Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-G1 defies summarisation. Is it overpriced for around £350? It is an oversized 6-megapixel camera with an optically stabilised f/3.5-f/4.3, 38-114mm (3x) lens? A portable photo album with a big 89mm (3.5-inch) display, but a mere 2GB of memory and frustrating Wi-Fi capabilities?
Or is it an underfeatured portable media player with not enough memory and basic MP3 and movie playback? Maybe just a confusing mash-up of solutions in search of a problem?
The large LCD constrains the DSC-G1 to an equally large size. To want this camera you really have to be more interested in huddling around the DSC-G1's excellent 89mm (3.5-inch) LCD display, watching slide shows soundtracked by your favourite MP3s. Of course, this would be rather than an interest in actually shooting photos.
At 235g and with closed dimensions of 94 by 72 by 25mm, it's not terribly compact, but it will fit comfortably in a jacket pocket. Sliding a latch and pulling exposes the lens and puts you in shooting mode.
The shooting controls -- zoom, camera/movie, review, flash, macro, trash/thumbnails and self-timer -- reside on the back of the sliding portion, which means they're pretty flat. We find them rather awkward to use and hard to differentiate from each other -- especially the zoom, which offers little tactile feedback. And of course, there's the irony that Sony's biggest camera LCD doesn't use the company's ubiquitous touchscreen interface.
The controls on the side -- Display, Back, Menu and Home, plus a joystick for navigation -- provide additional opportunities for fumbling around. You have to grip the camera tightly with your left hand to manoeuvre them. They become especially trying when attempting to adjust the shooting settings, which include exposure compensation, focus point, white balance, metering, ISO speed and drive mode.
Except for the shutter button, our fingers didn't fall naturally over any of the controls. We tilted the camera sideways to locate the Menu button, then switched between thumb and forefinger to navigate with the joystick because neither one felt particularly comfortable. We wonder if it might have made more sense to simply have made the camera large enough to accommodate better handling.
The DSC-G1 offers a reasonable set of shooting settings -- no aperture- or shutter-priority modes but manual control over all else, with the odd exception of custom white balance. However, the bulk of the DSC-G1's features aren't about shooting.
It's Sony's first Wi-Fi-enabled camera, and integrates (Digital Living Network Alliance) wireless connectivity, a superset of Wi-Fi that adds device recognition for DLNA-enabled consumer electronics, such as televisions. Right now the only remotely popular DLNA device is the .
It works fine using the PS3 as a conduit to display photos wirelessly from the DSC-G1, but the photos don't look very good on an HD Ready TV. That's because via DLNA, the DSC-G1 displays photos only from the albums stored internally -- images that are limited to 640x480-pixel resolution thumbnails.