Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M2 review
The M2 has one of the most unusual designs we’ve ever seen on a compact digital camera. Owing more to a swish mobile phone than a standard compact camera design, the back swings up to reveal the 2.5in TFT and a surprisingly small complement of buttons.
Sony markets the M2 as a digital still camera with an above-average Film mode, and with preset white balance modes and four different focusing modes, it’s notable for its abilities as a camcorder. There’s a 640 x 480, 30fps MPEG4 video mode, as well as a stereo microphone for better sound reproduction. But the videos we captured lacked punch – colours were inaccurate and we wouldn’t use this as a camcorder for anything other than off-the-cuff recording. The Memory Stick Duo isn’t an ideal format for film recording either – 1GB is the smallest card you’ll be able to get away with if you’re serious about making films with the M2, and even then you’ll only be able to save around three-quarters of an hour of action in 640 x 480 mode. And 1GB Memory Stick Duo cards currently cost around £50.
The still images we captured with the M2 were more than acceptable, but not necessarily as good as the M2’s high price tag suggests. For most of our outdoor shooting, it chose an ISO sensitivity of 64 – the lowest available – and consequently we had no complaints with noise. You can manually adjust the ISO levels to a maximum of 400 – the only setting at which noise became a serious irritation. Zooming in on our images produced relatively little evidence of JPEG compression, although by the time we hit 100 per cent there were some clear artefacts.
Colour reproduction was a bigger worry. While images produced by the M2 were acceptable on their own, compared to either the IXUS 60 or Nikon S5, colours were clearly over-saturated. Several of our test shots also foxed the automatic exposure and came out seriously overexposed, which, in concert with over-saturation, resulted in clipping and a severe loss of detail.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the M2 has relatively few manual features, but it looks particularly poor compared to the Canon IXUS 60 and Nikon S5. There’s no manual white- balance mode, so if you’re shooting in areas with strongly coloured light, you’ll have to hope that the M2 has an appropriate preset. There’s no night-shooting mode, either – the maximum shutter time is two seconds, as opposed to 15 seconds on the IXUS 60.
Those used to compact digital cameras will take some time to adjust to the ergonomics of the M2 – we certainly did. The camera must be held vertically, with the screen pointing out sideways, which makes taking portrait shots particularly fiddly. No-one who tried the camera was instantly comfortable with it. It isn’t even immediately clear which button is the shutter release.
The M2 certainly isn’t a disaster. But at £94 more than the IXUS 60, which boasts an extra megapixel, more shooting features and better ergonomics, there’s no good reason to plump for the M2 over the Canon.