Most helpful critical review
58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
Going back to Amazon
on August 19, 2012
This is a product with so much potential, I hate to give it a poor review. The truth is, they pushed it out the door before it was ready. It has so many compromises as to render it frustrating in actual use, in ways you probably would not notice while playing with it in a store.
Examples: Assuming you are in interlaced mode then you can take a still in the middle of recording a video. Nice (although for some reason you can't do that if set to highest-quality progressive mode; I'll give Sony the benefit of the doubt and assume there's a technical reason why not). Naturally, you can take a still photo while in "video" mode but not actually shooting video. But maddenly, if you are in still mode but just hanging out, you cannot record a video. Obviously the camera is capable, because you can make several selections and get there. It's a bug.
Another frustration: the camera constantly pops up warnings and reminders that you must clear to proceed. There is no way to override these messages to prevent them from appearing. In some cases, these messages completely prevent you from using the camera. One example (out of MANY): the camera does a very nice job of shooting panoramic stills. But shooting one underwater is a bit challenging. Well, if for some reason your panoromic still doesn't work out, the camera pops up a message that it didn't work properly and you must clear that message before trying again or doing anything else. That's annoying, but there's a darker side to this...nearly everything about this camera works solely through the touchscreen, which is DISABLED underwater. Which is probably just as well, because the LCD is essentially invisible underwater anyway (I have $50 point-n-shoots whose LCDs display fine underwater so it is not a fundamental law of physics here). So if you are snorkeling at the moment, your camera is essentially dead because you can neither see nor clear the error. Indeed, over and over again I wound up simply closing the LCD, opening it, and allowing the unit to restart rather than go through the otherwise required series of touchscreen inputs that the camera expects (in this regard, the LCD opening/closing acts as an undocumented "reboot"). But I missed lots of shots in the meantime.
As noted in other reviews, the touchscreen is touchy at best, often requiring several taps before it recognizes the input. That's annoying. Unfortunately, the bizarre way Sony has elected to perform playback makes it something worse than annoying: you don't simply play a still or video back, you have to cycle through a sequence of nested "collections" of combined videos and stills and then scroll through them. If you have a hundred to scroll through and the touchscreen only recognizes one out of three touch inputs, you're in for a long wait. And heaven help you if you decide to delete #112 out of 240, bcause when you delete a still or video it returns back to the very first one, not where you left off at, so you have to start scrolling all over again.
This camera is touted as 20 megapixels but that's typical Sony hype. It is 5MP. Shooting at the highest or even medium settings simply blows up the existing pixels and introduces lots of noise. This is not so noticeable in daylight (but you could acheive the same results by blowing up a small still in Photoshop), but in low light it is deadly - the "low lux" setting combined with "high res" (hah!) introduces massive orange and yellow color patterns. On the plus side the flash is quite powerful and easily adjustable, although for some reason I was unable to get it to work underwater.
The lens, or more specifically the glass covering the lens, has no automatic or even manual cover so it will get scratched unless you are extraordinarilly careful.
Battery will last no more than 20 minutes, so you will definitely need a spare. Note that third-party vendors on Amazon sell spares for a fraction of what Sony charges; I have no experience with one or the other.
But ultimately, the reason it is going back is because of a software glitch that causes it to fail to turn on about every fifth try. In desperation I figured out an emergency workaround: open the cover, remove the battery, wait five seconds, put the battery back in, open the LCD, and wait for the full boot sequence including clearing several messages. So about 30 seconds between realizing it is not turning on until it was ready to shoot. Obviously if I was underwater I would have been screwed - you can't open the battery compartment underwater, and with no ability to see the LCD you wouldn't know you needed to do something in the first place.
If Sony had spent a little more time debugging and improving the software then perhaps 80% of the problems would have been fixed and this might be recommendable. Hopefully a software patch is in the future, and I'd reconsider my decision if the software was markedly improved. But it will take more than software to address the LCD underwater issues and the poor battery life - and no amount of software is going to make this a "20 megapixel" camera - that's simply dishonest.
PROS: Incredibly portable, excellent (in fact for the size, amazingly excellent) video even in relatively low light. Pretty good image stabilization (but like all digital stabilization, it ruins rapid pans so turn if off if you're going to be panning a lot).
CONS: Battery life, too touchscreen-centered, terrible low-light stills that get worse with increasing (fake) pixel size, inexcusably buggy software. Provided software does not output in full HD so you'll need third-party software to really take advantage of your videos.
Additional thoughts/recommendation to Sony: the "MyButton" feature that lets you assign up to three software functions (I selected "flash on/off," "flash intensity," and "panoroma shooting") to three special icons on the touchscreen is a great idea. But they're useless if you cannot see or use the touchscreen, such as underwater or in direct sunlight. ADD SOME REAL BUTTONS to the unit (besides the existing zoom in/out and "shoot" buttons) and allow the user to assign "MyButton" functions to them.
9/12/2012 edit: see my Comment regarding a rather worrisome observation about the digital format this camera uses...