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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good resolution, particularly in the middle of the frame
  • Nice design - very slim, all-metal body
  • HDTV output
  • Decent macro
  • Good image quality in good light; bright, sharp images with immediate 'consumer friendly' appeal
  • Very reliable exposure system in most shooting conditions
  • Face Detection works well and is fast
  • Accurate flash exposures
  • Lots of detail at lowest ISO settings
  • Easy to use with attractive interface

Conclusion - Cons

  • Slow, unreliable focus in low light
  • Combined effects of noise and noise reduction at high ISO's and in low light produces poor results
  • Noise reduction effects visible even at low ISO settings
  • Fiddly controls and fancy fade effects which make menus feel unresponsive
  • Screen is low res, has low refresh rate in low light and isn't that bright
  • Strong red-eye even with red-eye reduction mode
  • Fairly weak flash with fairly slow recycling
  • Multi AF can get confused in busy scenes and focus on the wrong area
  • Image stabilization doesn't seem particularly effective
  • HDTV output requires additional equipment
  • Minor issues with highlight clipping and color fringing and flare
  • Some corner/edge softness
  • No manual (custom) white balance

Overall conclusion

I haven't actually used a Sony Cyber-shot compact for about a year, and on previous experience I was expecting the W80 to sail through this review and emerge - even if not with flying colors - as an easy recommendation for anyone wanting a simple point and shoot compact that won't ruin the line of your suit. Sadly things are never that simple.

Obviously ultra compact cameras like this are always going to represent something of a compromise and nobody expects them to excel in dpreview's studio tests or to fare particularly well when measured by our standard metrics. If you're a pixel-peeping image quality obsessive then it's time to put the W80 down and back away slowly, this is not the camera for you.

But the typical 'point and shoot' user doesn't give two hoots about the kind of image quality issues that you can only see at 100% on-screen or in test charts, and for these users - the W80's target market - what's important is a camera that can be relied on to get good exposures, good color and good focus in a wide range of shooting conditions. This is where my main beef with the W80 lies.

As mentioned earlier, if you're looking to produce standard prints from the W80 then the results in daylight are actually pretty good. And - as we've seen with other cameras using this sensor - ISO 400 and ISO 800 are actually surprisingly usable as long as you're not going for big enlargements. But in low light the W80's performance is much patchier - not because its image quality is particularly poor (it's roughly on a par with all the other 7 or 8MP ultra compacts), but because the focus system, weak flash, slow lens and unimpressive screen (which gets very laggy and grainy in low light) make getting a good shot indoors a challenge, to say the least. And given that the target market for snapshot cameras is likely to want to take a lot of pictures in precisely the kind of situations where the W80 really struggles, this could be a serious problem.

Whilst I had no issues with focus or exposure at all when shooting outdoors in sunlight, once I was indoors the W80's 'hit rate' fell dramatically, and friends and family got sick of being blinded by the (very) bright AF assist light and long wait for the picture to be taken. And if I tried to use the zoom at anything but the widest setting I started to get far more focus errors than I would expect from a Sony camera in 2007.

So then, the W80 is a camera that is capable of producing surprisingly good results in good light at ISO 100 and is perfectly usable at ISO 400-800 in low light if you don't want big prints (the church interiors in the samples gallery, for example, are better than I expected), but a camera that falls down in what I consider to be one of the most important areas for a camera such as this; pictures of people indoors in low light - with or without flash. If you're after a 'walk around' camera for scenery then it's not a bad buy for $200-ish, but if you actually have friends and family, and are still awake taking pictures after sunset it's hard to wholeheartedly recommend it when there are so many better alternatives out there.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 7.0
Features 6.5
Image quality 7.0
Optics 6.5
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 7.0

Above Average

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Samples Galleries

There are 37 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

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Sony DSC-W80 Review Samples

37 images • Posted 11 Oct 2007 • View album
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