Sony DSC-WX5 Review
|Full model name:||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
|Extended ISO:||125 - 3200|
|Shutter:||1/1600 - 2 seconds|
3.6 x 2.0 x 0.8 in.
(92 x 52 x 22 mm)
|Full specs:||Sony DSC-WX5 specifications|
3.5 out of 5.0
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 Overview
Review by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
with Overview by Mike Tomkins
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 digital camera replaces the company's previous WX1 model, and is based around a 1/2.3"-type 12.2 effective megapixel backside illuminated Sony Exmor R CMOS image sensor with RGB color filter array, coupled to a Sony G-branded 5x optical zoom lens. The Sony WX5's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 24mm wide angle to a moderate 120mm telephoto (or 26 - 130mm in 16:9 aspect ratio mode). The camera can capture 4:3 aspect ratio images at up to 4,000 x 3,000 pixel resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio images at up to 4,000 x 2,248 pixels, or 60 fields-per-second video at 1080i (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution or below with Dolby Digital stereo audio, using AVCHD compression.
On the rear panel of the Sony Cyber-shot WX5 is a 2.8-inch, 4:3 aspect ratio Clear Photo LCD Plus panel with 100% coverage, and a resolution of 460,800 dots. This display serves as the only method of framing and reviewing images, given that the Sony WX5 doesn't feature an optical viewfinder. The Sony DSC-WX5 has a 9-point autofocus system, and does include a face detection system, capable of detecting up to eight faces in a scene and differentiating between children and adults. This capability is used to provide a Smile Shutter function that automatically triggers the shutter when your subject is smiling, as well as both anti-blink and blink-warning features.
The WX5's Intelligent Sweep Panorama function works similarly to the older Sweep Panorama, in that a series of photographs are captured and stitched automatically by sweeping the lens across the scene, but analyzes frame content when capturing and stitching images, avoiding chopping up larger moving subjects. The function allows automatic creation of 295-, 203-, 202-, or 142-degree panoramas in-camera. In addition, the WX5 also includes Sony's latest 3D Sweep Panorama function, which uses some clever mathematics to recreate a 3D image from a single lens, saving the result as a multi-picture object file that contains two separate JPEG images, one for each eye. The result can be viewed on the latest 3D-capable Sony Bravia displays. 3D Sweep panoramas can cover the same field of view as Intelligent Sweep panoramas, as well as an additional 79-degree option. The Sweep Multi Angle function is only available at 16:9 size, and allows viewing the image with a 3D effect on the camera's 2D LCD display, by changing the display perspective as the camera is rocked from side to side. (The same clever user interface trick is used to cycle backwards or forwards through a group of high-speed burst images).
The Backlight Correction HDR mode is something we've seen in certain of Sony's previous Alpha digital SLRs and Cyber-shot compacts. The camera captures several images with varying exposure, and then automatically combines them into a single image with increased dynamic range. The new Superior Auto function automatically detects the scene type, and then captures anywhere from one to six shots. The result for multi-frame shots is automatically combined in-camera, with the aim of either correcting backlit shots, or reducing noise levels. Because of its multi-shot methodology, Superior Auto shooting is only suited to relatively static scenes. For moving subjects, Intelligent Auto is still available.
Another new option is Background Defocus, which works by shooting two images with varied focus, the second shot being intentionally somewhat defocused. The two images are compared, and a depth map created by considering areas of significantly differing sharpness in the two frames to be the main subject. This map is then used to blur the background areas, to create an image with a shallow depth-of-field effect reminiscent of those from DSLRs. The Natural Flash function aims to reduce the warm color cast that can appear in the background of flash photos, while Soft Skin mode works in concert with the face detection feature to soften only facial skin tones. Tracking focus, as the name would suggest, allows moving subjects to be tracked around the frame.
The Sony WX5 digital camera began shipping in the US market from September 2010, priced at around US$300.
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 User Report
by Mike Pasini
Seems like camera shopping has never been more confusing.
On the one hand--well, right in your one hand--there's your cellphone. It takes decent snapshots and even HD movies. Even more importantly, it's always with you. And like me, you've probably found your email stuffed with cellphone snapshots, almost as if digicams and dSLRs are extinct. So if it's good enough to share, it's good enough.
On the other hand there are those high-end baby pictures and soccer star shots with the subject captured in sharp contrast to a nicely blurred background. Stuff you can only get with a real camera. But real cameras these days also take HD movies. So do you really need a camcorder any more?
And just to make it even more fun, there's the budget. Which, let's just say, hasn't been growing lately.
But life is short and procrastination is just the album of shots you never took. So Sony is trying to make the big decision a little easier--and a lot more fun.
The Sony Cyber-shot WX5 is one approach, offering better quality stills and video than your cellphone, more convenient HD video than a dSLR and, in between, some fancy but friendly features that distinguish it from everything else.
Those features--which rely on gestures like sweeping across a scene, and tricks like post-processing of multiple exposures--are something neither cellphones nor most dSLRs indulge in. They give the Sony WX5 an unusual approach to the ordinary snapshot.
And that's why the Sony WX5 is worth a closer look.
Look and Feel. The Sony WX5 is small but thick. The thickness is disguised by the camera's two-tone body, the black or silver front mating to the piano black back partway through the large Shutter button. It isn't heavy, but it isn't so light you won't know you're holding it. In your shirt pocket, you'll know it's there too, but your collar won't be pulled out of shape.
There's no grip on the Sony WX5, but the raised lettering on the front helps, and the big Mode dial on the back doesn't at all mind supporting your thumb. Good thing, too, because the large LCD doesn't leave room there for a thumb rest. In fact, Sony's done a remarkable job making the WX5 holdable without endangering any settings.
The included wrist strap really isn't optional. It's like an ankle leash on your surfboard. Sure, you can go out there without one, but it sure comes in handy.
Controls. Controls resemble the standard set (whatever functions are assigned to them) plus a couple of special buttons.
On the top panel, the Power button is small and recessed. I just hate that. It takes a search party to find the thing before you can power on the camera and it takes a reconnaissance mission to get back there to turn it off.
To the right is the big Shutter button surrounded by the Zoom lever. These are a very nice pair of controls with a light touch. The Sony WX5's Zoom lever isn't too fast to crop your composition and it's smooth enough to do it precisely.
Further to the right is one of the special buttons, at least as far as inexpensive digicams go. It's the Burst button, which toggles between Single and Burst (or Continuous) shooting modes. And no wonder Sony made a button for Burst mode. The Sony WX5 can shoot up to 10 frames per second with options to shoot 5 fps and 2 fps as well.
Slip down the right side of the Sony WX5 and a large door flips open easily to reveal the HDMI connector. That's a real blessing after all the multi-function octopus cables Sony has used in the past.
If you're looking for the USB connection, keep sliding down and around to the bottom panel where you'll find it taking up one corner of the battery/card compartment door. That's a pretty convenient spot and doesn't need a small, unwieldy door to protect it. At the other end of the Sony WX5's bottom panel is the metal tripod socket, well away from the battery and card door, so you can leave your Joby Gorillapod attached when you swap either out.
On the back panel with the 2.8-inch, 460K-dot LCD are two large dials and four buttons.
At the very top of the Sony WX5's control panel is a red Movie button. You can't miss it; Sony has prominently labeled it HOLLYWOOD--I mean, MOVIE. Press it once to start video capture and again to stop it anytime the Sony WX5 is in Record mode.
Under that is the Mode dial with settings for the familiar Program Auto, Scene Selection, and Movie Mode, but also settings for Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Background Defocus, iSweep Panorama, and 3D Shooting. Those are some intriguing options detailed in the Modes section below but they should indicate how serious Sony is about letting you leave a lot of the work to the WX5.
The Playback button sits just under and to the left of the Mode dial.
The Sony WX5's four-way navigator with an unmarked OK button in the middle uses the Up arrow for Display options, the Right arrow for Flash options, the Down arrow for Timer options, and the Left arrow for Smile Shutter. Again these are mostly familiar controls--but with a twist: Sony isn't burying its handy Smile Shutter feature.
Below the navigator is the Menu button to the left and the Delete button to the right.
Lens. The Sony WX5 sports a telescoping 5x optical Sony G lens, which consists of six elements in five groups including five aspheric elements.
At wide-angle, the Sony WX5's Macro mode focuses as close as 0.16 inch and at telephoto as close as 2.95 inches.
The two-step aperture relies on a neutral density filter to select from f/2.4 or f/7.1 at wide-angle, and f/5.9 or f/18 at telephoto.
The Sony WX5's 5x optical zoom has a range of 24mm to 120mm for stills and 28mm to 140mm for 16:9 video or 34mm to 170mm for 4:3 video. With Precision Digital Zoom, total zoom reaches 10x. With Smart Zoom, an 8-megapixel image size can reach 6.1x.
Sony's optical SteadyShot image stabilization uses a built-in gyro sensor to detect camera shake and automatically compensates to help prevent blur without sacrificing image quality.
Modes. Cellphones aren't very smart when it comes to photography. And, in fact, not many inexpensive digicams are either. While more expensive dSLRs tend to turn up their noses at things like Scene modes, smaller mirrorless cameras go the other way, even dabbling in artistic modes.
Sony has cut a different path through these woods, providing a handful of unusual but useful modes. Unlike Scene modes, they aren't impossible to remember. And that's because once you try them, you really want to use them again. You fall in love with them.
They know the quickest way to a photographer's heart is through the photographer's eyes. So they make it simple, even fun, to create unusual images from ordinary scenes and ordinary images from unusual scenes.
This, in short, is what the Sony WX5 can do.
Intelligent Auto recognizes eight situations and optimizes the camera settings for each of them. The trick is to do this quickly. And the Sony WX5's Bionz image processor that can capture 10 fps is what makes quick Scene recognition possible (and it was quick). The scenes recognized are Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod, Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Landscape, Macro, and Portrait. Once recognized, the Sony WX5 displays the Scene's icon and, optionally, the guide on the LCD.
Superior Auto captures still images with higher quality than Intelligent Auto--but it isn't that simple, naturally. The Sony WX5 recognizes the Scene just as it does in Intelligent Auto but it then takes a series of images. It then creates a composite of the burst images, building a higher-quality image than one of them alone could. In that, it's a little like HDR (High Dynamic Range). Although it seemed smarter about discarded images that didn't quite line up, as when the subject moves. In addition, the Sony WX5 is tied up a few seconds (but not long) while the composite is created. So this isn't for sports or following the action at a baby shower.
Background Defocus addresses the effect digicam owners most envy of their dSLR colleagues. It's that nice blurred background that helps the sharply-focused subject stand out. The laws of physics apply to Sony too, so the effect is not always achievable. If the setting is either too dark or too bright, the answer is no. If the subject is moving, no. If the subject is too far from the camera (about three feet is ideal), no. If the subject is too close to the background, no (of course). It also has problems if the subject is small or the same color as the background, or you move the camera after half-pressing the Shutter button. But it does work reasonably well, though sometimes part of the subject was blurred along with the background. I had good results shooting subjects about 1.5 to 3.0 feet away even at wide-angle in subdued lighting. And you can modify the effect in the Defocus Effect menu with Low, Mid, or High settings.
Program Auto adjusts exposure automatically without letting you change either the shutter speed or the aperture (which is really why things like Background Defocus are necessary). Apart from that limitation, it does let you change more settings than any other mode on this camera.
Scene Selection is a collection of preset settings optimized for various scenes, as on any other digicam (with one important exception). You pick the one you need when you need it from among:
- Soft Skin: shoot faces with more smoothness
- Soft Snap: shoot soft images like portraits and flowers
- Anti Motion Blur: shoot indoor shots without using the flash to reduce subject blur
- Landscape: set focus at infinity and capture vivid colors
- Backlight Correction HDR: shoot two images at different exposures to create a single image with a greater range of gradation. The camera combines the dark parts of an image taken with a bright exposure setting and the bright parts of an image taken with a dark exposure setting
- Twilight Portrait: shoot sharp images of people with the night view in the background without compromising the atmosphere
- Twilight: shoot distant night scenes without losing the dark atmosphere of the surroundings
- Hand-held Twilight: shoot night scenes with less noise without using a tripod. This mode is so much fun (it's the important exception) that I don't understand why they buried it in the Scene menu. It shoots a set of images in the dark and composites them into a low-noise image
- High Sensitivity: shoot images without a flash under low light conditions, reducing blur
- Gourmet: uses Macro mode for food arrangements, rendering them in bright colors
- Pet: shoot images of animals
- Beach: shoot images with the proper settings for seaside or lake side scenes
- Snow: record bright color in snow scenes or other bright locations
- Fireworks: record fireworks
iSweep Panorama has won Sony a lot of fans (including me). Just pan the Sony WX5 across the scene and let the camera stitch together a composite image. You have to pan the camera at a specific speed to keep up with the captures and a little practice is required, but it doesn't take long to master. The intelligent part of this mode detects faces and moving subjects, stitching intelligently around them to avoid distortion. And the 3D version (see below) captures 3D data for display on a Sony 3D HDTV. On playback the whole image is displayed on the Sony WX5's LCD, which makes it much too small to appreciate. But pressing the OK button enlarges it to full height and it scrolls dramatically across the screen from one side to the other. It's a real crowd pleaser.
3D Shooting can capture images that will play back in 3D on a 3D TV using 3D Sweep Panorama or Sweep Multi Angle. Images shot in 3D Sweep Panorama can only be played back on a 3D TV, while the images shot in Sweep Multi Angle, which captures both a JPEG and the 3D MPO file, can be played back both on the Sony WX5 and on a 3D TV. On the camera, you tilt the camera right or left to see the stereoscopic JPEGs but you don't get the 3D effect. Sorry, we shot 3D but we couldn't play it back on a 3D TV because we don't have one.
Easy Mode is hidden away as the first Menu option when in Intelligent Auto mode. It increases font size and simplifies the Sony WX5's menus. The camera recognizes Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod, Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Landscape, Macro or Portrait, and displays an icon on the LCD screen when the scene is recognized. Dead simple shooting, in short.
Movie Mode. In 1080i HD mode, the Sony WX5 records movies in AVCHD at approximately 60 or 50 fields-per-second with Dolby Digital audio. AVCHD quality settings include 17Mbps FH at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and 9Mbps HQ at 1,440 x 1,080 pixels. The WX5 can also capture MP4 movies at 30 fps with AAC audio at three quality settings: 12Mbps at 1,440 x 1,080, 6Mbps at 1280x720 and 3Mbps at 640x480. To switch between AVCHD and MP4 formats, you have to sneak into the settings menu. Optical zoom is supported while recording videos, and audio is recorded in stereo.
In addition to those modes, the Sony WX5 has a couple of noteworthy recording features:
Smile Shutter holds the shutter until the Sony WX5 detects a smile. It works pretty well, much improved over earlier attempts. Just press the Left arrow button to activate it and find someone smiling. Snap! It even works with bearded gents now.
Burst button can capture up to 10 12-megapixel frames at 10 fps. And you can view the burst images as a movie by tilting the Sony WX5 right to left and left to right. A menu setting sets the feature to 10 fps (High), 5 fps (Mid) or 2 fps (Low). Bet your cellphone can't do that.
Menu System. The Menu system is accessible by tapping the Menu button under the four-way navigator. You'll visit it often. There is a Record menu and a Playback menu, both with access to the Sony WX5's Setup menu as the last option displayed in left hand column of options. The Menu system itself is straightforward and pleasantly colored. When you tap past the last item, you are cycled back to the first. It took Sony a while to figure that out so we'll continue to congratulate them. And the beep isn't as annoying as it has been.
Storage & Battery. The Sony WX5 includes 32MB of internal memory for emergency use. Normally you'll use either a Memory Stick or SD card in the dual-format card slot in the bottom of the camera. Memory Stick formats supported by the Sony WX5 include PRO Duo, PRO-HG Duo, and Duo. SD formats include SDHC and SDXC. MultiMediaCards are not supported.
Sony has successfully tested Memory Stick Duo media up to 32GB and SD cards up to 64GB in the WX5. For recording movies, Sony recommends using Mark 2 Memory Stick media and SD cards of Class 4 or faster.
Maximum still image size at 4:3 is 12-megapixel (4,000 x 3,000).
The Sony WX5 ships with a compact battery charger whose prongs fold into the charger body for easy packing.
Power is supplied by a lithium-ion N-type 3.6V battery that can capture about 230 still images or run for 115 minutes using about 1.0 watts, according to Sony. We didn't have any problems with the capacity, although it is on the low side these days.
Shooting. The first thing I did with the Sony WX5 was reset the settings and take some shots in Program mode. Right away, a few things were apparent.
While the Sony WX5 is thicker than a couple of iPhones, it's still pretty small. Even a little too small. Not too small to carry but too small to shoot with. But I quickly got used to the small size.
The LCD smudges easily but is visible in strong sunlight. The Up arrow doubles as the Display button to adjust the LCD's brightness. Frankly I thought that was a waste of the button. You adjust the LCD brightness once but you want to cycle through things like how much info and whether the grid is displayed from shot to shot. I also missed having a button for EV compensation.
But then I was thinking Old Style. You don't need an EV button with a camera that's smart enough to hang onto the highlights and composite a set of dark images and adjust for backlighting and, well, you get the idea.
The idea is just that a lot happens in post-processing with the Sony WX5's Bionz processor so don't bother trying to anticipate it. Go with it.
The Sony WX5's Power button is small and recessed, but it takes the camera so long to retract the lens when you power off that I didn't worry about the button. I kept telling myself I really have to be careful not to touch the lens by wrapping my fingers around the Sony WX5 body before the lens is safely tucked away. Another detraction for the small body.
My first little hikes with the camera were disappointing. A lot of bad shots in Program mode. I actually put it aside for a while to give it a second chance.
But I dropped it in my camera bag for an Adobe photo walk in San Francisco. I thought the Sony WX5 would make a nice warmup camera (to warm me up by focusing on composing rather than camera setup) and the sweep panorama might come in handy. That's just not something you can do with any camera.
Sony's claim is that the WX5 will do the setup for you. You just tell it what kind of shot you want to take--a panorama, a handheld low-light shot, or one of the Scenes it recognizes--and it does the heavy lifting. The camera should make it easy to get the best shot out of the scene.
And, in fact, the shots I took with the Sony WX5 on the photo walk were among the best I captured that day. So go figure.
One of my favorite shots with the Sony WX5 is the bleached log on Twin Peaks. It's a tough shot because it's facing south into the Sun so the sky is usually burned out and the logs themselves are pretty far gone, too. Plus there's dark detail in the shadows to hold onto, and plenty of small details to judge resolution. And to top it off, the focal length of the lens can dramatically affect the composition. The Sony WX5 did a great job on it. The LCD really didn't do it justice but when I pulled it up on the monitor, I was very pleased indeed.
On the other hand, YDSC00218.JPG (the dock shot) is a real mystery. The Sony WX5's ISO was reasonable for sunlight, the shutter speed fast, the aperture normal and yet there isn't a thing in the picture that's sharp.
So let's call that operator error. Mike in a hurry to make a meeting. Because YDSC00221.JPG of the Delta Belle tug boat taken around the same time is indeed sharp.
Not so fast. The cable car is overprocessed, losing quite a bit of detail at ISO 400 (look at the faces, for example). And why did the Sony WX5 choose ISO 400 to begin with? We had a shutter speed of 1/125, and an aperture of f/5.9 so we could have shot at a lower ISO and avoided a lot of noise suppression. It's also possible that the image stabilization system caused this frame-wide blur (see "Image Blurring" section below). Tough to say.
Suze Orman's action plan for your money on a phone booth (YDSC00237.JPG) is indeed as sharp a shot as I hoped, though.
So a mixed bag to this eye, with a lot of disappointing shots. But I suspect if you were just looking at them images as a slide show on the Sony WX5's screen or as 4x6 prints, you wouldn't be bothered at all. This seems to be Sony's strategy with point and shoots lately, so be aware that the WX5 will sometimes turn your photograph into a painting that's not really printable above 8x10 inches in size without looking very much like a very smooth painting. The effect becomes most noticeable with organic subjects like people. When a seasoned photographer comes up with a large set of blurred images, though, you have to wonder why.
See below for our image analysis, pro/con, and conclusion.
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 Lens Quality
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Some blurring at upper left
Tele: Sharpest at center
Tele: Mild blurring at upper left
Sharpness: Both the wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 show minor blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center. At wide-angle, though blurring isn't overly strong, it does extend further into the main image area than average. Still, very good corner sharpness for a 24-120mm eq. lens in a compact digicam.
Image Blurring: The Sony WX5 produced some blurred and doubled images during our testing. For our lab shots, we always mount the camera on a sturdy tripod and use the self-timer to avoid motion blur due to camera shake, so the blurring shown in the crops to the right are not from camera movement. The phenomenon is likely related to the lens' image stabilization system, though we can't tell for sure as Optical SteadyShot cannot be disabled on the Sony WX5. Image doubling occurred for us at very slow shutter speeds (below 1/10 second), but not always. With such slow shutter speeds, this anomaly will likely only occur in low light situations, but since the WX5 does not allow direct control over shutter speed, the affected shutter speed range is not known. In case you're wondering, some handheld shots can also show the issue (such as this one at one-second shutter speed: YDSC00303.JPG), but it really is too much to expect image stabilization to correct for hand-held motion at such slow shutter speeds.
Wide: Virtually no barrel distortion visible
Tele: Only a trace of pincushion
Geometric Distortion: There is surprisingly little visible distortion at either wide-angle or telephoto, both showing less than 0.1% of barrel and pincushion respectively. Most likely, the Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 is employing processing here to remove the distortion.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle and telephoto is low in terms of pixel count, though visible pixels are slightly bright. At wide-angle, the effect is exaggerated by the slight blurring in the corner of the frame. We suspect the WX5's processor is hard at work here as well, reducing C.A.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5's Macro mode captures a minimum area of 2.88 x 2.16 inches (73 x 55mm), which is a little larger than average. Details are soft throughout most of the frame, though the numeral of the dollar bill shows fairly good detail. Corner softening is very strong and noticeable (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Flash exposure is uneven, thanks in large part to a strong shadow in the lower left corner of the frame from the lens, and a bright reflection on the face of the brooch.
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5's LCD monitor showed just over 99% coverage accuracy at both wide-angle and telephoto, which is very good.
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 Image Quality
Color: Overall color is fairly good, though bright yellows are somewhat muted, and strong reds and blues are pumped a little high (blues more so than reds). Hue also has significant shifts, such as cyan toward blue and yellow toward green. Dark skintones noticeably swing toward orange, while lighter skin tones have a slight pink cast. Results aren't too far off from average here, though the strong push in blues goes beyond what we typically see.
Good, though a hint cool
Incandescent: The Cyber-shot DSC-WX5's Manual white balance setting handled our incandescent lighting best overall, though the image does appear a little cool. Auto and Incandescent modes produced warmer color balances instead. (Note the image doubling mentioned previously, in the Auto and Manual WB shots.)
Horizontal: 2,100 lines
Vertical: 2,100 lines
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,100 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,500 lines per picture height.
Tele: Fair, but slightly dim
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) doesn't work well at wide-angle when the reported distance goes beyond 16 feet, because that takes the camera out of the main lab, involving the target box at right, so the wide-angle result is inconclusive. The telephoto test came out just a little dim at 6.9 feet, despite a significant ISO increase to 640.
Auto flash produced dim results in our indoor portrait scene, despite a slower shutter speed of 1/30 second, and an ISO boost to 250. 1/30 second isn't slow enough to worry about hand-holding with a stabilized lens, and does allow some ambient light into the image, but results here are still a bit dim.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is strong at ISO 125, though already fairly soft at ISO 200. Still, the DSC-WX5 manages to hold onto a fair amount of fine detail up to ISO 800. By ISO 1,600 and 3,200, noise suppression blurs detail dramatically. However, results at ISO 3,200 are better than average. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.
ISO 200 images are a little softer at 13x19 inches, and look better printed at 11x14.
ISO 400 shots are good at 11x14, but anti-noise processing is more pronounced, with a more watercolor appearance. Contrast also increases, losing detail in darker areas.
ISO 800 images look good at 8x10. Though detail is a little soft, I'd still judge the print as better than just usable.
ISO 1,600 shots are too soft and grainy at 8x10, but really produce a very good 5x7, which isn't bad at all.
ISO 3,200 images are also good at 4x6, making the WX5 able to produce a usable print at all ISO settings.
Overall, the Sony WX5 does better than expected, producing larger prints for longer than it appears would be possible by looking at the items on screen. As we saw with the Sony T99, noise suppression gets a little more aggressive than we think is necessary, even at low ISOs, but the WX5 does better with its image output than did the T99, as has often been the case with W vs. T-series cameras. I suggest limiting your print size expectations, especially in Sony's special multi-layer modes, and you're likely to get a decent 5x7 out of most situations.
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 Performance
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is a good 0.32 second at wide-angle, though slows to 0.67 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag was extremely fast, at only 0.009s.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is fair, capturing a frame every 1.60 seconds in single-shot mode. The Sony WX5's burst mode is however is rated at 10 frames per second for 10 full-res frames, which is very fast.
Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5's flash recycles in about 6.3 seconds after a full-power discharge, on the slow side of average.
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5's download speeds are quite fast. We measured 9,274 KBytes/sec.
In the Box
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5
- Battery NP-BN1
- Battery Charger
- AV/USB cable
- Wrist strap
- Software CD
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity, Speed Class 4+ SDHC/SDXC memory card. 4 to 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
Sony WX5 Conclusion
With the Cyber-shot WX5, Sony has designed a compact digicam that outperforms most low-end cameras. And its clever sweep panorama, handheld low light and defocus modes will make you forget your cellphone. Add HD movie capture and 3D capture for Sony 3D TVs and you may forget your dSLR, too. Unfortunately, the WX5 also exhibits a few errors we can't excuse, most importantly the image doubling that we saw in both tripod-mounted shots and handheld shots.
As always, Sony color was gorgeous. But I had some qualms about the exposure choices the camera made in sunlight that compromised the images for big enlargements, and contrast rose noticeably as ISO rose. We initially thought some of the higher ISO settings looked a bit overprocessed, but they printed quite well. ISO 125 shots made 13x19-inch prints with good lighting. Even some of the more questionable daylight shots, like the cable-car, which appears to suffer from slight motion blur, makes a decent 5x7-inch print, as do unsmeared images taken at ISO 1,600. Those image-doubled shots, unfortunately, don't make a good print at all.
Good autofocus, fast burst mode, as well as sweep panorama and a great personality make the Cyber-shot WX5 a very likeable camera, but the number of blurry shots we got during our time with the Sony WX5 prevents us from making it a Dave's Pick. As we've had to say a lot lately, it'll work pretty well if you never enlarge your images above 5x7, but if you care to crop or enlarge your pictures, you'll be happier with another model.