Sony DSC-W200 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
Resolution: 12.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7"
Lens: 3.00x zoom
(35-105mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
ISO: 100-6400
Shutter: 1-1/1600
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 in.
(91 x 59 x 27 mm)
Weight: 6.0 oz (170 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $400
Availability: 05/2007
Manufacturer: Sony
12.00
Megapixels
3.00x zoom
1/1.7"
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
Front side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 digital camera Back side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 digital camera Top side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 digital camera Left side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 digital camera Right side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 digital camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 Overview

by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 11/09/07

While not as tiny as models in Sony's T-series, the Sony Cyber-shot W200 is still quite small and pocket-friendly, and boasts an impressive 12.1-megapixel CCD in its small body. Though compact in size, the Sony W200 offers an excellent range of features, 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 Sony W200 is well-suited to a large range of consumers with varying skill-sets.

The Sony W200 has 31 megabytes of internal memory, as well as a large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, all at a reasonable price point (online, that is). The Sony W200's capable 3x optical zoom lens crosses a range equivalent to 35-105mm on a 35mm camera, and features a very bright AF-assist LED lamp for focusing in dark conditions. More experienced users will appreciate the Sony W200's adjustable AF area and range of ISO options (from 100 to 6,400 equivalent settings depending on the shooting mode), as well as the adjustable image sharpness, contrast, and color options.

Also included on the W200 are nine preset shooting modes, which add flexibility in common, yet tricky conditions. Among the standard Twilight, Soft Snap, and Landscape options are also Beach, Snow, Fireworks, and two High Sensitivity modes (High and Extra High, which increase the ISO to a maximum of 6,400). Keep in mind though, that while the higher ISO settings will allow you to capture brighter images under dim lighting, they also result in much higher noise and lower color saturation.

To combat blurring from camera movement during longer exposures, the W200 features Sony's Super Steady Shot mode, a popular carryover from their line of video cameras. You can operate it in single shot or continuous mode. A generous 2.5-inch, color LCD monitor shares the Sony W200's rear panel with only a handful of controls. 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. Suggested retail pricing is $400, but you can find it online for a lot less.

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 User Report

by Stephanie Boozer

Many of the features on the W200 are similar to the standard set of Sony options featured on their vast range of Cyber-shot digital cameras, but a few stand out. For example, a new Home button on the rear panel takes you directly to a main page providing access to all of the camera's settings and modes, such as Image Review and a host of setup options. The W200's menu screens also have a new look, coupled with a hip new beep sound that's more like a video game than a typical digital camera beep. Anyone already familiar with Sony digital cameras will remember the standard menu lineup along the bottom of the screen. On the W200, the menu moves to the left side of the screen, and now features an updated white background, with an orange gradient highlighting the selected option.

Overall, the DSC-W200 is an excellent option for a wide range of users. Its heft feels like quality, its looks are stylish, and its capabilities fit a wide range of users.

Look and feel. Sleek, small, and attractive, the Sony W200 is an eye-catcher with its silver brushed-metal front and shiny silver accents. The Sony W200 is small enough for most pockets at 3.62 x 2.38 x 1.13 inches (91 x 59 x 27 millimeters), and though it's fairly light at 6.1 ounces (173 grams) with the battery, the Cyber-shot W200 feels solid. The camera fit my medium-sized hand quite well, and I could easily shoot one-handed without blocking a flash or sensor on the front panel with my fingers. I could also comfortably make menu changes, operate the zoom, and change modes one-handed, despite the tiny size of the sculpted finger grip on the front panel. With the wrist strap in place for added peace of mind (especially as I was leaning over a bridge railing grabbing marsh shots), the Sony W200 was very comfortable to hold.

Controls are well laid-out on the Sony W200, with just the Power and Shutter buttons on top, and a select few buttons and dials on the rear panel. The notched Mode dial was easy to turn without going too far, as it clicked firmly in place with each setting. When picking the camera up, however, my thumb naturally grabs the mode dial, and it changes modes occasionally.

Dominating the rear panel is the big and bright 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, with a very small optical viewfinder tucked up in the very top left corner. Though small, the optical viewfinder has a fairly high eyepoint for eyeglass wearers. I don't wear glasses myself, but I found that I could still see the full view with the camera a good distance from my eye. While we didn't measure the optical viewfinder for accuracy, the LCD monitor proved quite accurate in our testing, showing about 104% accuracy at wide angle, and about 99% at telephoto. While framing at wide angle is a little loose with the LCD monitor, results are good and much better than what you'd get just from the optical viewfinder.

The Cyber-shot DSC-W200's 3x optical zoom lens offers a range equivalent to 35-105mm on a 35mm camera, fairly standard among digital cameras of this class. Zoom control felt pretty fluid compared to some, though it didn't immediately respond when I let up on the control. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the W200 also offers Sony's 2x Precision Digital Zoom, and as much as 18x Smart Zoom (at the VGA resolution). We've been impressed with Sony's Smart Zoom and Precision Digital Zoom operation in the past, as both attempt to reduce the loss of resolution and image quality that's inherent in digital zooms. I found good results with the Precision Digital Zoom (see images below), though the Smart Zoom was a bit blurry with heavy artifacts. Still, depending on the final image size (for full 18x you're limited to 640 x 480 pixels), results are still pretty good considering the amount of digital enlargement applied.

Interface. Overall, I liked the Sony W200's user interface, despite a minor quibble with the new Home button on the rear panel. I found the control layout comfortable and quick to learn without much more than a quick look at the instruction manual. New on the Sony W200 is the Home button, which takes you to a main access page where you can choose between Shooting, View Images, Printing/Other, Manage Memory, and Settings menu screens, which in turn take you to other menu screens or camera modes. For example, instead of turning a Mode dial to the Playback position or pushing a Playback button, you can alternatively hit the Home button and select "View Images." In all honesty, pressing a Playback button is a little more direct and to the point (and Sony did leave the Playback button intact on the Sony W200), but I did like the idea of accessing the camera settings and modes through a more command-central type of location. It allows faster access to the camera's main setup menus, rather than fishing through the record menus to the Setup option. It's an interesting new feature that attempts to better organize the camera's overall setup screens. My only issue with the Home button is that it did take me a while to remember exactly which settings were accessible there, and which could only be accessed within the mode itself. It also seemed a little redundant, to have a Playback button on the rear panel which lets you in and out of Playback mode, and to have the Shooting and View Images options in the Home menu. Just a minor quibble, like I said, but one that took some getting used to.

The Sony W200 also features a new menu design, more sophisticated in both looks and sound. Instead of the familiar Sony menu lineup on the bottom of the screen, the Sony W200's menu tabs line the left side of the screen, with a white background and modern gray type. The selected option features an orange gradient, slightly trendy, but definitely more interesting to look at than the previous menu design. The new beep sound is modern and musical, with a pleasant house-techno feel, though it does sound a little like a game. On the Four-way navigator, there's a different sound for each direction. You can turn the sound off, but it is refreshing compared to the standard beep sounds that so many devices make these days. I did have a few people peeking over my shoulder with quizzical looks though, intrigued by the sounds.

The Sony W200's LCD monitor has a good selection of display modes, including a grid display, histogram, and two different information overlays. I liked the ability to activate the grid alignment screen, which helps when framing anything with strong vertical or horizontal lines. Though tiny, the Sony W200's histogram display is also useful in determining if an exposure is way over or under. I found that when shooting in very bright conditions, where I could really use the histogram, it was a little difficult to see on the LCD. At least it was useful when shooting indoors.

Modes. When it comes to exposure, the Sony W200 offers an excellent range of options for a consumer-oriented and very compact digital camera. You can choose between full Auto, Program, and Manual exposure modes, or select from nine available preset Scene modes (Landscape, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, High Sensitivity, Extra High Sensitivity, Beach, Snow, or Fireworks). In Manual exposure mode, you can set the shutter speed from 1/1,000 to 30 seconds, and Noise Reduction automatically enables for exposures longer than 1/4 second. You can quickly and easily change the shutter speed and aperture setting while in Manual mode simply by pressing down on the middle button of the Four-way Arrow pad, then using the up and down arrow keys. The LCD monitor reflects the projected exposure, which is also helpful.

Deserving special mention are the High and Extra High Sensitivity modes, which automatically increase the ISO based on the shooting conditions. In Extra High Sensitivity mode, the Sony W200 will crank the ISO as high as 6,400 if necessary, but be prepared for a significant boost in image noise and loss of color saturation. Those issues aside, the W200 is well-equipped for low-light shooting, especially with its available Super Steady Shot mode to help reduce any blurring from longer exposures.

While the Sony W200 does offer the standard Sony complement of image adjustments, such as ISO, white balance, sharpness, contrast, and color modes, it also features a few useful tools to help you get even better exposures. An Auto Exposure Bracketing option is available under the Shooting menu, letting you bracket exposures by either +/- 0.3, 0.7, or 1.0 EV steps. The slightly expanded White Balance menu option offers three fluorescent settings and a flash setting for better color balance under a wider range of artificial lighting. You can adjust the intensity of the flash, as well as put the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash under automatic control or set it to fire with every flash exposure. (If you forget to use the Red-Eye Reduction flash mode, you can always remove red-eye afterwards through the Playback menu.)

The Cyber-shot W200 features a Movie mode for recording short movies with sound at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels, with two quality options at the larger resolution. It also features a Burst continuous shooting mode to capture sharp images of action subjects.

Special Features.

In addition to its range of preset Scene modes, available Super Steady Shot, and increased ISO options, the Cyber-shot DSC-W200 also has improved features such as Sony's Face Detection 2 mechanism, which not only seeks out the faces in the composition for focus, but also optimizes tonal distribution and color for faces in shadow. Face Detection can only be enabled in the Soft Snap preset mode, and appears as an option in the Shooting menu. The DSC-W200 also has an HD output for direct image viewing on high-definition television sets and automatic D-Range optimization, to attempt at better shadow detail in difficult lighting conditions.

The Sony W200's Playback mode is fairly straightforward, with the usual index display and slide show viewing options. However, the Sony W200 features a Retouch mode, that lets you apply Soft Focus, Partial Color, Fisheye Lens, and Cross Filter effects, trim an image or remove red-eye.

Normal Wide Angle
Fisheye Level 1
Fisheye Level 5
Fisheye Level 9

Above are examples of the Fisheye post-capture filter, which lets you distort the image in nine steps. The marsh images above demonstrate the low, middle, and high settings. While you can obviously apply a similar filter post-capture on a computer, I found it amusing to play around with.

Storage and battery. Built into the Cyber-shot W200 is approximately 31MB of internal memory, though the camera also accepts Sony Memory Stick Duo cards. The internal memory will hold about six maximum resolution, high quality images, or about a minute and a half of video at the 640 x 480 Standard movie settings. (You'll need at least a 256MB card for the higher quality video setting.)

For power, the W200 accepts a custom lithium-ion battery, and comes with a charger. Sony estimates that a fully charged battery will provide about 150 minutes, or 300 images of battery life with the LCD enabled, or about 175 minutes and 350 images with the LCD off. In our own tests, the W200 lived up to Sony's expectations. Thus, while battery life is pretty good, we'd still recommend picking up a spare battery and having it freshly-charged and on-hand for extended outings. The camera does not come with an AC adapter, but does have a small slot in the compartment door for a power cord from a "dummy" battery-type AC adapter available as a separate accessory.

Shooting. Overall, my experience with the Cyber-shot DSC-W200 was good. I found camera operation straightforward once I became accustomed to the Home menu setup and basic settings. Outdoors, the LCD was bright enough for framing, but I found it difficult to accurately check my exposure in review mode under bright sunlight. Otherwise, camera operation was quite simple. Just select an exposure mode and go. In Manual mode, you can use the arrow keys to adjust the exposure pretty quickly.

The camera was comfortable in the hand, though its small size made me a little nervous when leaning over a bridge to capture the marsh shots above. Definitely use the wrist strap in situations like that. Shutter response was pretty good at full wide angle, at about 0.56 seconds, but telephoto lag times were a little more average at about 0.87 seconds. Not markedly slow, but I could feel the difference while shooting. However, prefocusing the camera by half-pressing and holding the Shutter button resulted in an exceptionally fast time of only 0.008 second. Impressive. Other camera times were pretty good as well, with fast shot-to-shot cycle times (around two seconds) and the buffer didn't fill up and slow down after 20 shots, which is the limit we test to for buffer capacity. Burst mode times were good at about two frames per second, though the buffer took about three seconds to clear. Still, burst timings are a little better than average, so you'll likely get pretty good shots of wiggly kids.

As I mentioned earlier, I did find it a little difficult to gauge my exposure when shooting under harsh lighting via the LCD monitor (both with the image display and histogram), but I was shooting under extremely bright midday sun. Otherwise, in normal conditions, the viewfinder brightness was adequate, and I liked the available gridline for framing. All in all, shooting with the Cyber-shot DSC-W200 was a pleasant experience, and I felt like I could genuinely focus on the composition at hand rather than worry about turning a lot of dials or changing a lot of settings.

Image quality. The W200 captures good-looking images with vibrant color and pretty good overall exposure. It does push bright reds quite a bit, and may oversaturate them a little more than what many consumers prefer, though a lot of people do like somewhat oversaturated color in a digital camera. In our Still Life test shot, the red tones practically jump out of the image. Still, overall color is good.

ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1,600
ISO 3,200

At ISO 100, image noise is moderate in the shadows, but not overpowering. Some noise suppression is visible, but details are still quite good, holding together well enough for an 11x14-inch print. As you can see in the crops above, image noise definitely increases with each step in sensitivity, but doesn't become overpowering until ISO 800. Though even here, the image doesn't look too bad in an 8x10 inch print, though detail is soft and the finer details almost completely gone. At ISO 1,600, 5x7-inch images were a little soft and noisy, but many consumers might find the results here acceptable. We didn't test the camera at ISO 6,400, but judging by the performance at 3,200, it's a safe bet that image noise would be quite high and strongly interfere with even coarse detail. At 3,200, a 4x6-inch print was still fairly usable, thanks to the 12-megapixel resolution.

Resolution: Excellent, with strong detail
to 2,000 lines horizontal

The Cyber-shot DSC-W200's 12.1-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images, with excellent performance on our resolution test chart. In both horizontal and vertical directions, the W200 captured strong detail all the way out to the 2,000 line mark.

Chromatic Aberration: at Wide Angle:
Very high and bright, top left @ 200%

Something we did notice on the W200 is very high chromatic aberration at full wide angle, showing 20+ pixels of very bright coloration on either side of the target lines. The effect was more muted at telephoto, however. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) At wide angle, the effect is intensified a little by some blurring in the corners of the frame.

We also noticed significant blurring in the corners of the frame in some shots, most notably at full telephoto and in the lower corners. Compared to the center of the frame, the lower corners are quite fuzzy at full telephoto. At wide angle, the difference isn't quite as extreme, but is still noticeable.

Program Mode
ISO 400
1/25s, f/3.2
High Sensitivity Mode
ISO 1,600
1/60s, f/3.2
Extra High Sensitivity
ISO 1,600
1/100s, f/3.2

The three shots above demonstrate the Cyber-shot DSC-W200's low-light shooting capabilities in its normal Program, High Sensitivity, and Extra High Sensitivity modes. The dog is in normal light from a nearby window. The first image (which has Steady Shot disabled), results in blurry details but a fair exposure. Both the High Sensitivity modes select the same ISOs at 1,600, but vary the shutter speed.

Program Mode, Steady Shot Off
ISO 400
1/25s, f/3.2
Program Mode, Steady Shot On
ISO 400
1/15s, f/3.2
Above shot at 100%
Above shot at 100%

In the same series of shots, I also compared the image in normal Program mode with Steady Shot turned off, and then activated Steady Shot. As you can see, results were much better with the Steady Shot enabled, with a fairly low ISO and good sharpness despite the slower 1/15 second exposure time. (Generally, anything less than 1/60 second is difficult to hand-hold without blurring.)

35mm
105mm
2x Precision Digital Zoom
18x Smart Digital Zoom

The shots above demonstrate the Cyber-shot DSC-W200's zoom capabilities. The 2x Precision Digital Zoom actually does a fair job considering the amount of digital enlargement applied here. Details are soft and fuzzy, and a lot of artifacts are visible, but the image would be usable if kept to a small size. The 18x Smart Digital Zoom is only available at the lowest resolution setting, as it is basically a crop from the center of the sensor. Since there is no interpolation with Smart Zoom, detail remains the same as the full sized image above, but with the advantage that exposure is adjusted for the cropped image.

Appraisal. Overall, the Cyber-shot DSC-W200 is an excellent all-around digital camera. It has a lot of flexibility for a range of users, it handles a variety of common-yet difficult exposure scenarios well, and is easy to operate. It's small, stylish, and well-suited in terms of exposure, color, and responsiveness to a range of situations. Exposures under harsh sunlight are a bit contrasty, but the camera does offer a contrast adjustment to counteract that effect. Barrel distortion is high, and corner softness is evident in some cases, but overall lens performance is still good. Resolution is exceptional, and detail is quite strong at normal focal lengths. Throw in Sony's tried-and-true features such as Face Detection and Super Steady Shot, and you have a very capable camera that's compact, portable, and well-priced.

 

Basic Features

  • 12.1-megapixel CCD, delivering image resolutions as large as 4,000 x 3,000 pixels
  • 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera)
  • Variable digital Smart Zoom (up to 18x 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
  • 31MB internal memory
  • Sony Memory Stick Duo slot (no card included)
  • USB 2.0 computer connection
  • Power from one rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, charger included
  • Software for Mac and PC

 

Special Features

  • High Sensitivity, Extra High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Landscape, and Soft Snap modes
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing mode
  • Super Steady Shot mode prevents motion blur
  • Face Detection 2 mode for better focus and exposure on faces
  • Built-in D-Range Optimization to help with high contrast subjects
  • Movie recording mode, with sound
  • Multi-Burst slow motion mode and Burst continuous shooting mode
  • Email (VGA) mode
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,600 to one second, depending on the exposure mode
  • Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/8, 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 two AF modes
  • Auto ISO setting or 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200 ISO equivalents. (Up to 6,400 ISO available in Extra High Sensitivity mode.)
  • White balance (color) adjustment with eight options
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing compatibility

 

In the Box

Included with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 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

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Tiny size, portable and stylish
  • Full manual exposure control, plus full auto mode when you need it
  • Useful range of preset shooting modes
  • Great overall color
  • Large 2.5-inch LCD monitor
  • Face Detection 2 optimizes exposure and focus for faces
  • Super Steady Shot reduces blur for longer exposures and full telephoto shots
  • Generally good overall exposure and performance
  • Wide ISO range from 100 to 6,400
  • High barrel distortion is noticeable in images
  • Fairly strong chromatic aberration
  • Strong oversaturation in reds, may be more than many consumers find pleasing
  • Slightly limited flash range
  • Strong contrast under harsh lighting, camera also dims exposure under bright conditions in standard metering mode

 

The Sony Cyber-shot W200 is definitely worth a closer look if you want a capable digital camera that's also small and pocket-friendly. With a 12.1-megapixel CCD, the Sony W200 captures great detail and resolution, with very good detail definition in most cases. The Sony W200 offers full auto and full manual exposure modes, plus a range of preset scene modes that are actually quite useful. More experienced users will appreciate the range of adjustable image attributes such as white balance, ISO, contrast, sharpness, and color modes, while novices will benefit from the Sony W200's point-and-shoot style auto modes. Despite slight oversaturation in red tones, overall color is quite good. The Sony W200 is responsive under most normal conditions, and its Burst mode is fast enough for normal action shots. All in all, the Sony W200 is a great camera for the price, which makes it a Dave's Pick.

 

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