Sony F717 
Lots of people better qualified than I have conducted very detailed reviews
of the Sony F717 digital camera. This is not an amateur's attempt to match
those professional reviews but rather and enthusiast's opinions of his camera.
I've been using the F717 as my main camera since December 2002. Prior to that I used an Olympus
2000Z for three years which I was happy with but which was starting to show its age.
What the F717 is not
- It's not a professional camera:
The F717 can be used to obtain professional quality results and I have one
friend who is a professional who uses the F717 as her digital rig but
she is still primarily a film photographer. The category pro-sumer is
very apt for the F717 even though I hate the label. This camera is too
big and expensive for an average consumer and not quite serious enough (i.e. lacking interchangeable lenses and an optical viewfinder)
a professional. It is perfect for a photography enthusiast not prepared
to fork out the money for a DSLR quite yet or not wanting to go back to
carrying a huge camera bag again.
- It's not subtle
It's pretty big, it's flashy and sexy, silver alloy case make it stand
out from the crowd. This can be a hindrance if you're trying to surreptitiously
take a candid. That huge lens can also be a little intimidating to your
subject. With my old, small Digicam people either didn't mind being photographed
by it or didn't even notice that they were being photographed. Pointing
that big piece of Zeiss glass at people can inspire your subjectto freeze up or
What it is
Compared to the previous generation of digicams that I was familiar with
the F717 is fast. It's fast to start up from cold. Fast to focus. Fast to take the
shot (although there still can be a little shutter lag it can be greatly
reduced by pre-focusing). Fast to transfer shots from memory to the memory
stick. Fast to download shots (USB 2 and native Windows XP support make
your PC fast
are also fast. It's also fast and easy to access most functions of the
camera; many have their own dedicated buttons and the menu system is relatively
shallow. Of course that big lens is also fast although, for best results,
I find it performs much better stopped down to the F4 to F5.6 range.
- Long legged
The F717 has stamina. My old Digicam ate batteries. I never went anywhere
without 3 sets of AA NHiMs for the day and I would constantly be turning
the camera off altogether, to conserve power. The Sony I charge up over
night before taking it out for the day and then I never even think about
the battery again. It holds hours of power. I've never even considered
buying a spare battery.
- Well designed
As with most things Sony, the design of the F717 is both sexy and well thought
out. The unusual L-shaped format takes a day or two to get accustomed
to but then it starts to make perfect sense. It feels heavy until you work
out that you hold the lens not the camera part. Sure, for best effect it needs
to be held in both hands, but this gives you a solid platform to shoot
from. Being able to zoom in and out using the front lens ring also feels
familiar and SLR-like. Lessons have been learnt and adapted from the 505
and the 707. All the buttons
to locate most features without removing the camera from your eye.
When you turn the F717 on there is no mechanical or electrical whir as the
lens expands out to the appropriate focal length as the Zeiss lens is
already where it need to be to shoot on or off. This also helps in the exceptionally fast
When you zoom in and out, again, the F717 is virtually silent. Once you
turn off the factory default, synthesized, gimmicky shutter 'click' taking a
shot results in the faintest of clicks. As the F717 hunts for focus you
the alloy case more than you hear it. All of this is great for not audibly
attracting attention to the camera and yourself while you shoot.
In it's simplest valet mode you could hand this camera to any waiter and
they could get a good shot of you and your friends. In manual mode you
can experiment with the most complex of techniques. The hybrid nature of
the F717 makes this camera ideal for the photography enthusiast who is
one camera to do it all and doesn't want to buy both a pocket and a serious
camera. It's 35-190mm zoom lens, although not extreme, is versatile enough
for most situations. The macro facility allows good close ups. The infrared
night mode is a bit of a novelty but occasionally useful, however, the
hologram assisted focus and TTL flash metering makes low light shots and
onboard flash snaps a doddle.
Want to play with infrared phtography? Buy a couple of filters and you're good to go. Need more range from the zoom? For a price nice auxilary lenses are available.
I have friends who own and use DSLRs and they are really nice cameras. DSLRs are even available for about the same price as the F717's sucessor, the F828, however, I don't yet feel the need to 'upgrade'. Let's face it, Canon's digital rebel changed the equipment landscape for enthusiastic, digital, ameteur photographers in the second half of 2003 with a DSLR with lens for less than $1000. Let's also face it, the lens that comes with the rebel is not as sharp, fast, and does not have the range of the F717's Zeiss glass. I'm sure that I'll own a DSLR one day but, as the F717 already does all that I need and more, that day is still in the future
One feature I never even considered is the video feature. I've
never owned a camcorder so I didn't think I needed one. Indeed, if I'd
bought one I doubt that I would have used it. However, I often find myself
little minute or longer video clips. Unlike a lot of other digicams that
take video that cripple functions available, the F717 is very useable.
Full zoom is available and the limit on the clips you can take is only
limited by the memory you have available.
- The F717 seems to favor the landscape format. For me this might be something
of a good thing as I tend to favor the portrait format and the F717 encourages
me with this bias to shoot a more balanced mixture of the two. The camera's
bias is, in some part, due to its lens body swivel feature. This allows
you to turn the viewing screen and body of the camera to face you while holding
the camera and waist level or lower. This is a great feature for taking candids
as people people seem to feel stared at if your looking through something
held at eye level and are staring at them. They don't seem to notice as much
and relax more if you are looking down at a camera at your belt level rather
than staring directly at them. It also helps when you want get low level
shots for example, it has saved me a lot of knee wear taking shots of my
puppy on the floor. It both these situations, however, you're limited to
the landscape format. Switching over to portrait means bring the camera back
to your eye or getting back down on the floor with your puppy.
Link to pictures taken with this camera in the photoblography.
Just Say 'NO' to Digital SLRs!
dpreview on the F717
imaging resource on the F717
Steve's Digicams on the F717
do u think it is the good idea to buy f707 instead of f717
I would go w/ the 717. I am a F717 user and must say for being my first and only digicam, I am impressed. Sweet investment for inspiring photogs who dont wanna come out of pocket almost double the price for a SLR. The 717 does the trick everytime. Good luck
I really enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the great work.
anyone want to sell me a used one of these? cant seem to find one..thanks