Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100
At a Glance
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 Compact Camera
Has a high ISO 1250 setting and long battery life (455 shots). Shoots in wide-screen mode, but lacks a shutter-priority mode.
The $350 (as of 6/15/06) Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W100 is a solidly built, metal-bodied camera that features an optical viewfinder in addition to a 2.5-inch color LCD. It's not loaded with exotic features, but it boasts high sensitivity to light, with an ISO 1250 setting, and its controls are familiar and easy to use.
The DSC-W100 has an 8.1-megapixel sensor and a 3X zoom lens. The few scene modes include portrait, landscape, beach, twilight (for low-light scenes without using the flash), and twilight portrait (to preserve the background when using flash). You also get a high sensitivity mode for reducing blur when shooting in low light without flash, and you can combine macro mode with several other settings.
The camera lacks aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes, but you can use the manual mode to adjust the aperture size and shutter speed independently. The screen shows the current exposure value, so you can keep this balanced easily within a few stops of zero. In all the other modes, a few touches of the four-way controller will alter the exposure compensation. The display button gives quick access to a histogram display, during both recording and playback of your shot.
In the manual and program modes, you can select the ISO sensitivity. (The camera chooses automatically in the other modes.) The relatively high ISO 1250 setting is useful for shooting in low light or capturing sharp images of moving objects. In our informal testing, we saw a lot of noise in long-exposure shots (taken at 1/20th and 1/25th seconds) in a dimly lit room, but better quality in less-demanding indoor photos.
In the PC World Test Center's rigorous performance tests, the W100 wasn't a top performer, but it produced generally good results. Scores were roughly average in all categories.
The W100 doesn't come with a Memory Stick Duo bundled in the box, but the camera has a generous 64MB of internal memory to get you started--enough for 16 shots recorded at the highest quality setting. In our battery tests, we took an excellent 455 photos on one charge. The lithium ion cell slots into a separate charger that conveniently plugs straight into a wall outlet. One quibble: It takes too little effort to open the door on the camera's battery and media card compartment--the door looks like it could easily snap off.
One of the W100's resolution settings lets you store photos with a 16:9 aspect ratio. At 1920-by-1080 pixels, the images are only 2 megapixels, but that's perfect for displaying on an HDTV. However, you can't simply hook up the camera to an HDTV via cable or dock--you'll need an HDTV with a Memory Stick slot, which most likely will have to come from Sony.