The DSC-F707 is a 5.24 megapixel camera released by Sony in 2001. The DSC-F717 is the upgraded version of the same camera released in 2002.
The bulk of this article is based on my experience with the F707, but indeed I have used the F717 and their similarities are close enough, not only in looks, but in form, function and image quality.
The camera had a 38-190mm f/2-f/2.4 (35mm equivalent) lens and a 2/3″ sensor. It was an immediate sensation due to its futuristic looks and radical design.
Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit Sony is an innovative powerhouse in the camera world. The electronics giant is well known for their attempts to dominate every area they compete in, whether it’s television sets, the video gaming world or cameras. They are competitive, and that can only mean good things for us consumers.
This is a very old camera, digitally speaking, so I’m not going into a full review with this one. I will just touch upon some key areas of interest.
CAMERA AND LENS
The camera is well built with a magnesium alloy body and light thanks to good integration of plastic parts.
The camera is certainly “different” thanks to its radical and futuristic design. No doubt this eye-catching quality helped to make it a hit with camera buyers in 2001.
The ergonomics are for the most part good, although as with most Sony cameras of that era, controls can be a little confusing at times. You may want to access the manual for certain features.
The camera has a 1.8″ LCD which will seem small if you’re used to today’s 3″ and larger screens, but it presents with good visibility and colors. The F707 also has an electronic viewfinder which you can access with the flick of a switch.
The body swivels 36 degrees down and 77 degrees up. A really cool feature for street work or tight situations.
The lens is a 38-190mm f/2-2.4 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar. It’s interesting to note that early on in their camera history, Sony sought acceptance and credibility in the camera world by making key moves such as licensing the Carl Zeiss name on many of the lenses on their cameras.
There are many Zeiss fanatics out there, and sometimes that name alone is enough to sell cameras.
The lens on the F707 is excellent and provides wonderful colors and sharpness, but keep in mind that this is a small sensor point and shoot camera with 5 megapixels. Almost any 5 megapixel point and shoot with a decent lens will provide sharp results. In 2001, we’d be nitpicking over these things. In 2015, we won’t 🙂
That’s not to cut down the Carl Zeiss lens. On the contrary, I am just saying that I feel the lens is limited to the technology it was mated to at the time. It’s a fantastic lens, but compared to similar cameras of its time, you may have a hard time making out the differences. That said, there are certain situations where you might coax that “Zeiss look” out of the camera, thanks to the great lens, but you won’t see it all the time.
The AF is good, but not instantaneous. There is a noticeable lag when taking pictures. The Hologram AF assist works well for low light, but the camera only has an ISO range of 100-400 so it’s not like you’re going to be shooting in ISO 128,000 situations with this camera.
There is a TIFF mode, but it is slow and uses more memory. Unless you’re a real stickler for RAW, I wouldn’t bother with TIFF’s for a fourteen year old, 5mp camera. The jpegs may have some compression artifacts, but it’s not something you’d really notice or care about. You’re not using this camera for exhibitions 🙂
The camera’s biggest failing for anyone planning to use this camera today, in my opinion, is the use of Sony’s Memory Stick. The largest the camera can take is 128mb (that’s megabytes) which can be somewhat pricey for the amount of memory you get. It’s a rip-off, but basically you pay for it because it’s the price vs availability thing. I tried one of those 256mb “128mb X 2” cards, but it didn’t work on my camera.
This was supposedly remedied with Sony’s upgrade to this camera, the F717. I’ve heard that this camera can take up to 2gb Memory Sticks. However, in my limited experience with the F717, I tried a 1gb Sony branded Memory Stick, it didn’t work.
If you get an “error” message don’t give up on the camera right away, it’s probably the card. Try a lower capacity Memory Stick first.
The Sony DSC-F707 is capable of excellent results, especially for daytime shots. Details are crisp, colors can be beautiful, although as with most digital cameras of its time, it has a tendency to bleed the reds. The resolution is about as good as you can expect for 5 megapixels. For best results, stick with low ISO settings.
Bokeh is not easy to come by with a small sensor camera, but can be had with the F707, especially if used towards the telephoto end of the lens and the right situation.
The bokeh has a bit of that “nervous” look, which to me is actually quite typical of Zeiss, so feel good that you’re getting a real Zeiss lens!
Dynamic range is quite good for a small sensor point and shoot, but cannot match today’s cameras and highlights can be clipped easily if you’re not careful. Remember this is a nearly fifteen year old camera.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE DSC-F707 AND DSC-F717
If shopping for one of these, prices are trending at $30-70. I would probably go for the DSC-F717, which is the upgraded version of this camera. Prices for the F717 are trending at $50-130. Go for the F717 if prices are similar, if only for the peace of mind knowing you got the one with all the upgrades. If the price is really low, go for the F707, be done with it, and never wonder about how much better your shots would look with the F717. They look the same.
IQ wise I don’t see much difference, but the F717 offers improved Auto ISO, supposedly improved autofocus, improved shutter lag time, a hotshoe for dedicated flash vs the cold shoe on the F707, and the ability to take larger Memory Sticks. The F717 also offers a higher 1/2000 shutter speed vs the 1/1000 max on the F707, but the F717 only provides this in program mode.
There are probably more improvements that I can’t think of at the top of my head. But again, IQ wise I don’t think you will see a big difference.
These cameras DO NOT have Sony’s much vaunted “Steadyshot” image stabilization.
When I got this camera a few years back, I initially thought it would be fun to shoot with. However, that has not been the case. Perhaps it’s the slow lag times or the small screen, I don’t know, but it’s one of those cameras that looked cool, but I hated picking it up to shoot. I can’t complain though. For the low price I paid, I think I got more than my money’s worth for a “play around” camera.
The Sony DSC-F707 and its siblings are uniquely designed and very interesting cameras that represented the best digital camera technology had to offer in the early 2000s. Even today, they offer excellent image quality in context to what they are, that is, nearly fifteen year old digital cameras.
However, these models stand out in a world of ever increasing “prehistoric” digital cameras. They will no doubt add to the Camera Legend that Sony has become.