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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good clean results with excellent color and resolution
  • Very well built
  • Very low noise for a camera in this class
  • Fast focus, generally responsive operation
  • Easy to use and good handling
  • Good movie mode (MPEG)
  • Excellent battery life (with NiMH)
  • AF illuminator
  • Big, bright screen with auto gain-up
  • Wide range of optional accessories
  • Well priced

Conclusion - Cons

  • No aperture or shutter priority mode
  • Some highlight clipping in bright scenes
  • Minimum ISO 100 (50 would be nice)
  • Results a bit soft and slightly over-sharpened
  • No manual/custom white balance mode
  • Flash recycle slow unless batteries very fresh, red-eye mode adds long delay
  • Small amount of chromatic aberration - not visible in normal shots
  • Only two aperture settings
  • Unimpressive macro mode
  • Some corner softness at wide end of zoom
  • Some focus errors at long end of zoom

Overall conclusion

In a market where the trend is towards ever-smaller compact cameras Sony has, in the W series of cameras, provided an alternative for those who prefer something a little more substantial, and something a little more traditionally-styled. By doing so they are obviously intending to cover all the bases - the W7 is internally virtually identical to the ultra-compact P200, and shares that camera's ease of use, speed of operation and ability to produce pleasing results in a wide variety of shooting situations. The 2.5-inch screen may not be very high resolution, but it's bright and clear, and the extra size makes it a joy to use.

Sony's 7MP chip has impressed us in every camera we've tested, offering significantly lower noise and better dynamic range than the 5MP chip that preceded it (Sony didn't make a 6MP version), so image quality is, unsurprisingly, pretty good. Purists will - as usual with Cyber-shots - find the results a little 'over-processed', and there are some issues with highlight clipping, but overall they are perfect for the target market, and print very well with little or no post-processing.

As well as the usual smattering of scene modes the W7 offers plenty of options for the more serious user, including a full manual exposure mode (though with only two apertures to choose from its usefulness is rather limited), a live histogram and some optional converters to extend the lens range. You also get a perfectly usable 30fps VGA movie mode and excellent battery life.

So then, the W7 is a camera that offers excellent performance, solid handling and very good image quality in an easy to use, well-built package. It may not be as pocketable as cameras like the P200, and it's certainly no head-turner, but it does offer excellent value for money (being up to $100 less expensive than some competitors), and has a certain charm (if you find aluminum bricks charming).

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