Sony DSC-W50 Review

 
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Sony DSC-W50 Design

The Sony DSC-W50 is compact, stylish, and ready to go anywhere, with a very thin body style that's quite at home in shirt pockets and small purses. Its silvery body is about as wide as a typical business card, and about a quarter inch taller, top to bottom. Measuring just 3.62 x 2.37 x 0.91 inches (90 x 59 x 23 millimeters) and weighing 5.4 ounces (153 grams) with the batteries and a memory card installed, the Sony W50 is quite thin and light weight. When not in use, the telescoping zoom lens retracts neatly inside the body, and a small plastic leaf shutter automatically closes over the lens to protect it. Outfitted with the accompanying wrist strap, it's quick on the draw and easy to hold.

Despite its small size, the Sony W50 has just enough room for a good grip up front and one small spot for your thumb on the back. 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), with a small and very bright orange lamp on the upper right of it, to help with focusing in low-light conditions. (This lamp also blinks less brightly when the self-timer is in use, flashing faster to let you know when the camera is about to snap the picture.) The flash crowns the top right corner, and a tiny window for the optical viewfinder is upper left of the lens.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) has a small plastic door that opens to reveal the DC In terminal. Also on this side of the camera is the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

The left side is smooth and featureless.

The camera's top panel includes the Shutter button surrounded by the Zoom lever. To the left 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.

The Sony W50's rear panel holds the remaining camera controls and function buttons, along with a bright 2.5-inch color LCD monitor for previewing and playing back images, and the optical viewfinder window. The LCD display reports a variety of camera and exposure settings, including the aperture and shutter speed settings (a nice bonus for those interested in how the camera will expose the image) and a battery gauge. The optical viewfinder is located above the LCD monitor, and has two LED lamps along the right edge of the window, each of which reports the current status of various camera functions. The optical viewfinder has no dioptric adjustment, but eyeglass wearers will be pleased with the fairly high "eyepoint," allowing a little room for an eyeglass lens between the camera body and your eye. Right of the eyepiece is the Playback button. The camera's Mode dial is in the upper right corner, conveniently located right above a set of raised bumps for better thumb traction when holding the camera. Below the Mode dial are the Display and Menu buttons, and a 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). Finally, three tiny holes above the top left corner of the LCD monitor reveal the camera's speaker.

The W50's flat bottom holds the threaded (metal) tripod screw mount, the custom USB/AV Out jack, and the shared Memory Stick / battery compartment. While most users of the W50 probably won't care, it is impossible to change the batteries while the camera is mounted on a tripod.

 

Sony DSC-W50 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, High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight portrait, Snow, Beach, Landscape, Soft snap, and Movie 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.


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.


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 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, the Up button controls the Flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, Slow-Sync, and Suppressed modes. 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 6M (2,816 x 2,112), 3:2 (2,816 x 1,872), 3M (2,048 x 1,536), 2M (1,632 x 1,224), VGA (640 x 480), and 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.

 

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