Fast and featured but not a full smartphone. (March 17th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Sony-Ericsson
Price: $300 (with contract)
- Well-designed hardware and software interface. - Good call quality and fast Internet over 3G. - Excellent camera for a phone. - Solid music player software.
- Expensive for a non-smartphone device. - Web and camera still limited compared to the very high end. - Standby life shorter than expected. - No choice but to use proprietary budget earbuds.
phone functions: camera
Needless to say, any phone branded as a Cyber-shot has to provide a camera better than those on most phones, or else its credibility falls flat. There's little dispute that the K850i has this aspect taken care of, as the 5-megapixel sensor, digital autofocus, and built-in flash should allow more headroom for cropping photos and the opportunity for low-light shots.
Testing does show that this largely works out in the field. While the W580i's 2-megapixel, fixed-focus camera often produced muddy shots and often fell short with less than ideal focus or in anything below average light, the K850i's images are much closer to the quality you'd expect from a dedicated compact camera. Sample shots are generally clear and produce relatively little noise.
The sizable amount of camera settings also help experienced photographers scrape out an extra amount of customization for the shot, though the settings are largely a subset of what's found on most normal Cyber-shots: besides the helpful macro mode, most settings are semi-automatic, such as the white balance (which can only be changed to certain presets). Nighttime photographers might be disappointed to know that the camera can only shoot up to ISO 400 sensitivity, though Sony-Ericsson should be credited for exposing a feature sometimes hidden on other phones.
Compared to top camera phones like the Nokia N95 (or its even more powerful N82 cousin), however, the K850i isn't quite a replacement for a full camera. There are still slight traces of the "haze" effect created by the use of plastic optics, and high-contrast outdoor shots like the example provided above will also show slight hints of purple fringing -- a chromatic distortion effect created when the lens is too small and curved for the shot. The flash is also not as powerful as on some of the more premium phones, even if it throws far enough to be useful for average portraits.
Sony-Ericsson's phone does at least show promise as a basic video capture device. Most of the settings from the still imaging section translate directly to the live video mode, and the flash can turn into an always-on light for dark scenes. Again, it's not as advanced as other phones, though the relatively affordable price of the K850i makes it a better value.