Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80
- Extremely fast, Low noise shots, Good colour reproduction
- No manual white balance, Over sharpening issues, Sluggish menu and controls
A solid compact camera that combines speedy operation with above average image quality. If you're making enlargements the over sharpening may become an issue, but otherwise this is a good choice if you're after an all purpose model.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
It seems like ever since Canon released its IXUS range packed with face detect technology, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Not that we blame them, the technology is great. Sony is the latest company hopping on board with one of its latest compacts, the Cyber-Shot DSC-W80. Sporting a standard Sony design it is a competent mid-range camera, which performed well in most of our imaging tests, but some notable over sharpening did somewhat detract from the quality of the pictures.
With its 7.2 megapixel sensor, we were expecting the W80 to capture some fairly sharp snaps, but we wound up a little disappointed in this area. Using the Imatest image quality benchmark the DSC-W80 achieved a sharpness score of 1470 with 20.6% over-sharpening, a result that indicates the shots weren't all they could have been. Most comparable cameras score over 1500 in this test, and the impact of this was felt with a slight lack of clarity in some places. Over-sharpening was evident the instant we opened our first test picture. The image was highlighted by overly crisp edges which, in some instances, look almost drawn in. As usual, these errors won't be too evident in smaller picture sizes, but the strong sharpening in particular really comes into play at larger magnifications.
Fortunately in our other tests this model performed more than admirably. Imatest's colour checker test, for example, gave it a score of 6.72, which is an excellent result. While some recent models have actually cut under the previous benchmark score of six, anything below seven is still great and indicates superior colour reproduction. As tiring as it gets to repeat, once again the only real problem area was red, but even here the error was only small and not noticeable in the majority of circumstances.
The W80 also did excellently in our noise test, where it achieved a very low score of .53% (lower is better). This is well below the sort of score we were expecting and our shots corroborated this, with no visible noise or speckling at all. Furthermore, the pictures also scaled well with higher ISO sensitivities, being usable all the way up to ISO 800 if you're printing regular 4in x 6in prints, and ISO 400 if making enlargements. This is somewhat unusual for a compact as they often tend to struggle at higher sensitivities, so it is good to see Sony putting in the effort in this regard.
The unit was also very pleasing in our speed tests. Offering a .04 second shutter lag, a miniscule one second shot-to-shot time, and 1.6 seconds from startup to first shot, it is a very speedy unit which should ensure you never miss a valuable moment.
Mirroring this, the burst mode is also impressive. Capturing 3.5 frames per second it is much faster than almost every other compact model on the market. If you're regularly at things like children's sports events and want a unit that can consistently capture a quick moment's action, then the W80 may be the model for you.
Most of the standard settings are present, including ISO sensitivities up to a whopping 3200, image stabilisation and the face detect technology. Face Detect works quite well, making human faces the focus points, which should prove popular with many budding photographers. Our only complaint was that while there are preset white balance modes, no manual option is present.
The other issue we have with the W80 is its interface. Sony has implemented a new menu system on this model, and while it looks quite stylish it is a little sluggish for our tastes. There are noticeable pauses when navigating and selecting, which is counter-intuitive to the otherwise exceptionally speedy operation of this unit. This isn't helped by the controls which are both tiny and poorly mounted, making them difficult to press. This doesn't extend to the directional pad however, meaning once you're actually in the appropriate menu things become a little easier.
Design wise, Sony has stuck to what it knows, and why not? It works quite well. The plain, brushed silver, metal chassis is sturdier than many you'll find on the market, and looks quite sleek if a little plain. The screen is of relatively good quality, although it isn't quite as clear as on some unit's we've seen.
Overall this unit is a solid entry into the compact camera category. While it may have some over sharpening issues it performed solidly in all other areas, with particularly noteworthy speed and noise results.
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