DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot W70 Review
Brad Soo - May 22nd, 2006

It's another one of Sony's new W-series cameras of 2006 - The Cyber-shot W70. The W70 features 7 megapixels, a 2.5 inch LCD, 2 cm macro and high ISO capabilities. I found the W50 a great camera but is the W70 an upgrade worthy of the extra $50? How will image quality turn out with the higher resolution sensor? Let's find out.

Sony W-series comparison

Here's 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/$198

$249/$217

$299/$269

$349/$293

$449/$188

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

100 - 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 May 23rd, 2006

Size and Weight

Take a look at the compact Sony W70:

(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
(189.7)  111.0 x 55.5 x 23.2 mm (160 g) - Kodak EasyShare V610
(171.1)  94.8 x 55.9 x 20.4 mm (103 g) - Olympus Stylus 710
(184.0)  92.0 x 61.0 x 31.0 mm (170 g) - Nikon Coolpix P3
(181.5)  100.5 x 60.0 x 21.0 mm (140 g) - Nikon Coolpix S6
(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 W70 is a very compact and light camera. It's body construction is good and there are minimal protrusions. Still, all the cameras above can be tucked into your pocket so the size difference isn't a very big deal.

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

Sony gave the Sony Cyber-shot W70 a generous 58 MB of internal memory; almost double of that found in the previous W7 and W30/W50 I reviewed. Still, you might want to get at least a 512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo for this 7 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
135 shots - Kodak EasyShare V610
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix P3
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix S6
180 shots - Olympus Stylus 710
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 W70 uses the same rechargeable NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery as the W30/W50/W100. A full charged battery will get you 360 shots (CIPA Standard) which is above average. Unlike other Sony lithium-ion batteries, the NP-BG1 battery the W70 uses is not an InfoLithium battery so you won't get a detailed "minute" battery indicator.

 

Extras

The Sony W70 is compatible with many accessories, including conversion lenses:

  • Conversion lens adapter
  • Telephoto conversion lens (1.7x, 65 - 194 mm)
  • Super telephoto conversion lens (2.6x, 99 - 296 mm)
  • Various filters
  • External slave flash
  • Underwater case
  • AC adapter

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 is available in your choice of black or...

...silver. The Sony Cyber-shot W70 features the same 38 - 114 mm Carl Zeiss lens (3x optical zoom) found on the W30/W50 - The W100 uses a larger, noisier version. The aperture range is F2.8 - F5.2.

The front of the W70 is identical to that of the W30/W50 save for the "7.2 megapixels". 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 1000 - same as the W100 surprisingly. To the upper left of the lens is the viewfinder window. And on the far right is the AF-assist beam/self-timer light.

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 features a 2.5 inch LCD which has only 115,000 pixels. Most competitors have LCD screens with at least 50% more resolution. The LCD brightens slightly in low-light, making it easier to view, but outdoors, visibility is just okay.

Probably knowing the LCD visibility wouldn't be that good, Sony didn't leave out the optical viewfinder - It's at the top left with 2 status LEDs beside it and a playback button. Next to the "DSC-W70" is a speaker. 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
  • 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

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 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 "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)

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

There are three things up here: a power button and shutter button to the right and a microphone to the left. A zoom lever is wrapped around the shutter button. This zoom lever seems to be slightly stiffer but by no means hard to accidentally push. You can exit the W70's playback digital by half-pressing the shutter button. The Sony W70's DC-IN port is located on the right along with a wrist strap mount.

sony-w70-bottom

At the bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot W70 is the battery/card slot. The door covering the battery/card slot locks firmly into place when closed and it feels quite sturdy. The tripod mount placement means it is near impossible to change batteries/Memory Stick Duo when on a tripod. There is also a multi connector port here for A/V Out and USB.

Shooting

 

You can select one of the Sony Cyber-shot W70's many image sizes in addition to its native resolution of 7 megapixels. Image sizes available include 7 megapixels, 5 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.

There's only program mode on the W70 and it frees up the following options:

  • 5 white balance presets (no custom option)
  • ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, 1000)
  • Color mode (Normal, vivid, 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 W70 macro mode is great and can go as close as 2 cm. Using the Smart Zoom option, which is essentially cropping, the W70 can zoom till 14x but only at VGA resolution.

Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 features the standard Sony movie mode. The W70 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 sluggish 8 FPS!

Exposure is automatically adjusted while recording, but the Sony W70 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 above satisfactory.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 starts up and extends its lens in 1.2 seconds. The lens was fairly silent moving lens. Focusing takes about 1 to 1.8 seconds and shot-to-shot speed was about 1 shot every 1.6 seconds. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery was more or less 7 seconds. The lens takes 1.5 seconds to reach telephoto and powers down in 2 seconds. When doing continuous shooting, the camera took 5 shots at 1.2 FPS.

Image Quality

This is how good the Sony Cyber-shot W70's image quality is:


ISO 100 (f5.2, 1/250 sec)


ISO 200 (f13, 1/80 sec)


ISO 400 (f13, 1/160 sec)


ISO 800 (f13, 1/320 sec)


ISO 1000 (f13, 1/500 sec)

Well, no problem up till ISO 400. Things are sharp and colors look natural. At ISO 800, the colors look less vivid but noise is still fairly low. At ISO 1000, there's quite a bit more noise and things are smudgy. There was chromatic aberration (Color fringing) throughout the range.

Barrel and pincushion distortion were both not very evident. Red-eye was in some people photos though. The image quality of the Sony Cyber-shot W70 is very good though at ISO 1000, things look less usable compared to that of the W50.

Photo gallery

More full-sized photos in the Sony Cyber-shot W70 gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot W70 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

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 takes all the features of the W50: a 2.5 inch LCD, high sensitivity mode and great battery life, and tosses in 7 megapixels.

The W70 has an above average battery life rating of 360 shots and 58 MB of built-in memory. The W70 is expandable with a wide range of accessories and what a better way to preview your new conversion lens or filter effects via the 2.5 inch LCD? The LCD is not very sharp and visible though.

Despite the good macro mode, image quality and movie mode, I've the usual quirks about the W70's performance: Things are not as fast as some modern day competitors (Hint hint... Panasonic) and the movie mode is too simple. Like other compact cameras, the W70 doesn't have any manual controls either. And one more thing: Sony mentions that the ISO range of the W70 is 80 to 1000 yet I could only find ISO 100 as the lowest option!

The Sony Cyber-shot W70 may be a good camera but being essentially a W50 with 7 megapixels and it costs $50 more, I think the W50 is the best bang for your buck among the 4 W-series cameras. The W30 has too small an LCD, the W70 is a bit overpriced for no other extra step-ups and same goes for the W100. So, I'd pass on the W70 and step down to the W50. And if you need manual controls, there are higher resolution compact cameras with some manual controls for the same price, the Casio Z850 for example.

What's hot:

  • Large 2.5 inch LCD
  • Expandable with conversion lenses and filters
  • Above average battery life
  • Powerful flash with good control (especially with closeups)
  • Very close 2 cm macro mode
  • Good - not great - high ISO performance (Acceptable up to ISO 800)
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Very good image quality

What's not:

  • LCD visibility and resolution not excellent
  • No manual controls
  • No ISO 80 option on my camera?
  • Slow and limited continuous shooting
  • Lens retracts too soon in playback mode
  • Performance could be faster and better
  • Redeye
  • Movie mode is very basic: 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 - Some manual controls. 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 V610 - Another camera with two lenses which specializes in 10x zoom shots and excellent movie mode but no image stabilization, terrible battery life and fairly slow. Image quality also leaves much to be desired.

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.

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