Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShotsony_w350_450.jpg

  • 14-Megapixel CCD image sensor 
  • 4x optical zoom lens: 35mm equivalent of 26-105mm
  • Steadyshot Optical Image Stabilization
  • 2.7-inch, 230K pixel LCD screen
  • Sweep Panorama
  • 720p HD video capture
  • Optical Zoom while Recording
  • Face Detection
  • Smart Capture auto mode
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • Memory Stick Pro and SD/SDHC memory card compatible
  • Mulitport output

Pros
  • 4x optical zoom lens available while recording video
  • 26mm wide zoom
  • Excellent image quality from Program or iAuto
  • 720p HD videos
  • Sweep Panorama captures extremely wide and easy panorama images
  • Great performance
  • Awesome price tag of $179 US or less.
Cons
  • Very small, weak flash
  • Very short battery life
  • No separate video recording button
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.0  seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = 3/10 - 6/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 3.00 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 5.00 seconds
  • Burst mode = 0.79fps
Bottom Line
The Sony Cybershot W350 is an excellent entry-level, ultra-compact digicam. Sporting a 14-Megapixel imaging sensor, Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom lens, Sweep Panorama and 720p HD video capture, this tiny camera is loaded with all the features of larger models. 
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for an easy-to-use camera that you can throw in a pocket or purse and take anywhere without it being a distraction. 
Price
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W350 is an entry-level, ultra-compact digicam that is loaded with useful and innovative features. It sports a 14-Megapixel imaging sensor, 4x Carl Zeiss optical zoom lens, Steadyshot optical image stabilization, 720p HD movie capture, Sony's exclusive Sweep Panorama shooting mode and much more. It's fully automatic shooting modes make it incredibly easy to operate, no matter how much photography experience you have. Available in 4 colors (Black, Silver, Blue and Pink), this is a stylish and powerful camera that you can keep handy all the time.

Your best bet shooting with the W350 is to use the camera's iAuto mode. Sony's intelligent auto mode uses features like their iSCN (intelligent scene) and intelligent AF modes to quickly determine the correct scene mode for your current shooting situation and focuses on your subject, all within 3/10 of a second. Face detection and macro shooting are also options in this mode, meaning that you will never have to change your shooting mode.

Shooting with the W350 is very easy with just one hand, but changing the settings will require you to use two. The "pinch" technique is also very easy, and leaves your thumb free for the zoom and changing your settings. Framing and viewing your photos or video is a cinch thanks to the 2.7-inch, 230,000 dot LCD screen. With two levels of brightness and varying amounts of information, you will have no problems finding a setting that will work for you current shooting situation, including direct sunlight.

Performance from the W350 is very good. The camera turns on very quickly, as it is able to capture its first image in just 2.0 seconds. It's shutter lag is less 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and between 3/10 and 6/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus to work. In single shot mode without the flash, the camera has a shot-to-shot delay of approx. 3 seconds or a delay of 5 seconds if you are using the flash. Also featuring a burst shooting mode, the W350 is capable of capturing 10, full sized images in 12.7 seconds. This is a little slow since the buffer fills after the first four images, which slows it down after that. The first four images are captured in just 3.5 seconds (1.14fps). All of our tests were completed using a Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo MagicGate Mark 2 card, Program mode, ISO auto, Flash off, and all other settings at the factory defaults. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

Our outdoor sample shots show that the camera handles exposures very well, and depending on your shooting mode, provides you with very realistic colors. Program mode provided us with the more realistic colors, while the colors in the iAuto shots are far more saturated, which all comes down to your personal preference. Composing our images with the 4x optical zoom lens was a pleasure, especially when capturing landscapes. The 26mm wide end of the zoom allows for vast landscapes, and when combined with the sweep panorama, allows you to capture up to 268 degree images. While the telephoto end is not as impressive, the 35mm equivalent of 105mm gets you a little closer to distant subjects and is great for framing your portrait shots. Besides some barrel distortion and slight chromatic aberrations, the only other big problem that we noticed was the blurring around the barrels of the cannon shots.

Our indoor sample images produced a good exposure without the flash and accurate colors with or without it. The tiny flash unit was not powerful enough to correctly light the scene from just 4-feet away at ISO-80, but the range will dramatically increase as the ISO gets higher. Our sample images stayed sharp and showed low noise levels for each ISO setting up to ISO 800. At 800, the images started to get soft and most of the fine details have disappeared, but could still produce good small prints. For an entry-level model, the W350 controls noise very well with some of lowest amounts of noise that we have seen on a 14-Megapixel camera in this price range. Macro mode also worked very well, keeping a low enough ISO to capture a very detailed image. You will need to be careful when using the flash in Macro mode, as the lens will block the flash, as you can see in our flash-macro sample.

Shooting portraits is very easy no matter if you shooting in iAuto mode or in the Portrait scene mode. Either way, the camera's face detection software works quickly to find any faces within the frame and adjust the exposure for them. Both modes kept the ISO low, and compensated very well for the backlighting from the windows, while producing a natural skin tone and overall realistic colors. We did not see any instance of red-eye as long as we used the red-eye reduction flash. 

The W350's movie capturing capabilities are very good for an entry-level digicam. Featuring 720p HD video capture and SteadyShot optical image stabilization, the camera allows you to capture smooth HD videos with sound anywhere you can take the camera. You will see a little noise in the videos, especially if you are shooting in less than perfect lighting. The camera's 4x optical zoom is available to you while you are recording, allowing for more creative movies. Capturing the sound for your movies is a small microphone built into the camera. This mic is very sensitive and will pick all sounds around the camera, including any background noise that might be present (listen to our pool sample). To help avoid this, be careful where you position yourself and stay out of the wind and away from air conditioners and furnaces if possible. 

Powering the W350 is a 3.6v, 630mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. This battery left us a little short of finishing our tests on a single charge, capturing just 130 images and movies. This is well short of the 240 estimated by Sony. While this battery life is disappointing, the included charger is easy to carry with you and completely charges a battery in about an hour. This will make it easy to carry a spare battery or two for long days or weekends of shooting. 

Bottom Line - The Sony Cybershot W350 is an entry-level, ultra-compact digicam sporting a 14-Megapixel imaging sensor, 4x optical zoom lens, steadyshot optical image stabilization, 720p HD video capture and Sony's Sweep Panorama. It has great overall image quality and performs very well for a camera in its class. With a MSRP of US $179.99, this is an excellent option when price and size are going to be big determining factors.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.