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PEGA-MSC1 Memory Stick Camera Module Review
By Ed Hardy
The MSC1 isn't a digital camera that uses Memory Sticks for storage; It's a digital camera that is a Memory Stick. Except that it can't store anything. It uses the input/output capabilities of the Memory Stick slot to store its images in the Cliι's memory.
In the following examples, of course I shrunk the thumbnails down but the full versions are completely unaltered. I tried to get pictures in a variety of conditions.
While these pictures show off some of the strengths of the MSC1, they also point out the weaknesses. It doesn't have a flash, so you'll have to forget taking pictures in anything but fairly well lit areas. I took a few of pictures in really low light. I didn't bother to include an example because they were worthless. On the other hand, the camera does a decent job of brightening up pictures taken in low-to-moderate lighting.
It doesn't have a macro mode. This means you can't take pictures of things close up because it can't focus on pictures taken too close to the lens.
Judging from the image sizes, I think Sony mostly intends for these pictures to be looked at on the handheld. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get a good picture of a handheld screen so you are looking at the pictures after they have been transferred to my computer. All I can say is, these look very good on the Cliι's screen.
A good part of the screen is taken up with the viewfinder. This is in color and updates almost continuously. Moving the camera around is like looking at a slightly jerky movie. This works well and there is never any question of what you are aiming at. In general, what you see is what you get.
In the lower center is the Capture button. Press that to take a picture.
Between those two is the brightness slider. You can use this to brighten or darken an image, though the camera software itself will adjust this to keep your pictures looking as good as possible.
On the right is a small icon that lets you choose your image size. Like I said, the two options are 320 by 240 and 160 by 120 pixels. The main reason you'd pick the smaller size is, of course, that file sizes are smaller, too. The full-sized pictures make a file about 160 KB while the smaller images are about 40 KB.
On the left is the Tools icon. Pressing this will open the Tools window, that allows to make a whole bunch of adjustments to the way pictures are taken.
The most useful of these is the White Balance. You can set this on Automatic, which is what it was on for all the pictures above. But it has setting for outdoors, which Sony says is good for sunrises, sunsets, and times when a brightly lit object is silhouetted on a dark background. It also has settings for incandescent and florescent lights that is supposed to optimize you pictures under these different lights.
Also in the Tools window there are some fun effects you can use to take wield pictures. These include black and white, sepia, negative, and solarize. These aren't terribly useful. For example, black and white doesn't make the pictures any smaller. But they are fun to play around with.
Back on the main window, just to the left of the Capture button is the Timer. This delays taking a picture for about 10 seconds.
To the right of the Capture button is one that launches PG Pocket. This lets you view the images you've taken.
This whole app has been designed to take maximum advantage of the Jog Dial. You can do every single function with just it, without ever having to touch the screen, though you don't have to use the Jog Dial at all if you don't want to. In the upper left hand corner of the screen is there is an indicator to show what software function the Jog Dial is currently controlling.
This application runs only on 320 by 320 screens, which means you can't use the MSC1 with the S series. It can run in monochrome, so you can use it with the T415.
PG Pocket displays the images you've taken. Version 2.1, required for the MSC1, has a camera mode which emphasizes just displaying the images and includes a small icon that returns you to the camera app.
It also comes with Cliι Paint, a small image editing app. I don't think graphic artists will stop using PhotoShop in favor of Cliι Paint but it is still pretty good. You have various drawing tools you are probably familiar with from other drawing apps, like a pencil, an eraser, a spray can, and tools for drawing geometric shapes. You can also import small bits of clip-art.
You can add an image in PG Pocket format to your Address Book entries, which is one of the best uses for this camera. if you have a hard time keeping names and faces together, this could be a godsend.
The lens on the MSC1 can rotate. This allows you to take pictures of the person holding the handheld or what is in front of the user. When you are flipping the lens around, the camera automatically inverts the image so everything isn't upside down.
The camera sits well away from the handheld's body. It protrudes more than an inch from the top of an N610C. Combined with its delicate connector, this means you aren't going to be carrying the two hooked together in your pocket. In a nice touch, Sony has included a plastic carrying case for the MSC1.
It would have been nice if this had some storage built into it. That way all your pictures wouldn't have to go directly to RAM. I know lots of people who keep the RAM on their handhelds full all the time. Maybe I'm asking too much. Sony did cram a lot of camera into a small space.
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are people who will find this useful. For example, people shopping for a home can easily take and view pictures of houses they have looked at. But I don't think the average Joe on the street has a lot of need to do this every day.
Now, if you can afford to pay $150 for something for you and your friends to play with, then I think you'll really like the MSC1.
If anyone has a need for small images that can quickly taken and viewed on their handheld, the MSC1 just fits the bill. If you don't need to do this though, $150 is a bit much to pay for a toy.
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