Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7|
Small compact packs a punch
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7 is a small, compact camera that packs a powerful punch in a boxy, high-tech, metallic body that weighs just south of seven ounces. "Small" is relative, though. This is not a tiny sliver of a camera such as the Casio Exilim EX-Z750. This Sony has heft to it, its lens motors out an inch when you turn the camera on with the push of a button, and while it fits into a pocket, you'll definitely feel that it's there. In fact, the W7 gives you the impression that it is bigger than a small camera should be. Its size and weight make the massive 2.5-inch TFT seem not as large as we remember it from earlier super-compact Sonys like the T1. The screen also doesn't seem to have the crispness and sharpness of some of its predecessors. Maybe that's because it has slightly fewer pixels than they had, 115k versus 123k, which is also fewer than the Sony P200's smaller 2-inch display.
The lens is a standard 3X optical 28-114mm affair, but one of Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar quality. Yet, here, too, there is slight disappointment. After the "folded" zoom of the old DSC-T1, you don't want to go back to a zoom lens that motors out of a small camera body. It's just not as elegant. And with the W7's size, couldn't Sony have made it internal? If that feature is important to you, perhaps the Cyber-shot T5 or T7 are more to your liking.
Once you get past these reservations, the W7 is a very nice camera. The large screen makes selecting and framing pictures easy. There are other convenience features in this camera. For example, most Sony products use the Memory Stick which comes in several formats and is generally more expensive and harder to find than cards in the more common storage formats. For those times when a Memory Stick card is full and you don't have another one handy, Sony gave the W7 a full 32MB of internal storage. That's still not a lot in a 7 megapixel camera, but it is about three times what most cameras with internal storage have.
Another area where the W7 provides flexibility is in its power pack. While all other cameras in this lineup come with proprietary Li-Ion batteries that are expensive to replace, the W7 comes with a couple of simple rechargeable AA NiMH cells. It can also run on standard alkalines (not very long, though). This means that the chance that you'll find yourself stranded without power are much lower with this camera.
In daily use, the W7 is a pleasant companion. Its combination of fairly small size, very large display, simple controls, very fast startup and quick recycle time strike a balance that comes in handy for snapshots and such, and snapshots is what this camera is primarily about. Primarily, but not exclusively. There is a manual mode that provides separate control over shutter speed and aperture and even gives an approximation of what the picture will look like by making the LCD go brighter and darker. I wouldn't call it a full manual mode, but it can come in handy.
With other features it's often hit and miss. There's a good movie mode, but in order to use the 640 x 480 mode you must use a Memory Stick PRO instead of whatever old Memory Sticks you have lying around. Movies have good sound, but there is no sound annotation for images. The autofocus illuminator light, on the other hand, is very strong and that can help in iffy lighting conditions.
In this field, image quality was only average and pictures often had too much contrast, but the camera impressed with an almost total absence of purple fringing. With Sony offering so many models with similar capabilities, the W7 is for those who value flexibility and choices most.
Not so much:
- Large outdoor-readable LCD
- 32MB of internal memoryśmost in group
- Can use standard AA batteries
- Relatively large and heavy for a compact
- Only average image quality
- Tiny optical viewfinder