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Sony Cybershot W220 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 15/11/2009
Rating: Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
Buy Now: Get the Best Price


Introduction: Announced on the 8th of January 2009, the Sony Cybershot W220 is one of Sony's cheapest compact cameras with optical image stabilisation. It features a 4x optical zoom lens, a 2.7" screen, a Carl Zeiss branded lens, and promises 370 shot battery life. The Sony Cybershot W220 is available from around £119 which makes it very good value for money. The compact camera is enclosed in a plastic and metal body and is available in black, silver or blue. The camera measures approx. 95.2 x 56.5 x 21.8 mm, and weighs approx. 118g. excluding battery and memory card.

Sony have this to say about the camera:

"Sporting a super-high resolution of 12.1 effective megapixels, the W220 and W210 feature a top-quality Carl Zeiss lens with 4x optical zoom to bring your favourite subjects closer. Both models also feature SteadyShot image stabilisation (W220: Optical SteadyShot). Coupled with high sensitivity (max ISO 3200), this reduces camera shake for crisper pictures when you’re shooting handheld without a tripod"

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus EVOLT E-500)


Front view - camera off.


Front view - camera on, flash, microphone, LED illuminator, lens.


Top: speaker, power, shutter release,side: lens strap loop.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • Sensor: 12.1 Megapixels 1/2.3-inch CCD Sensor
  • Lens: 4x optical zoom lens, Equivalent to 30 - 120mm
  • Screen: 2.7-inch LCD screen, 230,000 pixels
  • Face detection: Yes, Smile shutter
  • Colour modes: Standard, Vivid, Sepia, Black & White
  • Video Recording: VGA: 640 x 480 pixels, 30fps, 16.6fps, QVGA: 320 x 240 pixels, 8.3fps, MPEG
  • Continuous Shooting: Full-Resolution Image, 100 shots, 0.6 seconds between shots
  • HD Output: Yes
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
  • Macro: 4cm Macro mode, Focus Preset
  • ISO : Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200
  • IS (Image Stabilisation): Yes - Optical Image Stabilisation (Optical Steadyshot)
  • Scenes: Mode button: Auto, Program, Movie, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Soft snap, High sensitivity, Smile shutter, Easy shooting, Scenes: Twilight, Gourmet, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater
  • Histogram available: Yes (Record and Playback)
  • Exposure bracketing: Yes +/- 1/3 EV ~1EV step, 3 frames
  • Dynamic Range Features: Yes - D-Range Optimiser adjusts exposure and contrast
  • Orientation sensor: No
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: No

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Li-ion battery Type G
  • Battery charger
  • Strap
  • USB / AV Cable
  • Software CD ROM
  • Owner's manual - 38 page printed manual

Average box contents - The camera has some built in memory (15mb) allowing you to take about 3 pictures at highest quality so the first thing you'll want to buy is a large memory card. Getting a case is also highly recommended.

Menu system: The menu system is initially a little confusing - with the menu button providing access to a number of photo shooting settings in photo mode, and a home button giving access to all menu options (for example playback, slideshow, setup etc). From the menu button you can then go into another menu to alter more advanced shooting options. After a short while it becomes fairly easy to use the menus, and the playback menu has some interesting and fun features - the retouch menu lets you do all the normal things like correct for red-eye and trim the pictures, but it also lets you add effects such as apply unsharp mask, soft focus, partial colour, fisheye lens, cross filter, radial blur, retro (lomo-esque effect with darkened / blurred corners), and happy faces (makes people smile).

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (12m, 8m, 5m, 3m, VGA), aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 at 11m, 16:9 at 9m, and 2m). Larger images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, and aspect ratios, but no compression options.


Bottom - Battery (NP-BG1, 3.6v, 910mAh) and Sony memory card slot, metal tripod mount, and USB socket.

Battery usage: Battery life is rated at approx 370 shots with the supplied battery. I managed to take well over 250 shots and before the battery went flat. This seems quite good for a compact camera, although not excellent, when compared to the excellent Fujifilm FinePix F30 that gave around 580 shots with one charge.

Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 1gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can use Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Sony Cybershot W220:

Find the latest prices for Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo™ memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £15, 2gb (2000mb):£15, 4gb (4000mb): £26
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera switches on and is ready to take a photo in around 2.3 - 2.6 seconds. Focusing normally takes under half a second (0.4s), and in reduced light, focusing was still good thanks to the focus assist lamp. The camera shutter response when pre-focused was less than a tenth of a second (<0.1) and shot to shot time was around 1.7 seconds. In continuous mode I measured a delay of around 0.6 seconds between shots (slightly slower than 2fps), and was able to take 3 shots in a row before some slowdown (flash is not available). The cameras menus and zooming seem responsive and reviewing photos is quick. Moving around the different menu options is quite easy and quick. Playback mode is very quick, and the photo mode was quick with a smooth refresh rate.


Back - 2.7" screen, zoom control, Mode dial, Play button, 4-way controller, with middle OK button, menu and home buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, especially in the AUTO mode or Easy mode and has a number of scene modes that helps get good shots. The face detection and smile shutter can help capture some great photos of people smiling. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear mode dial. The menus are responsive and are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are fairly easy to access, mainly thanks to the large screen, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus. The screen is easy to see in bright sunlight.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with the most commonly used options reachable with your right hand. The zoom control seemed overly small and the shutter release didn't seem to give very good feedback and could be better, as the shutter release seems a little stiff sometimes. The mode dial is positioned well making it easy to switch modes with your thumb, and the menu button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt good for a compact camera, although there is very little in the way of a hand grip at the front of the camera and I would recommend the use of the wrist strap. The camera feels fairly well made, and quite robust. The camera is quite easy to hold despite the small size, fits very easily into pockets, and looks quite good, although perhaps not as good as other budget cameras, such as the Pansonic FS7, it's available in a number of colours (black, silver, or pink). The buttons can sometimes seem a little bit small.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Sony Cybershot W220 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO200) Flash photo (ISO200)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, although there is noticable red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low (often defaulting to ISO200 when the flash was on), noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, although struggled in very dark situations. There is an LED illuminator that helps focus in low light.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200.

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 10 megapixel Panasonic Lumix FS7 and 12 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR.

Panasonic Lumix FS7 (10mp) Sony Cybershot W220 (12mp) Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR (12mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Panasonic Lumix FS7 on the left, Sony Cybershot W220 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Panasonic Lumix FS7 (10mp) Sony Cybershot W220 (12mp) Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR (12mp)
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (3mp) ISO3200 - Actual Pixels ISO3200 - Actual Pixels

Noise results: The Sony Cybershot W220 shows more noise than other comparable cameras, and looses colour and detail much quicker than other cameras as the ISO setting increases.

Image Stabilisation: The camera features real image stabilisation, in the form of optical image stabilisation. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. With image stabilisation switched on the images are more likely to be sharper and clearer, and is more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. It's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras, and I would highly recommend you make sure your camera features real image stabilisation.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO125) Lamb Banana (ISO125)

Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours on default settings. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of good images outside, with good contrast, and fairly low chromatic aberrations. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrast benefit from use of the highest quality setting.

Zoom: This lens provides a 4x optical zoom starting at 30mm zooming to 120mm (35mm equivalent) allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. Digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided.

Wide-angle 4x Optical Zoom Full Optical and Digital Zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas and bright areas - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was barely visible in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation to help preserve detail in bright skies. The camera also benefits from Dynamic Range Optimisation - although this does make noise more noticeable in shadows.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is mostly quiet in operation (a little louder than most compacts) and there are 7 or 8 steps between wide angle and full zoom, this gives you fairly good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was noticeable in areas of high contrast, and was quite a bright pink shade of purple.

Macro Lens Performance: (and Dynamic Range options)

Timex Watch Macro - DR Off, ISO250 DR On, ISO320, Actual Pixels DR+ On, ISO320, Actual Pixels

The closest the camera lens can get to the subject when taking macro photos is 4cm. Colour and detail are very good, however it's worth trying to keep the ISO setting low for maximum detail. The DR Optimisation mode, when switched on, increases the ISO setting, and also brings out more detail in darker areas of the photo, this has the negative side effect of emphasising noise (especially when using DR+), so unless you really need to use this feature, best results may be obtained by leaving this feature switched off.

Video mode: The camera has three video modes VGA, and QVGA, VGA at 30fps. The videos are recorded with sound as MPEG files. It's not obvious whether image stabilisation is in effect when using the video mode. The optical zoom can not be used while recording and sound is recorded at all times.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good - with good colour, and high levels of saturation, contrast and detail - although images seemed soft. Noise levels were higher than average, with detail going as the ISO setting is increased, and high noise levels when using Dynamic Range optimisation. There was some red eye in group photos, and purple fringing was seen qutie often. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time, even indoors, thanks to the focus assist lamp. There was little noticeable vignetting (darkened corners) however I didn't notice barrel or pincushion distortion in photos. There is a good range of image sizes, and aspect ratios, although no compression options. Auto white balance, metering and exposure seemed to be very good, although the lack of manual white balance might disappoint some. Optical image stabilisation helped keep shots blur / shake free in low light helping the camera get a higher shot success rate than cameras without. The camera has an average video mode (only VGA). (7.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera has a compact and stylish body, available in a number of colours. The camera feels fairly well built, although does feel quite plasticy, and is fairly comfortable to hold. The camera has a good 2.7" screen that works well even in the sun. The camera is easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, and provides quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is good. The camera speed is good, with an average switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and quick continuous shooting mode, and a quick flash recharge time. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit most people, such as face detection focus, red-eye reduction, numerous scene modes, good video mode, very good macro mode, and a wide angle 4x optical zoom (30mm - 120mm) lens with image stabilisation, etc. The camera even has decent battery life for a compact camera. Although the lack of manual white balance, use of Sony Memory sticks, and small buttons may put some people off. (8/10)

Value for Money: The Sony Cybershot W220 from around £119 is very good value for money - and is cheaper than similar compact cameras from Canon - although you will need to spend more on a Sony Memory Stick which increases the price. Others to look at include the Panasonic Lumix FS7 (£115) with 10 megapixel sensor, 4x optical zoom lens, and 2.7" screen, FS15 with 12 megapixels and 29mm wide angle 5x optical zoom lens for £125, and the Canon Digital IXUS 95 IS (£125), IXUS 100 IS (£166) and the rest of the IXUS range. (8.5/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Sony Cybershot W220 is a good camera overall - it has a good range of features and specifications that should suit most people. As a point and shoot it has a number of features that make it easier to use, such as a number of scene modes, and even an "EASY" mode. The camera features a slightly wide angle 4x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilisation - this means shots are more likely to come out blur free. The camera also features a good 2.7" screen that works well in the sun, and a good battery life of over 350+ shots. There are some negatives, the camera has small buttons and controls, and I wasn't overly impressed by the shutter release. The Dynamic Range optimisation can also increase noise in unpleasant ways, and the camera uses Sony memory sticks which bumps up the price. Overall though, the camera is good, it offers a number of useful features, has good image quality, with colourful photos, and is offered at a competitive price point. Recommended.

Sony Cybershot W220 Rating: Recommended (8/10)
Available for £119 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Black is back
  • 4x optical zoom lens
  • Good colour
  • Good macro mode
  • Good 2.7" screen that works in bright sunlight
  • Dynamic Range Optimisation
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • Good battery life (promises 370 shots)
  • Exposure bracketing
  • AF Assist Light

What I don't like:

  • Noise in images - even in bright sunny photos! (a symptom of DR range expansion being switched on?)
  • Purple fringing and chromatic abberations
  • Lots of red-eye in flash photos
  • Uses (more expensive) Sony Memory Sticks
  • Small zoom and shutter release, difficult to feel half-press focusing point
  • Feels plasticy and cheap compared to Panasonic FS7
  • Lacks manual white balance
  • HD video would be nice
  • No panoramic mode

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Sony Cybershot W220 Sample Photo Gallery.

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