White Balance

Just like the DSC-V1 the DSC-V3's automatic white balance can exhibit a slight blue cast (low red, higher blue) in natural light, in most cases this will just leave the image looking 'whiter than white' but it's not strictly accurate. In fluorescent light the results are better, but again worse in incandescent light where the image is left with a strong pink color cast. I'm really surprised that Sony hasn't made bigger strides with automatic white balance since the issues we identified in our DSC-V1 review last year.

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red -1.3%, Blue 2.0%
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red -0.9%, Blue -0.4%
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 6.8%, Blue -9.8%

Flash Performance

The V3 unique 90-degree flip-up flash unit has a specified range of 3.0 m at wide angle and 2.5 m at telephoto (both at ISO 100) which is about average for this kind of camera. The results from our flash test were good white balance with no obvious color cast although if anything the flash exposures were slightly under exposed, thankfully the V3 does allow for manual flash power compensation.

Color chart - slightly under-exposed,
no color cast
Skin tone - slightly under-exposed, no color cast

Night exposures

The DSC-V3 features automatic noise reduction for exposures of 1/6 sec or longer. It uses a 'dark frame subtraction' method which takes a second equally long exposure after the main shot (thus an 8 second exposure will take 16 seconds). This dark frame contains a similar noise pattern to the original shot and can be used to 'subtract' hot pixels from the final image. The DSC-V3 produced fairly good night exposures with only speckled noise, no hot pixels or black pitting. My biggest difficulty was that the V3's incandescent white balance didn't go far enough to remove the color cast created by London's street lights.

ISO 100, 8 sec, F4.0 (manual exposure)

Macro Focus

The V3's best macro performance (best frame coverage) was achieved at mid-zoom (about 2.5x), this provided a horizontal frame coverage of 54 mm with no distortion and virtually no corner softness. Although not really high magnification the V3 produced nice clean results without the distortion or corner softness we often see of compact cameras in macro mode.

Wide macro - 116 x 87 mm coverage
26 px/mm (668 px/in)
Distortion: High
Corner softness: High (with some CA)
Equiv. focal length: 34 mm
Mid-zoom macro - 54 x 40 mm coverage
56 px/mm (1427 px/in)
Distortion: None
Corner softness: Very Low
Equiv. focal length: 88 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The DSC-V3's compact four times optical zoom lens produced 0.8% barrel distortion at wide angle (slightly below average) and 0.6% pincushion distortion at telephoto (about average).

Wide angle - 0.8% Barrel distortion
Equiv. focal length: 34 mm
Telephoto - 0.6% Pincushion Distortion
Equiv. focal length: 136 mm

Vignetting / Lens Shading

Our vignetting measurement is made by taking the average luminance value of the darkest corner of the image and comparing it to the average luminance at the center of the image, any difference greater than 15% may be visible in everyday shots. At maximum aperture the DSC-V3's lens exhibits an average amount of lens shading, interestingly the characteristics of its shading are almost identical at both wide angle and telephoto. This amount of shading would not affect the majority of 'everyday shots'.

Wide angle, maximum aperture (F2.8)
10.5% maximum fall off, top left corner
Telephoto, maximum aperture (F4.0)
10.5% maximum fall off, top left corner
Wide angle, stopped down (F5.0)
8.9% maximum fall off, bottom left corner
Telephoto, stopped down (F6.3)
8.1% maximum fall off, bottom left corner

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

On our standard test shot the DSC-V3 did produce some fringing although it's not as strong or as noticeable as what we saw from the DSC-V1. Looking through everyday shots we found a couple of examples of slight purple fringing but it's only in the region of one or two pixels and only in very contrasty situations.

Thumbnail 100% Crop
34 mm equiv, F2.8 (max aperture)
44 mm equiv., F4.0
48 mm equiv., F4.0

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

The DSC-V3 performed well, good 'Sony color', good tonal balance and acceptable noise levels at lower sensitivities. Closer examination of images showed slightly intrusive noise reduction (although not as significant as we have seen on other cameras). The only other image quality issue we encountered was the tendency of the camera to use smaller apertures which can lead to a loss of resolution due to diffraction (see below).

A tendency to use F8 (loss in resolution)

Some credit for originally noticing this must go to Jeff Keller over at dcresource.com in his review of the DSC-V3. Between us (myself and Jeff) we noted that the DSC-V3 has a tendency to select small apertures (typically F8). Anyone who understands optics will tell you that such small apertures in combination with small lens systems will lead to a loss of resolution (softness) due to diffraction. We believe that this is down to a design fault with the program shift mode (see bottom of this page) and that the P exposure mode program line appears to prefer to use smaller apertures once above 1/250 sec, once it reaches F8 it then starts to shorten shutter speed. This can also lead to exposures at F8.

Thumbnail 100% Crop
ISO 100, 1/250 sec, F8
ISO 100, 1/250 sec, F8