Sony DSC-W55 Design
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W55 is the next generation in the Cyber-shot lineup now with 7.2 megapixels in the same thin, compact body as its predecessor the DSC-W50. (See our review of the Sony DSC-W50 for details on the W55's predecessor.) Retained on this new model is the large 2.5 inch color LCD monitor and 3x zoom lens.
As with the DSC-W50 camera, operation is very straightforward. Even without a manual and never having used a Sony camera before, I was up and shooting in no time. This handy little camera will have no problem fitting into a pocket or purse. Its retractable lens makes for a very smooth, sleek camera and the built in lens shutter will keep it from getting dirty. Its body is about as wide as a typical business card, and about a quarter inch taller, top to bottom. Measuring just 3.50 x 2.20 x 0.90 inches (89 x 57 x 23 millimeters) and weighing 5.1 ounces (147 grams) with the batteries and a memory card installed.
The Sony DSC-W55 is quite small, but easy to hold, due to the raised bumps on the back where your thumb goes, and the raised lip on the front. The 3x, 6.3-18.9mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera) is just left of center (when viewed from the back, while holding the camera). The low light focus-assist lamp just to the right of the lens is a bright orange, and will help the camera focus in low light conditions. This lamp also flashes when using the self-timer mode, speeding up just prior to the shot being taken. Located at the top right of the camera front is the flash and next to that is the small optical viewfinder window.
The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) has only the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap. The previous Sony W50 had a more obtrusive eyelet and the previous DC power terminal has been deleted. An (optional) AC adapter can still be used on the W55 though, via a dummy battery attachment that ships with the adapter.
The camera's left side is smooth and featureless.
The camera's top panel includes the Shutter button surrounded by the Zoom lever. To the left of the shutter button is the small Power button, surrounded by a green LED that lights when the camera is powered on. Also on the top panel is a raised grill covering the tiny microphone, on the far left side.
Looking at the Sony DSC-W55 from the back, you can see that the controls are laid out in a logical order and that the back is dominated by the large 2.5 inch color LCD monitor. You can see that it also has an optical viewfinder as well, something you'll appreciate when trying to shoot under strong sunlight, when the LCD screen washes out. There are two LED lamps next to the optical viewfinder that blink to report the status of various functions. The LCD monitor also gives you a good display of information like battery charge, exposure settings and even shutter speed and aperture settings. Even wearing glasses, I was able to use the optical viewfinder in my testing without any problem, but the view through it is rather small, and there's no diopter adjustment to correct for less than perfect eyesight. The mode dial resides in the upper right corner, with the Display and Menu buttons below it. Below the menu button is the Five-way Arrow pad, with small arrows pointing in four directions (Up, Down, Left, and Right) and a set button in the middle. Each serves multiple functions, navigating onscreen menus, scrolling between captured images in Playback mode, or activating different camera functions (Flash, Exposure Compensation, Self-Timer, and Macro). Below this is the Resolution / Erase button. Finally, three tiny holes above the top left corner of the LCD monitor reveal the camera's speaker.
The W55's flat bottom holds the threaded (metal) tripod screw mount and the shared Memory Stick/battery compartment. Depending on the type of tripod used, you may or may not be able to change the battery or memory stick while the camera is mounted on a tripod. Also on the bottom is a connector that accepts the W55's combined USB-A/V cable.
Sony DSC-W55 External Controls
Power Button: Located left of the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on and off. A green LED surrounds the button, and lights when the camera is powered on.
Zoom Lever: Surrounding the Shutter button on top of the camera, this lever controls optical zoom and, when enabled via the Setup menu, Sony's Smart Zoom or Precision Zoom options.
In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of a captured image, which can go as high as 5x. (Very handy for checking focus or the expressions on people's faces in group shots.) Also in Playback mode, the wide-angle end of the button activates the Index Display mode, which displays nine thumbnail images on the screen at one time, making for faster browsing through your captured images.
Shutter Button (see image above): Surrounded by the Zoom lever, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Playback Button: To the right of the optical viewfinder eyepiece on the rear panel, this button enables the camera's Playback mode when pressed. A second press returns the camera to Record mode (as does a half-press of the Shutter button).
Mode Dial : Crowning the top right corner of the rear panel, this ribbed dial sets the camera's operating mode, offering Auto, Program, Movie, Snow, Beach, Landscape, Twilight, Twilight portrait, Soft snap, and High sensitivity modes.
Display Button: Below the Mode dial, this button controls the LCD display, cycling through the image with information display, the image with information and live histogram display, the image with limited information display, and no image display at all (in all Record modes).
In Playback mode, it cycles through a similar series, but does not disable the LCD display.
Another handy feature is that you can brighten or darken the LCD screen by pressing and holding the Display button in either Record or Playback mode.
Menu Button: Just beneath the Display button, this button activates the settings menu in any camera mode. The Menu button also turns off the menu display, as does half-pressing the shutter button.
Five-Way Arrow Pad: Located in the lower right corner of the rear panel, this control features four arrow buttons, each pointing in a different direction (up, down, left, and right), and a Set or OK button in the middle (Sony describes it in the manual by its shape: a dot). In all settings menus, these arrow keys navigate through menu options. Pressing the center of the button confirms selections.
In any record mode (except Movie and Twilight modes), the Up button controls the Flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, Slow-Sync, and Suppressed modes. (Available options vary depending on the mode you're in.) The Right arrow turns the Macro (close-up) mode on and off, and the Left arrow accesses the Exposure Compensation menu. The Down arrow accesses the Self-Timer modes (two- and 10-second options).
In Playback mode, the Right and Left arrows scroll through captured images. When Playback zoom is enabled, all four arrows scroll around within the enlarged view, while pressing the center button returns to the normal, 1x display.
Image Resolution / Erase Button: Lower left of the Five-way Arrow pad, this button displays the available resolutions in any record mode. Choices are 7m(3,072 x 2,304), 3:2(3,072 x 2,048), 5m(2,592 x 1,944), 3m(2,048 x 1,536), 2m(1,632 x 1,224), VGA(640 x 480), 16:9(1,920 x 1,080). Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, and 160 x 112 pixels.
In Playback mode, this button lets you erase the currently displayed image.