Digital camera teams nicely with notebook









Pair Sony’s 3-pound Vaio notebook with the 1-pound, easy-to-use Mavica digital
camera, and what do you get? A field imaging system that beats the pants off the
competition in the $3,000 range and leaves room in the briefcase for a clean shirt.


The Vaio 505 is a tiny notebook, so it’s ironic that Sony Electronic Inc.’s
Mavica floppy-disk camera is so bulky.


The Mavica is even easier to use than a film camera, and that extra bulk is why. Its
floppy diskette drive for standard double-density floppies means no software to install,
no cables to plug in or lose, no fragile cards that fit no other device, and no long waits
for serial file transfer to a PC. You simply slip in a floppy, snap the shots and slap the
diskette into the PC.


You can write 24-bit color pictures in Joint Photographic Experts Group, bitmap or
e-mail (quarter-sized .jpg file) formats, and they will be readable by any computer that
understands MS-DOS files. It’s easy to transfer images to a Web site or transmit or
e-mail them back to headquarters.


I had some trouble getting used to the large color LCD screen that takes the place of
the viewfinder. I kept wanting to put my eye close and squint. If there’s no diskette
in the camera, or the diskette is full, the picture won’t take. Images save quickly
to floppy in JPEG mode; a bitmap takes about 30 seconds and, at 900K, will pretty much
fill a diskette.


Pictures are automatically date- and time-stamped, an advantage for government users.
If you opt for a wireless or cellular modem—the V.90 built into the Vaio 505,
unfortunately, is not cellular-capable—you’ll have the same capability in the
field.


The Mavica can format new floppies, duplicate pictures onto multiple diskettes or copy
Microsoft Office files. Using the FD71, I saved about 25 .jpg images per diskette at 640-
by 480-pixel resolution. The $60 lithium-ion battery lasted about 1.5 hours in continuous
use.


The camera has a 10-second self-timer, the equivalent of a 35-mm camera’s f40 to
400-mm zoom lens, plus program buttons for sepia toning, posterization and monochromatic
modes. Exposure is preset for portraits, action sequences and various lighting conditions
at shutter speeds ranging from 1/60 second to 1/4000 second.


The built-in flash lit scenes well but didn’t have red-eye reduction. Autofocus
didn’t always give pinpoint center accuracy but instead focused on the closest
object. I learned to center the camera on the subject, then carefully pivot the view to
bring in closer objects as necessary.


The FD71’s multi-image mode took a series of nine pictures in two seconds, about
one every quarter-second, and saved them in a matrix as a single .jpg file. That’s
useful for panning through a scene or taking a close-up and zooming out to put it into
context. 


—Cynthia Morgan

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