DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot W30 Review
Brad Soo - March 17th, 2006

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 is the first of 2 new compact W series cameras from Sony capable of taking photos at high sensitivities. It shares the 6 megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom and ISO 1000 capabilities with the W50 (which retails for $20 more). The W50 has a larger 2.5 inch LCD (compared to 2.0 inch on the W30) and is available in black. Both the W30 and W50 are sold in the US. Let's find out how well things turn out.

Size and Weight

So exactly how compact is the Sony Cyber-shot W30? Take a look:

(161.2)  86.0 x 53.5 x 21.7 mm (140 g) - Canon PowerShot SD600 Digital ELPH
(166.0)  88.5 x 57.0 x 20.5 mm (112 g) - Casio Exilim Z600
(163.6)  90.0 x 55.0 x 18.6 mm (130 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z2
(177.0)  93.0 x 61.0 x 23.0 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R727
(171.2)  101.0 x 49.8 x 20.4 mm (125 g) - Kodak EasyShare V570
(163.6)  92.0 x 50.0 x 21.6 mm (120 g) - Kodak EasyShare V603
(172.0)  93.0 x 59.0 x 20.0 mm (135 g) - Nikon Coolpix S5
(178.5)  97.0 x 55.0 x 26.5 mm (128 g) - Olympus Stylus 600
(170.2)  94.0 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX01
(159.0)  86.0 x 54.0 x 19.0 mm (100 g) - Pentax Optio S6
(175.3)  96.5 x 61.0 x 17.8 mm (130 g) - Samsung Digimax i6
(165.2)  89.7 x 54.9 x 20.6 mm (134 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T9
(188.1)  91.0 x 60.0 x 37.1 mm (197 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W5
(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.

Not the smallest or lightest, but the W30 can slip into your pocket with ease. Something else worthy of note is it's much smaller and lighter than the W5 and roughly 2/3 its thickness.

Open up the Box

Open up that box and along with the W30 comes:

  • Rechargeable NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 has a petty 32 MB of internal memory so you'll have to allocate some budget for a memory card. If you're getting the W30, you'll be saving $20. So why not treat yourself to a large 512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 has an excellent battery life of 400 shots (CIPA Standard) on a single charge. That's quite a bit above average. The NP-BG1 battery the W30 uses is not an InfoLithium battery so you won't get a detailed "minute" battery indicator.

160 shots - Canon PowerShot SD600 Digital ELPH
500 shots - Casio Exilim Z600
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z2
N/A - HP Photosmart R727
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V570
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V603
210 shots - Nikon Coolpix S5
330 shots - Olympus Stylus 600
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX01
130 shots - Pentax Optio S6
N/A - Samsung Digimax i6
240 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T9
400 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W30
390 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W50

 

Extras

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 is compatible with conversion lenses and an external slave flash.

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 is available in your choice of blue, silver or...

 

...white.

Sony Cyber-shot W30 has a 38 - 114 mm lens (3x optical zoom). The aperture range is F2.8 - F5.2. This lens is the same as the one found on the Cyber-shot W50. Both the W30 and W50 have a 1/2.5 inch 6 megapixel CCD.

The whole camera has been given a facelift with most of the features shifted to the right. The front is made mostly of plastic-metal like material unlike the W50's brushed metal casing.

The circle on the left is the viewfinder window (next to "Carl Zeiss") and the circle below the flash on the right is the AF-assist beam. The AF-assist beam emits a red beam of light to help the camera focus in dark conditions as well as become a countdown lamp in self-timer mode. The flash has an average maximum range of 4.2 m at ISO Auto and that goes up to 7.3 m at ISO 1000.

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 features a 2.0 inch LCD which has only 85,000 pixels. For $20 more, the W50 has a 2.5 inch LCD with 115,000 pixels. Visibility is okay outdoors and good in low-light but not very sharp. Beneath the LCD is a plastic flap covering the I/O ports.

On the top left, there's a small speaker followed by an optical viewfinder with 2 status lights. And there's a playback button to review your photos right away.

And now, here's the mode dial. Turning the mode dial while reviewing photos will automatically exit playback. 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 ISO sensitivity and flash intensity
  • High sensitivity - Mostly for low-light and action shots. the camera boosts ISO up to 1000 if needed
  • Twilight
  • Twilight portrait
  • Snow
  • Beach
  • Landscape
  • Soft snap
  • Movie

Like the W50, the Sony Cyber-shot W30 also features a Function Guide, which displays a description of the mode selected which can be helpful, and two new Color modes which are "Rich" (AKA vivid) and "Natural".

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)

This revised controller replaces quick review with exposure compensation. Pressing the center button is to confirm a setting. The button at the very bottom allows you to change image size while shooting or delete a photo in playback.

Up here is a rather oddly placed microphone (on the left) as well as a power button and shutter button. A zoom lever is wrapped around the shutter button. I found this zoom lever to be rather loose and easy to bump, making the camera zoom when I don't want it to. By half-pressing the shutter button, you can quickly exit playback mode.

In case you were looking for it, the Sony W30's DC-IN port is located on the right along with a wrist strap mount.

At the bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot W30 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.

Shooting

The W30 practically has whatever that's on the W50. You can select one of the Sony Cyber-shot W30's many image sizes in addition to its 6 effective megapixels. Other image size options available include 3 megapixels, 2 megapixels, 1 megapixel and VGA plus two compression options - Fine and Standard.

Being a point-and-shoot camera, there's not much for you to change; these being somewhat of manual controls:

  • 5 white balance presets (no custom option)
  • ISO (80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000)
  • Auto focus (Multi, center, preset distance)
  • Metering method
  • Flash intensity (High, normal, low)

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 features an improved macro mode. While the Sony W5/W7 can go up to 6 cm and the Canon SD600 about 3 cm, the Sony W30 can perform macro as close as 2 cm.

Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 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 W30 cannot constantly focus or zoom (optical or digital) while recording a movie. And needless to say there's no image stabilization available.

Overall movie quality is very good, same as on the W50.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 starts up and extends its lens in 2.3 seconds. Focusing speed is very fast - taking 1.3 seconds. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery was a lengthy 10 seconds - The W50 took half that time to do it.

The W30 took 8 photos at 1.3 FPS. Buffer clearing was done at a fairly acceptable speed. The lens takes 2 seconds to reach telephoto and powers down, also in 2 seconds.

Image Quality

Using my brand new test chart, here are some photos from the Sony Cyber-shot W30 (these are 100% crops):


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


ISO 100 (f2.8, 1/13 sec)


ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/25 sec)


ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/50 sec)


ISO 800 (f2.8, 1/100 sec)


ISO 1000 (f2.8, 1/125 sec)

Believe it or not, the W30 actually used the same shutter speed and aperture values as the W50. The ISO 80 crop is not noisy at all. At ISO 100 and ISO 200, noise is still under control. The ISO 100 shot is a little blurry thanks to me handholding the camera! I still find the ISO 200 shot very acceptable.

At ISO 400, noise is still okay. At ISO 800, things are starting to smudge and the colors are starting to become less vivid. At ISO 1000, things are no better, but no worse either. I still could get a good A4 print out of that. Like on the W50, I like the photos the W30 produced - Very clean at low ISOs and a little noisy but acceptable sharp photos at high ISOs!

Before we go on to the DPInterface color chart, I'd like to note that the W30 did not have the white balance difficulties like the W50 had on some shots.

And now for my color chart! Barrel distortion is not evident and there is no pincushion distortion. Back to the color chart: Colors are quite accurate and the W30 had less problems distinguishing the colors.

Redeye is a problem as usual and this is probably the only major image issue the W30 has (along with most compact cameras). Overall, I'm most impressed with the image quality of the W30, especially when it comes to ISO.

Photo gallery

Why not see the full-sized photos for yourself? Check out the W30 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot W30 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, print marking, direct printing (The W30 is PictBridge enabled), slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies. You can also zoom up to 5x into still photos taken 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 W30 (and the W50) are missing the improved playback features found on the Sony N1 and M2.

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

The Sony Cyber-shot W30 is essentially a W50 with a smaller LCD. The W30 and W50 are both about 10% smaller than the W5 yet features a 6 megapixel CCD, 3x zoom lens with the same specifications, excellent battery life and can still support conversion lenses! But gone are the limited (but useful) manual controls from the W5.

The Cyber-shot W30 has a smaller and lower resolution LCD than the W50 and it lacks resolution and visibility. Battery life is so good, I don't think there'll be any need to get an additional battery pack.

Like the W50, the W30 is also adept at macro shooting. Not only can it go as close as 2 cm, the flash throttles down appropriately so the photo won't be overexposed. Overall image quality (not only macro shots) was excellent.

There are some things that can be improved. The zoom lever could be made stiffer so the zoom can't be operated by accident (I understand this is Sony's first attempt at a zoom lever after years of using buttons). Buffer could be increased as continuous shooting is rather slow and I think the overall performance of the W30 is lacking. The excellent movie mode from other Sony cameras is here too - Also recorded in MPEG format, the main reason file sizes are small and easy to buffer for movies.

I think that the Sony Cyber-shot W30 is a great overall camera - featuring great image quality, excellent battery life, good macro mode and can record VGA movies at 30 FPS. However, I'd rather upgrade to the W50 (which has a larger LCD) for just a mere $20.

What's hot:

  • Excellent battery life
  • Conversion lens compatibility
  • Flash control is better than most
  • Gets very close with 2 cm macro mode
  • Great high ISO performance (Even ISO 1000 shots are acceptable)
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Very good image quality

What's not:

  • LCD visibility and resolution not excellent
  • Small and low resolution LCD
  • Zoom lever is too easy to bump
  • No manual controls
  • Slow and limited continuous shooting
  • Performance could be faster and better
  • Redeye
  • Memory Sticks can be costly

Recommended Accessories

~512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo card

Other Cameras

Here are some other cameras you might want to consider:

Canon PowerShot SD600 Digital ELPH - Worse battery life, not compatible with conversion lenses and macro mode which is not as good but 50% higher LCD resolution, much faster and the same great low-light performance (Low noise ISO 800).

Casio Exilim Z600 - The best battery life in its class, a ton of scene modes and excelent movie mode but still not good when it comes to low light shooting and fairly slow.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 - An excellent camera for low-light shooting (Low noise ISO 3200) along with a viewable LCD in low-light. Also has 25% better battery life, full manual controls. The only issues here are slow continuous shooting and uses xD cards which are expensive.

Kodak EasyShare V570 - A unique camera with two lenses which can take very wide-angled shots (great for indoor use) and excellent movie mode but terrible battery life and fairly slow. It has a ISO 800 option but I think it's unacceptable.

Panasonic Lumix FX01 - The same size as your average ultra-compact but has a 28 mm wide-angle lens (not as wide as the Kodak though). Comes with optical image stabilization which is very handy, one of the best movie modes, good image quality and battery life. The downside is some soft photos and no high ISO options.

Sony Cyber-shot W50 - Features everything from the W30 plus a larger LCD for just a humble $20 more.

Sony Cyber-shot W100 - Has 8 megapixels, larger imaging sensor, higher ISO (ISO 1250) and a manual mode (full shutter speed, limited aperture control) but costs $120 more.

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