DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot W100 Review
Brad Soo - April 23rd, 2006

Featuring 8 megapixels as flagship of the Sony W-series, the Sony Cyber-shot W100 is more than just a W50 with a high resolution sensor plopped in. The W100 has an all new 8 megapixel CCD which is larger than those used by its siblings (The W30, W50 and W70). While the one found on those three is 1/2.5 inches, this one over here is 1/1.8 inches. Also exclusive to the W100 is a full manual mode (well, sort of) which allows simultaneous control over shutter speed and aperture.

So is the $349 W100 worth the premium or should one just opt for the $299 W70? With the new sensor, will the W100 beat competition in terms of image quality or drag behind? All these questions, and more, answered now! Let's all take a look at the W100...

Sony W-series comparison

Here's something special; a comparison chart feature all four of the Sony W-series launched this year:

 

Sony W30

Sony W50

Sony W70

Sony W100

Sony W7

Original retail/ current price*

$229/$204

$249/$229

$299/$281

$349/$308

$449/$233

Resolution

6.0 megapixels

6.0 megapixels

7.1 megapixels

8.1 megapixels

7.1 megapixels

CCD sensor size

1/2.5 inch

1/2.5 inch

1/2.5 inch

1/1.8 inch

1/1.8 inch

Lens focal length

3X (38-114 mm)

Lens aperture

f2.8 - f5.2

LCD size

2.0 inch (85k pixels)

2.5 inch (115k pixels)

2.5 inch (115k pixels)

2.5 inch (115k pixels)

2.5 inch (115k pixels)

Internal memory

32 MB

32 MB

58 MB

64 MB

32 MB

Color modes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Macro mode

2 cm

2 cm

2 cm

6 cm

6 cm

Manual mode

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

ISO range

80 - 1000

80 - 1000

80 - 1000

80 - 1250

100 - 400

Add-on lenses

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Battery life

400 shots

390 shots

360 shots

360 shots

380 shots

Shutter speed range

1 - 1/2000 sec

1 - 1/2000 sec

1 - 1/2000 sec

30 - 1/2000 sec

30 - 1/2000 sec

Smart Zoom

13X

13X

14X

15X

12X

Body color

Blue, white, silver

Black, silver

Black, silver

Black, silver

Black, silver

*As of April 23rd, 2006

Size and Weight

Is the W100 big or small? Take a look:

(173.3)  90.4 x 56.5 x 26.4 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
(171.2)  89.0 x 58.5 x 23.7 mm (130 g) - Casio Exilim Z850
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F30
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R927
(163.6)  92.0 x 50.0 x 21.6 mm (120 g) - Kodak EasyShare V603
(184.0)  92.0 x 61.0 x 31.0 mm (170 g) - Nikon Coolpix P3
(175.9)  97.0 x 56.2 x 22.7 mm (145 g) - Olympus Stylus 810
(170.2)  94.0 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX01
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A10
(188.1)  91.0 x 60.0 x 37.1 mm (197 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W7
(169.0)  89.0 x 57.0 x 23.0 mm (127 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W30/W50/W70
(179.6)  94.2 x 60.6 x 24.8 mm (161 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W100

As usual, I've included the "DPI measurement unit" (As opposed to volume) on the left for a more accurate impression of a camera's size.

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 is larger than its siblings but smaller than the previous W-series flagship, the W7. Overall, the W100 is one of the largest but it's still very compact, pocketable and far from being bulky.

Open up the Box

Open up that box and in it you'll find these:

  • Rechargeable NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V multi-connector cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

This time, Sony was generous enough to give the Sony Cyber-shot W100 some 64 MB of internal memory; double of that found in the previous W7 and W30/W50 I recently reviewed. Still, you might want to get at least a 512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo for this memory-guzzling 8 megapixel camera.

240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
440 shots - Casio Exilim Z850
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F30
200 shots - HP Photosmart R927
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V603
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix P3
250 shots - Olympus Stylus 810
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX01
150 shots - Pentax Optio A10
400 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W30
390 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W50
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W70
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W100

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 uses the same rechargeable NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery as the W30/W50/W70. A full charged battery will fetch you 360 shots (CIPA Standard) which is above average. My experience with the W100 proved that statement - I got almost 400 shots on a single charge. Unlike other Sony batteries, the NP-BG1 battery the W100 uses is not an InfoLithium battery so you won't get a detailed "minute" battery indicator.

 

Extras

Surprisingly, the W100 has only one accessory - an AC adapter. Unlike the W7 before it or even the lower-end W30/W50/W70, the Sony W100 is not compatible with conversion lenses.

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 is available in your choice of silver or...

...black. Here on the Sony Cyber-shot W100 is a 38 - 114 mm Carl Zeiss lens (3x optical zoom). The aperture range is F2.8 - F5.2. This lens is identical and could possibly be the exact same one used on the W7. The new textured aluminum exterior gives the W100 a classy look and nice feel.

The front layout of the W100 resembles the W7 more than the recent W30/W50/W70. The flash is located directly above the lens. It has a maximum range of 4.2 m (ISO auto) and 7.3 m at ISO 1250. Next to the flash is the microphone and below that is the AF-assist beam/self-timer light. And on the far right is the viewfinder window.

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 features a 2.5 inch LCD which has only 115,000 pixels. Many competitors have LCD screens with at least 50% more resolution. The LCD brightens slightly in low-light, making it easier to view, but didn't brighten outdoors. Outdoors, visibility is okay. Surprisingly, Sony didn't even include any function which brightens the LCD as more and more manufacturers nowadays are doing this.

Sony didn't leave out the optical viewfinder though - It's at the top left with 2 status LEDs beside it. Next to that is the speaker. And now, here's the mode dial. I'll go through it clockwise from the green camera icon:

  • Automatic - Just point and shoot
  • Programmed auto - No manual exposure control but you can change settings such as color modes, ISO sensitivity and flash intensity
  • Manual mode - Set exposure manually
  • High sensitivity - Mostly for low-light and action shots. the camera boosts ISO up to 1000 if needed
  • Twilight
  • Twilight portrait
  • Beach
  • Landscape
  • Soft snap
  • Movie

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 has a Function Guide (turned on by default), which displays a description of the mode selected which can be helpful, and two new Color modes which are "Rich" (AKA vivid) and "Natural".

Exclusive to the Sony W100 is manual mode. It's not really full manual (as I'll explain in a moment) but it's close. You can (and must) change both shutter speed and aperture manually. For shutter speed, you can select between 30 seconds and 1/1000th of a second. As for aperture, there are only two options available at every focal length (At wide-angle, it's f2.8 and f5.6 while at telephoto, it's f5.2 and f10) so it is either one or the other!

Next are two buttons, one for selecting the amount of info displayed on LCD and the MENU button calls up the menu. The 5-way controller has these functions:

  • Up - Flash setting (Auto, on, off, slow-sync - redeye reduction is turned on/off in the menu)
  • Down - Self-timer (On/off)
  • Left - Exposure compensation (+2 till -2 in 1/3 increments)
  • Right - Macro (On/off)

Pressing the center button is to confirm a setting. The other button at the very bottom allows you to change image size while shooting or delete a photo in playback.

There are just two things up here: a power button and shutter button. A zoom lever is wrapped around the shutter button. This zoom lever seems to be stiffer than the ones found on the W30 and W50. You can exit the W100's playback digital SLR-style by half-pressing the shutter button.

In case you were looking for it, the Sony W100's DC-IN + multi-use port is located on the right along with a wrist strap mount. You can plug your cable in here for USB and A/V out connection.

At the bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot W100 is the battery/card slot. The door covering the battery/card slot locks firmly into place when closed and the spring loaded hinge means it pops out quickly when opened. The tripod mount placement means it is possible to change batteries/Memory Stick Duo when on a tripod. Shown in the picture is a NP-BG1 battery loaded in but without any Memory Stick PRO Duo.

Shooting

 

You can select one of the Sony Cyber-shot W100's many image sizes in addition to its native resolution of 8 megapixels. Image sizes available include 8 megapixels, 5 megapixels, 3 megapixels, 2 megapixels, 1 megapixel and VGA plus two compression options - Fine and Standard.

A new Function Guide displays a short description of each mode when you turn the mode dial.

Besides the so-called "manual" mode mentioned in the previous section, you can also select and change:

  • 5 white balance presets (no custom option)
  • ISO (80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250)
  • Color mode (Normal, rich, natural, sepia, monochrome)
  • Auto focus (Multi, center, preset distance)
  • Metering method (Multi, center, spot)
  • Flash intensity (High, normal, low)
  • Contrast and sharpness

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 macro mode is disappointing. It can go as close as 6 cm. The cheaper W30/W50/W70 can go as close as 2 cm. So can the Canon SD700 IS (2 cm).

Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 features the same movie mode as other Sony cameras. The W100 can take VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. This requires a Memory Stick PRO Duo card (but nowadays, who doesn't have one?). Just in case you have a normal Memory Stick Duo or want to record longer movies, you can record VGA movies at 16 FPS or 160 x 112 movies at a bumbling 8 FPS!

Exposure is automatically adjusted while recording, but unlike other cameras, the Sony W100 cannot constantly focus or zoom (optical or digital) while recording a movie. And needless to say there's no image stabilization available. I see a potential in using Smart Zoom (mentioned above) as a movie zoom.

Overall movie quality is very good.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot W100 starts up and extends its lens in 1.5 seconds. The lens was fairly noisy compared to the W50's silent moving lens. Focusing takes 1.1 seconds and shot-to-shot speed was about 1 shot every 1.7 seconds. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery was more or less 6 seconds. One thing I liked about the flash was it throttled down enough to not overexpose close macro subjects. And the thing I dislike? The lens motor is too noisy!

Buffer clearing was nice and fast. The lens takes 1.6 seconds to reach telephoto and powers down in 2 seconds. I forgot to talk about continuous shooting! Okay, the W50 took 7 shots at 1.5 FPS before it decided its buffer had been filled.

Image Quality

Using my test chart, here's how the Sony Cyber-shot W100 fares in image quality:


ISO 80 (f2.8, 1/10 sec)


ISO 100 (f2.8, 1/15 sec)


ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/30 sec)


ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/60 sec)


ISO 800 (f2.8, 1/125 sec)


ISO 1250 (f2.8, 1/200 sec)

Up to ISO 200, noise does not seem to be evident. Things are sharp and colors look natural. At ISO 400, you can see that the W100 did quite a bit of processing and noise reduction. Not much to worry about though. At ISO 800, the colors look less natural and vivid but image quality is still acceptable. Maximum ISO (ISO 1250) - Noise is evident but processing played its part, making the photo more crisp and preserved some details. There's no color fringing here as well!

And now for my color chart! Barrel and pincushion distortion are not noticeable in real world photos (Excuse the improper orientation of the chart). Colors seem to look as they should. Color reproduction here is more accurate compared to the W50.

Redeye is a problem as usual and this is probably the only "big" image issue the W100 has (along with most compact cameras). Overall, image quality of the W100 is very good and photos are useable even at high ISOs.

Photo gallery

Wanna see more full sized photos taken by the Sony Cyber-shot W100? There's 10 of em in the W100 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot W100 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as do all this: Protect image, print marking, slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies. You can also magnify still photos by 5x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info about your photos. A histogram is shown both while shooting and in playback.

The lens retracts after a short period spend in playback. I feel that the camera should wait a little longer to retract its lens. Once I spent a short while checking my photos in playback and the minute I want to shoot again, the lens retracts and re-extends.

 

Conclusion

Flagship of the W-series, the Sony Cyber-shot W100 packs 8 megapixels on larger sized CCD, 3x optical zoom, 2.5 inch LCD, ISO 1250 and a manual mode. And it costs about $300 only.

The W100 has above average battery life - that's 360 shots. So there appears to be not much of a requirement to get an extra battery pack. There's also plenty of built-in memory; that's a whole 64 MB. So while you can take photos using your 512 MB or larger Memory Stick PRO Duo, the internal memory can be used as an album or for backup.

Reserved for the Sony W100 is a manual mode. Though it's limited, it's better than nothing and still quite meaningful. Its ISO sensitivity up to ISO 1250 means you don't need to worry much about low-light shots or fast moving subjects. And even at ISO 1250, the photos are still useable. On whole, the W100 produces very good photos.

Despite the very good flash control and it throttles down to not overexpose close subjects, the macro mode stinks in this day and age. 6 cm macro is well suited for a cheap entry-level camera. And the movie mode is pretty simple but perhaps too simple. The Sony W100 is not very fast as well (Time for Real Imaging Processor II??): Continuous shooting is slow and limited, shot-to-shot and autofocus could be much faster.

So I think the Sony Cyber-shot W100 is a great pocket camera with high resolution. Its "manual" mode, high ISO capabilities and good image quality emphasize on its "greatness". Still, there should be things like shutter/aperture priority, faster performance, better movie and macro mode. The Sony W100 is a good buy for image quality but not expandability, speed macro or if you want 100% full manual controls.

What's hot:

  • Large 2.5 inch LCD
  • Above average battery life
  • Shutter and aperture control (though limited)
  • Good flash control (especially with closeups)
  • Great high ISO performance (Even ISO 1250 shots are acceptable)
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Very good image quality
  • Affordable

What's not:

  • LCD visibility and resolution not excellent
  • Not compatible with conversion lenses (Even the W30 which is priced 33% less is compatible with them)
  • No shutter/aperture priority; manual mode is limited
  • Slow and limited continuous shooting
  • So-so 6 cm macro mode
  • Noisy moving lens and it retracts too quickly in playback
  • Performance could be faster and better
  • Redeye
  • Movie mode is basic and too bare: no zoom, focus when recording

Recommended Accessories

~512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo card

Other Cameras

Here are some other cameras you might want to consider:

Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH - Just 6 megapixels and no manual controls but equipped with 4x optical zoom, optical image stabilizer, a higher resolution LCD and ISO 800.

Casio Exilim Z850 - Same limited manual mode but also with priority modes. It's not that fast but has a ton of scene modes, some sort of high ISO and excellent movie mode.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 - You're not gonna get this one for movies. It's image quality you want! The FinePix F30 delivers excellent photos - even at its ISO 3200 setting! It has full manual controls, a high resolution LCD, 3x optical zoom - what else do you want? It doesn't have image stabilization though.

HP Photosmart R927 - The flagship of the HP Photosmart line of cameras has 8 megapixels, a huge 3 inch LCD and an array of special (some not very useful) features. It has a small amount of buffer and no high ISO though.

Kodak EasyShare V603 - Your average 6 megapixel camera with a 2.5 inch LCD and excellent movie mode. Again, it's slow, no high ISO and no manual controls.

Nikon Coolpix P3 - The P3 which lacks the good battery life, high ISO and video quality of the W100 makes up with image stabilization, aperture priority and WiFi.

Olympus Stylus 810 - This all-weather camera can go just about anywhere. It has ISO 1600 though I'm not sure if it's usable. Aside from fairly slow performance and no manual controls, this camera is alright.

Panasonic Lumix FX01 - This 28 mm ultra-compact with no manual controls and no high ISO has 6 megapixels, optical image stabilization and good battery life.

Pentax Optio A10 - Another image stabilized camera with 8 megapixels and 2.5 inch LCD. It doesn't have high ISO and good battery life though.

Sony Cyber-shot W30/W50/W70 - Cheaper versions of the W100 (See comparison chart earlier on in the review).

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