Sony brought easy digital photography to the masses when it introduced the Mavica--a digital camera that stored digital pictures on standard floppy discs. This updated version boasts a 2-megapixel sensor and a Memory Stick slot, plus the charm and simplicity that made the original a hit.
Optics and Resolution
The FD200's 2-megapixel sensor captures enough detail for sharp prints at sizes up to 8 by 10 inches. For the typical family photographer, 2 megapixels is a great balance between price and performance. If you want a camera with even more resolution, forget about using low-capacity floppy discs and step up to a CD-recording model instead--try Sony's MVC-CD300 or MVC-CD400.
The autofocus lens features both a 3x optical zoom and a 2x digital zoom. Remember, however, that digital zoom tends to reduce the sharpness and detail of your image, so it's a good idea to use it sparingly.
To save space, there's no traditional optical viewfinder to look through. Instead, to compose your images or review shots you've already taken, the FD200 uses a big 2.5-inch color display. The advantage to using the LCD to frame your shots is that the screen lets you see exactly the picture you'll capture. The disadvantage is that you can't turn off the screen and just use the optical viewfinder to extend battery life. Fortunately, the included rechargeable battery holds a relatively good charge.
The FD200 is clearly designed for point-and-shoot simplicity, but there are several options for more adventurous photographers, including manual focus with macro, adjustable ISO and white-balance settings, exposure compensation, and the ability to shoot black-and-white, sepia, solarized, and negative images.
The FD200 uses Sony's excellent InfoLithium battery system, which not only holds a respectable charge, but also displays on screen how many minutes of power remain. Both the battery and the charger are included. Because the battery is unique to specific Sony models and can be nearly impossible to find when on the road, we strongly recommend getting a spare if you're planning to take the camera on extended outings.
In movie mode, the camera captures silent video clips. The limited duration and resolution of your movies guarantees that this feature won't replace your camcorder, but it's perfect for when you just want to capture a quick movie and e-mail it to a friend or relative.
Storage and Transfer
Images are stored on standard floppy discs, which makes transferring pictures to your computer a snap. Take the picture, wait for the disc to stop whirring, then eject it from your camera and pop it into your computer's floppy drive. For safekeeping, it's best to transfer images to your hard drive and periodically archive your photos using a CD-R drive.
Though they're available everywhere and have become dirt-cheap, floppies aren't without their problems. First, their 1.4 MB capacity is dismal by today's standards. A 2-megapixel photo actually contains 6 MB of information, which means a disc can't hold even a single uncompressed photo. Using standard JPEG compression, only four photos fit on each disc, so plan to bring a big stack of bulky floppies on each outing. To make matters more frustrating, some new computers (iMacs, for example) don't even come with floppy drives anymore.
To get around these problems, the FD200 also includes a slot for Memory Sticks, Sony's proprietary memory-card format. A 128 MB stick is approximately one-fifth the size of a floppy disc, yet it holds around 200 images at the camera's default settings or over 20 uncompressed TIFF images. To transfer images to your computer, simply attach the included USB cable between your PC and your camera. Your computer should automatically recognize your camera and let you move the pictures to your hard drive. If you own a Sony desktop or laptop, your computer may already have a built-in Memory Stick reader.
Most folks will probably buy the Mavica for the simplicity of its floppy drive, but switch to the Memory Stick slot when on extended outings.
Size Considering the internal floppy drive and nonretracting 3x zoom lens, the Mavica is reasonably compact at 5.6 by 4.1 by 3.1 inches, though it weighs in at a hefty 19 ounces.
Contents and Recommended Accessories The package includes the camera, lithium-ion rechargeable battery, NPF-330 AC adapter-battery charger, video and USB cables, shoulder strap, and lens cap.
The camera does not come with any storage media, so you'll need either a floppy disc or a Memory Stick to start shooting. Otherwise, everything you need to get started is included in the box. To make the most of your camera, we recommend: a carrying case, a high-capacity Memory Stick or stack of floppy discs, and, for extended outings, a spare battery. Compatible accessories for this camera are listed near the top of this page. --Shane Burnett
- 2-megapixel resolution is perfect for most users
- Floppy disc storage for ultimate simplicity
- Lithium-ion battery holds a good charge
- Movie mode lacks sound
- Floppies are big, bulky, and low capacity, though the Memory stick slot solves this problem.