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Sony DSC-W130 Digital Camera
Compact, feature-rich & good value
Attractive aluminium case; 4x optical zoom; viewfinder; face detection; ‘smile shutter’; image stabilisation
Average image quality; lots of noise at ISO 800 and higher

The market is littered with point-and-click digital cameras, so what can Sony bring to the table that already hasn’t been seen a million times - if anything? Well, the DSC-W130 is compact, sports an attractive aluminium silver or black case, and packs an 8.1-Megapixels CCD. It also boasts a 4x optical zoom lens, 2.5-inch colour screen, image stabilisation, face detection, and a new gimmick called ‘Smile Shutter’ which automatically captures an image when your subject smiles - without having to press the shutter.

Sony’s latest W-series features a wider range of colour choices than previous models - from playful pink and blue to sophisticated champagne gold and red - and each model (four in total) includes the company’s improved face detection technology, which, like the smile shutter technology, can now distinguish between the faces of children and adults. You can select ‘child priority’ or ‘adult priority’ and the camera will detect up to eight faces in the camera frame and optimise focus, exposure, white balance, and flash control.

The series comprises the 10.1-Megapixel DSC-W170 and 8.1-Megapixel DSC-W150, which feature Carl Zeiss 5x optical zoom lenses with wide angles of view (28-140mm and 30-150mm, respectively) and 2.7-inch LCD screens along with eye-level viewfinders. Rounding out the series are the 8.1-Megapixel DSC-W130 (reviewed here) and 7.2-Megapixel DSC-W120 units with Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom and 2.5-inch LCD screens.

What the DSC-W130 (£134/$195) doesn’t include, which the W170 and W150 cameras do, is ‘intelligent scene recognition’ (iSCN) technology, allowing the camera to automatically select the optimal scene mode for a variety shooting situations. In advanced iSCN mode, the camera will take a photo based on your settings. If the camera determines that another setting would yield better exposure, it will automatically take a second photo with that setting. Ultimately, you have two images to choose from.

In addition, the W170 and W150 units are equipped with advanced image management functionality. Filtering options allow you to search for photos by date and smile. Images can be viewed by date or in a helpful calendar view, and organised in the cameras’ ‘favorites’ folder for quick retrieval of your masterpieces. The slideshow function of W170 and W150 has also been upgraded. Photos can be selected using the same filtering options available in playback mode and transitions have been improved through the application of face detection technology. Improvements to the background music function include a choice of more tracks, longer tracks, and multiple tracks for longer slideshows.

Whereas more sleek digital cameras come with a hefty price tag (such as Canon’s brilliant IXUS range), the DSC-W130 is a modest performer at a more reasonable price. The most important aspect of a digital camera is its usability. Thankfully, the DSC-W130 is a breeze to operate. Its square design sits quite comfortably in the hand and pocket (88x57x23mm, 123g), though the thin-and-long shutter button doesn’t provide reassuring feedback.

Ease of use is further helped by a control dial on the back of the camera. This helps to place some of the key controls at your fingertips and provides useful feedback on the display - kudos to Sony for providing a quick explanation of each mode’s features on the display. Accessing the rechargeable Lithium-ion battery and memory card slot at the bottom of the camera is quick and easy, and the zoom controls are clearly labelled. Sony supplies both a battery (NP-BG1) and charger as standard, and you should be able to take up to 420 shots in between charges. The DSC-W130 also has 15MB of built-in storage, which is enough for roughly five photos at the best quality settings, but you should never rely solely on built-in memory. The camera is also compatible with Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo High Speed, and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo cards.

More advanced users will appreciate manual controls that allow you to get a little more creative. Typically, these types of settings aren’t available on other cameras in this price range. You can alter exposure compensation (±2 EV in 1/3 EV steps), set the light metering method (multi-pattern, centre-weighted, or spot), and set white balance levels (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash). Furthermore, shutter speed can be altered (1/4-1 to 1/1600 seconds) and you can set the ISO sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200). There’s a self timer, too, along with built-in flash and red eye reduction.

A neat set of onboard photo retouching and viewing features lets you tweak captured images. The camera can trim and rotate (in 90-degree increments) your pictures, and digitally remove red eyes. It can also apply sharpening, soft focus and a variety of other effects. The DSC-W130 can also display photo slide shows with MP3 music soundtracks, either on the camera itself or - with an optional cable or cradle - on your HDTV.

Sony’s DSC-W130 is a good all-rounder, though image quality is quite run of the mill with softening around edges and noise at ISO 800 and higher. Colours are vibrant and shots are generally acceptable, though aren’t quite as sharp as they could be - but they’re more than suitable for respectable A4 prints, e-mailing, and posting on the Web. The DSC-W130 doesn’t set the world on fire, but its build quality, fast shutter, longer-than-normal lens, and handy in-camera editing and slide show functions make it a well-rounded offering for the asking price. [7]

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This entry was posted on Jul 01, 08 and is filed under Digital camera

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