Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 sensor and processing
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200’s big claim to fame is of course its 12.1 Megapixel sensor which packs in more pixels than most compacts or even DSLRs. These pixels are jammed into a 1/1.72in sensor which while a little bigger than the typical 1/ 2.5in models of most compacts, is still a tight squeeze. The W200 delivers 4:3 aspect ratio images with a maximum resolution of 4000x3000 pixels, allowing you to make photographic quality prints around 3in wider and 2in taller than typical 7 Megapixel compacts.
The W200 offers six lower resolutions, including a cropped 3:2 mode, 8, 5 or 3 Megapixels, VGA for emailing or 16:9 which records images in 1920x1080 pixels for direct mapping to an HDTV. Annoyingly like many Sony compacts though, there’s no control over compression settings. We’re not expecting a RAW mode (although it would be nice), but is it too much to ask for Fine and Standard JPEG options?
As it is, the W200 applies relatively hefty compression given the amount of data it starts with: an uncompressed 12.1 Megapixel colour image measures over 30MB, but the W200’s ‘12M’ mode typically generates JPEGs measuring between 3 and 4MB each. Indeed out of all the test shots we took with the W200, not one measured more than 4.5MB. This fixed (and relatively high) compression ratio does somewhat defeat the object of having such a high resolution sensor, although to be fair compression artefacts weren’t an obvious issue as you’ll see in our results and sample images.
The W200 features 31MB of built-in memory to get you started, and a slot for Memory Stick Duo cards, including PRO models. You’ll be wanting to buy a card sooner rather than later.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 exposure and creative options
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 offers shutter speeds from 1/2000 to 30 seconds, along with the choice of three different aperture settings at each focal length (the actual values change as you zoom-in). Unlike most compacts, the W200’s Manual mode actually lets you adjust both the aperture and the shutter speed (the latter up to 1/1000).
After selecting Manual mode on the main dial, press the Select button to highlight the shutter speed and aperture values; you can then use the up and down buttons on the four-way joypad to adjust the shutter speed and left and right to adjust the aperture. Then when you’re happy, press the select button to lock these settings. It’s great to have proper manual control on a compact and it’s one of the W200’s highlights.
For those who prefer to apply their creativity with scene presets, the W200 offers five directly from its main mode dial, and four more from a menu. The mode dial lets you select High Sensitivity, Soft Snap (AKA Portrait), Twilight Portrait, Twilight and Landscape, while the SCN menu offers Extra High Sensitivity (up to 6400 ISO at 3 Megapixels), Beach Snow and Fireworks. Nine presets may seem modest compared to the 20 or more on rival models, but who really needs a pet or food mode?
There’s no dedicated button for exposure compensation, but it’s near the top of the main list of settings when you press the Menu button. If you already have the live histogram enabled, it also remains on-screen for handy feedback. Below the EV settings on the menu are the metering options with the W200 offering Multi, Center and Spot options.
The W200 offers sensitivity at full resolution from 100 to 3200 ISO, along with an extra high sensitivity mode which can go up to 6400 ISO at a reduced resolution of 3 Megapixels. You can easily change the sensitivity from the main menu system, but there’s no control over noise reduction. Check out our W200 Outdoor Noise page to see how it compares at different settings.
White balance can be set to Automatic, Daylight, Cloudy, three Fluorescent settings, Incandescent or Flash, but annoyingly there’s no custom options. On the upside, there is manual control over Contrast and Sharpness with a plus or minus setting for each, along with an additional Dynamic Range Optimised (DR) option under Contrast, borrowed from the Alpha DSLRs.
There are also five colour modes to further tweak the images: Normal, Vivid, Natural, Sepia and Black and White. These, along with White Balance, Contrast and Sharpness can all be accessed by pressing the Menu button. We used the default settings for our test shots: Normal colour mode, DR Contrast, Auto White Balance and Multi metering.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 video mode
With the main mode dial set to the filmstrip icon you can record video clips in the MPEG format. The W200 offers three modes: 640 Fine and 640 Standard which record VGA resolution at 30 and 17 fps respectively and a 320 mode which records QVGA video at 8fps. There’s no widescreen video options, but the quality in the 640 Fine mode looks pretty good and consumes around 1.25MB per second. You’ll need a Memory Stick PRO Duo card to record in the 640 Fine mode.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 handling
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 is ready for action in about two seconds, which makes it a little slower than many rival models, but not so much you find yourself twiddling your thumbs. As mentioned earlier, the menu navigation and playback can feel slightly sluggish at times, perhaps due to the large amount of data the camera’s handling.
The W200 offers a continuous shooting mode rated at 2fps which can record up to 100 frames in succession. When fitted with a 256MB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card we managed to fire off five frames in about two and a half seconds, confirming the rate, although the camera paused fractionally before continuing. After another couple of pauses, we ended up only capturing ten frames in as many seconds, so the 2fps rate may only be possible with short bursts. The continuous shooting mode also limits the sensitivity to 400 ISO.
Finally, the W200 also offers exposure bracketing options which take three images at intervals of +/- 0.3, 0.6 or 1 EV.