Cameras

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 Digital Camera Review

Read a review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 digital camera.

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Testing / Performance

Color* (9.00)*

The Sony W35 is part of a series of Cyber-shot digital cameras that typically produces decent but not fabulous results. We tested the W35 to see if it follows suit. To test color accuracy, we photographed an industry standard color chart with the camera. We then uploaded the charts to Imatest imaging software, which analyzes color accuracy.

Below is a picture of the chart that has been modified by the software program to show the chart’s original color in the vertical rectangle within each of the 24 tiles. The Sony W35’s colors are shown in the outer portion of each tile, with the central square showing the ideal, corrected for luminance.

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Imatest also provides a chart that better shows the error between specific colors. The original colors of the chart are represented by squares, and the W35’s colors are depicted as circles. The line connecting the two theoretically shouldn’t be there, but shows the color error. If the circles are positioned closer to the edges of the chart than the center, they are oversaturated. If closer to the center, they are undersaturated.

W35-ColorER.jpg

Most of the camera's colors are tightly tethered to where they should be, so the Sony W35 performed quite well. The red and purple colors are the most inaccurate, but most digital cameras exaggerate those colors to enhance 'flesh tones.' The colors are only slightly oversaturated at 102.2 percent. The mean color error is 6.67, which gives this model a 9.00 overall color score. This mark approaches fabulous image quality as its colors are generally very accurate; this is much better than its W-series predecessors’ performances.

**Still Life Scene

**Below is a shot of our color and texture-oriented still life scene, as recorded by the Sony Cyber-shot W35.

W35-StillLife-SM.jpg


Click on the image above to view the full resolution file.

Resolution* (1.75)*

This Sony digital camera has a 7.2-megapixel Super HAD CCD image sensor. To test its resolution, we shot an industry standard resolution chart at different focal lengths and apertures to ensure the sharpest shot possible.

W35-Resolution-SM.jpg


Click on the chart above to view the full resolution version

Using data collected from Imatest imaging software, we sorted through our many photos and selected the sharpest image, which was taken at a19mm focal length, with an aperture of f 5.2, and ISO 100. The image above shows significant barrel distortion. The program judges resolution in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a theoretical measurement of how many alternating black and white lines of equal thickness could fit across the frame. This shows us how much detail the Sony W35 can capture.

Related content

Apparently, not too much. This Cyber-shot read 1573 lw/ph horizontally with 2.6 percent oversharpening and 1548 lw/ph vertically with 6.8 percent undersharpening. This is sub-par when compared to the Sony H5’s 1793 lw/ph horizontally and 1577 lw/ph vertically. The H5 is touted as a nicer SLR-inspired digital camera, but both models have a 7.2-megapixel Super HAD CCD. By today's standards, the Cyber-shot DSC-W35 doesn’t capture a lot of detail and yields just a 1.75 overall resolution score.

Noise – Auto ISO*(1.71)*

In optimal lighting conditions, we tested the camera’s ability to automatically select an ISO setting and produce low noise. In the studio’s bright lights, effective cameras choose the lowest ISO setting possible. The Sony W35 aimed a bit higher, as its noise output was equivalent to ISO 200. There is more noise at this sensitivity level than ideal, so the camera came out with an overall 1.71 auto ISO noise score, a slide down from its predecessor the W30, which had a score of 2.39.

Noise – Manual ISO*(6.43)*

This point-and-shoot digital camera has nearly the same manual ISO range that was available on the W30. It reaches from 100-1000. On all digital cameras, upping the ISO sensitivity allows photographers to capture images in various natural light conditions without using the flash. However, doing this also increases the likelihood of noise. Below is a graph showing the W35’s manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the percentage of the image that deteriorates into noise on the vertical axis.

W35-Noise-GR.jpg

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 shows a reasonably steady curve of noise that moves upward as the ISO increases. This curve looks very similar to the W30’s performance, although it starts and ends with slightly less noise throughout the range. Still, the curve with the plateau between ISO 400 and 800 is reminiscent of the W30. The shots for this test were taken in optimal lighting though. To see how well the camera handles noise when the lights turn low, check out the next section.

Low Light*(5.5) *

Because not all photos are taken in the perfect lighting of our testing lab, we dim the lights and deactivate the flash to see how the camera performs. We ran the Sony W35 through four low-light tests, dimming the lights more each time. We started out at 60 lux, which is the amount of light produced by two soft lamps in an otherwise dark room - a comfortable amount of reading light. The next test was at 30 lux, which is approximately the light from a single 40-watt bulb and is more likely to cause readers to squint. The last two tests are done at 15 and 5 lux, which aren't common shooting situations but tests the limits of the image sensor. We photographed the color chart at the decreasing light levels and the images are shown below.

The Sony W35 had trouble keeping the subject illuminated, mostly because it didn’t open the shutter very long. As the lights dimmed, the colors were increasingly inaccurate. The mean color error at a 0.4-second exposure was a fairly normal 6.68. That nearly doubled to 12.6 when a 1.2-second shutter speed was used in low light, and to 22.3 mean color error at two seconds. Colors weren’t the only aspect of the picture to suffer in low light either. Noise was apparent in all of the pictures. Below is a chart showing the exposure time on the horizontal axis and the amount of noise on the vertical axis.

W35-ExposureNoise-GR.jpg

The noise level remains fairly steady, although there isn’t much variation in the exposure time on this digital camera. We used the ISO 400 setting for this test, and there is more noise than expected. Most point-and-shooters who are photographing in light this low will probably hike the ISO up as high as it can go: ISO 1000. This will produce very noisy images though. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 came out with a low light score of 5.5, which is better than its predecessor but that’s not saying much.

Dynamic Range* (7.25)*

We tested the Sony W35’s dynamic range by photographing a standard chart that shows a row of rectangles in various shades from black to white. A camera with better dynamic range can distinguish more of the different rectangles, but a camera that lacks dynamic range would only be able to pick up a few with detail. The chart below shows how many exposure values the W35 can distinguish at the different ISO settings, which affect the noise and therefore the detail in the photo.

W35-DynRange-GR.jpg

This Cyber-shot has fairly decent dynamic range throughout all of its ISO settings. The test photos produced about seven exposure values at the lowest ISO setting, and when set to ISO 200 there was a sharp decline to six values. There was another significant drop in range between ISO 400 and 800 but that is to be expected on point-and-shoot cameras that have relatively small image sensors and thus, small pixels. Users should remember that this test stretches the ability of the camera to its best. Everyday photos probably won’t garner seven exposure values - this test is meant to compare cameras.

The curve of the dynamic range chart looks similar to the Sony W30’s results, but the W35’s line is just above the W30’s. This slight improvement yields a better overall score of 7.25.

Speed/Timing

Startup to First Shot (8.7)

The W35 takes 1.7 seconds to start up and snap its first picture. This isn’t blazing fast, but it isn’t as slow as the older W30 and many other competing compact digital cameras. In this price range, it’s quite good.

Shot-to-Shot (9.1)

The W35 will only shoot continuously in burst mode and is capable of taking four shots in a row at 0.9 seconds per shot. The whole burst lasts 3.8 seconds, and then takes another 3.4 seconds to process and write to the memory card. This rate isn’t very impressive, but impressive burst modes aren’t available at this price. Continuing to hold down the shutter will put the camera into recording mode, where it makes a single animation of rapid shots. These recording mode animations cannot be separated into individual frames on the camera.

Shutter-to-shot (8.8)

With a fairly quick auto focus system, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 takes only a tenth of a second to snap a picture. That is enough shutter lag to miss the perfect shot in a hurdle race, but it won’t cause blinked eyes in portraits. Many budget digital cameras take their time to snap pictures, so the W35's shutter lag is relatively minimal.

Physical Tour

W35_front.jpg
Front*(7.0)*

The front of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is formed out of a metallic-silver plastic that is the predominant material and finish found on the entire camera body. When facing the front of the camera, a polished silver ring with engraved ridges surrounds the lens on the right side of the camera. Directly surrounding the lens of the camera, the lens specifications and brand are to inform users that they are shooting with a Carl Zeiss, Vario-Tessar 2.8 – 5.2 / 6.3 –18.9 lens. The 3x optical zoom lens extends from the shell of the camera when the camera is turned on. When turned off or when in playback mode for an extended period of time, the lens barrel retracts into the camera body and an automatically closing lens cover snaps into place.

A horizontal in-camera flash is located above and to the right of the lens and is positioned near the edge of the camera, in a place that may become covered by fingers. Beneath the right edge of the flash is the auto-focus illuminator light. To the left of the in-camera flash, slightly lower on the camera body, is the window for the optical viewfinder. The terrible position of this window, in relation to the actual frame being captured by the camera lens, will result in images with inaccurate frames whenever the viewfinder is used without the LCD screen as a back-up reference. A small polished silver tab is raised slightly from the camera body and is theoretically present in order to provide users with better handling during shooting. But the small size, polished surface, and close proximity to the edge of the camera body will most likely make this small add-on a rarely used feature.

Back*(4.0)*

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The 2-inch, 85,000 pixel LCD screen fills the left two-thirds of the Sony Cyber-shot’s left side. The in-camera playback speaker is located above the upper left corner of the LCD screen’s frame. Beneath the LCD screen is a port cover that can be opened by pulling on a tab located along the cover's lower edge. This cover protects both the AV Out and the USB ports for the camera. Above the LCD, slightly right of center, is the small optical viewfinder. To the right of the viewfinder are two LED lights that indicate the current state of the camera. Moving to the right of these lights is a small button labeled with the fairly universal "play" icon familiar to anyone who’s ever used an electronic media playback device. This button allows the user to switch into playback mode.

The mode dial is located in the upper right corner of the DSC-W35’s back face. This mode dial is oddly placed and too small to really be used with any speed. Beneath the mode dial and slightly to the left is a button labeled 'DISP' that controls both the LCD's power and the amount of information displayed on the LCD. Beneath this button is the menu button that allows the user to access both shooting and playback menu systems. Underneath this lozenge shaped button is the four-way control. In addition to menu navigation, the four-way control is also able to control four camera settings. When not in a menu system, the up arrow controls the current flash setting, the right arrow controls whether in regular or macro shooting modes, the down arrow engages and disengages the self-timer feature, and the left arrow allows for adjustments to the exposure compensation setting. In the center of the four-way control is the important select button, which is unlabeled. This button confirms adjustments that are made to the camera’s settings when alterations are made by the user. And finally beneath the four-way control is another button that is identical in size and shape to the display and menu buttons located above the four-way control. This button controls image deletion when in review mode and opens the image size menu when in shooting mode.

**Left Side ***(7.25)*

Besides a label indicating the 3x optical zoom capability of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35’s lens, there are no features on the left side of the camera body.

w35_left.jpg

Right Side *(7.25)*

The small eyelet in the center of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35’s right side and accompanying eyelet on the back face of the camera body are for attaching the included and optional wrist strap. Its inset design makes threading the wrist strap anything but a pleasant experience; the reviewer found jamming the wrist strap through the eyelet took several minutes of careful and concentrated effort. Perhaps smaller fingers would have greater success with this miniscule feature. Above the eyelet, near the top of the camera body, is a port cover that houses the DC IN port. The cover is plastic and connected to the camera body via a small piece of rubber.

w35_right.jpg

Top*(7.0)*

On the top left of the Sony DSC-W35, there is a small bump with three holes. This is the in-camera microphone and users may find that audio is easily compromised when shooting video clips with two hands since it’s natural to place the fingers on the top of the camera body. On the right side of the top face is a sizeable and well-positioned shutter button. A zoom ring surrounds the shutter button. To the left of the shutter button is a small power button that is set slightly into the camera body in order to protect against being accidentally turned on.

w35_top.jpg

Bottom*(3.0)*

There are several features located on the base of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 that are important to the camera. On the far left side, located near the back edge of the camera body, is a metal tripod mount. Choosing to make this component out of metal was a good decision by Sony as it makes stripping and ruining the tripod mount through improper threading nearly impossible. If it were made out of plastic, one or two improper connections to a tripod could permanently ruin this feature. On the right side of the camera body, underneath a port cover, are both the optional memory card slot and the Lithium Ion battery slot.

w35_bottom.jpg

Components

W35-Viewfinder.jpg

**Viewfinder ***(4.0)*

The viewfinder is a real image optical viewfinder located above and to the left of the lens - a position that will drastically impair accurate framing of a photo. That said there’s no better way to "accidentally" behead a disliked family member or acquaintance. All of this is of course contingent on the photographer actually being able to get their eye anywhere near the petite viewfinder located above the right corner of the LCD screen. Considering the size, placement, and accuracy of the viewfinder, it would be better if the camera didn’t have it.

w35_lcd_on.jpg
LCD Screen*(3.0)*

Sony advertises the DSC-W35 as having a "bright" LCD screen, and while it is bright, the screen is underwhelming, even when compared to camcorder LCD’s that traditionally have vastly lower resolutions. The 2-inch LCD found on this digital camera has a pathetic pixel count of 85,000. While perhaps acceptable several years ago, a 2-inch LCD sporting only 85,000 pixels today falls short of the 200,000 pixel and higher resolution LCD screens that provide crisp and clean image monitoring. The low-quality LCD makes it hard to gauge whether images are in-focus, plagued by noise, underexposed, or otherwise compromised. Direct printing is bound to become a guessing game with mixed results. To further the disappointment, the LCD has a sluggish refresh rate and terrible solarizing that makes shooting photos under bright sun a nightmare.

Flash*(6.25)*

The Sony DSC-W35's flash is one of the few components on the camera that doesn’t struggle with basic performance. This just makes its poor placement on the exterior of the camera even more disappointing. The flash is located in the upper right corner of the front face, and when the camera is held in two hands, the flash is constantly being covered with fingers of the left hand. The flash does perform well when used, and users will find that there is an included +/- flash compensation setting in the shooting menu if further general adjustments are needed.

w35_flash.jpg

Users can further tailor the flash performance by pressing the up arrow on the four-way control. This arrow has the flash icon printed on its surface to clearly indicate its dual purpose. Flash settings for the DSC-W35 are flash off, flash auto, flash on and slow synchro. These settings can be cycled by pressing the up arrow repeatedly until the appropriate parameter is displayed in the upper part of the LCD screen.

When shooting in auto ISO, the flash has a range of 6 inches to 12 feet 8 inches. That is a reduction of one foot from its predecessor, the W30, released last year.

w35_lens.jpg
Zoom Lens*(6.5)*

Last year, Sony overhauled the W-series' aesthetics to appeal to the more image-conscious consumer. Although the camera's construction quality is sub-par, both last year's and this year's improvements to the W-series are welcome ones. One feature that has remained from earlier models is the Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar telescoping 3x optical zoom lens. The lens protrudes from the right half of the camera‘s front face and is surrounded by a slightly raised polished silver ring. The lens extends 6.3-18.9 mm with a 35 mm equivalent of 38-114 mm with a 30 mm filter diameter. The lens is constructed with six elements in five groups and three aspheric elements. The aperture cannot be manually controlled when shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35. The camera will automatically select between f/2.8 to 7.1 in wide angle and f/5.2 to f/13 in telephoto. It has a wide aperture setting of f/2.8 and f/5.2 in telephoto.

Consumers can purchase three different conversion lenses - 2.6x super telephoto, 1.7x telephoto, or 0.7x wide. 

Design / Layout

Model Design / Appearance*(7.0)*

The appearance of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 offers a clean design with an unfettered aesthetic that is sure to appeal to the novice photographer. With its matte silver finish and 'chrome' plastic highlights, the camera is sleeker than point-and-shoot models made by manufacturers like Kodak in this price range. The problem with the camera becomes apparent once the camera is picked up and handled by the user however. The construction just doesn’t feel as rugged or durable as more expensive Sony cameras that rely on metal components in their construction. Many early model digital cameras by Sony are still being resold online and in stores because of the strength of the camera construction. However, the durability and longevity of this model is questionable.

Size / Portability*(7.25)*

Being both slender and lightweight, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is an appealing candidate for point-and-shooters looking for a camera that can be slipped into a pocket or purse when not in use. Carrying this camera in a book bag or luggage is not recommended though, since the plastic body isn’t going to withstand rough-and-tumble treatment. The camera measures 3 1/2 inches in length, 2 1/4 inches in height and 7/8th of an inch in depth.

Handling Ability*(6.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 does not provide for ergonomic handling. Shooting in cold weather with this small, smooth-bodied, grip-less camera was about as enjoyable as juggling greased eggs. This camera is definitely intended for the occasional snapshots rather than extended periods of shooting. With such a small camera body and so many key features located near straying fingers, the user is advised to keep their hand position in constant check. The flash and in-camera microphone were particularly susceptible to accidental masking by errant fingers when shooting quickly.

w35_handling_front.jpg
w35_handling_back.jpg

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Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(6.5)*

By limiting the number of external controls and features, Sony manages to avoid many of the claustrophobic cramming found with many petite digital cameras. Most controls for the camera are located on the back face to the right of the LCD, and all but the mode dial work with ease. The four-way control lacks in the quality department, but it is large enough to use without hassle. The menu, display and delete/image size buttons are all well-labeled and large enough that users shouldn’t have to strain when making adjustments. The mode dial is oddly sized, and upon turning, its long-term durability is questionable.The location is also not the most advantageous for adjustment. The mode dial would benefit from being moved closer to either the top or right edge of the camera so that the thumb of the right hand could snap to different modes quickly.

**Menu ***(6.5)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35's menu system shows little to no difference when compared to previous incarnations of the Cyber-shot line up. All menu systems employ a text-based layout with the shooting and playback menus being displayed along the bottom of the LCD screen as semi-transparent overlays whose sub-menus are scanned using the left and right arrows of the four-way control. The setup menu opens onto an opaque screen and is scanned vertically using the up and down arrows of the four-way control.

The shooting menu options appear when the menu button on the back of the DSC-W35 is pressed. The number and kind of options included in the shooting menu system varies with mode, and the shooting menu displayed beneath is from the camera’s program mode. This still image mode will provide users with the most control over shooting and image parameters. When sub-menus are highlighted, the contents of each parameter will appear above the category in a semi-transparent screen. Each sub-section of the menu appears as an icon in the menu system, but when highlighted, the category of each sub-menu appears as a full text description.

The size and shape of each screen is dependent on the content of the sub-menu. This menu is a bit awkward to navigate with users not having the ability to move from the final setting to the first setting in one motion. Instead, users will need to backtrack through both the sub-menu settings and then the menu system. This would mean that moving from the sharpness menu to color menu could take upwards of 12 button presses. If a continuous menu system were in place, the user would only need to press three controls to enter the color menu from the sharpness control menu.

The playback menu is similar to the shooting menu in overall design, although sub-menus of the playback menu will appear as graphic text overlays in the lower left corner of the LCD once selected. The gray low-resolution text on a dark gray background made reading some of these sub-menu settings difficult, and it did require a slower more methodical interaction. The playback menu is accessible only when the camera is in playback mode. The user can enter the playback mode by pressing the play button located on the back of the camera body. Once the camera is in playback mode. the user can open the playback menu system by pressing the menu button located to the right of the LCD.

The final menu structure for the Sony DSC-W35 is the setup menu that can be entered through either the shooting or playback mode menus of the camera. The setup menu is designed in a vertical orientation with sub-menus listed on the left side of the LCD. As sub-menus are highlighted, the contents of each category appears on the rest of the LCD screen. The setup menu is easy to access and navigate and quick adjustments can be made to these settings. The setup menu is the only menu system that doesn’t provide a live view to users.

**

Ease of Use***(7.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is a camera that excels in the ease of use category in terms of layout and simplicity of included features. The camera’s stripped down external design makes quick intuitive adjustments possible without struggling to read labels or discern esoteric iconography. When making adjustments to mode settings, the user will find a corresponding graphic display will appear on the right side of the LCD that provides a full text label for each shooting mode in a large font. The menu design for the W35 doesn’t vary from previous incarnations in the W-series lineup, and the design is still simple but awkward in layout with users having to sputter and stutter in order to make adjustments.

Sony could improve on the external layout through better quality controls and a more conscious placement of features like the mode dial, the in-camera microphone, and the flash. Users will find the last two features to be easily compromised by fingers of the left hand if holding the camera in two hands.

Modes

Auto Mode *(7.0)*

For users intimidated by technology, the auto mode's easy-of-use will be a welcome relief. The menu system is limited to only two options; access to the setup menu and the burst modes. In addition to these settings, the user will still also be able to access the macro on/off, self-timer, exposure compensation and flash settings that are found on the four-way controller.

**Movie Mode ***(7.25)* 

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 comes with a movie mode that is capable of recording video with synched audio. The movie mode is entered by rotating the mode dial located on the back of the camera to the film strip icon.

The movie mode can capture video files in 640 fine, 640 standard, and 160. The settings are adjustable through the image size/delete button on the back of the camera body. The 640 fine setting captures video at 640 x 480 at 30 fps, while the 640 standard captures video at 640 x 480 at 16 fps and the 160 setting captures video at 160 x 112 at 8 fps. Before getting too excited, it should be noted that this camera will not capture the highest quality video setting when shooting without a Memory Stick Duo Pro memory card. ******

Shooting video with the 640 standard setting resulted in stuttering and choppy video due to the reduction in frame rate. Audio is recorded by an in-camera microphone that is poorly positioned on the top face of the camera. When audio wasn’t being muffled by wandering fingers, the quality was tolerable and wasn’t overwhelmed by mechanical camera noise. Manual controls for focus, white balance, metering mode and color are also available in the movie mode.

Drive / Burst Mode*(6.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 has two burst mode settings, and both can be found within the shooting menu under the REC Mode sub-menu. The multiburst option allows the user to capture a series of images in succession, and in the case of the burst mode, the user will be able to capture up to four images before recording to memory. In the case of the multiburst mode,  photographers will find that they are able to capture up to 16 images at a reduced image quality of 1 MP with the live display turned off. It is also possible to adjust the multiburst capture rate from 1/7.5 to 1/15th to 1/30th of a second in the multiburst interval sub-menu found within the shooting menu structure. With such a low resolution, it would be wise for the user to skip the multiburst mode’s image quantity in favor of the standard burst mode’s image quality.

Playback Mode*(6.75)*

The playback mode is entered by pressing the playback button directly above the upper-right corner of the LCD screen. In playback mode, the user will find a series of viewing, image editing, and printing options listed along the bottom edge of the LCD screen. The options included in this display are: image protection, folder information, image rotation, image resizing, dividing of video footage, and viewing images as a slideshow. In addition to these options, the user will also find that it is possible to view photos in a nine image multi-up format, single image standard display or single image with up to 5x playback zoom. Video footage is controlled via the left and right arrows of the four-way control after the select button has been pressed, and volume levels can be adjusted during playback by pressing the up and down arrows. The playback mode and menu system are easy to engage and navigate. In-camera image editing is rudimentary, and the lack of a corrective post-production in-camera red eye correction feature is disappointing. That said, the editing features that are included work quickly and precisely without huge delays when adjustments are saved to memory.

sony_w35_menus_modes.gif
Custom Image Presets*(5.5)*

In recent years, digital camera manufacturers have begun competitively escalating the number of preset shooting modes in point-and-shoot digital cameras. With some of these point-and-shoot cameras being weighed down with upwards of 30 shooting modes, the question had to be asked, at what point do these modes stop being helpful shortcuts and become confusing and cumbersome displays that delay shooting? That said, the DSC-W35’s shooting modes are unlikely to overwhelm even the most novice of photographers. Each of the preset shooting modes is represented by an icon on the mode dial, and as users move the mode dial, a corresponding rotating graphic appears on the right side of the LCD screen along with a textual title. The preset shooting modes found with the DSC-W35 include snow, beach, landscape, twilight, twilight portrait, soft snap and high sensitivity. Depending on the preset, the user may find that control over flash or white balance remains possible.

Control Options

Manual Control Options

Manual control enthusiasts may find the terse list of full manual control options to be too limiting. Manual control options that can be fully controlled by the user are metering, ISO and exposure. All three of these manual controls are listed within the shooting menu system. Other controls included require the user to rely on preset options. These not-so-manual options are focus and white balance. And finally, the DSC-W35 provides absolutely no manual or preset control over shutter speed or aperture, but this should come as no real surprise considering the price, the camera‘s point-and-shoot audience, and the simplicity of the camera’s design.

Focus

Auto Focus*(6.5)*

There are a couple of different auto focus options for the photographer shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35. Within the shooting menu, the user can switch between multi and center AF. The multi-AF option allows for five areas laid out in a centrally placed "t," to be chosen automatically by the camera when the shutter is partially depressed. These five areas are clumped in the center of the frame, and while it does cover more frame area than the spot mode and will allow for focusing on more complex subjects, the five-area multi-AF still leaves much of the frame unconsidered. Users will not be able to adjust the AF areas of the multi-mode, and the only way to re-adjust the focus is through re-pressing the shutter partially and hoping that the camera registers a new focal pattern. Both options responded quickly, and the AF illuminator reacted properly when encountering low-lit subjects.

Manual Focus*(1.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 provides marginal manual focus control - most point-and-shoot cameras include some level of manual focal control. The manual focus option is listed within the shooting menu in the Focus sub-menu and allows users to select between settings of 0.5 m, 1.0 m, 3.0 m, 7.0 m and infinity. While a live view display is shown as settings are selected, the user will find these general parameters hardly sufficient if true control over focus is necessary. These settings, while helpful in basic shooting setups, fall short of the mark when used in more complex scenes. Additionally, the placement of manual focus settings within the menu system will mean that any time the subject distance or camera angle changes, the photographer will be required to enter the menu system to make the proper adjustments. This setup is neither intuitive nor quick. The DSC-W35’s manual focus feature should be used sparingly - if at all. 

Metering*(7.0)*

The metering settings for the Sony W35 are housed within the shooting menu. The metering parameters for this digital camera allow the user to switch between multi, center, and spot. These three metering modes enable users to adjust from the more general multi-metering setting to either the spot or center metering modes when complicated lighting situations with multiple sources or backlit subjects are encountered. The camera reacted quickly and accurately when both spot and center metering modes were used. These metering options should be more than adequate for both the beginner and the advanced point-and-shoot photographer.

Exposure*(7.0)*

Exposure compensation is included on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35. The exposure control is located on the back of the camera body. The feature is controlled by the left arrow of the four-way control interface, and the exposure compensation graphic display can only be entered when the camera is in a shooting mode and the menu systems are closed. When activated, the exposure compensation display will appear as a vertical semi-transparent scale that runs along the left side of the LCD screen. The exposure compensation scale for the DSC_W35 is the standard +/- 2 EV with 1/3 EV step adjustments being made by pressing the up and down arrows of the four-way control. Numerical markers are present for EV settings of –2, -1, 0, 1 and 2 EV.

sony_w35_menus_exposure.gif

White Balance*(5.0)*

Manual control over white balance is not fully possible when shooting with this camera, but a handful of preset white balance modes can be engaged in all modes except auto. The white balance settings vary depending on mode with the biggest selection of options available in the program mode. One of the great benefits of shooting with a camera like the DSC-W35 is the live view display that remains when the menu system is opened. This means that as users switch between white balance presets, manual, and auto settings, the immediate results of these adjustments become apparent on the LCD. This provides hesitant point-and-shoot users with a handy visual reference. The white balance settings for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 are listed within the shooting menu and allow the user to switch between auto and daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent and flash. While these settings are helpful in general situations, the likelihood that these presets are going to work successfully 100 percent of the time is slim to none.

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ISO *(7.75)*

ISO settings can be controlled when shooting in the program mode. In addition to the more manually replete program mode, the camera also has a High Sensitivity shooting mode. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this mode actually allows for manual control over ISO. Instead, the High Sensitivity shooting mode allows the camera to broaden the automatic ISO range to higher levels in order to bypass the in-camera flash. This will of course mean higher levels of noise and decreased dynamic range, but it will also result in less blown-out images caused by close-range, aggressive flash. The ISO settings for the DSC-W35 include an auto setting and manual settings of ISO100, 200, 400, 800 and 1000. The ISO settings for the DSC-W35 are located within the shooting menu of the program mode.

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Shutter Speed*(0.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 only allows the user to shoot still images with automatic shutter speeds. The automatic shutter speed is a snappy 1/8th to 1/2000th of a second that won’t be able to handle lower light situations in comparison to cameras like the Kodak EasyShare C743 that has a slow shutter speed of four seconds.

Aperture*(0.0)*

Not surprisingly, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 provides absolutely no control over aperture. The maximum aperture for the Sony DSC-W35 is f/2.8 in wide and f/5.2 in telephoto.

Image Parameters

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Picture Quality / Size Options*(7.0)*

The picture quality and size options for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 are listed in two separate locations. The compression quality settings are located in the shooting menu and allows the user to switch between fine and standard compression formats. Accessing the picture size settings is accomplished by pressing the delete button located directly beneath the four-way control on the back of the camera. The picture size options for this camera are 7M, 3:2, 5M, 3M, 2M, VGA, and a letter boxed 16:9 mode. These settings are displayed in a semi-transparent graphic overlay located in the lower left corner of the LCD. Functionally, it would be nice to have both the quality and the size settings located within the same menu system since users will often find themselves adjusting both the compression level and the image size at the same time.

Picture Effects Mode*(7.0)*

The picture effects options on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 are limited and unimpressive when compared to the in-camera digital effects found in the Canon PowerShot series' MyColors palette. The picture effects options that are included with the DSC-W35 will enable the user to switch between shooting in normal color to shooting with digital filters for rich, natural, sepia and B&W images. These settings are listed in the shooting menu in the color sub-menu and can be adjusted with a live view display.

Connectivity / Extras

Connectivity

Software*(4.5)*

The Sony Cyber-shot W35 comes with the included Picture Motion Browser 2.0 CD-ROM. Like most free photo software, Picture Motion allows users to upload, sort, and organize their photos with picture-editing features. The Picture Motion Browser includes a Map View function. When used with the additional Sony GPS-SC1 accessory, priced at $149.99, users can sort their photos by geography on an Internet world map with the recorded position data attached to each photo. The Sony software is compatible with Microsoft 2000 Professional, Me, XP and Mac OS version 9.1, 9.2, and OS X 10.0 and 10.4 operating systems.

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Jacks, ports, plugs**(6.0)*

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There are three locations on the body of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 for jacks, ports and plugs. On the right side of the camera body, there is a small port cover near the top of the camera. Beneath the LCD screen, on the back of the DSC-W35, is a port cover that opens along its bottom edge. This cover connects to the camera body via a hinge located on the right edge. This hinge is thick and seems sturdy but got in the way when connecting cables to the camera. This port cover protects both the AV out and USB ports of the DSC-W35. The port cover design and construction made closing this feature difficult and a process that took a couple attempts. Once closed, the cover still was able to slide back and forth slightly. This could be a problem if the camera is exposed to dampness or other conditions that could allow liquids to seep into either the USB or AV out ports. On the right side of the camera body is another plastic port cover that is opened via the back edge and conceals the DC IN port. This cover lacks a sturdy connection to the camera body and seems ready to break at any point. The third and final location for ports is on the bottom of the camera body. A port cover on the right side of the camera body leads to the battery and the proprietary Memory Stick Duo Pro.

Direct Print Options*(6.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is PictBridge compliant and features a quite functional and user-friendly DPOF structure. Users can select images and order for printing in both the nine-up multi-image display and when scanning images individually in full screen. Unlike other manufacturers, such as Kodak, that expedite the printing process by including an external Share button for one-button printing, the user of the DSC-W35 will need to engage the in-camera playback menu system in order to print.

Battery*(7.25)*

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The battery port for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is located on the bottom of the camera on the right side of the body. The battery slot’s cover is opened by pressing slightly while sliding the cover to the right. Once open the cover reveals a slot for the DSC-W35’s rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. This battery is lighter in weight when compared to four or even two AA batteries and will save consumers money through its ability to recharge. The only problem with the battery is the positioning of the battery slot on the bottom face of the camera. This will mean that whenever the camera is attached to a tripod or other stabilizing device both the battery and the memory card will be inaccessible.

Memory*(4.25)*

The Sony DSC-W35 has 56 MB of Flash memory, which is slightly ahead of the curve in the point-and-shoot digital camera market. In addition, the camera also comes with an optional Memory Stick Duo Pro memory card slot located beneath the same cover as the Lithium Ion battery on the bottom of the camera body.

Other Features*(6.5)*

Live Histogram – A live histogram will provide more advanced point-and-shoot photographers with information regarding their exposure levels prior to shooting. This is a very useful inclusion for both point-and-shooters and more advanced photographers, and a welcome surprise given the camera's $179.99 price tag.

Conversion Lens Compatibility – Although the conversion lens adapter and the conversion lenses themselves are not included in the purchase of the Cyber-shot DSC-W35, the compatibility is certainly worth noting. Consumers will find that Sony is currently offering three conversion lens options at this time for the DSC-W35 with a 2.6x Super Telephoto conversion lens, a 1.7 Telephoto conversion lens and a 0.7 wide conversion lens, all available at Sony online.

Overall Impressions

Value*(7.0)*

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 improves upon last year‘s lowest priced W-series model, the DSC-W30. It provides increased resolution of 7.2 MP, while sticking with the 3x optical zoom lens, 2-inch LCD screen, optical viewfinder, and simple layout found with the preceding year‘s model. The DSC-W35 continues to provide a superior movie mode to other manufacturers' budget offerings, and the ISO 1000 setting, while plagued by noise is still a feature not found elsewhere in the sub-$200 digital camera market. The camera also displayed excellent color reproduction and accuracy, as well as solid dynamic range for its styling. Considering all this and a reduction in price from the W30’s MSRP of $229, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is definitely a contender for consumer consideration at $179.99 MSRP, so long as users can get beyond the low resolution LCD screen.

Comparisons

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Sony CyberShot DSC-W55 – This camera is available in four different colors that will allow for some "personalization" with your purchase. It comes in silver, black, pink and light blue, and  definitely has the upper hand when it comes to style. Priced at just $199.99, the price difference between these two models isn’t insurmountable and the DSC-W55 does have some feature improvements beyond aesthetics that are sure to make consumers consider shelling out the extra twenty bucks. Like the DSC-W35, this camera comes with a 1/2.5-inch 7.2 MP CCD, 56 MB of internal memory, and a 3x optical zoom lens. An improvement over the DSC-W35 is an increase in LCD size to 2.5 inches with a pixel increase to 115,000. Similar shooting modes, burst modes, movie modes, and manual controls are included on this camera.

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Canon PowerShot A460 – This low-slung entry-level offering by Canon features a 1/3.0 inch 5 MP CCD, a comparably lackluster 86,000 pixel 2.0-inch LCD, real-image optical viewfinder, a Digic II image processor and a marginally better 4x optical zoom lens. This camera includes a16 MB SD/MMC memory card and is PictBridge compliant. The external layout of this camera is more cluttered than the DSC-W35, and users may find the controls and numerous labels to be confusing. The in-camera flash is terribly placed to the far left of the Canon lens. This camera does, however, provide for more complete manual control that includes a custom white balance option, three metering modes, ISO, and exposure compensation. The Canon PowerShot A460 has a disappointing movie mode that falls short of the DSC-W35 and does not have accessory lights, flashes or lens options for consumers looking to build and customize. The A460 has an MSRP of $149.99.

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Fujifilm FinePix A500 – Released in 2006, the Fujifilm FinePix A500 is a blocky little introductory model that can be found easily online for under $150 without too much searching. The A500 comes with a 5.1 MP CCD, 3x optical zoom lens, 12 MB of internal memory, and a small 1.8-inch LCD with anti-glare technology. Unlike the DSC-W35, this camera relies on AA batteries for power. Movie recording for this camera is paltry with a maximum QVGA quality that shoots video clips at 10 fps without audio. The camera has an optional xD-Picture memory card slot and minimal control over manual settings. Considering the obvious shortcomings of this camera in comparison to both the DSC-W35 and the DSC-W55, consumers should be persuaded to shell out a bit more money in return for quality, control, and features - it's a better value in the long run.  

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Kodak EasyShare C743 – This model from Kodak’s popular EasyShare line of point-and-shoot cameras is currently available at a price of $159.99. It has a 1/2.5 inch 7.1 effective MP CCD, a 3x optical zoom, a maximum aperture of f/2.7, and a sizeable 2.4-inch LCD screen. The camera also has a small optical real image viewfinder, 32 MB of internal memory, and a SD/MMC card expansion slot. Manual controls for this camera include a handful of preset white balance options, exposure compensation, and ISO while settings like metering and aperture are fully automatic. A long exposure mode allows users to shoot still images at up to 4 seconds. Additional features for customization include a bracketing feature and flash mode settings. This camera has a number of preset shooting modes, a burst mode and a movie mode that captures footage at 640 x 480 at 30 fps without a memory card. And finally, not to be forgotten, the utter simplicity of Kodak’s photo and printing system should provide the beginning digital photographer with an interface that enables intuitive engagement through to the print.

Who It’s For

Point-and-Shooters – For the point and shoot user unfamiliar or uncomfortable with more complex controls and camera interfaces, the stripped down design, simple external layout, and basic menu structures are sure to be key positive aspects for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35. While auto-control friendly, the DSC-W35 does provide some manual controls for photographers to grow into as they become more comfortable and confident in their shooting abilities.

Budget Consumers – With an initial selling price of $179.99 online through Sony's web outlets, the Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is certainly an appealing option to the budget consumer. The camera is easy-to-use and does have some impressive specs considering the price, but with the quality of construction and materials being questionable saving a few bucks might not be worth it in the long run.

Gadget Freaks – The Sony DSC-W35 lacks the included features like MP3 playback or the overwhelming preset shooting modes of other point-and-shoot cameras made by manufacturers like Samsung and Casio. It’s a straightforward point-and-snap digital camera that isn’t going to impress the gadget freak hunting for unique features like games, playback manipulation, or wireless communication.

Manual Control Freaks – The Sony DSC-W35 does possess some manual controls, but for serious photographers, the limited exposure modes and lack of control over aperture and shutter speed are bound to be setbacks that make this model a non-candidate.

Pros/Serious Hobbyists – There is no reason for the pro or serious hobbyist to consider the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35.

Conclusion

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 combines the sleek looks of more expensive digital cameras with the simplicity and ease of use necessary for the novice photographer. Packed into the slim portable body is a 3x optical zoom with conversion lens capabilities, a 2-inch LCD screen, a basic external interface and function guide information for shooting modes that will embolden the hesitant point-and-shoot camera user.

Shooting modes are limited on this camera when compared to offerings by manufacturers like Casio, but with options like the High Sensitivity mode, consumers will find a unique offering not normally found on lower priced cameras. Shooting at ISO 1000 of course does have its drawbacks, and users should expect to see noisy images starting at ISO levels as low as 400. A movie mode that doesn’t struggle in performance is a great benefit considering the reasonable price of the camera. The camera offers users the option to shoot at 640 x 480 at 30 fps with audio when capturing with an optional proprietary memory card.

Handling a small camera like this can be a hassle though, especially for large-handed individuals, and the lack of grip on the smooth surface made shooting in low temperatures a problem. Other concerns for the camera include construction quality with the body feeling fragile and port covers fitting loosely in place.

But with these detractions considered, it should be emphasized that this sleek little pocket-sized camera is priced at $179.99 MSRP, that is well under the price of the DSC-W30 and with more features to boot. Adding to this low price and polished finish are a High Sensitivity mode and some manual controls in a well-equipped movie mode. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is definitely a contender in the low priced point-and-shoot digital camera.

Specs / Ratings

Specifications

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