Compared to... Canon SD 800 IS (IXUS 850 IS)

The W80 is one of several cameras launched in the last twelve months or so to feature (what we presume to be) the same, tiny, Sony 1/2.5" 7.1MP sensor. For this comparison we've chosen the Canon IXUS 850 IS / SD 800 IS, the nearest direct competitor we have to hand and one of the most popular compacts on the market. The two cameras have a pretty similar specification - the main difference being the Canon's more ambitious (and more useful) 3.8x 28-105mm zoom range. Note that the SD 800 IS has now been replaced by the SD 870IS. Over the next few pages you'll find studio comparisons between the W80 and SD 800 IS at each camera's lowest ISO setting, ISO 400 and ISO 800; the W80's high ISO (1600 and 3200) settings are covered at the end of this section.

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Note: The W80 doesn't have a true manual/custom white balance setting, so the studio shots in this review are as near to 'neutral' as we can get using one of the presets.

Studio scene comparison (Sony W80 @ ISO 100, Canon SD800 IS @ ISO 80)  

  • Sony DSC-W80 : Program mode, ISO 100, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.70 EV compensation
  • Canon SD800 IS (IXUS 850 IS): Program mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.66 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Sony DSC-W80
Canon SD800 IS (IXUS 850 IS)
ISO 100, 1/125 sec, F3.5
ISO 80, 1/60 sec, F4.5
2,158 KB JPEG
2,634 KB JPEG

The tiny lenses and sensors used on such ultra compact cameras are always going to require some kind of compromise, and for most users of this type of camera the 'quality' is going to be more than acceptable. Looking at the W80's output with a critical eye it's easy to find fault - although overall sharpness is pretty good, edge to edge consistency isn't great (it's hard to get the middle and edges sharply in focus at this kind of focus distance, and our sample has a distinctly soft area towards the lower left). There's also evidence of noise reduction 'smoothing' even at base ISO, and some fairly strong sharpening going on, which is producing visible halos around high contrast edges. Color is typical Sony; bright (with rather overcooked reds) and breezy with immediate appeal to the target user (note the color cast in this shot is down to a slight white balance mismatch). Compared to the Canon (which has a wider zoom range and soft corners) there's not a lot in it; the W80 is capturing a little more detail across the frame, though the output is a little more processed.

For the typical target user of this type of camera the output isn't going to give any cause for complaint at ISO 100; it produces perfectly acceptable sharp-looking and colorful prints at 'normal' sizes (up to say 5x7 inches), and to be honest if you're the type of user who cares as much about pixel-level quality as we do then you're never going to be totally satisfied by the output of this class of camera.