Sony Ericsson C901 review: Cyber-shot reloaded

GSMArena team, 6 October 2009.
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FM radio with RDS and TrackID

The integrated FM radio of Sony Ericsson C901 has memory for 20 stations and supports RDS. It has a nice interface and makes great use of the TrackID music recognition service. The radio can be minimized in the background much like the music player but offers none of the fancy fullscreen graphics the player does.

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FM radio interface

TrackID is accessible through its original location in the entertainment menu. The service interface comes with the same expanded features that we first saw on C902 - "Find similar music", "Send music info via SMS", "TrackID charts" and a very extensive "Artist info" section.

TrackID also offers the online search option. It allows fast search in the entire database for artist, album, title, and lyrics.

Excellent 5 megapixel shooter

As you should already know by now, the Sony Ericsson C901 has a 5 megapixel camera capable of producing images with a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels. The handset is equipped with a xenon flash and a LED one to assist auto-focusing in poor light conditions. The xenon flash is strong enough and definitely saves the day in poor and no-light conditions. But we will talk about that later.

The 5 megapixel autofocus camera offers a wide range of niceties such as smile shutter, face detection, BestPic, auto-rotate, macro mode, spot metering, image geo-tagging, etc.

Sony Ericsson C901 Sony Ericsson C901
Sony Ericsson C901 Sony Ericsson C901
Cyber-shot v2.0 camera user interface • the Multi Menu settings

The camera has the familiar user interface. Its pop-up sub-menus enhanced with icons and the Multi Menu packing all the available settings are here to facilitate the user.

The camera toolbar gives access to shoot mode, scenes, picture size, focus, flash, self-timer, metering mode, white balance, effects, and settings Multi Menu. An ISO setting is not available in the C901.

The focus mode has an extra feature - Face detection. The face recognition system allows you to simultaneously track as many as 3 faces but focus is locked on the one that's closest to the center of the frame when the image is captured.

The shoot mode menu has five modes, two of which deserve special attention - the well known BestPic and a feature introduced to the market for the first time by Sony Ericsson in the C905 via a firmware update - Smile Shutter mode.

Using Smile Shutter is easy - first you fully press the camera key all the way down to activate it. A small blinking yellow icon in the right upper corner indicates that the mode is on and the phone will automatically snap the photo as soon as it "spots" a grinning face.

The ultra quick-snapping BestPic mode has two varieties - fast and slow. In fast mode it produces 9 full-size 5 megapixel images in about 2sec, each of them of approximately 1MB of size. The slow mode takes 9 images again but at a larger interval of about 3.5 sec. Unfortunately in the BestPic mode none of the flashes are available for use. It's understandable for the xenon, because it couldn't recharge so fast, but there is no explanation for the LED. It definitely would be nice if we could use it.

The Sony Ericsson C901 is capable of putting standard GPS coordinates in images thanks to the Cell-ID feature. You can enable geotagging (Add position) from the settings to add GPS location data to your pictures. A flag icon at the bottom of the viewfinder indicates that the option is activated. Remember that the Cell-ID geotagging will more probably cause small amount of data traffic to be generated on your monthly bill.

The dedicated macro mode in the C901 allows you to take images from as close as 10 cm.

Thanks to the built-in accelerometer the camera is also able to auto-rotate your images when you are previewing them.

There is one shortcoming that concerns the one-way camera menu layout - to reach the Multi Menu you have to pass all the other settings on the toolbar as it's the last item there. Browsing items on the toolbar from the opposite end should be an option, as with the camera interfaces of competing brands.

Image quality

The Sony Ericsson C901 camera is a really capable shooter. The C901 image quality is very good, easily ranking among the best 5 megapixel cameraphones on the market. The photos have pleasing colors and good contrast with the noise levels well under control. The amount of resolved detail is one of the best from the 5 megapixel lineup and almost matches the current leader - the Nokia 6700 classic.

There are some places where the noise levels can go a bit high, but thankfully it's rare enough. The processing algorithm must have been upgraded since the last Cybershots. You can see for yourself from the samples below.

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Sony Ericsson C901 camera samples

The xenon flash performance is almost on par with the Sony Ericsson C905's xenon, but the produced images are a bit softer than those taken with the C905 in pitch dark conditions.

Sony Ericsson C901
Sony Ericsson C901 xenon flash test • Sony Ericsson C905 xenon flash test

Synthetic resolution

We also snapped our resolution chart with the Sony Ericsson C901. You can check out what that test is all about here.

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Sony Ericsson C901 resolution chart photo • 100% crops

Nokia 6700 classic Nokia 6700 classic
Nokia 6700 classic resolution chart photo • 100% crops

The Sony Ericsson C901 is quite close to Nokia 6700 classic performance in both resolved detail and noise reduction algorithm. That again goes to confirm that what we have on our hands here is one of the best 5 MP shooters we have ever seen.

Video recording

Of course, the C901 is also capable of capturing video, even if it's limited to QVGA resolution at 30fps. You can use the LED flash in the video recording. The clips are recorded in mp4 format and take about 3 MB for every minute of recording.

Here is a sample video for you to check out.

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