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Sony DSC-W70 Overview

by Stephanie Boozer
and Dave Etchells
Review posted: 07/13/2006

NOTE: The Sony DSC-W70 is a near-twin (triplet?) of the Sony W30, and Sony W50, which we have also reviewed. The W70 has the larger 2.5-inch LCD display of the W50 (the W30 has a 2.0-inch display), and the W70 also increases the image resolution to 7.2 megapixels, versus the 6.0 megapixels of its lesser siblings. If you've already read the W30 or W50 reviews, you can save yourself some time here, as the functions and menus of the three cameras are virtually identical: Check the parts of this review that refer to specific image-quality and performance issues, to see how the W70's images stacked up.

 

Sony W70 User Report

Thin and ultra-compact, the new Sony DSC-W70 digital camera (and its siblings the W30 and W50 models) updates the Cyber-shot line with convenient portability and fully automatic exposure control in a compact, rugged metal case. The W70 offers the excellent resolution of a 7.2-megapixel CCD and 58 megabytes of internal memory, as well as a large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor and useful range of preset exposure modes. Though the Sony W70 doesn't offer any direct manual exposure control, the camera's extensive LCD menu system does offer quite a bit of creative control with image contrast, sharpness, and color options. The 3x optical zoom lens zooms across a range equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera with a maximum aperture ranging from f//2.8 - f/5.2, and the camera's Macro focus mode gets exceptionally close at just two centimeters. The Sony W70 boasts an extended ISO range, with equivalent settings from 100 to 1,000. While the 800 and 1,000 settings do allow you to capture brighter images under dim lighting, they also bring with them much higher image noise as a consequence. Still, the wide range of ISO settings is a plus for a point-and-shoot digital camera.

Though the LCD monitor dominates the rear panel, Sony managed to keep all the main functions close at hand and fairly easy to operate. Grab the Sony W70 in your right hand and your middle and third finger naturally grab the raised ridge on the front of the camera. The series of raised bumps on the rear panel provides some thumb traction, though I noticed a tendency for my thumb to slide over the Display and Menu buttons. (However, both buttons require a bit of a firm push, so I had no problems with accidentally pressing them.) Conveniently above the thumb rest is the Mode dial, and below it is the Five-way navigator. I did require a two-handed grip to accurately turn the Mode dial, due to its low-profile design. (Dave can manage it with one hand, but I'd be nervous about dropping the camera if I tried to do so.) The camera's Zoom lever encircles the Shutter button, making it easy to quickly adjust zoom while holding the camera in shooting position.

I also liked little interface niceties, such as the "virtual dial" that appears on the LCD screen when you rotate the mode dial. This display (see the screen shot at right) shows the currently-selected option and a brief explanation of what that mode is useful for.

The Sony W70 is a very responsive-feeling camera: Pressing the Power button on top of the body produces a swift reaction: The LCD comes on, the camera chimes, and the lens assembly bursts out of its silo quickly, letting the camera snap its first picture only 1.7 seconds after being turned on. A half-press on the shutter begins the focus operation. In low light, a bright orange LED illuminates the scene when necessary, so low-light focus isn't a worry (at least on nearby objects that can be illuminated by the AF-assist light). The fast Multi-point AF determines the closest object and focuses quickly, showing brackets around the areas that will be in focus. Shutter lag (the delay between pressing the shutter button and the camera taking the picture) is lower than that of most cameras on the market, with a range of 0.28-0.55 second. Everything about the camera feels like quality and performs competently. Included with the camera is a Sony LiIon 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, but the W70's battery life is very good by any standard. The camera's internal 58 megabytes of memory will hold a few shots, but here again, I'd recommend picking up at least a 128-megabyte Memory Stick Duo card, or a Memory Stick PRO Duo card for the Fine quality movie recording mode.

The Sony DSC-W70 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, is uncomplicated to operate, has good battery life, and is compact enough for most pockets or purses. Its ample LCD screen and quality lens should give most users a great experience capturing pictures they'll be proud to display. The one thing I found to complain about in the W30 and W50 was their extremely high image noise at ISO 800 and 1,000. With the W70, the image noise was indeed quite high at those elevated ISO settings, but I think that most consumers would be perfectly satisfied with 5x7 inch prints made from such shots. All in all, the Sony W70 is a fine little camera -- Read on below for a summary of our findings, and check out the other pages of this review for all the details!

 

Basic Features

 

Special Features

 

In the Box

Included with the Sony DSC-W70 digital camera are the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Fast, excellent shutter response, excellent shot to shot speed
  • Fast startup/shutdown time
  • Good color accuracy
  • Very capable movie mode
  • Very fast multi-burst (reduced resolution) mode, great for analyzing golf/tennis swings
  • LCD is usable in very bright light
  • Bright AF-assist light
  • Design is compact but usable, fits the hand well
  • Very good battery life
  • Extremely fast file downloads via high-speed USB 2.0 port
  • Wide range of accessories available, including underwater case, conversion lenses, and filters
  • Macro mode shows significant curvature of field/blurry corners
  • So-so handling of household incandescent lighting
  • A tendency toward slight warm casts in many shots
  • No custom/manual white balance option
  • Slightly limited low-light capability
  • High noise at high sensitivity settings
  • Rather contrasty default tone curve
  • Anti-noise processing trades away a fair bit of subtle subject detail to hold the noise in check at high ISOs

 

Featuring a 7.2-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom lens, and well-designed user interface, the Cyber-shot DSC-W70 updates the popular Cyber-shot line with a thin, compact body style perfectly suited for travel. Exposure remains under automatic control, something novices will appreciate, and its seven preprogrammed scene modes help with more tricky subjects. It's a very responsive camera, with low shutter lag in daylight conditions, and excellent shot to shot speeds. It also sports very good battery life, a very capable movie mode, and excellent download speed. Finally, Sony makes a line of accessory lenses, filters, a slave flash, and even an underwater case for it as well, greatly expanding your options beyond what you'd normal expect from a compact digicam model. The bright 2.5-inch color LCD monitor is excellent for framing and reviewing shots, and the overall design and layout of the W70 is user-friendly and hassle-free. If you're looking for a good "take anywhere" camera with great versatility and good color and tonality, the Sony DSC-W70 deserves a close look. (And if you feel you can get by with a 2.0-inch LCD instead of the 2.5-inch one the W70 sports, and a 6.0 megapixel sensor the Sony DSC-W30 will save you $60-70 at retail.) One advantage that the W70 does offer over its lesser siblings is that its ISO 800 and 1000 settings produce images good enough to make 5x7 inch prints that we think most consumers would be happy with. All in all, a nice little package at an attractive price, making the Sony W70 another Dave's Pick in its category.