Sony DSC-F828 My Impressions
Sony DSC-F828What is in the box?
You can get a PDF based manual here:
You can get firmware upgrade here:
I plugged the F828 into the computers USB socket and the computer auto detected the camera and loaded a default driver. I was able to download images without using the included CD-ROM's driver.
Just awesome, now when the camera is powered off, the amount of zoom will not change. The action is faster and more accurate than the electronic zoom of the F717. You can now also zoom while the picture is being taken for special effects.
Common sense would say that digital zoom is worse than resizing an image in Photoshop. But common sense would be wrong here. The digital zoom on the F828 is better than using Photoshop resizing 200% using bicubic resampling. The digital zoom results are clearer and sharper. This animation shows the difference between two pictures, one taken full zoom and resized 200% in Photoshop and one taken with full zoom and digital 2x zoom (both at 8mp). This is a 100% crop from the center of the frame:
If you need it, don't hesitate to use it. The results are very good.
In manual mode, you can select 1/2000 in any aperture mode from f/2 to f/8. You can go up to 1/3200 of a second if you are using an aperture of f/8 only.
Of course you can keep the camera on indefinitely by plugging the camera into the AC power adapter. You can alternatively insert a 1/8" stereo plug into the video output jack. And as a last resort, just keep half pressing the shutter button every couple of minutes to keep the camera from powering down.
The histogram, thankfully has been stretched a little to look more like the histogram you see in an image editor,
it is no longer the square little histogram box of the F717.
The histogram stops showing live changes once the shutter speed gets slower than:
The histogram is no longer semi-transparent like the F717 and can get in the way of composition. So you may have to turn it off when it is getting in the way.
So what does the histogram actually show us?
Notice that this scene has three different density targets, a gray card in the center,
a black fabric target, and a white paper background. Look at the histogram, you will see 3 distinct spikes in the graph.
corresponds to one of the targets visible in the scene. The black fabric is represented by the
1st peak on the left of the histogram, the gray card is next (no surprise it is in the middle
of the graph, they don't call it middle gray for nothing), and finally the white paper
shows up in the graph on the far right. So this tells us that the histogram will show us, from the left to the
right, increasing brightness in the scene. It does not show us color distribution, just brightness. Now that the histogram box on the camera has been streched, it more closely matches the histogram you would see in an image editor
We can use the histogram to augment the meter. We can see if the range of tones matches where they should be distributed. If we have something black in the scene but it does not show up in the histogram on the left hand side, we know that we may have to change the exposure. Similarly, if nothing in the scene is bright white, we want to make sure there is no data on the far right. Otherwise the exposure will come out looking wrong.
This may take a little getting used to, but once you see that certain tones fall on the same part of the histogram, you will be able to tell from the histogram how good your exposure is.
In manual mode, the meter is only accurate in it's full range from 1/3200th to 1 second using ISO 64. This looks to be similar to the shutter speed limitations of the histogram. This is a nice improvement over the F717's meter range. The F717 stopped being accurate once the shutter speed was slower than 1/2 second at ISO 100. The full range of the 828 looks like this:
Once the shutter speed is outside the range listed above, the meter reading will progressively become more inaccurate. For every shutter speed slower than the limit the camera will add .3EV to the meter reading until the meter reads +2EV. If you have a shutter speed of 2 seconds at ISO 64, you will not be able to accurately meter anything dimmer than -1EV. At 4 seconds, you cannot spot meter anything dimmer than 0EV, and at 15 seconds, you cannot accurately meter anything, the meter will be pegged at +2EV even with the lens cap on.
New info coming soon that may change this section
The F828 exposes a scene differently than the F717. At times it looks like the exposure is 2/3rds brighter than the F717 with the same settings, and at times it looks the same. A confusing situation when you are trying to figure out a consistent way to determine the correct exposure for a scene. The answer became clear once a comparison of the histogram between the F828 and the F717 was completed. The same scene with the same lighting and the same settings in both cameras were used. The results are very interesting:
Here you can see that the middle gray target location on the histogram is largely unchanged between the F828 and the F717. But look at the F828's black target and the white target histogram location shifts. They shift about 2/3 of a stop compared to the F717.
I am still working on what to do with this new information. So this portion may be updated soon. Some initial questions that come up:
Noise reduction (dark frame variety) activates at 1/25th of a second. It will take the same amount of time for the camera to take the dark frame as the original exposure. So if your exposure is 1 second, then the dark frame will take an additional 1 second to complete. Interestingly, the camera does not make the shutter activate twice like the F717 did. It now sounds like it is only taking one picture instead of two like the F717 did.
Shutter lag feels close to non-existant when taking non-flash pictures. There is however still a noticeable and troublesome delay when taking a flash picture. I would hope that Sony will address this shutter lag when taking flash pictures (on-board and hotshoe flash) in the next camera or maybe in a firmware update.
The depth of field (DOF) is a the same as the F717 at the same focal length and aperture. But because the zoom range of the 828 is larger than the F717, you can get a shallower DOF with the F828 than with the F717.
You can use this camera in a studio setting with flash units. You will need a hotshoe adapter to trigger them with a pc cable or use a radio remote trigger that mounts to the hotshoe. External flash units only fire once as opposed to the double flash of the onboard flash.
Much has been written about the purple fringing (PF) on the F828. Marginal improvement is had by using smaller apertures. But the biggest help is to get a good exposure and control the strength of the highlights. If you cannot control the strength of the highlights, then post processing may be the only option.
If you find yourself with PF in an image and need to reduce it in post processing, then:
The action above attempts to color the PF with representative colors from the image. It should reduce the PF to levels that will look good in print or on screen. The action creates a PF Correction layer that can be edited or deleted if the results don't look right. No permamnent change is made to the photo itself, all the correction is done on a separate layer. There is also a manual action to correct other fringe colors.
This error has happened a number of times while using one particular Memory Stick Pro. The red light goes on showing that the camera is writing the shot to the stick, but it stays on for a long time, then shows the error. I tried pulling the stick out and putting it in a number of times like the manual states. But nothing really changes. I tried formatting the stick too and the problem still shows up. I have isolated the problem to a certain location on the stick. Once I try to take the 98th picture the error shows up. So it must be related to a bad stick in this instance.
I removed and inserted the stick into the camera many times with no change.
I tried reformatting the stick in the camera many times with no change.
I tried deleting the files and folders on the stick and replacing them with the same from another stick, but the error showed up again once I got to 98 pictures remaining.
I tried the Sony format application but it will not run with the stick in the camera.
I did some research and found that the stick uses FAT and a 32kb cluster size. So I tried the Windows format command
using this syntax:
When the stick is used on the F717 I get a C:32:01 when trying to take a picture. Formatting the stick in the F717 does not help either.
It looks like I have a bad stick.
UPDATE: It was a bad stick and I was able to get a replacement
I don't see any permanent hot pixels at ISO 64 with a 30 second dark frame exposure. There is some noise that looks like hot pixels, but after scanning two 30 second images taken with the lens cap on, there is no one pixel that remains on in both pictures.
I don't see any dead pixels. I don't see any black pixels after doing a 30 second exposure with a bright background.
No discernible image quality difference can be found between jpg fine and TIFF or RAW images. Of course RAW has some features and other advantages that may interest you.
You can now download the update for Photoshop CS to work with Sony RAW files here:
The program that comes with the camera borders on unuseable. I dare you to adjust the white balance and not spend half a day as the image redraws after every little change. This program severely limits the full usefulness of RAW with the 828. My hope is that a better version will become available. Version II of this software is desperately needed...pronto! Failing that, use Photoshop CS for editing RAW files from the F828.
An interesting mode that places 16 320x240 images up on a single 1024x768 image. You can use it to review action sequences.
This Photoshop action will create a new image using each section of the master image and places each portion on a new layer
that can be saved as an animated gif if so desired:
The focusing has greatly improved, not only in speed, but also accuracy. And the flexible spot focus is really the standout feature of the whole focus system. However, there is still no focus distance indicator displayed when you half press when using auto focus. I think this would be a help to know if you have a good focus or not. Instead, you still have to half press, switch to manual focus, and then note the focus distance when you want to check that.
The manual zoom is a real benefit to the camera. It is more responsive and faster to get what you need. You can also use it while taking a picture for special effects. And since the zoom is manual, if you turn the camera off, and then back on, you won't loose the zoom position you had. This is great when taking pictures of the same scene over long periods of time.
It's back...sort of.
The CCD fingerprint of my F707 and F717 had an area in the upper right hand corner that was less sensitive to
light than the rest of the CCD. Now with the 828 I am happy to report that the CCD
sensitivity is now even across the whole CCD and at all ISO's.
Note the above image shows a series of 30 second images that have had auto levels applied to greatly exaggerate the noise so that the sensitivity differences of the CCD can be determined. These images do not represent what a dark frame looks like in real life.
The white balance (WB) this time around looks to be much better. I have not felt like I had to use manual WB on every shot like I did with the F717.
The F707 and to a slightly lesser degree the F717 would tend to hunt around trying to get focus filming some videos. Again I have noticed a slight improvement in the cameras ability to achieve focus and maintain it as the scene changes.