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Digicams: New Little Megapixel Monsters, Part II

The Cameras

Sony DSC-U10

The minute U10, measuring eight by three centimeters, is the smallest digicam in our selection. And if you want to be even more impressed, take out the batteries and the Memory Stick and you will see the entire optical system takes up no more than 3x3x3 cm. And the really good news is that it is not just a pretty face, but takes photos of much better quality than we expected when we unpacked it.

The detail is not outstanding and the pictures sometimes under-exposed, but overall the results are quite adequate, especially at this price. This is nothing like what you get with Webcam cameras. The U10 is a true digital camera. Its 5 mm fixed-focus lens is equivalent to a 33 mm in 35 mm format. Fully automatic, it opens from f2.8 to f5.6 depending on the light, with shutter speeds of 1/2000 to 1/30 seconds and 1/2 second in twilight portrait mode. More than this, it has a burst mode, which can take five 640x480 pictures in three seconds, and its sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 320. It does not have manual white balance adjustment, but the automatic system is good enough. And unlike the Casio EX-M2, it has an efficient autofocus, which ranges from 20 centimeters to infinity. On the other hand, its silent video mode is not much use.

When they are touched up, the photos are clear and perfectly printable in 10x15 cm format. More than that and you begin to see the flaws. And it is also better to work in good light conditions. Photos in ISO 320 are rarely good enough to use: some will find them too grainy, and purists will say that they are full of parasite pixels. Photos taken with a flash at ISO 160 are usually pretty good, though they do have some overly pale areas.