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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W510 Ken McMahon, May 2011
 
   
 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W510 review verdict

The Sony Cyber-shot W510 is a 12.1 Megapixel compact with a 4x optical zom and a 2.7inch LCD screen. It's the cheapest of four W-series Cyber-shots launched in January 2011, the more expensive models adding higher resolution sensors, bigger screens, better quality video and ultimately a slightly longer zoom range. The Cyber-shot W310 can shoot VGA quality standard definition video at a size of 640 x 480 pixels.

Compared with the previous year's model, the Cyber-shot W310, the W510 sticks with a 4x optical zoom but starts at a wider 26mm equivalent field of view. SteadyShot image 'stabilisation' gets its own exposure mode and Sony's Sweep Panorama feature makes its first appearance on a budget Cyber-shot.

   
   
   
 

Compared to Nikon COOLPIX L24

 
 
     

If size matters to you, then the Cyber-shot W510 is going to instantly appeal. Though not the slimmest Sony compact, at 20mm and weighing 119 grams it's an easy candidate for a trouser or shirt pocket and considerably smaller and lighter than the COOLPIX L24. And if you've a strong preference for a small light proprietary rechargeable battery over AAs, that's another thing in its favour.

The Cyber-shot W510's zoom range, starting at a startlingly wide 26mm equivalent grabs a vastly wider angle of view than the COOLPIX L24's 37mm equivalent and if even that won't fit everything in the Cyber-shot W510 can also offer it's Sweep panorama feature. The Cyber-shot W510's smile shutter is adjustable and works better than the COOLPIX L24's, you can manually adjust the ISO sensitivity and it provides more control over things like metering and focus settings. Neither camera has physical image stabilisation and there isn't a great deal to choose between Nikon's Electronic Vibration reduction and Sony's SteadyShot in terms of results.

In its favour is the big 3 inch LCD screen on the Nikon. In everyday use, the COOLPIX L24's 3 inch screen was bigger brighter and better than the screens of either the Sony or Canon Compacts we compared it against. Composing shots as well as playing back is a real pleasure on the COOLPIX L24.

Lastly there's the question of sensor resolution and image quality. In our tests, the quality of the images produced by the COOLPIX L24's 14 Megapixel sensor wasn't up to the quality of 12 Megapixel models like the Cyber-shot W510 and PowerShot A1200.

See our Nikon COOLPIX L24 review for more details.

 

Compared to Canon PowerShot A1200

 
 
     

As with the COOLPIX L24, the Canon PowerShot is a very different camera physically to the Cyber-shot W510. It's bigger and heavier and takes a pair of AA batteries rather than a proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable. That can also give it longer between charges, especially if you rely on the optical viewfinder.

Because of its mode dial the PowerShot A1200 feels like a more serious camera but these two are actually quite closely matched in terms of the control you get over settings like ISO sensitivity, exposure modes and focusing, except the Cyber-shot W510 lacks a tracking AF mode. The PowerShot A1200 has some great new features like Live View control and Creative Filters against which the Cyber-shot W510 counters with its sweep panorama mode.

On paper the two lenses look as though they provide a similar zoom range but the extra 2mm advantage the Cyber-shot W510 has at the wide angle end makes more of a difference than you'd think. It conversely loses out by a similar amount at the telephoto end of the range, but that's much less significant in practice.

There are quality differences between these two 12 Megapixel models but, unless you've high standards and are making big prints they're not enough on their own to swing it one way or the other. A much more significant advantage derives from the PowerShot A1200's ability to shoot 720p HD video. If video is equally or more important to you than stills that on it's own will probably be enough to push you in the direction of the Canon PowerShot A1200.

See our Canon PowerShot A1200 review for more details.

 

Sony Cyber-shot W510 verdict

The Cyber-shot W510 has some very attractive features for an entry level compact that will give it very broad appeal. First and foremost there's its super-wide angle lens starting at an all-encompassing 26mm equivalent. As well as big group photos, cramped interiors and great landscape shots this allows you to get close in for some very dramatic viewpoints. And if you want to go even wider there's the pan-and-shoot Sweep Panorama feature, something we suggested would make an improvement to last year's model, the W310, and we were right!

There are two minor niggles. One is the lack of physical image stabilisation which all the budget models we've recently reviewed suffer from. Possibly it's asking too much at this price point, but none of the alternatives, SteadyShot, Electronic Vibration Reduction or Anti-Blur modes really provides much of an alternative. The second thing is lack of HD video. A while back you could have made the same price argument about this but now that Canon has raised the bar with the PowerShot A1200 everyone else is bound to follow.

Those things will inevitably arrive on budget models before too long. Right now though, the Sony Cyber-shot W510 provides some great features in a very compact form at a very reasonable price.



Good points
26mm super-wide-angle.
Slim and light, easy to pocket.
Easy to use Sweep Panorama feature.
Dedicated still/movie/pano mode switch.

Bad points
Poor high ISO performance.
Poor screen viewing angle.
Exposure data only on bright screen option.
Digital Steadyshot relatively ineffective.



Scores

(relative to 2011 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
15 / 20
16 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20

80%


   
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