Lacking only a sufficient memory card (Sony bundles a measly 32MB Memory Stick with this camera), the 6.4-ounce P100 comes in three flavors: traditional matte silver, raspberry red and blueberry. Sony is known for producing slick electronics, and the P100's cool design is no exception. In addition to its sweet appearance, the P100 provides a decent set of features, including a 3X, f/2.8 Carl Zeiss zoom lens with a focal range of 38mm to 114mm (35mm equivalent); 30fps VGA video capture with sound up to the capacity of your memory card; and noise reduction for shutter speeds--essential for 5-megapixel models.
The P100 offers automatic, adjustable-program, and full manual exposure capabilities. It provides center and multispot metering and autofocus, as well as discrete-step manual focus with five distance choices. You can toggle the camera's autofocus system between continuous and on-demand focus. Its illuminator helps greatly in low-light situations. We like the camera's ability to vary its flash output via the simple bar-style menu; however, we resent having to go into the Setup menu to enable red-eye reduction.
Shooting the P100 one-handed is difficult because of its control layout, its small size, and its lack of grippable surfaces. Additionally, the camera's LCD is too dim for practical outdoor use. The tiny, distorted optical viewfinder makes a poor alternative. We have few complaints about the camera's performance, however. It's fast from boot to shoot--about 2.3 seconds--and its 0.2-second shutter lag under ideal circumstances is up there with that of the best cameras we've seen. But that shutter lag increases to 1.2 seconds for low-contrast scenes, and its 3-second-plus shot-to-shot times are pretty average.
We found the images taken with the P100 properly exposed, but the camera has a limited dynamic range, especially in the highlight end of the blue channel. Thus, you get blown-out highlights and attempts to compensate, which result in overly saturated colors. And despite the pedigree of the lens, images weren't as sharp as they should have been. Combined with excessive postprocessing on very detailed areas, such as grass, complex photos are suitable for only scaled-down screen display, and prints up to 8x10 should be considered on a case-by-case basis. While the P100 is a decent snapshot camera, it doesn't quite deliver the image quality or the ease of use we've found in similar models.