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Old Aug 14, 2004, 2:15 AM   #1
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Sony claims their Smart Zoom (at lower resolutions) is like a true optical zoom.

Their explaination sounds logical enough, but as I tested it in reality it didn't work out quite like that.

I took a true X10 zoom digital camera (sony Mavica fd71). I also took my new dsc-w1. The W1 should be light years ahead of the Mavica, and its Carl Zeiss lens should also be sharper. And indeed it is a much better camera.

The Mavica only takes 640x480 images, so I set the W1 to that resolution as well. I zoomed both cameras to X10 zoom. The Mavica used its optical zoom (1.9f-2.8f), while the W1 used its smart zoom beyond the X3 range.

I placed them both on the same tripod, and took pictures in turns. Some with flash, some with long exposures and no flash, etc.

In all pictures the images produced by the Mavica were sharper and has better contrast. Using +contrast or +sharpness on the W1 was only an after-effect. The initial sharpness produced by the Mavica was better.

Don't get me wrong, if I take wide-angle photos on both, the W1 blows the ancient Mavica away. But when it comes to telephoto power, the extra zoom range of the Mavica's optical zoom is sharper than the W1's CCD image when its enlarged.

Surely the smart zoom yields better results than the regular (precision) digital zoom, but when compared to a real optical zoom, don't expect it to be the same.

To sum it up, if you usually take pictures with Sony Cybershots at resolutions lower than the 5M setting, and use the smart zoom feature - you should still consider purchasing a telephoto convertor to achieve better images, even if you feel the smart zoom gives you enough power.

I am sure that if I made this test with a better camera than the Mavica results would be even more one-sided.
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