Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W270 Ambleside
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W270
Sony's Cyber-shot range of compact cameras is divided into four main groups: the simple and affordable S-series, super-slim Ts, a hybrid H-range and a high-spec, but pocket-friendly, W-series. The 12-megapixel DSC-W270 is a high-end model packing an image stabilised Carl Zeiss lens with a 5x zoom range and 28mm wide-angle equivalent field of view.
Other features of note include advanced auto-focus with face detection and novel automatic smile shutter option, plus 720p HD video with extensive features, and a 2.7in (230k dot) LCD on the back. That's all wrapped up in a diminutive aluminium casing measuring 97.6 x 56.5 x 22.6mm that tips the scales at 164g, complete with InfoLithium battery and card.
As with other cameras from Sony, the W270 is made to a high standard, though, the fiddly plastic battery card cover doesn't match the rest of the build. On the rear, the 2.7in screen is reasonably well-detailed, but it streaks badly in bright light, and saves power during previewing by using a lower resolution than during playback.
Most of the controls fall readily to hand, but there's not much in the way of user control. Left to iAuto, the W270 will do pretty much everything itself except zoom. It will, for instance, automatically select a scene mode, focus on a face, and release the shutter should the AF system detect a smile, with flash if necessary. And it does this pretty well, by all accounts. It can't keep up with fast moving action, but will focus on people moving about. The Sony will even take another shot, should the first be spoiled by an ill-timed or inopportune blink.
All this automation is fine if you don't want much hands-on time with the W270, but switching to Program Auto allows a little more creative freedom. Unfortunately, all the options, such as spot and multi-pattern metering, sensitivity up to ISO800 and choice of wide-area and single spot AF, are selected from the main menu only. And this is fiddly thanks to the small flat menu button and spongy feeling direction pad.
Most of the same user selectable options apply when shooting HD video, which is good, though, you can't zoom during capture and, of course, you still have to contend with the awkward menu selection.
We can't say that we were bowled over by the picture quality, either. At the wider end of the zoom there was some difficult to correct waveform distortion and images were generally soft. Unfortunately, the W270 doesn't have any user selectable sharpening settings, and while the Jpegs responded well to additional sharpening using an image editor, high levels of fringing and strong Newton Rings are also evident.
Detail is affected by noise reduction at settings as low as ISO200, and images at ISO400 and at ISO800 are going to be limited to web use or small prints. Image stabilisation smoothed out the shakes reasonably well, including our sample video clips, and while flicker free, the 720p 30fps Mpeg-4 video looked a little blocky on our full HD TV.
Metering and colour rendition was generally good, though, but Sony's usual vibrant greens can be tiring with landscape shots. Indoors, colour accuracy with video was superior to the yellowy orange cast seen in stills, but this was offset to a degree by the small but powerful built-in flash.
While we like the wide-angle view and appreciate the HD video option, its lack of user control, soft images and noise levels are disappointing and count against.
Author: Kevin Carter