Not your every day camera, Sony's Cyber-Shot DSC-G1S offers a bevy of interesting features that definitely make it stand out from the crowd. These include 2GB of onboard memory, Wi-Fi connectivity, a gigantic 3.5in LCD display, and a music player. It also captures quite good pictures, but the interface is sluggish and somewhat problematic, which at times makes the user experience a little irritating.
- 3.5in screen, 2GB built in memory, relatively good pictures, music player
- Sluggish interface, chunky design
Sony's Cyber-Shot DSc-G1S is a very interesting product. Its 3.5in LCD combined with 2GB of onboard memory and music player make it stand out from the crowd, and it should be a good purchase if you're after an all purpose digital camera that can fulfill a variety of roles.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
The really funky thing about this unit is the onboard memory. 2GB is an absolutely huge quantity in a sea of cameras that struggle to barely break 30MB. Any unit with under 500MB really requires a flash memory card to make proper use of it, and so the G1S is the first unit we can genuinely say doesn't require you to purchase extra storage. 2GB is more than enough to store several hundred photos at the highest resolution, with plenty of room left over.
And you may well need it, because the G1S also packs in music playback; a feature rarely found on digital cameras. A few companies have tried to pack it in with their models, but none have really stood out and the same can be said of Sony's effort here. Don't get us wrong, the music player works fine and Sony did the smart thing by including a 3.5mm headphone jack, allowing third party headphones to be used, however the sound quality isn't as good as you'll hear from a dedicated music device and the number of options available is also quite minimal. Shuffle and loop modes are included and there is a bass boost option, but no equaliser is present. It is also difficult to sort your tracks when a large number of songs are present on the device. The audio player is fine for those who want to save a little cash and have an MP3 player on hand for occasional use. But those that listen to music daily on public transport or while exercising will want to invest in a dedicated digital media player.
The other noteworthy aspect of the G1S is its Wi-Fi connectivity, even if it isn't as robust as we'd like it to be. When we heard 'Wi-Fi compatible' our first thoughts were of past Nikon units that allowed file transfer and other goodies via a wireless network. However none of that is present here. The G1S' wireless connectivity has two uses. First, it can connect to other G1S units in the area and share pictures amongst them and secondly, it can connect to a wireless access point and others can view its photos on the network. Both of these features are handy and the first one could offer some cool potential if you organise to have the same camera with some friends, but overall they are mainly for novelty value.
Of course the G1S could have all the features in the world, but if it didn't capture decent pictures there would be little reason to buy it. Fortunately this model did well in our tests, although keep in mind it only has a 6.1 megapixel sensor, which puts it slightly behind some of the competition, with 7.1 megapixel models becoming increasingly popular. As usual we assessed the camera's pictures using our combination of subjective test shots and Imatest test software.
The G1S achieved a score of 1327 for sharpness, which is a fairly good result, and falls in line with our expectations of the 6.1 megapixel sensor. There was little in the way of colour fringing, however the pictures were, in general, somewhat less clear than those captured by the many 7.1 megapixel units we've looked at recently.
Unfortunately in our chromatic aberration test, the G1S achieved mixed results. Chromatic aberration is most noticeable in areas of high contrast, where haloing can be seen at the point the two shades meet. On the vertical axis, chromatic aberration didn't have much of an impact with minimal haloing visible, and Imatest corroborated this giving a score of 0.101%, which is a fairly good result. However the horizontal axis was another story. Along here, there was extremely prominent red haloing that really detracted from the quality of the picture. When this edge was tested, Imatest gave the camera a score of 0.364% - extremely poor performance.
Thankfully. in our noise test the G1S performed much better. Imatest gave it a score of 0.48% at ISO 100, which is a great result and better than that achieved by most other compact cameras. Our shots were smooth and clean with no visible noise at this sensitivity. However the pictures also scaled well with higher ISO settings, with everything up to ISO 400 being usable for medium sized prints, and even ISO 800 produced shots can be printed at small magnifications.
Colour response is generally quite good, with a slight oversaturation in the red spectrum being the only notable issue. This is to be expected from a consumer camera however, and overall the G1S impressed in this regard, with accurate flesh tones and rich primaries.
It also has a relatively impressive feature set, including white balance presets (but no custom mode), ISO sensitivities up to 1000, a variety of metering and focus options as well as exposure bracketing, which is a feature often omitted from digital cameras. There is also an impressive 3.5 frame per second burst mode, which is great for fast paced photography at things such as sporting events.
One of the things bound to stand out when you first get your hands on this unit is the display. The massive 3.5in LCD is the biggest camera display we've ever seen. It dwarfs the screens on most other units. While it feels like somewhat of a gimmick, after a few minutes use it became clear that shots are definitely easier to frame with a larger display. Photography purists will be put off by the lack of a viewfinder, but most users will love the large display. It is of a good quality too, with minimal ghosting and clear, sharp edges.
To accommodate such a large display, the G1S does sacrifice size and portability. It definitely isn't a small camera. While Sony has made an effort to reduce the travel size by making the unit slide apart to reveal the lens (which obviously makes it larger), even when it is folded inwards for transport, it is a chunky device. Measuring 93.3mm x 71.7mm x 25.3mm and weighing 204g, it isn't the sort of thing you can throw in your pocket and forget about. Aesthetically its fairly plain, with a standard bushed silver colour scheme. Some people will enjoy the unique slide design, but for others it will simply be an irritation.
Our main complaint with the unit is the controls and interface. On their latest batch of cameras, Sony has attempted to implement a stylish, colourful menu system, similar to what is found on their PlayStation line of products. However their cameras appear to not have the processing power to adequately handle such an interface, and the G1S highlights this very well. Often when navigating the menu, we'd have to wait up to a second before our button presses registered, which constantly resulted in selecting the wrong settings and having to backtrack. Furthermore there were multiple instances where we'd have a menu popup that would remain on the screen, overlaid on top of whatever part of the menu we were trying to navigate, even after we'd left the screen it was related to. Bugs such as this really need to be ironed out to give a smoother user experience, because as it stands the interface on the G1S is frustrating.
It isn't helped by the controls, which could be arranged better. There is a thumb stick on the right hand side, along with the main menu and navigation keys. More controls are revealed by sliding the unit into photography mode; things such as the flash, playback and timer buttons. We understand why the controls are configured in such a fashion, allowing you to use the music player without opening the lens, however the orientation of the thumb stick makes it quite difficult to use, and we'd really have preferred if the navigation controls were flat on the back of the unit, as with the majority of other cameras. This isn't a big gripe, but does slow the process of navigation down even further.
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