Sony's underwater wonder

SAN FRANCISCO (09/22/2003) - Here's a camera suitable for an active lifestyle: Sony Electronics Inc.'s US$250 Cyber-shot DSC-U60 lets you snap photos in rugged, outdoor settings while skiing, hiking, or even snorkeling. Yep, the U60 is waterproof--in fact, it's capable of surviving a swim in up to 5 feet of water.

I dunked my shipping version of the 2-megapixel U60 in a swimming pool for my own tests; I also asked divers at San Francisco's Steinhart Aquarium to give it a test run in the Fish Roundabout tank. The resulting photos weren't always perfect, but they certainly were unique.

The 6.7-ounce U60 is small and easy to use. You can hold its vertically oriented body with one hand while operating such controls as the shooting mode and the settings menu. The solidly built camera comes with a large rubber wrist strap, a plastic housing, and a lock-equipped bottom cover that closes tightly to protect the USB port, batteries, and media card. My biggest complaint: The right-tilted LCD forces you to tilt the camera in order to frame a straight shot. Otherwise the orientation of your image will also be slanted.

The U60 carries a 33mm (35mm film equivalent) fixed lens and a built-in flash, but no zoom capability or optical viewfinder. It runs on two included AAA nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries, comes with a charger, and packs a meager 8MB Memory Stick that can hold up to 15 maximum-resolution images.

Sony didn't design the U60 for serious underwater photography (the company suggests that you limit the U60's swim time to about 30 minutes at a time). But if you enjoy water sports or just want a camera that you can knock around a little, the affordable U60 makes a fine choice.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-U60

Good camera for water-friendly adventure seekers, but the quirky, tilted LCD is bothersome.

Price when reviewed: $250.

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