Sony W100 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review posted: 05/31/2006
Maintaining a small size, the new Sony W100 digital camera updates the Cyber-shot line with an impressive 8.1-megapixel CCD. Though compact in size, the W100 definitely doesn't skimp on features. It offers the best of both worlds, with full automatic exposure control and preset scene modes for novices, as well as the bonus of a full manual exposure control mode for more experienced users. Thus, the W100 should find its way into the pockets of a varied array of consumers. The Sony W100 also has 64 megabytes of internal memory, as well as a large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, all at a very low price point. The camera's capable 3x optical zoom lens crosses a range equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera, and features a very bright AF assist LED lamp for focusing in dark conditions. I also appreciated the well-rounded selection of creative tools, such as image sharpness, contrast, and color adjustments. The Sony W100 has a very wide ISO range, with equivalent settings from 80 to 1,250. (While the 800 and 1,250 settings allow you to capture images under dim lighting, they also result in much higher noise and lower color saturation.)
The generous 2.5-inch LCD monitor dominates the Sony W100's rear panel. The display is clear and bright, and an exceptional tool for framing images. Though real estate is limited on the rear panel, Sony managed to keep all the main functions close at hand and fairly easy to operate. Grab the camera in your right hand and your fingers naturally cling to the camera's textured front panel. There isn't much for your thumb to really stick to on the opposite side. My thumb did manage to rest against the Display and Menu buttons, though both require a firm press and are somewhat difficult to accidentally actuate. I'd advise keeping the wrist strap securely around your wrist, though, just in case. Within thumb's reach is the Mode dial, and below that is the Five-way navigator. I found I could easily turn the Mode dial with my right index finger without resorting to a two-handed grip, thanks to the notched surface on the outside edge of the dial. The Sony W100 is a little thicker than most of the cameras in the line, so it's a lot easier to hold. The camera's Zoom lever encircles the Shutter button, making it easy to quickly adjust zoom while holding the camera in shooting position.
Press the Sony W100's Power button and the LCD comes on, the camera chimes, and the lens bursts out from the front of the camera very quickly. A half-press on the shutter begins the focus operation. In low light, a bright orange LED illuminates the scene when necessary. The fast Multi-point AF determines the closest object and focuses quickly, showing brackets around the areas that will be in focus. Included with the camera is a Sony Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack and charger, which has a pretty good battery life. I still suggest purchasing a backup battery pack, and keeping it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings. The Sony W100's internal 64 megabytes of memory will hold a few full-resolution shots, but here again, I'd recommend picking up at least a 256-megabyte Memory Stick Duo card, or a Memory Stick PRO Duo card for the Fine quality movie recording mode.
While two of the doors on the Sony W100 are not remarkable (the DC IN and battery/card doors), the door to the multi-connector seems pretty sturdy, opening and closing with a snap. An optional AC adapter can power the W100 through the DC IN port, but the battery pack must be charged in the supplied external charger.
The optical viewfinder on the W100 is terribly inaccurate, as expected, but its position on the camera means you can look through it without having to mash your nose against the LCD, a major plus in our book.
Overall build is quite solid and the Sony W100's metal case is very attractive. It has a modern, yet retro sensibility, somehow, and manages to look quite small despite its thickness and height.
The Sony DSC-W100 is an impressive offering, much like the rest of the W-series in the Cyber-shot line. It is handsomely constructed, with a feel of quality, and is uncomplicated to operate. With its high-resolution 8.1-megapixel CCD, large LCD monitor, and very accommodating exposure offerings, the DSC-W100 is definitely a winner in several categories. Read on for more details.
- 8.1-megapixel CCD.
- 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera).
- Variable digital Smart Zoom (up to 15x at VGA resolution), plus 2x Precision Digital zoom.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- 2.5-inch color LCD monitor.
- Automatic, Program, and Manual exposure modes.
- Built-in flash with five modes and an intensity adjustment.
- 64MB internal memory.
- Sony Memory Stick Duo slot (no card included).
- USB 2.0 computer connection.
- Power from one rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack, charger included.
- Software for Mac and PC.
- High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Beach, Landscape, and Soft Snap modes.
- Movie recording mode, with sound.
- Multi-Burst slow motion mode and Burst continuous shooting mode.
- Email (VGA) mode.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 1/8 second in Auto mode; 1/2,000 to one second in Program mode, and 1/1,000 to 30 seconds in Manual mode.
- Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/10, depending on zoom position.
- Creative Color Mode menu.
- Image Sharpness and Contrast adjustments.
- Self-timer for delayed shutter release.
- Macro (close-up) lens adjustment.
- Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi-Metering modes.
- Adjustable AF area and three AF modes.
- Auto ISO setting or 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,250 ISO equivalents.
- White balance (color) adjustment with six options.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing compatibility.
In the Box
Included with the Sony W100 digital camera are the following items:
- Wrist strap.
- Rechargeable battery pack with charger.
- AV/USB multi-connector cable.
- Software CD containing Sony Cyber-shot software and USB drivers.
- Quick-guide manuals and registration information.
- Extra battery pack.
- Large capacity Memory Stick Duo or Memory Stick PRO Duo.
- Carrying case.
Featuring an impressive 8.1-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom lens, and a well-designed user interface, the Cyber-shot DSC-W100 offers quite a bit in its small package. Novices and advanced amateurs alike will appreciate its offering of both point-and-shoot automatic and full manual exposure control, and its six pre-programmed scene modes help with more tricky subjects. The large, bright 2.5-inch color LCD monitor is excellent for framing and reviewing shots, and the overall design and layout of the DSC-W100 is user-friendly and hassle-free. Dimensionally it's not too small and not too big, not too slim or too fat. Its size allows for both an optical viewfinder and a big LCD, as well as a good fit in the hand and pocket. We were particularly impressed with the printed output from the W100, which included enlargements up to 13x19 with decent quality, and 8x10 prints at ISO 800. Performance at ISO 400 is now quite good by comparison, with output at 11x14 looking like yesterday's 8x10s at this size. If you're looking for a good "take anywhere" camera with great versatility and good color and tonality, the Sony DSC-W100 deserves a close look -- especially considering its high resolution CCD and low price point. The Sony W100 is a clear Dave's Pick.