Who needs buttons when there's touch-screen control?
Packing 8.1 megapixels and a Carl Zeiss 3x Vario-Tessar 2.8-5.4/7.9-33.7 zoom lens (38mm-114mm equivalent), the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-N1 puts a serious face forward. This solidly constructed brushed silver camera looks like a major player in the 8MP compact class.
Turn the camera around and the clean silver lines are replaced by a 3" LCD, which takes up almost the complete reverse side of this camera. There are only two small buttons--a side-mounted playback/camera/movie switch, and a zoom controller on the far right of the camera. This big screen is more than just the viewfinder and playback screen. Tap the "On-screen" button, and the LCD comes to life as a touch-screen interface to control almost all of the camera's functions for both shooting and playback.
Once you get the feel for it, the touch-screen works well. The screen itself is sensitive, but not overly so--a light, decisive tap with a fingertip or thumb and you'll be navigating menus, selecting white balance, and setting up in-camera slideshows with music in no time. If you prefer, there's also a touch-screen stylus for tapping the screen.
The camera performed well in the lab, putting up good numbers in several categories. Resolution is Extremely High from ISO 64 to ISO 400, and Very High at ISO 800. Color Accuracy is High (Average Delta E: 10.54, ISO 64, Auto White Balance), Noise is Very Low at ISO 64 (1.4), Low at ISO 100 (1.75), Moderately Low at ISO 200 (2.37), Moderate at ISO 400 (2.66), and Moderately Low at ISO 800 (2.35).
Focus in sunny outdoor conditions, without flash, is very quick. Indoors, in lower light without flash, focus slows noticeably. Indoors with flash, the camera fires some pre-flashes and it is a bit more than 1 second from pushing the shutter button to image capture. In 8MP burst mode, the camera achieved focus and fired off 4 shots in 5.3 seconds. There is no flash in burst mode. Additionally, there is "Multi-Burst Mode" which shoots 16 small images in rapid succession and outputs a single 1MB file showing the photos in sequence, which might be handy for analyzing a golf swing or tennis backhand. Interval duration can be set to 1/30, 1/15, or 1/7.5 second. Pay attention when switching out of Multi-Burst mode--the camera keeps itself set to 1 megapixel afterwards.