The most advanced Sony Ericsson camera phone but limited elsewhere. (August 9th, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Sony Ericsson
Price: $180 (2-year contract and rebate)
- Near dedicated-quality pictures and camera controls.
- GPS for geotagging and navigation.
- Great screen for this class of device.
- Relatively abundant AT&T software.
- Poor phone usability.
- Aging UIQ operating system is unintuitive.
- Too expensive for what you get.
- Build quality is so-so, particularly for the slider and keypad.
Sony's Cyber-shot themed handsets are currently headlined by the C905. Of course, its most notable feature of this uber-cameraphone is its 8.1 megapixel camera, and Sony has been known to produce some great digital cameras with its Cyber-shot line; but can the C905 live up to its photographic heritage and still be a great phone?
ergonomics and build quality
The C905 is reasonably compact for a slider phone, but from the perspective of weight the C905 feels more like camera and less like a phone: a bit on the hefty side, but not annoyingly so. The lens and xenon flash are covered by a sliding lens cover that is pushed down during camera operation. The lens cover mechanism seems a bit flimsy and just doesn’t give the feel of quality we’ve come to expect of most Sony products.
The 2.4-inch 240x320 screen on the C905 is, unsurprisingly for a cameraphone, beautiful. The colors are rich, and the text is razor-sharp. On the right hand side of the phone, which becomes the top of the camera, one finds basic dedicated camera controls for zoom, playback, a still/video toggle, and the shutter release. These controls are perhaps a bit small, but still usable. On the face of the phone there is a full 13 buttons, albeit in a layout that includes the D-pad and some camera-only buttons Still, it seems a bit busy.
The keyboard is relatively large and backlit, but the buttons are unusually hard to press. There's also something about the weight distribution in the phone that, when held one-handed, renders it a bit too difficult to fully depress the number buttons to text or dial, especially the bottom two rows.
Two last gripes to note about the C905 are its sliding screen and USB connection. The sliding screen seems a bit loose. The pressure required to slide it is balanced perfectly but it just seems to rattle a bit when opened; this could prove to be a problem in the long run. The USB connector also just seems too large to us. With all of the micro USB connectors and other miniature cables manufacturers have been using for years why does Sony use such a large connection on the C905? The large connector doesn’t make the phone hard to use and probably even makes the cable more secure when plugged in, but it just seems a bit out of place on an otherwise sleek device.
camera features and usability
The C905 truly is a Cyber-shot digital camera in practice; it has nearly every feature that any standard Cyber-shot camera has. Of these, there are five specialized shooting modes including normal, smart contrast, best pic, a panorama mode for stitching together shots, and frames; the latter is probably the least useful and lets you add comical borders to your portrait shots. The eight more conventional shooting modes vary from a typical full auto mode to general scene modes such as landscape and sports shots as well as those for unusual conditions like the bright whites of beaches and snow or truly difficult twilight shots. There's also an unusual document capture mode meant to capture text, and all shots benefit from image stabilization.
In addition to the aforementioned features the C905 also packs a host of focus, flash, timer, metering, white balance, and effects options. Beyond the standard photo taking fare the C905 also allows for basic on camera editing in an app called PhotoDJ. Rudimentary functions such as crop, rotate, white balance, and contrast. While it’s no Photoshop, the PhotoDJ software has its indented effect. A few other features worth noting include the face and smile detection, geotagging using assisted GPS. Beyond still shots the C905 can also take 320x240 digital video at 30 frames per second.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the C905 doubling as a phone is the built in support for and access to both HP’s Snapfish photo service and Flickr. Beyond these web uploading services C905 users can also send pictures via SMS and Bluetooth. Photos are saved on the 160MB of internal memory or, more than likely for most users, on a Micro Memory Stick card.
The two photos below were taken as test shots. These photos are meant to compare overall quality and we used a 5.1-megapixel camera for the reference shot. Even though there is a difference in the white-balance between the two the quality is comparable -- a surprising feat given the smaller sensor and lack of optical zoom. If your phone is expected to supplement or replace a compact camera, the C905 should be on the short list.
Above, photo from C905; below, photo from a dedicated compact camera.