Flashback 2001: Remembering an early Digital Camera. The Sony F707.

FLASHBACK 2001: Remembering an early Digital Camera. The Sony F707

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Back in 2001 I owned the hottest digital camera on the market at the time. It was well-loved by those truly into digital imagery and innovation and was the start and early days of the “digital enthusiast” from how I remember it, and I was one of them. This camera was from Sony (Yes, they were innovating even back then with camera tech) and it was called the F707. This was the successor to the F505V which I also owned. The 505V was from 2000 and I loved that thing (The 2.6 MP 5o5 was before the V), but I enjoyed the new 707 even more. This eventually turned into the F717 and then the F808 but the 808 was big, bulky and started to look more like a DSLR than something from the future like the F707 did.

The actual lens that was attached sort of looked like a shotgun barrel coming out of the camera body. It was tiltable as well, allowing you to get the angle you need. Makes me wonder why they do not bring something similar to 2016/2017 as it was super uber functional and a joy to use, even for back then. Tilt the lens up or down. Get this, it even had an EVF. Later Sony models and cameras from other manufacturers omitted the EVF from most cameras until just in recent years. I think today, mostly all serious cameras will be released with an EVF. The days of external warts are over, I think. But funny to see the early days and early cameras of digital…they had EVF’s!

I have many snaps from the F707, as i carried it with me everywhere in 2001. While it is far off from todays imaging capabilities it was a fun camera. Imagine this form factor today, with todays sensor tech? Would be pretty cool!

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Back in 2000 and 2001, high res was not a thing yet in digital. The F707 came in at 5MP, where the previous 505V was around 3MP and the previous 505 was 2.6MP (I owned them all). This one had a Zeiss lens (Made by Sony under Zeiss) and took Sony Memory Sticks (remember those)? The Dynamic Range was low, there was no real shallow DOF to be found…in fact, it was much like a phone camera today, in a snazzy body and package. I’d dare say that most phones today have better sensors but back then it was fantastic to have a high tech body with instant imaging.

Many photographers enjoyed the F707 for what it offered us at the time, and while no one would be using one for pro work of course, many enthusiasts raved on and on about it as the goold old DP review forums were always ablaze with F707 talk. Goes to show how far we have come in digital! I remember always using it for pics of my son, or just my surroundings. I lived in the Desert when I owned the F707 and F505, and basically shot images of cactus, my pets, and my family.

This website was not born yet but I was out there every other day shooting and then reviewing what I captured. It was the early days of digital, and it was an exciting time for sure. I remember Canon and Sony leading the way back then. Sony with their Mavica floppy disk cameras, then the evolution into Memory Sticks and these shotgun looking cameras. As I mentioned, the Dynamic Range sucked but we did not have any better at the time, so we embraced what we did have.

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It’s funny but looking back at these, the images are of course resized to how I sized them back then. I must have had a low res computer screen, as now these look so small and tiny but back then I remember them filling my screen, lol. Today we have high res EVERYTHING. Video, Audio, Photos…but even in 2000 we were living in a low res world. HDTV was just coming into stores with 720P resolution, and it was expensive. We had low res digital cameras and were still listening to CD’s in our cars and stereos. Today we have 4K and above TV’s, super high res audio downloads for those who are audio geeks and insane megapixel count full frame and beyond sensors. Technology has just FLOWN by these last 16 years.

Sure, 16 years sounds like a LONG time, and it is, but when I look at what we had at the start compared to now, it is huge.

The Sony F707 will forever be burned into my memory as a camera that was fun, exciting and motivating (in 2001). Today it is just a memory, for me, of the old days. I was younger, my son was only 5 years old, and the digital bug took a hold of me. Hard. I owned many cameras in these early days (even the Mavica), so I may write flashback articles from time to time like this, with some memories of cameras past. I’ve owned a ton of them, and found the hard drives with the photos, so why not? Will be fun.

I just checked Ebay and there is an F707 for $19.99. Wow. Fully functional. 

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19 Comments

  1. What a great post! I still have a fully functional F707 with several batteries, memory sticks, and even a Sony full manual flash. For fun I took the F707 with me on a month long Eastern Sierra visit and compared it to my NEX-3 (here’s the link for anyone interested – http://wp.me/p2xyD1-3V). This was a few years ago and I’ve moved on from my NEX-3 and Canon DSLR to Olympic and Panasonic M43 equipment in part due to the info on this website. But I still look at my F707 and remember how much I enjoyed using it, so I may take it with me next week when I go back to the Eastern Sierra for 3 weeks. Here’s a thought, how about a throwback review of the NEX series?

  2. Thanks for the retro article, Steve! I still have a F707 I bought from a friend over a decade ago as a vacation camera to replace my Rollei 90 film camera (which I also still have and use occasionally). Loved using it and preserved some great memories with it. Since anyone I shared the photos with looked at those images on their computers, the 5mp was no big deal. I’d never print the images more than 5×7 or 8×10 anyway, so that’s not a problem either. Fun stuff!

  3. The F717 was the camera that made me fall in love with photography. It was my first digital camera, and I had no idea if I needed that much camera or not, but I figured I would learn the features and then decide if I needed more. 5 years later I graduated to the a200 to learn dSLR, then 5 years after that my gear lust is nearly untamed. Moving swiftly through the a99, then a7 and now a7II, and hoping for an a9. The F717 started it all though, sure wish there were a modern equivalent.

  4. Photographers remember fondly old film cameras and speak highly about their excellent optics and their unique rendering .
    Nobody I know has ever spoken about any old digital cameras.It would seem they are forgotten and just gather dust even though they are not that old.
    However just recently a friend was commenting about his old Canon 5d 12 mp and how beautiful the images from it are. Another was commenting about the Fuji S2 and how its CCD sensor rendered skin tones so wonderfully.(hope I am remembering that correctly).
    So this post is timely -perhaps its time we reevaluated those “old ” cameras and maybe even started using them again !

    • I mostly agree with that: very few digital cameras have appeal once they have been superceded. Old MF digital backs are highly spoken of, and many professionals would prefer an older CCD back than a brand new DSLR. There’s a reason why those backs still cost so much.

      The Leica M8 and M9 are also desired by photographers today. From what I can tell, that’s a justified position. Even the Digilux 2 has fans. I can also understand the love for the S2 & S3.

      Out of all the digital cameras I have owned, I have no fondness for any of them, save for the M8. After I sold all my Barnack Leica bodies, I soon realized that I should not have done so. Lesson learned!

  5. Wow! Talk about a fantastic article to a throwback period in my photography career and interest in digital cameras! I loved that Sony F707! The article mentions a Sony F808. However, the actual model number was the Sony F828. I was one of the product testers for this innovative lineup from the F505 all the way thru the F828, and may have been one of the first individuals in the North America to have actually held these products. While I liked the F828 well enough, I agree with Steve — and reported as much back to Sony — they bulked it up so much in trying to compete with the rapidly growing popularity of DSLR bodies that the F-series lost its mojo and lost market share. But Sony had already started going in another direction for the consumer market, and soon enough the F-series was no more. But it’s interesting to see today’s Sony A-series rise in popularity and maybe even dominate on some scales for the mirrorless market. They’re essentially the heirs to the sort of enthusiasm that we had for the venerable Sony F-series way back then.

  6. I had the F707. Used it a lot for my digital artwork and shooting references for illustrations. I even had the old sony that took the 3.5 floppy disks back in 1999. Anyone remember the model number of those really old Sony’s?

    • Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD5 and FD7 ..and various subsequent models. They shot 640×480 stills; about 22 shots on one 30p / 40c floppy. (Still use mine, occasionally, for old times’ sake!)

  7. Still have my F-707 in a box with spare batteries and sticks. Also, like others here I started before that with the Oly 2100 UZ my first digital camera.

    Had to laugh at one aspect of this post: I did start a professional portraiture business with the F-707. Had several happy moms as clients. Within months, however, I switched to the Nikon D100, then D70, then on to Cannon when Nikon lost the sensor race for a while. Now I primarily shoot Oly OMD-5 4/3, and last year I added the Sony A6000 for various reasons.
    .
    Great stroll down memory lane. I too have a lot of affection for the the F-707. The review spells out its appeal very well.

  8. While shooting some train photos Sunday with my A7 and E-P5, I told my shooting buddy that I was tempted to pull out my Nikon 995, charge it up, and shoot one of the local car shows with it. I was a little miffed I hadn’t thought about it when I shot a Rat Rod car show a few weeks ago. We were both also wondering why the swivel body cameras have gone out of fashion, they seemed so functional back then. It’s shocking to remember what cameras like the 995 cost back when they were new.

  9. I had Sony DSC F727. It is one of the best cameras of all times. If it did not break, I would not buy Nikon D90. I wish they have resurrected it with a faster autofocus and a bigger sensor (1″ or M43). The picture quality was excellent. It had a manual focus in addition to AF. It was a very capable camera.

  10. I had its predecessor, the 505V – which was great! – and which I gave to a friend when I leapfrogged the 707 and jumped up to the magnificent 7x zoom (with a larger sensor) 8 megapixel F828.

    That was a terrific – and silent – camera. (..and it still comes out of the cupboard from time to time..)

  11. I still have 2 functioning F-717s. My brother gave me his a couple of years ago, and I already had one. Finding Memory Sticks is the difficult part of using the cameras!

  12. Really enjoyable posting, Steve. There’s a lot of fun – and beauty – to be got out of early digital cameras with 5MP or less, good lenses, and often well thought out bodies. Yhe images speak for themselves.

  13. Still have my Oly 2100 UZ that I shoot occasionally to remember where I started in digital. Later I got the Sonys. Thanks for the memories this brought.

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