A neat little camera with some surprising qualities and a sweet price tag.
Travelling with my digital SLR + equipment is ok when I have specific targets in mind, and when my wife has the patience. Because it takes time to pick up the SLR from my camera bag, may be swop lenses, do the needed camera adjustments, expose the image and then reverse the whole process. Being on the move, shooting pictures continously is a bit time consuming on behalf of other normal travel activities, and eventually I was enlightened and saw that I needed a suitable compact camera. Last week then I went looking for the best camera I could get for a reasonable price, which in my wallet was up to 300 US$.
I did not find what I really wanted though, but then by accident I stumbled upon the W320. The price tag told me that this had to be a cheap camera in every respect, but I read some reviews on the net and figured I wanted to give it a try. It wasn't that big of a risk. So I bought the camera and did my first test shootings. What a surprise!
The image quality is very good, and I really mean it. I did a few parallel shots with the W320 and my SLR, and made some detail studies in Photoshop on both images. In some cases the W320 images were actually visually better than the SLR images, both in colors, contrast and noise. In a couple of the reviews I read the macro abilities had a low score, but in my case the macro images were excellent. Even the flash images were better then expected.
There is one interesting subject, though, and that is the subtle dithering effect which can be seen when the image is zoomed in to actual pixels in Photoshop, possibly compensating for the usual digital image artifacts. This is just a matter of taste, and it does not really bother me, as long as the quality of the image is not affected. And in most cases it is not visible at all in normal view.
The design is a big plus to me. Being a designer I am a bit nitpicky here, but this camera is in my opinion well shaped, in particulary in black. 14,1 megapixels is ok, though it did not affect my choice. A lot of pixels does not say anything about the image quality. 4x zoom is ok. I like big zooms, but it wasn't a big issue here.
Even though W320 is a rather stripped down camera, I have what I need when it comes to manual control. The optional manual WB, EV, ISO, focus and measure adjustments gives me in fact a lot of control. And if I'm in a hurry I can use the Intelligent Auto adjustment, which seemingly works great.
I have no need for video on a still camera, so 720p video recording is no issue to me. Larger zoom span is no issue either, and why would I need more manual control with a snapshot camera? The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W320 supports all my needs, including high quality images.
It is too early for me to say anything about the battery life, but I've always had a spare battery to my cameras, and so be it with this one. That should solve any potential problems.
The menu is simple and uncluttered, the only objection I have is that I have to close the whole menu if I want to leave the tool box option and go back to the main menu. That is a bit clumsy, I think.
Some day, when I am a rich man, I might buy a Leica, but until then this camera works fine.
I have had no problems with the camera so far, but the battery lid is a bit flimsy and I would like it to be tighter. Also the aluminium tubes or rings that enclose the lense could be much tighter. These two issues reminds me of the fact that the camera costs less than a dinner for two on my favourite restaurant.
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