Sony DSC-W150 Review

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

Steve's Conclusion

Sony has released several W-series models for 2008, including the DSC-W120, DSC- W130, DSC-W170, and the DSC-W150. The W150 and W170 models are almost identical, with resolution being the only major difference between the two.

While the Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is not the "top of the line model", it offers almost the same features with a bit less resolution. Offering 8-megapixels, a 5x optical zoom lens, 2.7-inch LCD, Super SteadyShot, Face detection, and iSCN technologies, the W150 is no slouch. This is an easy to use point-n-shoot model that can be used by just about anyone, regardless of their experience with digital cameras.

What we consider an ultra-compact, the W150 offers a nice comfortable feel in your hands, and the metal exterior seems to be pretty tuff. Like we found with the W120, the ergonomics are great, for the most part. The orientation of the shutter release and zoom controls are good, however, I found some of the buttons are a bit too small, like the Playback, Slideshow, Menu, and Home buttons. If I did not pay attention and use the very tip of my fingers, I would sometimes press both the button and part of the 4-way controller at the same time. However, this is a minor concern, and once I got use to it, didn't cause many problems. The 2.7-inch "Clear Photo II" LCD was a pleasure to use both indoors and out. The only issues I found were when shooting outdoors, it could benefit from a non-glare coating, and the screen is very prone to finger prints; you'll need to wipe it clean often. This display offers a nice view for framing (with 100% coverage), and because of the larger size, the font size and icons are very legible.

A feature that is not seen to often on cameras this size, is the eye-level, zoom-coupled optical viewfinder. Many manufacturers are sparing this useful tool to accommodate these large LCDs. I really don't see this viewfinder being of much use though. While these type of viewfinders are helpful when following fast moving objects in burst mode or when wanting to conserve precious battery life, the size of the unit on the W150 is very small. I had a hard time looking through it as the eye piece is so tiny. Also, it only covers approx. 80-85% of the captured image, so you'll always capture more than you see.

The W150 is a robust performer. Power up to first image captured measured 2.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the time between depressing the shutter release and capturing an image, was almost instantaneous when pre-focused and between 2 - 6/10 second including autofocus time, depending on the amount of focus change required. The shot to shot delay measured a fast 1.4 seconds between frames without the flash and between 3 and 4 seconds using the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life.

Burst mode was also impressive. I was able to capture 10 full resolution (8M) images in 4.2 seconds, about 2.3fps, which soared by Sony's claim of 1.6fps. The LCD only briefly displays the last captured image between shots; this is when the optical viewfinder comes in handy. Switching to playback mode took about a second. One thing I would like to note is, when you first put the battery back in the W150 after charging, it takes about 6 - 7 seconds for the camera to power up and snap the first shot. However this is only the first time you put a freshly charged pack in. Our tests were done using a Sony 1GB Memory Stick PRO Duo card, 8M quality, Program mode, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

As with past models, the W150's overall image quality is good. I saw very little edge softness in our outdoor photos, and it seems the AE (Auto Exposure) system does well with sky detail (not over exposing the sky, leaving nice looking clouds.) I did see some small traces of noise in lower contrast areas when viewing images at 100%, even at ISO 80. However, this is something you will not likely see in your typical 4x6 or 8x10-inch prints. Colors are more natural looking (which I prefer), not as vivid as some manufactures models.

The 5x optical zoom lens on this camera offers a great deal of versatility in composing your shots over the typical 3x zoom found on so many ultra-compacts. It covers a 35mm equivalent range of 30 - 150mm, giving you a bit wider view for scenic shooting, as well as more telephoto magnification to get you a bit closer to the subject. I noticed the lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at the wide angle end, and there were also several traces of purple fringing in many of our outdoor shots.

Like we saw on the W120 earlier this year, the W150 includes Sony's new "Smile Shutter" mode. Like a self- timer, Smile Shutter does not allow the camera to fire until the subject or subjects within the frame are smiling. You simply press the shutter release, and the camera takes care of the rest. It will then capture up to 6 photos automatically, firing when it senses one of the subjects within the frame smiling. This is a really "neat" addition, and I found it worked quite well, especially when trying to snap pics of people who always cover up their face and hide; like a sneak attack. This, along with the Face detection system help make the W150 a great for taking people photos. The Face Detect AF system can find and lock onto a subjects faces quickly, and the addition of smile shutter insures you'll get nice big smiles.

When shooting in marginal lighting (like indoors), you will have to work with the low power of the tiny built- in flash. Sony claims a typical range of up to 13 feet at wide angle using ISO Auto. I achieved the best results when shooting from about 5-7 feet away, using the zoom to help fill the frame with my subjects face. I did find that there was quite a bit of red-eye, especially with small children, even using the Auto Red Eye Reduction feature. However, you can quickly fix that in-camera using the Red Eye Correction option in the Retouch menu or spend a few minutes on your PC.

The W150 offers the same movie or video mode that we have seen on Cyber-shot models for some time now. You can capture high-quality MPEG 640x480 "VX" Fine video at 30fps, 640x480 Standard (16.6fps) or 320x240 (8fps). Like most digicams that record audio in movie mode, the optical zoom may not be used while recording, but can be preset before hand. When using 640x480 "VX" Fine mode, a Memory Stick Duo Pro card is required. Video quality is average for a consumer model. I found the built-in mic did pick up a slight breeze quite easily. I was surprised that out indoor movies didn't get "too" grainy. There was visible noise in the clips, but not as much as you would usually see from a compact camera.

Battery Life was good. The small, but powerful NP-BG1 3.6V 960 mAh Lithium-ion battery pack allowed me to capture about 151 samples (including several movie clips) as well as complete many of our other test before having to recharge; this was with extensive use of the playback feature too. Sony claims this pack can power the W150 for up to 400 images with the LCD on. We weren't able to get that many, but all in all, I was happy with its performance.

Bottom line - the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is a well rounded ultra-compact digicam. With loads of useful exposure modes and in-camera editing options, the W150 can be used and enjoyed by everyone, whether at home or the office. This model has the ability to capture very nice images with little fuss, and it can take them quickly too, with above average shooting performance. That said, I feel the DSC-W150 is an appealing model for 2008, and with four colors choices (Red, Gold, Black, Silver) and a street price of $249 or less, I have no problem giving it a high recommendation for anyone who is in search of a camera in this category.

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