I was able to get this model a little early, and was excited to try it out in – what better city to test a camera? – Paris. The last Sony snapshot camera I used was on a trip in 2007, and I was so dissatisfied with that camera that I sold it immediately after returning home. I was eager to see if Sony had improved their entry level cameras, especially the picture quality. I shall post some pictures to offer examples up in the product details, but these will be reduced in size for posting.

Photo quality My initial day out indicated that they have made dramatic improvements in both quality and speed. Photos in daylight were crisp and clear in just about every shot, and any that weren't were only because I was shooting poorly on purpose to test

the photos. I was also quite happy with the quality of shots in low light and indoors, which is where I noticed the most improvement over past Sony low-end offerings. There was some blurring in darker situations, of course, but for the most part the software was able to produce images that are well balanced and low grain. The 14 megapixel feature is great – there are many photos I've been able to crop and retain quality, and photos of, say, a stone sarcophagus can be zoomed in upon when viewing images later to see very good detail.

I must also mention that the camera is very good at balancing photos. It almost always produces a picture with an appropriate contrast, and only in the worst cases did the image wash out in an area. For example, a shot of Joan of Arc (the statue, not the person) in Notre Dame came out very well even with a stained glass window in the background. The stained glass was bright but distinguishable, and the detail of the stone statue was clear and well balanced. Only in extreme cases – such as a shot of a black sculpture in the Louvre with a window behind it with blaring sunlight – did the camera fail to balance the image, but these are the kind of bad photography shots one would never expect a camera to take well.

Types of Photos: Like most all snapshot photos, this camera will perform best shooting still subjects with plenty of light. Moving objects didn't tend to blur, a problem I'd had with other cheap snapshot cameras, but the response time can make

getting these shots difficult. Trying to capture a motorcycle passing an old church, my 7-10 attempts were mostly good photos, but getting the moving bike in the exact spot I wanted was nearly impossible.

Features: Overall, this camera lacks in features, although for most uses I found it sufficient, and at the price I didn't expect a lot of extras. The 4x zoom is relatively fast and easy to use, and about right for this type of camera. I was surprised there was no optical zoom given the high megapixels, but I can live with cropping on the computer. The panorama mode is nifty but not that useful – it works quite well in creating a long image, which of course will cause distortion in most cases. To use this feature, you set the mode and clich the shutter. The camera will prompt you to move it from left to right, and then it will generate the image (which is always impossible to see on the display owing to its shape.) Here I would have liked some add'l features – there is just 'one size' for panorama shots – you must sweep all the way across or the image will fail. This creates many shots that will need to be messed with on the computer later, which is okay but an
noying. I was also disappointed panorama doesn't work in an up and down orientation – you always have to sweep the camera in the same manner. You can, of course, hold it sideways to create a vertical panorama, but I really wanted some vertical shots tqking advantage of a larger width. Still, panoramas of the Tour

Eiffel allowed me to create some fun, unique shots of the full height of the structure. There are not many other features – just some rudimentary quality settings, face detection, etc. Some might want to move up to a camera with more features, but I actually appreciated this in a point and shoot camera.

Battery life: Here the camera could use some help. Perhaps I'm spoiled by my Apple products, but digital cameras have more or less remained stuck in 2002 concerning batteries. It's annoying to have a separate charger, and battery life isn't great. Three hours of shooting…granted, constant shooting…at St Denis drained it. Given how light and small it is, I'd fully support doubling the battery size to get twice the life. I'd also love for camera makers to start to move toward USB charging options.

I'd also love it if cameras would start incorporating some onboard space. It feels like the dark ages to have to buy a card. 2 – 4 gig of onboard memory with a card slot for expansion would be nice.

Overall, a great, small, fun camera that's easy to grab and go. I wish Sony would re-imagine some of the ways digital cameras work, perhaps taking some cues from iPods, especially regarding batteries, but for the price this nifty unit is great.

Pros: Excellent pics for camera in this price range, good color balance, good in darker spaces, a few fun features

Cons: Battery life could be better, charging options, not many features or in-camera editing options