The Sony DSC W100 is an eight megapixel digital camera with a three times optical zoom lens. Based on the criteria I use the DSC W100 just about squeaks into the pocket sized digital camera category, but you will find smaller cameras out there.
One of the big attractions of the camera is the fact it offers manual exposure. Although it can also be used as a straightforward point and shoot camera this may tip the scales for someone looking for a camera that allows them a greater degree of control over the final image, but would prefer a smaller, compact camera than a large model.
94.2 x 60.6 x 24.8mm
Memory Stick DUO
Overall I was impressed with the photos the DSC W100 managed to take. They are very similar to those I have managed to take with a number of other Sony digital cameras.
Focusing is generally of a high standard leading to plenty of sharply focused images. Using the first outdoor test shot as an example focusing remains sharp throughout the photo. It does not quite hit the standards reached by some Canon digital cameras, but it still manages to beat most cameras hands down. The one area of the first picture it struggles with is the tiles on the roof of the building.
The second outdoor shot is taken without any zoom being used. Here the DSC W100 does very well indeed and again is one of the best performers with this set up. By contrast when the zoom is fully extended in the third outdoor shot a slight softness creeps into the picture.
Another feature of the outdoor shots I like is the level of detail the camera manages to show in the lightest and darkest areas of each shot. The camera is not fooled by the large, reflective areas of the white boats and also handles the white slats under the roof of the building well.
Viewing the colours produced in the various test shot and also the dedicated colour test I am pleased with the results I see. Although colours are strong they retain a natural feel to them. No single colour is dominates and the colours have the right balance to them.
The outdoor portrait shot is another that works well. The picture was taken on an overcast day and I used the cloudy white balance setting to add some warmth to the colours. If I was being critical I do feel the DSC W100 and other Sony digital cameras have a tendency to slightly over exposure areas of the lighter areas of the face.
Again as with other Sony cameras the DSC W100 produces a sharply focused and well lit portrait shot indoors in lowlight. This helps to bring out a high level of detail in the shot. The picture does show that red eye could be a problem with the camera though even when red eye reduction is being used.
The shot taken in more or less complete darkness of a group of beer bottles is another that is sharply focused. The camera also makes a very good attempt to lighten the image.
If you are thinking of using the camera to take lots of close up shots then you will be pleased to know the DSC W100 did very well in my macro test. Once again it produced a sharply focused image with a good level of detail. It handled the lighting well and produced a bright image.
Finally my tests for shooting at higher ISO produced a result a bit below average. You may wish to use higher ISO settings in lowlight when flash is not an option. Even at ISO 400 there was a deterioration of the image. At the maximum setting of ISO 1250 the camera struggles.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
I was able to take a single shot in 0.30 seconds and five shots in 7.63 seconds. The time to take a single shot is average and the time to take five shots is slightly faster than average.
You can compare this camera to other models by taking a look at the Shutter Lag Comparison Table.
For composing images you can choose between an optical viewfinder and a 2.5 inch LCD screen. The screen is made up of around 115,000 pixels. The screen is also used for accessing the menu system and displaying useful information such as battery warning indicator, handshake alert, memory card space remaining and a histogram.
The three times optical zoom has a focal length equivalent to 38 - 114mm in 35mm format. There is also a 6x digital zoom and a smart zoom feature offering a maximum of 15x zoom.
The focusing methods available are single and monitoring. You can select either multi point or centre weighted focusing. For close up work the camera can focus from 6cm in macro mode.
There is a small selection of scene modes available. By selecting a scene mode you indicate to the camera the type of shot you are about to take. The camera will then use what it considers to be the optimum settings for the shot. The scene modes you can choose from are Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape and Beach.
The built in flash unit has a range of 6m. This falls to around 3.2m when the zoom lens is in use. Setting the ISO rating to 1250 will increase the range of the flash unit to a maximum of 10.5m The flash modes available are Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Synchro and No Flash. Red eye reduction can be set on or off.
For when you would like to appear in the photo there is a self timer. The delay period can be set to either two or ten seconds. For producing 6x4" prints there is a special 3:2 aspect ratio available. After a picture has been taken you can create smaller copies and also trim or crop the photo.
A manual exposure mode gives you greater control over the final image. You can select shutter speeds between 30 seconds and 1/1000 seconds. Apertures can be set in the range of f2.8 to f10. Aperture priority and shutter priority modes are not available. In automatic mode the range of shutter speeds differs and the camera can set them in the range of 1/8 - 1/2000 seconds.
Among the more advanced controls available to you are white balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, flash), exposure compensation (+/-2.0 EV, 1/3 EV step), three types of light metering (Multi Pattern, Centre weighted and Spot) and ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80,100, 200, 400, 800, 1250).
You can also adjust the levels of sharpness and contrast.
There are two types of burst mode available. The first is a standard type. This allows you to fire off up to four shots at a rate of one shot per second. The second is called multi burst. This records sixteen mini photos and stores them as a single image.
TV quality movies can be captured. The maximum resolution available is 640 x 480 pixels. The top recording speed is thirty frames per second. Movies are only limited in length by the capacity of the memory card. Sound can be recorded to accompany the movie, but zoom is not available.
Sony supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the DSC W100 to a television, computer and PictBridge compatible printer.
Ease of Use
I found this camera pretty easy to use. Even when I switched over to manual exposure mode changing the aperture and shutter speed settings was a lot easier than with most cameras I have tested. Key controls for shooting mode, flash, self timer, macro and accessing the menu system are all located on the back of the camera. Zoom is controlled through a ring on top.
You can pick up a Sony DSC W100 for around £235. This compares to around £275 for a Canon IXUS 800 IS, £215 for a Casio Exilim EX-Z850 and £215 for a Olympus MJU 810.
As you can see the DSC W100 sits somewhere towards the lower end for this type of camera. Taking into account the manual exposure mode and overall picture quality I think the camera is very fairly priced.
Looking at the DSC W100 I see a fairly typical rectangular camera. There is a pattern inlaid on the front of the camera that offers something different. The camera is not unattractive though and has a fairly clean and simple look.
It has dimensions of 94.2 x 60.6 x 24.6mm. It weighs 161g
Batteries and Memory Cards
A rechargeable lithium ion battery (NP-BG1) is used to supply power to the camera. Sony estimates it should be able to take around 360 shots before the battery needs to be recharged.
Sony have built a generous 64mb of memory into the DSC W100. Although this is far more than most cameras offer I was still only able to take 20 photos before the memory was full. Therefore I would suggest buying a high capacity card to go with the camera. It is compatible with Memory Stick Duo cards.
Click here to save money on Memory Stick Duo.
Points I like:
Ease of use
Manual exposure mode
Where it is not so hot:
The Sony DSC W100 is a pretty solid offering. Picture quality is good and it is not often you find any manual exposure controls in such a small digital camera. The camera is easy to use and well priced.
Sony DSC W100 Front View
Sony DSC W100 Back View
Sony DSC W100 Top View
Top Rated Cameras in this Category
Sony DSC TX55 Rating 85/100
If the touch screen was perfect then the Sony Cybershot DSC TX55 would be a truly outstanding digital camera. As it is picture quality is hard to beat for such a small camera. Style and design is very impressive and the features on offer give you more or less everything you are likely to want in a point and shoot pocket camera and a bit more on top. It can be very hard to find the perfect touch screen so if touch control is important to you then this camera is well worth a place on your short list.
Read Review: Sony DSC TX55 Review
Panasonic DMC FX90 Rating 79/100
Panasonic offers some excellent digital cameras and can normally be replied upon to produce crystal clear photos. As with previous reviews of cameras in the FX part of the range the Panasonic Lumix DMC FX90 just does not match up to those usual high standards. Focusing is softer than it should be and you are likely to see the results of this even with relatively small sized prints.
Read Review: Panasonic DMC FX90 Review
Panasonic DMC FX70 Rating 79/100
The Panasonic Lumix DMC FX70 does not quite match up to the picture quality I am used to seeing from Panasonic digital cameras. It does have a lot of other plus points, but if you are looking for true clarity in your photos there are better pocket cameras around.
Read Review: Panasonic DMC FX70 Review