the scene and joining a portrait, with no remote-control devices needed other than your grin. Since some people smile more broadly than others, the “smile sensitivity” of the G3’s system can be adjusted to suit.
The imager includes 10.1-megapixels, all or some of which can be used for different frame formats. Maximum picture size is 3648×2736 pixels, a 4:3 format matching traditional TV and computer screens. You can also select the 16:9 HDTV format (3648×2056 pixels) or the 3:2 format (same as “full frame” digital SLRs) at 3648×2432 pixels. Or, you can take internet-ready pictures (around 640×480 pixels) in-camera, for upload to a website directly.
The G3 also can shoot movies at 640×480 size, and 320×240, which Sony suggests for e-mail attachments.
The Carl Zeiss Tessar lens provides a 4X zoom range (35-140mm, 35mm equivalent), which covers moderate wide angle to medium telephoto— a respectable range for a camera this small. The optical steady shot system provides image-stabilization. Maximum aperture range is f/3.5-4.6, which would be more-or-less characteristic of a camera of this class.
Picture quality with the Sony G3 Cyber-shot strikes me as very good for a camera of this class. Being the tinycam it is, it uses a smallish imager which is not expected to reproduce quite the fine detail as a 10MP D-SLR, with its large imaging chip. That said, you couldn’t slip a D-SLR into a shirt pocket. I’m confident you’ll find the picture quality of the G3 completely satisfying. And with its loads of additional features, refinements, and fine-tunings, you’ll be impressed with how versatile and flexible today’s “simple camera” can be.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
- 4-1/8”W x 2-1/2”H x 25/32”D, 7 oz.
- Image Sensor:
- Maximum Resolution:
- 3,648x,2736 pixels
- 3.5-inch LCD, 921,600 pixels
- Still Recording format:
- Memory Stick Duo, plus 4GB RAM internal
- Exposure Metering:
- Focusing Capability:
- Normal, Macro, and Close-Focus settings to approx.1/2-inch
- Special Features:
- Wireless connectivity, built-in web browser, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, 10 Scene modes, Touchscreen Focus, Optical Steady Shot image-stabilization.
- Video Recording Mode:
- MPEG1, approx. 12 minutes/GB in fine mode, 44 minutes/GB in standard mode, 2:57 hours in half mode.
- Provided Accessories:
- NP-BD1 Li-Ion battery, charger, touch screen stylus, combination USB/AV cable, wrist strap, Station Plate (for use with optional accessory).
- Power Source:
- NP-BD1 interchangeable Li-Ion battery.