Sony DSC-W230 Review
By Mike Flacy
One of several "W" series models for 2009, the Cyber-shot DSC-W230 is the 2009 replacement of the DSC-W130 from last year. This new model carries over all of the features users have come to love and expect from Sony, including a 4x Carl Zeiss optical zoom lens with SteadyShot image stabilization, smile shutter and face detection technologies, VGA sized movie mode, etc. The W230 also offers 12-megapixels of resolution and a 3.0-inch LCD with 230k pixels of resolution, al packaged inside a durable and compact metal body.
Overall, the W230 is a well designed camera. While it's not quite as small as the DSC-T90, I still consider this a pocketable or "ultra-compact" digicam. The W230 can be sued with one or two hands, and the controls are laid our in a comfortable manner. Even with my large hands, I was still able to shoot video and stills one-handed without any problems, and the controls fell right under the thumb and finger tips or my right hand. The 3.0-inch LCD is a welcomed addition over the 2.5-inch display found on its predecessor, however it comes at the sacrifice of the optical viewfinder. This new LCD offers more resolution than the W130's, with 230,400 pixels. Overall I found the screen worked well in most lighting conditions, including bright sunlight. However, it's Very prone to collecting fingerprints; you'll find yourself wiping it off often. The Menu system hasn't change much at all when compared to past "W" models, so users who are upgrading will be right at home. For those of you who are purchasing a Sony digicam for the first time, you will find that the menus are relatively easy to navigate.
The W230's shooting performance results were great for a camera in this price range. I was able to capture my first image just 2.3 seconds after pressing the power button. The shutter delay, the time it takes for the camera to capture an image after pressing the shutter release, was almost instantaneous when the camera was pre-focused and only 2-3/10 of a second including autofocus; this is much improved from the 7/10 lag found with the W130. In single shot mode the shot to shot delay averaged 1.8 between frames without the flash, and about 2-2.5 seconds with the flash. The camera also features a continuous shooting mode that Sony claims can capture images at 1.8fps for up to 100 frames. During our testing, the burst performance of the W230 was not up to par when trying to capture more than 5 frames in a row. I was able to capture the first 4 frames in a burst sequence in only 1.5 seconds (2.6fps), however the camera showed a drastic slowed down to capturing images at about only 1fps. At first this surpassed Sony's claim, but when we took in to account the slow down, the camera ended up having an average rate of 1.25fps when shooting 10 frames or more. This is a bit disappointing, and I'm not sure what the issue is. All of our tests were completed using a 1GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo memory card, Auto mode, ISO Auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality is only average for a 12-megapixel consumer model, and not quite what I would have expected from a Sony camera. While the camera does capture excellent exposure and pleasing colors, there is a good amount of softness to the photos, and I saw above average amount of noise and CA (aka purple fringing) throughout our outdoor photos. While most of this has to be seen when viewing an image at 75 - 100%, it is possible that you would see traces in larger prints. However, while the W230 didn't impress me outdoors, the camera did well when shooting indoor people photos. I did see a good amount of Red-eye, which is typical for cameras in this category, however like other Sony models, the W230 offers an effective Red-eye Correction feature in the Playback menu. The power for the built-in flash also surprised me. Sony claims it can cover up to 12.8 feet at wide angle using ISO Auto. As you can see by our M&M man flash photo, the W230 can properly illuminate a subject from 6 or so feet away, even when using the lowest ISO setting (100) and the telephoto end of the zoom range. Like we've mentioned on past Sony reviews, the W230 has a very effective Face Detection and Smile Shutter feature. In fact, I would likely not captured our sample close-up portraits if it were not for these two modes working together. My subject would either close her eyes, or make a silly face faster than I could press the shutter release. With Smile Shutter enabled, I was able to get several "keepers", as the camera almost fires instantly when it detects your subject smiling.
The W230 is one of the 2009 Sony models that did not receive their new 720p HD video mode. It does however still offer their high-quality VGA Motion JPEG (.MPG) video mode that allows you to record video at either 640x480 or 320x240. The majority of our movie sample were good, however I did have a few issues with the exposure system. On a couple of our videos, there is vertical banding present in areas where there was extreme contrast, which pretty much ruins the video all together. You can see an example of the banding on our Samples page.
Powering the W230 is same 3.6V, 960 mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery pack used on Many of Sony's "W" series models. Sony claims you can capture up to 350 stills on a single charge. I was able to capture over 135 images, and several short movie clips before having to toss the pack into the charger. This also included all of our other testing, with longer periods of operation while navigating and recording the menu screens, etc. While battery life is pretty good for a camera of this size, I still highly recommend you add a second pack to your purchase, especially if you plan on taking an extended vacation.
Bottom Line - the W230 is a decent 12-megapixel ultra-compact model. While it offers many appealing features like speedy performance and a durable and stylish shell, the image quality results lower our recommendation of this model. With a street price of about US$199 or less, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W230 offer an Ok value for the features and performance you are receiving.
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