Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W50 review

£139
Price when reviewed

Compared to the similarly priced Nikon L2, the Sony looks like a much more expensive camera. Its body is all metal, save the flimsy battery cover, while the Carl Zeiss logo reassures you that the 3x zoom lens will provide the 6-megapixel sensor with high-quality images.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W50 review

However, our test camera had a defective lens, which is why you’ll see blurring in the left side of our comparative test shots on the cover disc. Thankfully, a second W50 revealed no such problem, with images being sharp right into the corners.

Outdoor shots had lifelike colours and there was no noise, chromatic aberrations or compression artefacts to complain about. Barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom wasn’t bad either. For macro shots, nothing beat the W50 for closeness. It managed to capture an area just 26 x 20mm. In the default colour mode, colours are oversaturated, but switch to the natural colour mode and colours become more realistic.

With a higher ISO sensitivity than the Canon (1,000 versus 800), the W50 has a theoretically better anti-shake mode. But beyond ISO 800, noise makes images unusable, even printing at 6 x 4in – a trait of almost all the cameras here.

The Sony’s indoor shot wasn’t as sharp as the Canon’s, and more noise was evident than we’d have liked. But our night shot showed that the W50 can deliver noise-free images in low light. And we like the fact that the W50 gives you control over flash intensity.

The Sony can shoot 640 x 480 MPEG1 movies. Video quality wasn’t quite as good as the Casio’s, but the frame rate was smooth and audio quality was fine.

There’s an optical viewfinder and 2.5in TFT, albeit with a low pixel count. There’s a 5x playback zoom, plus histograms in both record and playback modes. Startup time is quick at 1.5 seconds, while a shot-to-shot time of around a second means you won’t miss a moment. The continuous mode only allows three shots at full resolution, though.

With no manual white balance, no sharpness or contrast settings and a longest shutter speed of one second, the Sony trails the Ixus 60 on features. But these don’t always prevent great photos and, at just £139, the W50 is a bargain and a great alternative to the Ixus.

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