Its odd shape might offend SLR purists, but the Sony DSC-F828 Cyber-shot has it all: speed, smarts, awesome image quality, and an impressive 8 megapixels of resolution, sufficient to make professional-grade 10 x 14-inch prints and stunning on-screen images. The heart of the Cyber-shot is Sony’s four-color CCD, an 11mm chip that has sensors for emerald tones in addition to the standard trio of red, green, and blue. That gives the camera extra responsiveness in the green and blue part of the spectrum, where your eyes are the most sensitive. The result: Photos have tremendous richness and depth of color in addition to high resolution.

As with other cameras in this category, you’ll usually need two hands to operate the DSC-F828. The molded casing fits comfortably enough in your right hand that you can squeeze off some shots single-handed, but your left hand is required to operate the built-in 7x mechanical zoom lens (and to steady this bulky camera). The lens’ 28mm to 200mm focal length can zoom in to capture far-off subjects as well as encompass wide-angle scenes, and it swivels up and down to shoot from unusual angles.

The DSC-F828’s shutter button has a hair-trigger response. That plus the camera’s incredibly fast 0.1-second shutter lag (the fastest camera in our roundup) and speedy two-second recovery time means you’ll have no problem capturing exactly the shots you want.

The mode dial and menu structure on the DSC-F828 are straightforward. In addition, the DSC-F828 sports a plethora of function buttons scattered around the camera’s body and lens barrel. Learning to use all these buttons will take you the better part of your lifetime, but fortunately the DSC-F828’s automatic mode delivers great shots in almost all conditions — and its indoor shots received outstanding ratings from our judges — so you may never need the manual settings.

A pop-up flash provides decent illumination for nearby shots; like other high-end cameras, the DSC-F828 also has a hot shoe for plugging in a separate, more powerful flash. The 1.6-inch TFT display is clear and bright, and there’s a viewfinder if you prefer to squint and shoot. (The camera is not a true SLR, however. The viewfinder is actually just a tiny LCD.) The DSC-F828 includes dual memory slots, one for CompactFlash cards and another for Memory Sticks.

The biggest shortcomings of the DSC-F828 are its unwieldy size, unusual shape, and the sheer number of function buttons it asks you to master. Still, those are small prices to pay for superb image quality and shooting speed. This is one camera that will please aspiring newbies and serious photo hobbyists alike. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Outstanding image quality and speed
Worst Feature: Vast number of function buttons

Sony DSC-F828 Cyber-shot
Weight: 2 pounds
Size: 6.8 x 5.3 x 3.3 inches
Specs: 8 megapixels; 7x optical zoom; 1.6-inch LCD; 640 x 480-pixel, 30 fps MPEG video; MPEG audio; pop-up flash; flash hot shoe; Memory Stick and CF slots; USB 2.0; AV port; lithium-ion battery

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Link: Sony DSC-F828 Cyber-shot

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