Please excuse the quality of these screen captures. The camera did not come with an AV cable, therefore we had to photograph the display.
The screen in iAuto mode is shown here with information displayed. Pressing upward (DISP.) on the four-way control takes you to a two-item menu, where you can turn off information display. It would be more convenient if one button press simply toggled between the two display modes. There is no third mode with detailed information and a histogram.
Note that beside the aspect ratio indicator, image resolution reads 4M. That's because the flash is set to advanced flash (see icon at top right), which limits the resolution of the file to 4 megapixels. This flash setting can only be selected in iAuto mode.
Also, the bottom left indicator lets you know that the center button on the four-way control will launch tracking focus.
Program mode is shown here with information display turned on. The face detection icon appears at right, and along the top are the usual suspects: battery life, aspect ratio, file resolution, folder, and number of images remaining on card.
Below the Program icon at top right is DRO. This stands for dynamic range optimizer, which automatically adjusts the difference between the light and dark areas of an image. You can turn this off or set it to standard or DRO plus, the strongest setting.
The green light at the bottom left indicates that focus has locked, along with the AF box turned green at the center of the screen. The size and shape of the AF box differs with the focus mode, indicating where focus has been achieved. Due to low light, an anti-shake warning appears in the top center of the screen.
In iAuto mode, you get two choices for automatic scene mode recognition: iSCN and iSCN Plus. If you have selected Intelligent Scene Recognition Plus and the camera detects a Night Scene, Night Portrait, Backlight or Backlight Portrait scene, the camera will change the settings and shoot a second image. To let you know it has done this, the camera turns the iSCN+ icon green.
In iSCN+ mode, if you have the anti-blink feature turned on, and the camera detects that someone in the photo blinked, the image with eyes open is chosen automatically.
The leftward position on the four-way control activates smile shutter, and then the camera takes a picture once a smile is detected, without you having to press the shutter button. In indoor light, I sometimes found the camera had a little difficulty detecting a smile, and I was able to fool it once in a while by opening my mouth wide in a horror film-like grimace.
This function can be adjusted in the menu, though detecting the difference in its ability to detect a big smile versus more subtle smiles was a bit of a challenge. Using the Big Smile setting, I was on the verge of hurting myself trying to get the shutter to trip; I was more comfortable with the other settings. Kids could have fun with this.
This works better when an entire face fits in the frame so that, presumably, face detection is able to more easily recognize the face before judging if they're smiling or not. In very close-up situations, I had a harder time getting smile detection to trip the shutter.
Three focus methods are available via the focus menu. In addition, you can enable and cancel tracking auto focus by pressing the center button on the four-way control. If face detection is turned on, you can select a face as the subject to be tracked
Focus menu options:
- Multi Point AF
- Center Weighted AF
- Spot AF
Interestingly, the face detection feature allows you to optimize for children's or adult's faces.
Face Detection menu:
- Child Priority
- Adult Priority
The camera offers three metering modes, which is enough for beginners to begin playing with varying exposure settings. Keeping it basic, the spot metering mode does not allow you to move the spot; it remains at the center of the frame.
Metering modes menu:
- Multi-pattern metering
You can crank up the light sensitivity from ISO 80 to ISO 3200, though the higher settings exhibited a lot of digital noise in my shots. Even at a modest ISO 500 (selected automatically by the camera) a lot of digital noise was evident. ISO 800 may be tolerable and ISO 1600 definitely pushes the boundaries of usable. ISO 3200 makes a big leap into obvious, unattractive digital noise.
You get a modest number of scene modes with this bargain point-and-shoot camera. There are 11, and most are the usual suspects. But notice that rather than Portrait being the first choice (in fact, it's not even included), the mode is called Soft Skin. This effect can be adjusted to low, medium or high. The effect is quite subtle, and although it made me look increasingly more like a mannequin, the airbrush look was a lot more tasteful than that of some other bargain cameras.
In Soft Snap mode, the camera will take a second picture automatically if it detects that your subject blinked. Not that Soft Snap is intended just for people. Because it blurs the background, creating a shallow depth of field, its a good choice for macro closeups like flowers as well.
Scene mode menu:
- Soft Skin
- Soft Snap
- Night Portrait
- Night Scene
- Night Scene
- High Sensitivity
Like its scene mode selection, the DSC-W730 does not overload you with creative effect choices. In fact, there are just four, and some color adjustments thrown in. For those included, it's a good selection and arguably the most popular amongst artsy effects. I like that the Toy Camera mode allows you to tweak the color hue, though on my wish list would be that the Partial Color mode would allow you to select the color from a subject in the frame rather than rely on four selections.
Picture Effect menu:
- Toy Camera (color hues: normal, cool, warm, green, magenta)
- Pop Color
- Partial Color (includes only extracted color: red, green, blue or yellow)
- Soft High-Key
For the two modes that include additional settings (listed in parentheses above), these are not listed in the same menu as the original selection. You have to navigate back to the left column and down (past the Easy mode position) and make your selection there - in the screen shot above, this is indicated by "Toy Norm".
Though most of the on-screen explanations are helpful, they sometimes include quirky and not entirely helpful language, such as this one for Soft HIgh-Key mode: "shoots warm fresh shots emphasizing the bright areas".
The Easy mode gets very prominent positioning in the menu. You'll be thankful if you wear reading glasses and don't want to carry them while taking photos - that's because Easy mode increases the font size of the on-screen text. But bumping up the text means you'll see less information. On the one hand, it's helpful, but on the other, the on-screen text of this camera is smaller than a lot of others.
The in-camera guide on the DSC-W730 aims to solve a lot of potential problems, leading you through the camera's functions, explaining the icons, and offering possible solutions to problems. The dedicated button on the back panel that launches the help guide in shooting mode doubles as the trash button in playback mode.
Have a hard time remembering the helpful explanation you just looked at? No problem. The History selection lists your six most recent visits to the guide.
The shooting settings, main settings, memory card tool, and clock settings menus are all reached by pressing the menu button, then navigating to a suitcase icon at the bottom of the left-side column. If you are on the record mode position (iAuto, Program, etc.) at the top of this list, you can simply press upward once.
- AF Illuminator: Auto, Off
- Grid Line: On, Off
- Display Resolution: High, Standard
- Digital Zoom: Smart, Precision, Off
- Red Eye Reduction: Auto, On, Off
- Blink Alert: Auto, Off
- Write Date: On, Off
The main settings menu includes four pages of basic camera settings. Here you'll find everything from sound and display settings to computer connection preferences.
Included in these is Download Music, a function that requires PlayMemories Home software on a Windows PC and/or Music Transfer (Windows/Mac). The user manual I downloaded from the Sony website is not clear on where exactly to download these applications (I did not see them listed on the camera's webpage). Though the manual says to use the application bundled with a Mac to play back images, my Mac running OS 10.6 was unable to see the camera. On the PC, however, the camera's driver did download automatically (and the PC described the camera as a "human interface device"). But I was still in need of the software.
Switching to movie mode is easy on this camera. But rather than having a dedicated movie record button like a lot of other cameras, it has a three-position slide switch. In addition to still photos and movie recording, this switch has a middle position for shooting panoramas. To begin movie recording, you press the shutter button.
Video Mode: MP4:9M
- Fine (1,280×720 at 30fps)
- 6M STD (1,280×720 at 30fps)
- 3M VGA (640×480 at 30fps)