It's a straightforward point-and-shoot for casual, novice, and generally easy-going photographers, and ends up being a strong value for the money as a result. Read on to see how it stacks up to the competition.

The Sony WX150 will be available in mid-May for $249 in black, silver, red, and blue shades.

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Box Photo

• Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 digital camera

• rechargeable lithium-ion battery (Type N)

• AC adapter

• micro-USB cable

• wrist strap

• user's manual

The WX150 comes equipped with an f/3.3-5.9, 4.45-44.5mm (25-250mm equivalent) 10x-zoom Sony G lens. It extends about 0.75 inches from the body at the wide-angle setting and about 1.5 inches at the telephoto setting. The barrel feels a bit flimsy, but doesn't jut out particularly far, so it shouldn't be a problem. The zoom tilter moves the lens through the zoom range in about 1.5 seconds, which is quick.

The WX150 is built around a 1/2.3-inch 18.2-megapixel Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. It's the same one found in about half of Sony's 2012 Cyber-shot lineup. As far as we're aware, it has the highest pixel count (and pixel density) of any 1/2.3-inch point-and-shoot sensor right now.

No surprise, the WX150 doesn't have a viewfinder, but it does have a serviceable 3-inch, 460,000-pixel LCD. The specs are about what we expect at this price. By default, it's not quite bright enough to see in direct sunlight, but the brightness is adjustable, and at the maximum setting, it cuts through the sun. The display has a very slight lag, but it doesn't impact the shooting experience.

A tiny flash comes built into the top-center of the front panel, right where an errant finger can block it with ease. It's rated for about 12 feet of effectiveness, which is enough to light up a small room, but not much else. Some flash is better than no flash at all, but the WX150 is adept at shooting low-light scenes without it, so it isn't an integral part of the user experience.

Flash Photo

The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.

Per usual these days, the WX150 has two ports: one mini-HDMI hookup, and one USB jack (micro USB, in this case). The HDMI port is covered by a plastic flap on the side of the camera, while the USB connection is on the bottom of the body, uncovered. Watch out for dirt and debris getting in there.

The WX150 is not rated for any kind of shock or water resistance, so attach the wrist strap. It feels like a quality product, but any compact camera with a relatively long-reach lens like this one should be handled with care.

The WX150 earned strong image quality scores in our lab tests. Resolution is particularly strong, with excellent sharpness, chromatic aberration, and distortion results. Color and noise are less impressive, but still very respectable. It's not really "pure" image quality—full-sized shots show signs of serious in-camera processing—but that doesn't matter much, because nobody actually looks at 18-megapixel photos. For reasonable viewing sizes, the WX150 does a great job creating clear, clean, attractive pictures in just about any shooting situation.

The WX150 earned great scores in our sharpness test—an overall average of 1691 MTF50s across all focal lengths and areas of the frame, maxing out at 2700 MTF50s in the center of the frame at the wide-angle setting. Part of the success is a quality lens, part of it is the high pixel count, but as is almost always the case with point-and-shoots, software is a big part of the score.

At regular viewing sizes, details look crisp. Up close, like the crops below, it's a bit fuzzier. The lens and sensor, solid as they are, have a tough time resolving all 18 megapixels of detail. But the WX150's processor is smart enough to recognize edges and enhance the sharpness. That lends a punchy, contrasty look to the shots, which makes them look "sharp" viewed on computer screens and medium-sized prints.

This couldn't work without decent optics, which the WX150 has, and it's very typical for long-zoom cameras. The enhancement is applied well here, without causing too much unintentional haloing (too-white areas along edges like the crops below, or text). It might be a problem for photographers who make huge prints on a regular basis, and pixel peepers won't like it. But we think that the WX150 basically deserves the score. More on how we test sharpness.

The WX150 includes SteadyShot optical image stabilization, but it can't be deactivated, so we couldn't run our comparative sharpness test. Anecdotally, the stabilization is effective enough to steady full-telephoto shots and indoor photos, though we ended up with a number of shaky low-light photos.

The WX150 earned a decent color score. We measured a minimum color error of 3.24 (under 3.5 is good, under 3.0 is excellent) and 115 percent saturation, which incurs a small over-saturation penalty (anything between 90 and 100 percent, we let slide). More on how we test color.

Reds and blues are very exaggerated, and greens are a bit overzealous as well. But pretty much every other shade is within striking distance of perfect accuracy. This is actually pretty typical for a Sony camera—punching up grass and leaves, the sky, and flowers. It's not a bad look, just cartoonish.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The WX150 and HX10V use the same sensor, so it's surprising to see that the WX150 is so much more accurate. The Samsung WB150F produced the most accurate colors in the comparison group, and the Nikon S6200 and Fuji T300 were also closer to real life than the WX150.

Unfortunately, the WX150's only color mode is the default setting, and there's no way to adjust it at all. Users are stuck with what Sony gives them.

The WX150 does a serviceable job of handling different types of lighting. The automatic white balance setting handles daylight and fluorescent lighting very well, and does a better job with incandescent lighting than many cameras, though there's still a yellow cast. A custom white balance evens out incandescent lighting, no problem, though it only marginally improves fluorescent and daylight white balance—not enough to bother with a manual adjustment.

The white balance options are standard-issue for an entry-level point and shoot. It's set to auto white balance by default, includes a manual white balance option, and presets for sunny days, cloudy days, three types of fluorescent lights, incandescent lighting, and the camera's own flash. There's no direct Kelvin entry, and users can't make fine adjustments to WB profiles.

The WX150 shows solid noise performance for an entry-level point-and-shoot. The noise-to-signal ratio starts at a barely there 0.71 percent at ISO 100 and stays under 1 percent until right above ISO 800. It maxes out at about 1.7 percent at ISO 3200, before diving back down to about 1 percent at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800—those top two settings both use multi-shot noise reduction to smooth out the image quality without sacrificing the extra sensitivity, so the figures are artificially low.

More on how we test noise.

The WX150 has a full-resolution ISO range from 100 up to 12800. The camera can be set to automatic ISO selection, or it can be adjusted manually in full stops. At ISOs 6400 and 12800, the WX150 automatically switches to a multi-shot noise-reduction processing mode.

The WX150 doesn't offer manual exposure control, so we can't run our current dynamic range test on it. Anecdotally, its d-range performance is pretty typical of a point-and-shoot (we'd venture to guess about 3.5 stops at best), though the multi-shot high-dynamic range mode does help a lot, mostly to prevent blue skies from getting blown out. More on how we test dynamic range.

The WX150 performs pretty well in low light. Left to its own devices, the camera tends to turn on one of its many multi-shot modes to reduce noise and expand the dynamic range. But even in single-shot modes, low-light quality is acceptable. Autofocus remains fast, and since the higher ISO settings are pretty usable on this camera, blurry shots from slow shutter speeds are only a problem in the dimmest settings.

The WX150 shows solid noise performance for an entry-level point-and-shoot. The noise-to-signal ratio starts at a barely there 0.71 percent at ISO 100 and stays under 1 percent until right above ISO 800. It maxes out at about 1.7 percent at ISO 3200, before diving back down to about 1 percent at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800—those top two settings both use multi-shot noise reduction to smooth out the image quality without sacrificing the extra sensitivity, so the figures are artificially low.

More on how we test noise.

The WX150 has a full-resolution ISO range from 100 up to 12800. The camera can be set to automatic ISO selection, or it can be adjusted manually in full stops. At ISOs 6400 and 12800, the WX150 automatically switches to a multi-shot noise-reduction processing mode.

The WX150 crossed our threshold for low-light sensitivity at 33 lux, which is a typically unspectacular result for a point-and-shoot.

The WX150 suffers from minor aberration problems, but not significant enough to really impact image quality. In our crops, the telltale color fringing It only pops up at the edges of the frame at the telephoto setting. We occasionally spotted it along the edges of buildings and along branches in some of our sample photos, but that's common. Its score is solid, in line with its competitors.

Lens distortion is not a problem with the WX150. It's never more than 0.5 percent at any focal length. It earns our top distortion score, as do nearly all of the other cameras in this comparison group.

Video motion is quite smooth. There's visible trailing, a bit of color bleed, and slight, static-like artifacting, but for a compact camera, we can't find much to criticize. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

We measured 550 horizontal and 500 vertical lw/ph in our bright-light sharpness test, which are slightly above-average scores for point-and-shoots. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

In low light, sharpness fell to 275 horizontal and vertical lw/ph. Dropoffs are expected in low-light, but the WX150 didn't falter as much as we expect entry-level cameras to fall-off.

The WX150 crossed our threshold for low-light sensitivity at 33 lux, which is a typically unspectacular result for a point-and-shoot.

The WX150 is built for novice and casual photographers, so it's very easy to use. There are two auto modes, one of which (Superior Auto) takes more liberties with photo processing and is ultimately the better choice. Some scene presets and a program mode are available for users who want slightly more control over their shots. The slim design is great for portability, but not so easy to hold. Performance is quick enough that you'll rarely miss a shot.

The WX150 is built to take snapshots, so operation is almost entirely automated. There are two auto shooting modes: Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto (iAuto+). Both are incredibly easy to use—just point and shoot—though Superior Auto offers less user control and uses multi-shot modes more often (usually to clean up noise or prevent the sky from getting blown out). On the whole, we think that Superior Auto is the way to go.

The menu system is refreshingly easy to navigate. The selection dial switches between shooting modes, and the menu button brings up an on-screen quick menu without leaving the photo preview, so you can see how your changes affect the photo in real time. The only time it feels like we entered a "deep" menu was the setup menu, which controls settings like LCD brightness, memory card settings, and the like.

Next to the incredibly helpful in-camera help guide, the paper manual is decidedly lackluster. No table of contents, no index, only basic user instructions. No CD-ROM with a manual, but a full version is available for download via Sony.

The WX150 has a typical entry-level point-and-shoot profile. It's less than an inch thick, with no grip or true thumb-rest (though the shooting-mode toggle helps). It's slippery and feels small. But it's also incredibly light, so one-handed shooting is not a problem. There's enough room for two-handed shooting as well. Stabilization is effective, so holding it steady isn't an issue. All told, there's nothing particularly noteworthy about handling—if you've shot with a point-and-shoot anytime in the last five years, this will feel familiar.

Handling Photo 1

The advantage of the compact size is, of course, portability. It isn't the smallest camera we've seen (that honor goes to the Sony TX66), but it's slim enough to fit comfortably into any pocket. It's still bigger than a smartphone, but it does have the advantage of a 10x zoom lens.

Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3

No surprise, the WX150 doesn't have a viewfinder, but it does have a serviceable 3-inch, 460,000-pixel LCD. The specs are about what we expect at this price. By default, it's not quite bright enough to see in direct sunlight, but the brightness is adjustable, and at the maximum setting, it cuts through the sun. The display has a very slight lag, but it doesn't impact the shooting experience.

The WX150 includes SteadyShot optical image stabilization, but it can't be deactivated, so we couldn't run our comparative sharpness test. Anecdotally, the stabilization is effective enough to steady full-telephoto shots and indoor photos, though we ended up with a number of shaky low-light photos.

Two automatic shooting modes are on offer: Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto. A Program mode is available as well. Special options like 3D-assist shooting, iSweep Panorama (which gets its own notch on the mode switch), and Background Defocus are available as well. Picture Effects and Scene Selection round out the still-photo modes.

As it should be, the WX150 is an autofocus-only camera. A total of 9 focus points are supported. Typical modes like full-frame, center, and spot focus are here. Face detection is supported, and a tracking autofocus feature can be activated at any time during shooting by hitting the center selection button.

Focus is speedy and fairly accurate in most lighting. As we expected, it struggles more in dim lighting and low-contrast settings, but the overall performance is fine by point-and-shoot standards.

The WX150 maxes out at an enormous 18.2 megapixels in a standard, 4:3 aspect ratio—the biggest pocket-cam shots, aside from a few other Sony Cyber-shots with the same sensor. Other sizes include 10-megapixel, 5-megapixel, and VGA settings in 4:3, and 13-megapixel and 2-megapixel sizes in a widescreen 16:9 format.

It probably goes without saying, but this is a JPEG-only camera; no RAW capture. Also, there's only the one default quality setting—no Superfine or Basic options.

Thanks to the WX150's backlit-CMOS sensor, it's a speedy shooter with a few different drive modes available.

Two full-res drive speeds are available—high and low. It also uses burst mode for some alternative purposes, like multi-shot noise reduction and HDR modes.

We measured a blazing-fast top speed of 10.87 frames per second at the highest setting. The buffer fills up after one second, but that's still 10 or 11 shots in one burst—incredible for an entry-level point-and-shoot.

The self-timer is pretty typical of the class. There are 2-second and 10-second options, as well as smile shutter options.

As it should be, the WX150 is an autofocus-only camera. A total of 9 focus points are supported. Typical modes like full-frame, center, and spot focus are here. Face detection is supported, and a tracking autofocus feature can be activated at any time during shooting by hitting the center selection button.

Focus is speedy and fairly accurate in most lighting. As we expected, it struggles more in dim lighting and low-contrast settings, but the overall performance is fine by point-and-shoot standards.

One of the WX150's strengths is that it's free from the bloat of extra "features" like in-camera WiFi and a touchscreen. But it still includes some fan favorites like digital effects and filters, and a sweep panorama mode. If you're into the whole 3D thing, it has a 3D-capture mode as well.

It's impressive enough that the WX150 records 1080/60i AVCHD videos at a few quality settings, but it can also record 1080p/30fps MP4 videos as well, plus 720p and VGA. That's more video options than still-photo options. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Aside from exposure compensation, video mode is entirely automated. No control over ISO/gain, aperture, or shutter speed is available.

Auto Controls

The WX150 does a commendable job adjusting autofocus and exposure on its own, quickly and accurately. Scene modes and picture effects can both be used while shooting video.

Zoom

The full 10x optical zoom range is available during filming. It moves more slowly through the focal range than it does in still-photo mode, but it looks more cinematic that way, and prevents the motor noise from being picked up by the internal microphones.

Focus

It's autofocus only here, and the camera is actually pretty good at adjusting focus quickly, quietly, and accurately.

The WX150 has a built-in stereo microphone. Unfortunately, it's located on the top of the camera, exactly where your fingers tend to rest. Watch out for muffled sounds.

Mic Photo

Smartphones keep eating into compact-camera sales, but there's still a place for capable, no-nonsense point-and-shoots, neither crippled by cut-rate components nor burdened by bogus extras like WiFi and touchscreens.

The Sony Cyber-shot WX150 ($249) is the best one that we've seen so far this year. It's a good-looking camera, and even with the respectable 10x zoom (25-250mm equivalent), it's slim enough to fit in a tight pocket. The interface is straightforward and easy to use, but also includes one of the most comprehensive, user-friendly in-camera help guides we've seen in a point-and-shoot. And other fan-favorites, like a big, bright 3-inch LCD and a stable of digital effects are included as well.

Then there's strong image quality, anchored by the 18.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. Colors are punchy, resolution scores are great, and details are clean in most shooting situations. Just as importantly, the sensor's speedy performance enables a handful of effective multi-shot modes that can snag decent low-light shots and bring balance to overly bright scenes—and it's all automated.

The few complaints we do have are just minor quibbles. The pixel count is much higher than necessary, so details look pretty soft at the full size. But it'll be a rare occasion when anybody uses the full 18 megapixels, and when the shots are scaled down to more realistic sizes (think Facebook, or even up to 8x10 prints), they look great. Price is the only other minor issue; we haven't tested the Panasonic SZ7 yet, but it looks very, very similar on paper, and costs $50 less.

All told, the WX150 is a fun, functional pocket camera. It'll be a solid companion for a night out, a day at the park, an afternoon around the house with grandma, or even a week on vacation. There aren't buzzworthy features, but it's a better product because of that. We'd knock about $50 off the price tag if we could, but any casual, novice, or otherwise easy-going photographer should be pretty happy with this in their pocket or purse.

Meet the testers

Liam F McCabe

Liam F McCabe

Managing Editor, News & Features

@liamfmccabe

Liam manages features and news coverage for Reviewed.com. Formerly the editor of the DigitalAdvisor network, he's covered cameras, TVs, personal electronics, and (recently) appliances. He's a native Bostonian and has played in metal bands you've never heard of.

See all of Liam F McCabe's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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