The Sony W series has been getting gradually slimmer and more stylish with each generation, and the W80 is a pleasant all-metal compact with plenty of chrome and a solid construction. There's not a lot you can say about 'yet another ultra compact 3x zoom camera', though it's worth pointing out that the W80 is one of the few left to sport a (small) optical viewfinder, and that the combination of different surfaces (you can't really see it in this shot but there is a slight blue tinge to the main body) is pretty attractive. Overall fit and finish is excellent, and - especially given the price point - you'd be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about.
There's a fair amount of external controls, mainly clustered around the right hand side of the screen, though you won't find any 'photographic' controls beyond macro, flash and self-timer mode - and of course Sony found space for the 'HOME' button, which is common to most of its new models.
In your hand
Control and menus
We weren't that impressed with Sony's new user interface when we tested the high-end DSC H7 and H9 models recently, but those are cameras with extensive manual controls designed for the serious photographer. On a camera like the W80 - in essence a 'point and shoot' model in the truest sense - the pretty new interface and menu system feels a lot more sensible, although this is due in no small part to the fact that you don't actually use it very much. It is quite slow, and still to our mind slightly counterintuitive (the home menu is basically pointless and makes hunting down simple tasks such as formatting the card a chore).
|As usual you can choose the amount of information displayed on-screen (or turn the screen off entirely if you are using the optical viewfinder. Shown here is the most detailed view, with lots of shooting information ranged around the screen, plus a live histogram. Also shown here is the optional 'grid' overlay.||Half-press the shutter release and the camera will lock focus and exposure. The W80 has three AF area options (center, spot and - as shown here - area).|
|A ' virtual mode dial' appears when you turn the real mode dial - useful if you don't want to take your eye off the screen (though it stays around for too long).||Pressing the menu button in record mode brings up a scrolling menu covering most common photographic settings from imager size to AE-compensation, ISO, white balance and so on. Note that the menu is actually displayed as an overlay on the preview image (click). The menu has a few extra options in 'P' mode (including AE bracketing).|
|In playback mode you can choose the level of information displayed, from none to full shooting information and histogram (as here).||Pressing the wide button on the zoom rocker lets you display 3x3 or 4x4 thumbnails - note the new (and pointless) shaded top and bottom frame. You can also zoom into the image up to 5x (clip).|
|The playback menu has a couple of pages of scrolling menus including the usual delete, protect, slide show and print order options.||The retouch menu allows you to apply a variety of fairly unusual special effects to saved images, plus trim or remove red-eye.|
|Pressing the 'Home' button - no matter where you are in the menus or what you are doing with the camera - brings up the camera's 'home' page. This is supposed to be a simple way to access the most common functions - and change some less common settings, but since it isn't in any way customizable it's hard to see the point of it.||The camera's various settings and options are spread over six pages of menus split into four sections. The 'Main Settings' pages cover basic camera settings including video output (and HDTV format).|
|There are then two pages of 'Shooting Settings' - covering things like display and AF options and so on.||The last two menus are used to set the date and time and to change the language.|
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