In a previous review we offered a reward for the next company to send us a camera that wasn't silver. Sony, your cookie is in the mail. Their latest offering, the DSC-W30, is a slim, pearl white affair that looks fantastic. However its strengths do not end there; the W-30 offers a very respectable set of features and takes some of the crispest, most accurate shots we've seen. It has the whole, rich, pearly white package.
- Great pictures, Nice design
- Poor burst mode
The DSC-W30 offers a great, all-round compact package. It has no glaring weaknesses in any area and will satisfy most casual users.
Price$ 429.00 (AUD)
Most of the body is taken up with the white, plastic shell, and whilst it isn't as sturdy as an all-metal unit, we found no obvious weak spots. It should be able to handle a bump or two. The 1.8 inch screen is quite small by modern standards, but the unit as a whole is a little on the petite side and so the sacrifice is understandable. We found the controls simple and easy to navigate; however the same cannot be said of the menu system. It requires you to scroll across several pages of options and it took us a few minutes just to find some of the more advanced functions which really shouldn't be the case. That problem aside the overall design is fantastic. Small enough to fit into a pocket or purse without being obtrusive, yet still large enough to take steady photographs.
The photographic capabilities of the W30 were similarly impressive. It boasted extremely strong results in both our subjective and Imatest testing. Colour response was the standout, with the W30 scoring 6.23 on Imatest's colour accuracy graph. This was clear in our test shots, with deep, rich colours and no obvious inaccuracies. You'll be hard pressed to find a compact model that has better colour performance than this. Red was the one area that suffered a little, but this tends to be the case with most cameras.
Unlike most cameras however, the W30 also exhibited an extremely low noise level, netting a score of 0.53. Whilst not below the level of .5 which we consider to be excellent it just scrapes above it, and at low ISO levels the shots had exceptional clarity. Noise is something that a lot of lower end compact models struggle with; their poor quality sensors struggle even at lower ISO levels, so the W30 was a refreshing change. None of our shots exhibited any visible noise until we took it up to the highest ISO levels.
The noise performance is complemented by a very solid sharpness score of 1278. Some SLRs will score 1500+ and clearly the W30 isn't on that level, however for a 6 megapixel compact camera, that score is slightly above the average. Our shots generally had vibrant, strong edges although at blown up sizes there was a small loss of clarity. Chromatic aberration could partially account for this, although even that was only present in low levels. Imatest rated the W30 with a chromatic aberration score of .061%, just outside our bracket for excellent. Overall the image quality of this camera absolutely floored us. Check out the test shots and see for yourself.
Generally what separates compact cameras from advanced models is the zoom and feature-set. Whilst the W30 only sports a standard 3X optical zoom, it packs a few surprises within it's monstrosity of a menu. The biggest of these was ISO levels that extend all the way to 1000. Most compact models will stop at 400 and even advanced cameras often cut out at 800, but Sony have taken the extra step and for night photographers or those who need that extra sensitivity it makes a big difference. The other surprise was a healthy range of metering and focus choices to give you that little extra bit of customistion. We were slightly let down by the burst mode however, which operates at a paltry 2 fps for 3 shots. Whilst it might have some small situational usefulness, burst modes for the most part need to be able to operate for several seconds at least to really catch a piece of the action. Some might say it is the thought that counts; however others, like us, would say that's rubbish.
Speedy operation and solid battery life round out what is a very impressive package from Sony. Shutter speed was a breezy .06 of a second and the W30 took just one and a half seconds to fire up. This mirrored the shot to shot time which was also extremely decent at one and a half seconds. We managed roughly 220 snaps on a single charge of the battery before it died, which isn't stellar, but is more than enough for the average user.
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