Sony DSC-W80 Review

 
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color and hue accuracy with slight oversaturation in bright reds and blues.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Saturation. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 oversaturates the strong red tones, and some blues and purples a little, but the results are still quite pleasing. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The DSC-W80 does render skin tones slightly on the warm side in most cases, but many consumers find slightly warm skin tones more pleasing than cooler ones. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. Here, the DSC-W80 again performs well, though it pushes cyan and magenta tones toward blue and some reds toward orange. Still, very good results. The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting

Warm casts with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. Slightly above average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto WB +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting is quite warm, with shades of pink and yellow in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting, though still somewhat yellow, looks more pleasing overall. Unfortunately, like most Sony compacts of late, there is no Manual white balance setting on the W80, so the Incandescent setting is the best you'll do indoors without post-processing. The DSC-W80 requires +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, a little higher than average for this shot. Skin texture appear quite clay-like in this lighting. Overall color is a bit pink in Auto mode, making the blue flowers look purplish. (Many digital cameras reproduce these flowers with a dark, purplish tint, so the DSC-W80's performance wasn't unusual.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good color and exposure, though slightly high contrast.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 performs pretty well, with only sight overexposure in the outdoor far-field house shot. The Sony W80 requires the average amount of positive exposure compensation on the portrait. Contrast is on the high side and, unfortunately, there's no contrast adjustment to help compensate. The DSC-W80 captures good color outdoors, without too strong of a warm cast. Overall, pretty good results here.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,300 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,300 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,300 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,300 lines per picture height horizontally and vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 1,800 and 1,900 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images overall, though slight edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.

Good definition of high-contrast
elements, though with mild
edge enhancement and evidence
of noise suppression.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
Marti's hair here.

Sharpness. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 captures reasonably sharp images, though with slightly mottled detail. Some edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left, but it's minimal and not uncommon. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows moderate softening due to noise suppression, as the darker areas of Marti's hair show limited detail. Skin is also without detail and quite clay-like. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, but very high noise and strong blurring at ISO 800 and above.

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

Noise levels are low to moderate at the Sony W80's lower sensitivity settings, with much higher noise above ISO 400. Noise pixels are bright at the higher settings, which increasingly throws off the color balance. At ISO 800, the resulting grain pattern eliminates some of the finer details, giving the image a stippled effect. At ISOs 1,600 and especially 3,200, heavy noise reduction obliterates most fine detail, resulting in an image that looks more like a watercolor painting than a photograph. At ISO 3,200 the color balance is so out of whack that there's a strong purple cast.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but slightly high contrast and limited shadow detail. Poor low-light performance.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 produced fairly high contrast with deep shadows under the harsh lighting of the test above. Detail is limited in the shadow areas, with some noise suppression visible. Though the shirt is nearly blown at +0.7 EV, I preferred it to the image at +0.3 EV, whose skin tones were under exposed. Depending on the photographer, you could lean one way or the other, but most W80 owners are going to want to just print an image, and the +0.7 image will produce a better print with little or no tweaking. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

Note: Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
100
Click to see W80LL0103.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0106.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0107.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see W80LL0203.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0205.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0207.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see W80LL0403.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0404.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0405.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0407.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see W80LL0803.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0804.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0805.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0806.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL0807.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
Click to see W80LL1603.JPG
1/10 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL1604.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL1605.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL1606.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL1607.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see W80LL3203.JPG
1/20 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL3204.JPG
1/10 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL3205.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL3206.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.8
Click to see W80LL3207.JPG
1 sec
f2.8

Low light: The Sony DSC-W80 performed poorly on our low light test, mainly because its longest shutter speed is only one second. At ISO 100, images were not bright at any level. At ISO 200, it took one foot-candle of illumination to get a borderline bright image. At 400, it took 1/2 fc, and so on. While reasonably bright, the ISO 3,200 image at 1/16 foot-candle was incredibly noisy with poor detail. The camera's autofocus system worked fairly well, able to focus on the subject down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and well past the darkest light level we test with the AF assist lamp enabled.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Uneven coverage at wide angle. Poor flash range at normal ISO settings.

35mm equivalent 105mm equivalent
Normal Flash, High Intensity Slow-Sync Flash, High Intensity

Coverage. Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle, better at telephoto (but too dim). Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Sony DSC-W80's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting. Using the flash's High Intensity setting helped, but results were still a bit dim. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode fared better, though with a warmer cast.


Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see W80FL06W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL07W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL08W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL09W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL10W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL11W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see W80FL12W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL13W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL14W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL15W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL16W.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.8
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see W80FL06T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL07T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL08T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL09T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL10T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL11T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see W80FL12T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL13T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL14T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL15T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100
Click to see W80FL16T.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.2
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. At ISO 100, the wide angle shot at six feet was reasonably bright, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At full telephoto, flash power was inadequate even at six feet. Sony apparently has decided to rely on its high ISO capability to capture flash shots, as suggested by the results below at ISOs 800 and 500.



Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see W80FL_MFR108WA0800.JPG
10.8 feet
Auto ISO 800
Click to see W80FL_MFR059TA0500.JPG
5.9 feet
Auto ISO 500

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the DSC-W80 seems to perform exactly as Sony says it will at both wide angle and telephoto, producing a good exposure (albeit slightly overexposed at wide angle), at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto. It did, however, have to boost ISO to 800 and 500 respectively to do so, resulting in noisy images.

Note: Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, slightly oversaturated color, good 11x14 inch prints at ISO 100.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 had enough resolution to make decent 11x14 inch prints; 13x19 inch prints were too soft. ISO 200 also handled enlargement to 11x14 well, but ISO 400 was better at 8x10. Shadow detail in particular fell apart at ISO 400, with large blobs of chroma noise in low detail areas, while sharper areas still looked fine. ISO 800 followed a similar line, with more blobby representation of simpler areas, forcing a switch to 5x7 before it wasn't noticeable. ISO 1,600 at 5x7 was soft, but rather like a painting that looks fine at arm's length. 4x6 was better, again producing a usable shot. ISO 3,200 was unfortunately too soft at 4x6, with a purple color shift that combined with the noise to create a purple haze. We recommend avoiding ISO 3,200.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro 9000, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon PIXMA Pro 9000 review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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