So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W110
Smile, or else
- Easy to use, very small, smile shutter works... sometimes
- Pictures look soft, needs a manual setting, no image stabilisation
The DSC-W110 is simple to use and perfect to take to parties, but it's a very automatic camera and its pictures tend to look soft.
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
Cameras don't get much more automatic than the Cyber-shot DSC-W110. It's so automatic it'll take a picture as soon as your subject smiles; you won't even have to press the shutter button! Sony calls this the Smile Shutter, and it's one of the many modes that make this camera so easy to use.
There's not much to play with on this camera apart from its rotary dial, which allows you to select between fully automatic, semi-automatic, pre-set scenes and 'program' modes; it's very much the camera to go for if you don't want to have to think about fiddling with any settings. The best part is that it's also very small.
That's good news for tight pants wearers, and for pretty much anyone who wants a light and simple unit to take to a nightclub or dance festival. It weighs only 150 grams and it's only about 1.5cm thick. However, you shouldn't expect too much in terms of image quality.
At the best of times the camera's images looked soft. This was particularly evident when looking at 100 per cent crops of the 7.2-megapixel test images. Edges, in particular, looked feathered and lacked definition. The camera's saving grace was its colour reproduction: colours looked vibrant yet not overly saturated. Tones were neutral, but still had plenty of life in them.
Focusing was a hit and miss affair as the camera often focused beyond the main subject in our photos. Sometimes the camera would focus on a point away from our intended point, in which case it was easier to just move the camera so that our subject entered the focused area. Using the 2.5in LCD screen, it's also difficult to focus precisely when taking shots in broad daylight.
At night you'll be able to take decent shots using the flash, as long as your subject is not too far away. If you leave the camera in easy or auto modes then it will also boost the sensitivity of the sensor (most of our shots came out at ISO 400 in auto mode), which will make your shots look grainy. Program mode is a good one to use if you want to use a manual ISO setting to ensure that the sensitivity doesn't get too high. The exposure and aperture can't be manipulated, even in program mode.
Despite not being able to change the shutter speed to create long exposures, there are a couple of fun modes to play with when shooting at night, including twilight portrait, which lets the shutter stay open for a couple of seconds. If you want to get creative, try taking shots in this mode while moving the camera just after the slow synchro flash fires.
The most interesting mode is the Smile Shutter, which actually does work — sometimes. Once in this mode, if you focus on your subject and press the shutter the camera will take photos automatically when the subject smiles. This worked well in some cases. It was able to track the subject in the viewfinder and keep it in focus, but it didn't always take a picture when the subject smiled. It seemed to work best at close proximity to the subject. Nevertheless, it's a useful feature for taking pics of stubborn kids who refuse to smile. Sooner or later they'll get sick of standing in front of camera waiting for it to go off and will give in.
Overall, this Cyber-shot has two things going for it: portability and simplicity. It doesn't have any fancy features, such as image stabilisation, nor can you change many of its settings. And while its colours looked good, pictures did look too soft. But if you only want a point-and-shoot camera for casual occasions, it will suffice.
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