Cameras

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 Digital Camera Review

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Testing / Performance

Color*(8.12)

*The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 has plenty of controls to tweak the colors. It has six white balance settings and three color modes: Natural, Normal, and Vivid. The Normal mode is what Sony deems its most accurate color offering and is the default of the W100. We tested the camera in all of its color modes, but the Normal mode was truly the most realistic. Thus, we used the Normal mode to photograph the GretagMacbeth color chart. The chart is shown below, although it has been modified by Imatest Imaging Software to show the difference between the chart’s ideal colors and those produced by the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100. The inner vertical rectangle shows the ideal, while the outer square depicts what the W100 captured. The central square shows the ideal color corrected for luminance.

Imatest software analyzed the camera’s colors and output the following chart, which describes the relationships between the W100’s colors and those of the original GretagMacbeth chart. The ideal colors are pictured as squares, while the Sony W100’s colors are shown as circles.

Most of the colors are extremely accurate with the squares and circles remaining fairly close to one another. This digital camera’s colors have a 5.99 mean color error, which is much better than the Sony W30’s 6.58 mean color error. That camera received a 7.61 overall color score while the Cyber-shot W100 scored a respectable 8.12.

The W100’s Normal color mode produced the most accurate results and over-saturated colors by only 1.4 percent. The Natural mode produced dull colors that were only about 82 percent saturated. The Vivid mode over-saturated by about 10 percent, which is about how much typical compact digital cameras over-saturate anyway. Overall, the Sony W100 performed very well and reproduced realistic colors with room for experimentation.

**Still Life Scene

**Below are three shots of our beloved still life scene, recorded with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 in each of its color modes. Click on any of the images to view the full resolution versions.



Normal Color Mode

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Natural Color Mode*

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Vivid Color Mode*

Resolution* (4.59)

*As the flagship of the W-series, the Sony W100 has the most megapixels on its sensor of any of the W-series digital cameras. It has a 1/1.8-inch Super HAD CCD with 8.1 megapixels packed onto it. To see how effective the camera is at capturing full-resolution shots, we did just that using an industry standard resolution test chart (pictured below).

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Click on the chart to view a full resolution version](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=W100-ResCH-LG.jpg)

Imatest analyzed the many images we took and determined that the sharpest shot was taken using a focal length of 18.7 mm and an aperture of f/4.5. The software program also determined the sharpness of the shot in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a theoretical measurement of how many alternating black and white lines can fit across the frame in horizontal and vertical directions.

Horizontally, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 can resolve 1856 lw/ph while over-sharpening by 10.8 percent. Vertically, it can read 1310 lw/ph while under-sharpening by 5.29 percent. This isn’t incredibly impressive, especially for a digital camera that advertises 8.1 megapixels. Still, a look at the resolution shot shows a clear picture from edge to edge – although there is some fringing around edges. For this, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 earned a 4.59 overall resolution score.

Noise – Auto ISO* (8.05)

*The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 metered the scene appropriately and automatically set the ISO to the lowest option: 80. Because there is little noise at this setting, the camera received an excellent overall automatic ISO noise score of 8.05. This is far better than the W30, which metered and set to a much noisier ISO 380 setting in the same lighting conditions.

Noise – Manual ISO* (8.24)

*The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 has the widest ISO range of any of the W-series digital cameras. Its manual ISO settings include the following: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1250. Sony uses Clear RAW technology to keep noise levels low. We tested each manual ISO setting to validate this. The results are shown on the chart below: the ISO settings are on the horizontal axis and the noise levels are on the vertical axis.

The slope of the noise level is very steady across the entire range, which isn’t entirely common as most compact models have huge jumps in noise beyond ISO 400. The Sony W100 performed very well, earning an overall manual ISO noise score of 8.24. The small camera keeps noise to a minimum even with a wide ISO range.

**Low Light ***(7.0)*

In case W100 photographers are stuck shooting in a dark alley, we tested its ability to snap shots in low light without the use of the flash. Our testing consists of photographing the color chart as a target in decreasing lighting conditions of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. The 60 lux test is roughly equivalent to two soft lamps in a dark alley. The 30 lux test is like having a single 40-watt bulb lit in the alley. The 30 and 15 lux tests are quite dark and aren’t conditions photographers will likely shoot in, but we test the camera at these levels to get a sense of any limitations the image sensor may have. Using an ISO sensitivity of 1250 and an aperture of f/4.5, we tested the Sony W100 at these levels.

The images aren’t incredibly sharp, but they are illuminated quite well – much better than the Sony W30. The four different tests used progressively longer shutter speeds as the light dims. Colors became increasingly discolored and over-saturated the longer the shutter remained open. Below is a chart showing how the exposure time affected the noise levels. The shutter speeds are shown across the horizontal axis with the noise on the vertical axis.

The noise jumps slightly from each test, with the 30-second shutter speed at 5 lux recording the most noise. Still, the amount of noise during the darkest test on the Sony W100 is better than any of the tests on the Sony W30. Overall, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 produced decent shots in low light. The picture remains illuminated, but the colors suffer and the noise increases as the shutter speed lengthens.

**Dynamic Range ***(6.5)*

Our Dynamic Range test measures the span between the brightest and darkest subjects that a camera can simultaneously render properly. It's important for a camera to show detail in both the brightest and darkest areas of a subject. The typical bride and groom are a familiar subject that is often challenging. If a camera has poor dynamic range, the bride's white gown will be reduced to a featureless white blob, and the groom's tux will be a Stygian expanse of black. Cameras with better dynamic range will show detail on both – the lace on the gown, and the creases on the groom's sleeve.

We use a standardized test to measure each camera's capacity for dynamic range. The results show the camera's maximum range at each ISO. It is unlikely that shots of typical scenes will show as wide a range as the optimized test does, but the test results allow us to compare cameras on an equal basis. We photograph a Stouffer test target, which shows a row of progressively darker rectangles from left to right. Using Imatest software, we analyze images of the target to find how much dynamic range the camera has at high and low quality. Imatest defines High Quality as the range with no more than 1/10-EV of noise, and Low Quality as the range with no more than 1 stop of noise. Though the High Quality measure is more important, the Low Quality number is useful to indicate whether deep shadows and highlights will have texture – maybe not clear detail, but just a sense surface.

W100 - Dynamic Range - ISO 80

W100 - Dynamic Range - ISO 400

W100 - Dynamic Range - ISO 1250

The Sony W100 gives better than typical performance for a high-megapixel compact camera. We note particularly that the W100 performs better at ISO 800 than its lower-resolution sibling, the W30. The W100's ISO 1250 performance is better than the W30's performance at ISO 1000.

**Speed / Timing **

*Start-up to First Shot (7.28) *

The Sony W100 takes a good 2.5 seconds to start up, which is long, even for a compact camera that has to extend its lens. Many competing cameras do better. We expect that many W100 users will have some frustrating moments, waiting for the camera to get ready while a fleeting photo opportunity disappears during those 2.5 seconds.

*Shot to Shot (7.78) *

The Sony W100 is no speed demon in burst mode, either. In its normal burst, the W100 snapped just 1 image per second, and took only 4 images before pausing to write them to memory. It took more than 20 seconds for the camera to get ready for another shot. This speed is poor compared to competing cameras, which tend to manage 2.5 to 3 shots per second, and to write them to memory in about 10 or 12 seconds. The W100 also shoots in a multi-burst mode, recording 16 images in only 2 seconds. The images are only 1 megabyte, about twice the size of standard video.

*Shutter to Shot (8.1) *

The Sony W100 had an average shutter delay of 0.9 seconds – the longest we've tested in a while. Waiting nearly a full second from the time the shutter is pressed until the shot is taken will be inconvenient even for posed pictures of people, let alone candid or action shots. The problem is entirely in the focusing system – when we pre-focused the images, the W100 got the shot so fast, we couldn't measure the delay.

Physical Tour

Front*(7.0)*

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The Sony W100 comes with the brand name emblazoned on the top left corner and the Cyber-shot logo in the bottom left. Its front face is fairly flat, with only a slight step to the 3x optical zoom lens. Much like lenses on other compact digital cameras, the W100’s Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens is positioned just right of the center. The brand appears on it, as do other specs: "2.8-5.2/ 7.9-23.7." A plastic lens door snaps open and closed to protect the glass beneath.

A built-in flash is located directly above the lens, in the very top of the shiny rim surrounding it. The built-in microphone, comprised of four holes, sits to the left of the flash. Below the microphone are a circular auto focus assist and a noticeable self-timer lamp which shoots out a ray of orange in low light. To the right of the lens is a tiny square optical viewfinder window. The front face plate has a fine imbedded fishnet texture which renders the camera less flat and slippery.

W100_back.jpg
Back*(7.25)*

While the front of the Sony W100 is made of metal, its rear panel is silver-colored plastic. It is contoured, with the LCD, viewfinder, and controls on a flat surface. The top edge reclines to the top side of the camera, and the optical viewfinder sits at the left edge of the back. To the left of it are the built-in speaker and indicator LEDs; below it, and slightly left of center, is the LCD screen, which displays the Sony logo and model name at the bottom. Above the top right corner of the LCD is the playback button, which is on the reclining surface. The mode dial is directly right of this feature and protrudes upward so that its top edge is exposed and theoretically easy to rotate. A textured edge, similar to that on traditional film camera mode dials, is also helpful in this regard.

Below the dial is a thin strip of control buttons. Two small circular buttons sit just below the mode dial; the LCD display button is at top and the Menu button on the bottom. The multi-selector below these consists of a central selection button and a surrounding ring. Like many compact digital cameras’ navigational controls, it has dual functionality. When it isn’t scrolling through camera menus, it can call up features in recording mode: the top switches the flash modes, the right enables the macro mode, the bottom turns on the self-timer, and the left adjusts the exposure compensation. Below the multi-selector is a small button, identical in size and shape to the two buttons above the selector. This bottom button selects the image size in recording modes and deletes images in the playback mode.

Left Side*(7.0)*

The left side is fairly plain, although it shows the contoured edge and camera construction. Here, a shiny silver highlight joins the textured metal front panel to the plastic back panel. The camera also boasts "3x Optical Zoom" on this side.  An unlabeled door, with a thumb grip for easier access, is on the bottom right of this side. This sturdy door opens to a single port, which accepts an included wire that connects to computers or televisions.

Right Side*(7.0)*

A large square highlight on the right side of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 facilitates a wrist strap attachment. This side also has the same visual treat as the left side; a shiny silver band that connects the metal front to the plastic back. Above the eyelet is a sturdy door labeled "DC In," which must be pried open to reveal the obvious jack.

Top*(7.5)*

The top side of the W100 shows the same shiny metal band in the center. The front textured metal panel is quite flat, with a slight beveled edge, but the back plastic panel is contoured, with a wider edge around the optical viewfinder. "MPEG Movie VX" is engraved on the left side of the silver central band. The power button, also on the band, sits in a crater just right of the camera’s center; a green LED ring in the crater also shows when the camera is on. To the right of this is the shutter release button, which is surrounded by a tiny zoom control with the switch protruding from the front.

W100_top.jpg

Bottom*(7.0)*

The bottom of a camera is never that exciting. A door, which must be pushed down while sliding to the left edge, opens to reveal the memory card slot and battery slot. There is a standard tripod socket in the center of the bottom, and all kinds of legal information surrounding the socket and door.

 

Components

Viewfinder*(4.25)*

W100_tiny_viewfinder.jpg
As part of the W-series, the Sony W100 keeps the optical viewfinder that is the hallmark of traditional cameras. Some compact digital cameras include optical viewfinders, but most are small, blurry, completely inaccurate. While this one has its flaws, it is one of the better optical viewfinders included in point-and-shoot models. The viewfinder itself is quite small, but is actually bigger than those on the Sony W50 and W30: the same size as the W70’s viewfinder. Unlike that on the W70, the W100’s optical viewfinder is on the left edge of the back, which keeps the photographer’s nose from greasing up the LCD as it does with the other cameras. The downside to its placement is that it can be easily covered up while handling the camera, though it would be easy for the photographer to notice and correct this.

As for accuracy, the W100’s optical viewfinder does fairly well when the lens is at its widest focal length. In this case, the viewfinder sees only part of the recorded image – it doesn’t catch all of the right and bottom edge. Still, this isn’t all that bad; users can simply crop pictures later rather than worry about cutting off subjects’ arms or legs. This last is a concern when the lens is in telephoto, which causes the viewfinder to see much more than will be recorded, particularly on the top and left edges. The optical zoom viewfinder has the flaw of all compact models’ finders; it

W100_LCD.jpg
isn’t placed within the lens, so it doesn’t see exactly what the lens and image sensor records. It also doesn’t see if the image is focused. Still, when the battery is running low, using the optical viewfinder in the wide focal lengths can be a sound option.

LCD Screen*(6.75)*

The 2.5-inch LCD screen provides a more accurate view of the recorded image than the optical viewfinder, but the resolution isn’t very flattering with only 115,000 pixels. Pushing the button below the mode dial can turn the screen or cycle through different display modes, such as live view. Users can add a histogram as well, but most will find it too crowded to view the exposure accurately. Overall, the LCD screen isn’t gorgeous and won’t warrant awe from onlookers, but will suffice for snapping a few shots here and there.

**

W100_flash.jpg
Flash***(8.0)*

Instead of being off-center, in the way of fingers, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100’s flash is placed directly above the lens. This evenly lights subjects and somehow still manages to avoid sucking the color out of photos. The flash is effective from 6 inches to 13 ft 8 inches when the ISO is automatically set, and 2 ft 7 inches to 24 ft when the ISO is graded at 1250 (these figures are from the widest focal length of the lens).

DSC100-Flash-FA.gif

Auto, On, Off, and Slow Sync flash modes are available from the top of the multi-selector. Users can also access Red-eye Reduction via the setup menu, letting off a string of preflashes prior to firing the final flash with the photo. The flash level can be adjusted in the recording menu while the camera’s in any flash mode but off. There are +, Normal, and – options available; the differences between the three choices are subtle but definitely noticeable. Overall, the built-in flash is one of the Sony W100’s best assets.

Zoom Lens*(6.75)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 has a 3x optical zoom lens with the same 38-114 mm equivalency as the W70. Both Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lenses extend from the camera body in two segments. While the W70 measures from 6.3-18.9 mm, the W100 measures from

W100_lens.jpg
7.9-23.7 mm. Its lens is constructed from 7 elements in 5 groups with 3 aspheric elements.

Although the end of the lens barrel is flat, a lens adaptor with a 30 mm filter diameter can be purchased for $30 and will let the camera accept conversion lenses. The wide conversion lens retails for $99 and the telephoto retails for another $130. All of these optional accessories bring the total camera cost to $600. Better options are available for that price.

For most point-and-shooters, however, the 3x optical zoom lens should satisfy their needs. The Carl Zeiss lens shows some barrel distortion, but it is only noticeable if photographing graph paper or taking self-portraits with the nose occupying half of the image. While zooming in and out is audible, the noise itself is a quiet whine that will only be obnoxious in quiet concert halls and after a day on a tour bus full of fifth graders.

Design / Layout

Model Design / Appearance*(7.25)*

The W100 is one of a few new releases in the W-series that show a fresh design. Sony W-series cameras before 2006 were chunky and not very sleek; they had bigger hand grips and thicker bodies. The W100’s design is a welcome change in many ways. Its flatter front face plate, as well as fewer chunks and protrusions in the overall body, makes the W100 more portable as well as more attractive.

A fishnet texture on the metal front faceplate adds a non-slip surface to the camera. This metal faceplate is available in black and silver, but the contoured plastic rear panel is always silver. The two panels are connected by a shiny chrome band that runs around all sides of the body. The design of the W100 is certainly better than previous W-series digital cameras and certainly gives it a more sleek and modern look.

Size / Portability*(7.0)*

At 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.98 inches, this camera is about the size of a typical palm. It weighs 5.9 oz when unloaded, which doesn’t sound like much but seems a little hefty when held. When the camera is loaded with its lithium-ion battery and Memory Stick Duo media, the W100 weighs 7 oz. This is quite a bit of weight to be wearing from the wrist. Its flat facades and retracting lens enable easy storage in a pocket or purse. The redesign allows more portability than previous W-series digital cameras, and the flat point-and-shoot design compliments the Sony Cyber-shot W100’s smallish size.

Handling Ability*(6.25)*

There is always some give and take when it comes to digital cameras at different price points and different sizes. Because the Sony Cyber-shot W100 is so small, there isn’t much space to work with. This, paired with the flat design, makes the W100 more difficult to handle than previous W-series cameras. The zoom switch is much too small, the mode dial is placed too high and cramps the right hand, and the left fingers get in the way of the optical viewfinder frequently. There is no hand or finger grip on the front of the camera, but the front plate is textured. Even still, handling the W100 could be difficult with sweaty palms. Still, the W100 wasn’t built for long photo shoots in the studio. It was made to be carried around in a pocket and occasionally brought out for a shot in the zoo or a portrait with the grandparents.

Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(6.25)*

W100_dial1.jpg
Poor placement squanders what little space exists on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100. The control buttons and dials on this model aren’t made for large fingers, or even small ones in some cases. While the shutter release button is comfortable, the zoom switch that surrounds it is anything but: it protrudes from the front of the camera, close to the right edge, and only turns about 15 degrees to the right and left. Users will find their hands quite cramped, and the mode dial offers no relief. The dial is stiff and requires way too much effort to rotate, even though its exposed top side is textured like a traditional film camera’s mode dial.

Other controls, though far from ideal, aren’t as bad. The buttons on the back of the camera are small, but are far enough apart that users won’t accidentally make six selections at once. While the multi-selector is also on the small side, it is larger than the buttons. Overall, however, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 is not made for comfort or serious menu or mode changes because of its small controls and uncomfortable placement.

Menu*(6.5)*

Sony may have redesigned the outside of the W-series, but the menu system remains the same as that in other Cyber-shot digital cameras. Pushing the Menu button brings up a dark gray keyboard-type band across the bottom of the LCD screen. Six options manifest themselves as icons across the band, with blue arrows showing which way to scroll for more options. When users scroll over an icon, a lighter gray box with the text title of the option and the accompanying choices pops up above the band. A yellow box surrounds the selected choice, and a yellow check mark tags to the left side just to make sure users know which option is currently activated. The menu options vary from mode to mode, but the most options are available in the manual mode. The following is the recording menu from the manual mode.

The menu is an overlay to the live view, so users can see most of the changes in real time. Color Mode, White Balance, ISO, Contrast, Saturation, and Sharpness options can be seen with the live view. Pressing the Menu button is the only way to exit: the W100 doesn’t automatically leave menus after a single selection like some compact digital cameras. This is helpful, as it keeps users who have a long list of changes from entering and re-entering the menu over and over and over again.

A wide variety of choices in the setup menu fit nicely into four different folders. Entering the setup menu causes the screen’s background to go black and the choices to appear on a gray box. Four folders appear on the left side of the screen, the selected folder appearing with a yellow background and its text title at the top of the screen. The first folder is the Camera folder and contains the following options.

The Memory Stick Tool menu is next, and shows these options.

The Setup 1 menu has a briefcase icon with a "1" next to it. These are the choices.

The Setup 2 menu garners these options.

Not only is the folder system a neat method of organization which makes it simpler to find options, it allows users to see all the options on a single screen. .

The playback menu is also accessed via the Menu button, and offers the following options.

A designated on-camera button, rather than a menu option, deletes pictures.

All of the choices in the playback menu allow a way to opt out and go back to the main menu, which is nice. With the Sony menu interface, users won’t be constantly falling in and out of the menu system. Text titles and even a few live views explain all of the icons, making Sony’s menus some of the bests on the digital camera market.

Ease of Use*(7.0)*

This Sony camera aims for ease of use because of its point-and-shooter audience, and, in some ways, it hits the mark. A function guide explains the different modes on the mode dial and even elaborates on the different resolution choices in the image size menu. It informs users how large each resolution can print and how many pictures are left on the card. When users get tired of the function guide, they can turn it off in the setup menu.

A tiny zoom switch and a cramped mode dial do make handling difficult, as does the absence of a hand grip. However, the W100, with its flat surfaces and trim profile, is easily portable. Overall, handling is poor, but the W100’s automatic modes, menu interface, and function guide all boost this digital camera to its easy to use status.

Modes

Auto Mode*(7.0)*

A green camera icon on the mode dial indicates automatic mode, which the function guide describes thus: "Auto Adjustment: For shooting with automatic settings." This may not be the most informative explanation, but is fairly accurate nonetheless. Otherwise similar to the Program mode, the Auto mode denies access to all but burst mode options.

Auto mode doesn’t automatically reset to all of its defaults every time it is entered. Instead, it saves flash and macro settings when modes, but resets the exposure setting to 0 EV. This can be a little confusing, especially when most other compact digital cameras include automatic modes that automatically reset the camera for quick and easy shooting.

Movie Mode*(7.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 records movies in two different sizes with three frame rates, all of which simultaneously record clear audio. At its best, the W100 can record 640 x 480-pixel video with 30 frames per second. Unfortunately, this camera is only at its best when an optional Memory Stick Pro Duo card is used – not the internal memory or less expensive Memory Stick media. This seems a little silly, since most compact models offer VGA video at 30 fps without strings attached. Without the required card, the movie mode can still shoot 640 x 480-pixel resolution, but at a much choppier 16.6 fps. This frame rate just isn’t enough to capture moving subjects and yields a clip that looks more like a flip-book. The W100 can shoot video clips optimized for emailing as well; its 160 x 120 video mail option shoots only 8 fps. It is easy to email, but looks awful.

There is no optical or digital zoom available while recording movies, so users must employ the old-fashioned method of zooming – walking toward or away from the subject. This method doesn’t make for great results either; without image stabilization, the choppy video looks even worse when bouncing up and down.

Quite a few options exist in the movie mode’s menu. Users can shoot black and white or sepia videos and can change the auto focus, metering, and white balance settings. These are important, especially in less than optimal lighting, as the automatic and default settings don’t handle low light very well. A movie I recorded after dark, with the lights on, showed my son as a little orange goblin and my walls as a putrid yellow color when they should be white.

Drive / Burst Mode*(4.5)*

Burst mode, while easy to select from the recording menu, is incredibly slow and doesn’t make much of a difference to shots. When in burst mode, the camera only snags four pictures at one shot per second. This isn’t very impressive at all. Reducing resolution produces more pictures, but doesn’t speed up the process.

There is also a multi-burst option, designed for those budding photographers who want to snap action shots of themselves jumping off couches or swinging golf clubs. It snaps 16 quick shots at 1/30, 1/15, or 1/7.5 seconds, then stitches the images into a 1-megapixel shot and plays them back like a choppy movie. The quality is terrible and really only good enough for viewing on the LCD screen. Of note in this section are the self-timer options that can be found by pushing the bottom of the multi-selector. The camera can wait 2 or 10 seconds to snap a picture, indicating its intent with the blinking orange LED on its front.

Playback Mode*(6.75)*

A designated button accesses the playback mode. From here, users can view pictures one at a time or bring up index frames of nine images for easy deletion choices. The playback menu also offers options for filing pictures into different folders, selecting images to protect or print, play slide shows, and make minor editing changes like resizing and rotating. Slide shows can play each picture for anywhere from 3 seconds to a minute and repeat the loop over and over, though they don’t have music or fancy transitions. Playback mode also lets users review movies, which play back complete with sound and both rewind and fast-forward functions. Users can divide movies into two separate files, separating the good parts from the dear air.

While the playback mode covers all the basics, it doesn’t really provide anything else. Furthermore, showing pictures off in the camera will make users wish that the LCD screen had better resolution.

Custom Image Presets*(6.0)*

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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 doesn’t have pages and pages of scene modes – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While many compact digital cameras are including dozens of scene modes, some are repetitive and unnecessary. The W100 keeps its offerings simple enough that they can all fit on the mode dial, represented by icons which the function guide explains. While users will have to sacrifice Behind Glass and Cuisine modes, they won’t have to hunt through menus to find the Sony’s, which consist of twilight, twilight portrait, soft snap, landscape, beach, and high sensitivity. Most are self-explanatory, except for the somewhat ambiguously named Soft Snap mode, which is really Sony’s name for its portrait setting. High-sensitivity mode is fairly new to the Sony W-series digital cameras. The function guide explains it this way: "High Sensitivity: Shoot without flash in low-light reducing blur." This mode is designed to capture more ambient light instead of using the flash.

Control Options

Manual Control Options

Unlike past Sony W-series cameras, the W100 offers manual control over shutter speed and aperture. To access these options, the ‘M’ manual mode must be activated and the central button in the multi-selector pushed (there are on-screen directions for this). The shutter speed and aperture appear in the corner; the numbers turn yellow when adjusted. Pressing up and down on the multi-selector controls the shutter speed, while pushing left and right controls the aperture. Other manual control options include focus, metering mode, white balance, and ISO. Many compact models at this price point don’t offer manual control, so it’s nice to see Sony differentiate itself a little in this area. The manual controls are still quite basic, but they are there.

Focus

Auto Focus*(7.0)*

The Single mode in the setup menu activates the auto focus system only when the button is pushed, saving battery power, while the Monitor selection keeps the system running in real time Center AF and Multi AF, both available from the recording menu, change the focus mode. The Multi AF mode uses a 5-point system and is better for taking group portraits where the subjects take up much of the frame. Center AF is best for individual portraits or a single, centrally located subject. While the auto focus system isn’t incredibly slow, it does have a tiny amount of shutter lag, and requires a moment to take a picture. The W100 can focus from 2.4 inches in the macro mode and from 19.7 inches in the normal focusing mode. In low light, an orange LED assists the auto focus system by sending out a beam of light. This allows the system to see just enough to be able to focus and adds some time to the lag between when the button is pushed and the shutter actually flips. Generally, the auto focus system is decent and quiet, with plenty of options but may result in a few blurry pictures when left to its default settings.

DSC100-Focus-FA.gif

Manual Focus*(1.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 does not have a true manual focus mode, but does have distances that users can manually select. 0.5 m, 1.0 m, 3.0 m, 7.0 m, and Infinity distance options are available and grouped in the Focus section of the recording menu. These only work in specific situations and aren’t that useful.

ISO*(8.75)*

DSC100-ISO-FA.gif
With an ISO 1250 rating, the Sony W100 offers the highest sensitivity of any of the W-series digital cameras. Its full range includes the following options: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1250. The ISO options are located in the recording menu and come with a live view. Sony uses Clear RAW imaging technology to reduce noise at the higher end of the sensitivity range; to see how effective it is, see the Noise tests in the Testing/Performance section. Sony cameras this year include a specific High Sensitivity scene mode that is optimized to use the higher end of the ISO sensitivities, so users can capture more natural lighting in dimmer places. This is perfect for snapping a shot of the sleeping baby (although the orange auto focus assist lamp may be a little disturbing) or a photo of the break-dancer burning up the club’s dance floor.

DSC100-WhiteBalance-FA.gif
White Balance*(5.5)*

Also available in the recording menu are the white balance options, which include the following: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash. These show up as icons, but come with an even more helpful live view. The automatic white balance setting does well in decent lighting, but casts funky colors in low light. In these situations, users will miss a custom white balance setting, which is not available on this model.

Exposure*(7.0)*

Photographers of all levels can check and tweak the exposure in some way on the W100. Beginners can choose to have the camera automatically set the shutter speed and aperture, or can access a +/- 2 exposure compensation scale by pushing the left side of the multi-selector. Pushing the multi-selector up or down will then brighten or darken the image. Users can also check the exposure by pushing the LCD display mode button, which displays a live histogram. More adventurous photographers can manually control the shutter speed and aperture.

Metering*(7.0)*

Like many compact digital cameras, the W100 offers three metering mode options: Spot, Center, and Multi. These are located in the recording menu, but don’t have a live view. The Multi option is the camera’s default, and averages the picture by measuring from 49 points throughout the frame. Center displays brackets in the middle of the frame to show where it is metering from; it is a relatively large area when compared with other models’ systems. The Spot option shows a tiny cross in the center of the frame.

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Shutter Speed*(7.25)*

Users can control the shutter speed themselves or can let the camera do it. When the Sony W100 is in charge, the shutter speeds range from 1-1/2000th of a second. Manual control varies from 1/1000th of a second to 30 full seconds. Entering the manual mode and pushing the central button in the multi-selector will access the manual control, and pushing up and down will adjust the shutter speeds. There are 46 options to choose from, and those 1 second or slower use Sony’s noise reduction technology. A live view that gets darker and brighter with changing speed, which is helpful for beginners.

Aperture*(4.5)*

The central button on the multi-selector also allows users to choose the aperture by scrolling right and left. Its options aren’t as expansive as the shutter speeds, though. The aperture can either be opened or closed; only two steps are available. When the lens is at its widest setting, f/2.8 and f/5.6 options are available. At its most telephoto focal length, the aperture can be adjusted to f/5.2 or f/10. It is nice to have the option of manually adjusting the aperture, but the two-step system just doesn’t provide a breadth of selections.

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Image Parameters

Picture Quality / Size Options*(7.75)*

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A button below the Sony W100’s multi-selector offers the following image sizes: 3264 x 2448, 3264 x 2176, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1632 x 1224, 640 x 480, and 1920 x 1080. The sizes aren’t expressed in pixel format, though, but rather as megapixels. 8 M, 3:2, 5 M, 3 M, 2 M, VGA, and 16:9 . A helpful function guide tells users how large they can safely print with each resolution and how many pictures they can take with the current memory storage. For example, the 8-megapixel image size has this guide: "Up to A3/11 x 17" print. Appx. Image Capacity xxx pics." This is very helpful for beginners and everyday users who just can’t seem to remember how many megabytes 8 megapixels occupy on their memory cards. Two different compression settings, Fine and Standard, are available from the recording menu.

Picture Effects Mode*(7.0)*

There are several color modes on this Cyber-shot, but nothing very elaborate. Besides the default Normal setting, there are Natural, Vivid, Sepia, and Black & White options. Natural mode dulls lighting a bit and makes skin look positively pasty. Vivid mode does just the opposite, embellishing Aunt Mart’s lips so they are more fire-engine-red than ever. Sepia and Black & White modes have decent contrast. The Sepia doesn’t look too brown or too orange; it is just right. These latter two color modes are also available when shooting movies, and can be fun to play with on a Sunday afternoon.

Connectivity / Extras

Connectivity

Software*(4.0)*

The Sony DSC-W100 comes with extremely primitive Cyber-shot Viewer version 1.0 software, which is hardly even sufficient for browsing images. When uploaded, the software only recognizes and loads pictures from Sony digital cameras. A window will pop up to import Sony pictures from the computer or the camera itself. Once images are loaded, the program showcases them in a calendar view or folder format. Users can browse the images here and click rotate, print, or edit their selections. Editing options are not expansive, and include only an automatic correction option, brightness, saturation, sharpness, trimming, and red-eye reduction features. Users can play slide shows from any of the browsing windows in the Sony Cyber-shot Viewer software.

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Jacks, ports, plugs (6.0)

All the jacks and ports a digital camera would need come with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100. On its right side, at the top, the DC-in jack rests below a small cover which looks sturdy from the outside, but is attached only by a rubber thread. The other jack, located on the left side beneath a sturdier plastic door whose thumb grip makes it easy to open, services the single USB 2.0 high-speed and AV-out cable. The multi-terminal accepts the included cable, which has a jack that fits into the camera on one end, and all kinds of jacks sprouting from the other. With this cable, the Sony W100 can connect to computers, printers, and televisions.

Direct Print Options (6.0)

*The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 is PictBridge compatible and can be connected to such printers via the multi-terminal and USB cable. Located in the playback menu, the DPOF system allows users to select images on the index screens, print entire folders, or tag individual pictures as they scroll through them. Users who want to print six copies of one picture and three copies of the rest may run into some trouble, as the Sony W100 doesn’t let them choose print quantity.

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*Battery (6.0)

A skinny NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery comes with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 and recharges within the included wall-mount charger. With Sony’s Stamina technology, the battery won’t need to charge often. It lasts 360 shots before needing a rest.

Memory (6.75)

Most compact digital cameras offer measly amounts of internal memory, but the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 includes a more generous 64 MB, a small upgrade from the 56 MB in the W70. Users will need it all:; 8-megapixel images suck up spare memory quickly. The W100 has a card slot for a Memory Stick Duo or Pro Duo card. The camera accepts cards up to 4 GB. Users can copy files from the internal memory to the card, but not the reverse. Those who want to take advantage of the movie mode should plan on purchasing a Pro Duo card, as the movie mode’s full frame rate of 30 fps only works with this type of card and 16.6 fps may be too choppy for some users.

Overall Impressions

Value*(7.25)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 is priced at $349, which is decent for its 8 megapixels and sleek point-and-shoot frame. While not exactly an ultra-slim model, the W100 does have a positive aesthetic element while still being very portable. The W100 also has a lot of other great qualities: manual control, a 2.5-inch LCD screen, a wide ISO range, and vast amounts of resolution. Sure, Sony took some shortcuts, like the poor resolution on the LCD screen and the pedestrian burst mode, but the W100 remains very affordable for what it is. At $349, this Cyber-shot is priced below much of its competition.

Comparisons

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W70 – This 7.2-megapixel model is the next step down from the W100 and offers many similar features. The bodies are almost identical, but the subtle visual differences are important. On the W70, the optical viewfinder is placed above the LCD screen; this is great for greasing up the screen with noses. The W70’s flash is also off-center from the lens, so its coverage isn’t as even, and in the top right corner, where fingers will likely wander into its path. The other physical difference between the two cameras is that the Cyber-shot W70 adds a finger grip that simplifies handling a bit. Both cameras have 3x optical zoom lenses, 2.5-inch LCD screens, and long-lasting batteries that shoot for 360 images per charge. Movie modes are the same, and both offer the function guide. Both have the High Sensitivity mode, but the W70’s top ISO rating is 1000 instead of 1250 like the W100. The Sony W70 has slightly less internal memory at 58 MB, which is still a lot compared to other compact digital cameras. Perhaps the biggest distinguishing factor between the two models is that the W100 has manual functionality and the W70 does not. Instead, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W70 offers automatic and scene modes and lets users control everything except the shutter speed and aperture. If manual control isn’t important, the Sony W70 offers just about the same camera for a retail price of $299.

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Canon PowerShot A620 – With a 7.1 megapixel image sensor, this digital camera does not offer quite as much resolution as the W100, but has a similar point-and-shoot concept. The Canon A620 isn’t as sleek and modern-looking as the Sony W100, though; it has a thick hand grip, a wide, heavy body, a 4x optical zoom lens, and a 2-inch LCD monitor that folds out from the camera body and rotates. Like the Sony W-series, this Canon PowerShot A620 keeps the traditional optical viewfinder on its body. Unfortunately, the viewfinder on the A620 is completely inaccurate and even blurry. This point-and-shoot digital camera has automatic modes, priority modes, and full manual control. It’s quite easy to use and is even powered by AA batteries, which last an impressive 350 shots. The Canon A620 has a limited 50-400 ISO range, a measly 16-megabyte SD card included in the package, and no internal memory, but still has a lot to offer at its relatively cheap price. It performed well in color and resolution tests and even kept noise to a minimum. Even without the high sensitivity, it captured great low light images. The Canon PowerShot A620 retailed for $399 when it was released last August, but can be found for about a hundred dollars less now.

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Nikon Coolpix P4– The Nikon Coolpix P4 has 8.1 megapixels and a slightly longer 3.5x optical zoom lens. A vibration reduction mode, which effectively minimizes normal camera shake for up to three shutter speed stops, complements the lens. The P4 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen that has way more resolution than the Sony W100’s with its 150,000 pixels. Users have to rely on the LCD screen on this camera, since there is no optical viewfinder to use as a backup. This is a little worrisome, especially because the included lithium-ion battery only lasts for 200 shots per charge. The Nikon Coolpix P4 has 16 scene modes, an auto mode, a movie mode that records VGA video at 30 frames per second (without requiring any special media), and an aperture-priority mode which lets users control the aperture within ten steps. This camera includes Nikon’s unique technology suite that fixes red-eye, adjusts backlighting compensation, and automatically searches for faces using its face-priority auto focus mode. The Nikon Coolpix P4 has a similarly sized body at 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches and 5.9 oz. It has less than half the amount of internal memory available in the Sony W100, though. The Nikon P4 includes 24 MB to store its image files, and retails for $399.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 – 8.4 effective megapixels and a longer 4x optical zoom lens are definite strong points for this Panasonic digital camera. Better yet is the optical image stabilization that keeps pictures from looking blurry and movies from looking like earthquakes. The LX1 does not have an optical viewfinder, but uses its 2.5-inch LCD screen instead. While the same size as that on the W100, the screen on the LX1 comes with more resolution at 207,000 pixels. The Panasonic LX1 produced good colors and decent low light shots, but images were horribly noisy and didn’t have the best resolution. This Lumix has a quicker burst mode that shoots 3 frames per second and several image formats, including its native 16:9 mode. Full manual control, as well as priority and automatic modes, is available on the LX1. The body is constructed of durable aluminum, but the controls and small and the zoom toggle is slick. For a pricy $599, the Panasonic LX1 comes in a package with a great software program.

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Fujifilm FinePix E900 – This digital camera has full manual control in a chunky body. Although the E900 is still compact, a large right-hand grip and a 4x optical zoom lens protrude from the front. This 9-megapixel camera has a 2-inch LCD screen that is smaller than the W100 but has the same 115,000 pixels of resolution. Only four scene modes are available, including a Natural Light mode that is similar to the Sony W100’s High Sensitivity mode. The W100 uses up to ISO 1250 though, and the Fuji E900 uses up to ISO 800. Not as attractive as the sleek, flat W100, the E900 is an impressive performer. In our tests, it produced decent color and low light shots, and shot about 2 fps in burst mode. Its top performance came when we tested its 9 megapixels of resolution. During manual ISO noise testing, it also scored high, keeping images clean of obnoxious speckles. The Fujifilm FinePix E900 does not have any internal memory, but does operate on 2 AA batteries. It retails for $499, but currently sells for about $399 online.

Who It’s For

Point-and-Shooters – With several automatic modes, a help guide, and an easy to use interface, the Sony W100 is geared for the point-and-shoot crowd. Its size is portable and its features appealing to those who hang onto tradition.

Budget Consumers – The Sony W100 packs 8 megapixels of resolution into a tiny space. The digital camera retails for $349, a similar price to that of other point-and-shoot models.

Gadget Freaks – The W100 has basic features and wouldn’t interest consumers who are looking for a more innovative digital camera to show off. This Sony Cyber-shot just doesn’t have what it takes.

Manual Control Freaks – A manual mode allows users to tweak the W100’s shutter speed and aperture. There is also a nice 64-1250 ISO range that can be manually adjusted. Still, this Sony doesn’t have a custom white balance mode, which will drive manual control freaks up the wall.

Pros/ Serious Hobbyists – This Cyber-shot is certainly no match for a serious hobbyist. While it does have some manual control, its capabilities are still quite limited for someone who wants to take clear shots of the stars and drag the shutter a bit to capture all the color in a sunset.

Conclusion

 

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 offers manual control, along with automatic, movie, and 6 scene modes, at a decent price of $349. As the flagship of Sony’s W-series of point-and-shoot cameras, the W100 has 8 megapixels on its spacious 1/1.8-inch CCD. This digital camera still fits into the line, though; it keeps the traditional optical viewfinder but adds a 2.5-inch LCD screen onto a sleek body. Previous W-series cameras have been a bit chunky, but the W100 is part of Sony’s redesign. The makeover flattened its surfaces, making the 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.98-inch digital camera more portable. There is a downside to that though: the camera is more difficult to handle. Also complicating the handling are the small buttons, tight zoom switch, and lack of a finger grip. For users who can cramp their hands around the small point-and-shoot model, there are some advantages to the W100. It has a wide ISO range of 64-1250 and a High Sensitivity scene mode that works well in dim lighting. The camera has 64 MB of internal memory, more than most compact digital cameras, and can take up to 360 shots on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery too. Sure, Sony took some shortcuts: its LCD screen has poor resolution, and the Carl Zeiss lens only extends to 3x, which is fast becoming below average. Still, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 takes great pictures, which users can control manually or automatically, for a fair price of $349.

Specs / Ratings

Specs / Ratings

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