Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7
At a Glance
The $449 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7 offers 7.2 megapixels, which is plenty for a point-and-shoot camera. It sports a 3X optical zoom and a big, 2.5-inch LCD and forgoes extensive scene modes in favor of some manual controls.
The DSC-W7 has few scene modes--just seven; some point-and-shoot cameras come with upwards of 20. This will likely disappoint newbies who want a mode for every conceivable setting (backlit subject and panorama modes, for example, are absent); also, you can't store customized camera settings. But I achieved good results using the automatic mode in difficult conditions that are sometimes given a dedicated setting, such as shooting objects behind glass and backlit subjects. In lieu of numerous modes, the DSC-W7 offers more manually adjustable settings than many point-and-shoot cameras. Though it doesn't offer a fully manual mode (where you could set the shutter speed and aperture independently), it lets you adjust the shutter speed and gives you two options for the aperture setting. This semi-manual mode compares your exposure settings with what the camera judges to be optimal to give you a bit more guidance. Also, you also can evaluate your exposures with a histogram, a helpful feature for advanced photographers.
As in earlier W models, the mode dial appears briefly on the LCD screen as you change it. The DSC-W7 doesn't have manual focus, though you can choose from five distance options and either center or multi-point autofocus. Unlike with many point-and-shoot cameras, you can also add wide-angle and telephoto conversion lenses, as well as filters.
A two-second startup will get you going quickly, and using the controls on the Cyber-shot DSC-W7 is easy. The well-positioned thumbpad gives you quick access to the last picture you took, and to flash, macro and self-timer settings. One little quirk is that to set image size--ranging from low-end VGA to high-quality 3072 by 2304--you have to use a quick-launch button that doubles as the delete button when reviewing stored images.
You'll be well satisfied with picture quality--this Cyber-shot earned a Very Good rating in our tests. Its shots were sharp enough to rival those of advanced cameras, with accurate color in both indoor and outdoor images.
The unit comes with two rechargeable batteries and a charger, but you can use standard AA disposable batteries if you need to. With its included batteries, the unit took an impressive 406 shots, which is better than the 350-shot average for point-and-shoot cameras. You don't get separate media with the camera, but it comes with 32MB of memory built in, so you can still start shooting right away. To augment that, you'll need a Memory Stick or Memory Stick Pro, as you'd expect from a Sony camera.
The silver case feels sturdy, though at about 9 ounces (with battery) the Cyber-shot DSC-W7 is a touch heavier than other cameras in its class. It's also a bit thicker, roughly the size of two standard packs of playing cards.
Note: For a review of the similar but less expensive (4.1-megapixel) Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90, click here.
This point-and-shoot camera takes high-quality photos, has a big LCD, and offers some manual controls for users who want to do more than just select scene modes.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7
7.2 megapixels, 3072 by 2304 maximum resolution, 38mm to 114mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.8 to f10 maximum aperture range, shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/2000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB connection, 32MB internal memory and Memory Stick slot, rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries, 9.3 ounces, Picture Package 1.6 and ImageMixer VCD2 software. One-year parts and labor warranty, 15-hour daily toll-free support.