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Mighty midget for evening photographers

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Sony delivers the photo goods in the world’s smallest 10x optical zoom camera, writes BRIAN KOPING.

Sony’s DSC-WX100 is said, at the time of writing, to be the worlds smallest camera with a 10x optical zoom lens.

Measuring 92.3 x 52.4 x 17mm (21.6mm across the lens protrusion) the camera weighs a mere 108gms, ready to roll. It is described by Sony as an ‚”evening camera‚”, as it is small enough to fit easily into a ladies dainty clutch bag or gents suit pocket without spoiling the line of the suit.

In line with its ‚”evening‚” status, despite not having a fast lens, its maximum ISO (International Standards Organization sensitivity rating) is 12800, delivering a good, almost noiseless image in very low light.

Looking at this little fellow, it is indeed difficult to believe that it packs an 18.3 MP back-lit CMOS sensor and a 4.5 44.5 (25mm-250mm 35mm equivalent) f3.3-f5.9 zoom lens.

In true Sony tradition, the WX100 has a host of options and functions. So many, in fact, it would necessitate the less experienced user carting an instruction book along with the camera. The good news is that an easily accessible and informative ‚”booklet‚” is built into the camera and will provide answers to most queries.

It is a very sleek machine, with all buttons barely projecting from the body. The only protrusion is the tiny zoom lever, part of the shutter release button surround.

Everything is so small and dinky, however, I found myself using the tip of a fingernail to press the buttons.

Sony consumer cameras normally have Carl Zeiss lenses, with the larger reflex cameras sporting Sony ‚’G’ lenses, said to be a notch up from the already excellent Zeiss configuration. The WX100 has a nifty ‚’G’ lens, totally new to the Sony stable, enabling it to pack a 10x optical zoom into such a small body.

For moviemakers, the WX100 also has full HD facilities and a further 10x digital zoom capability.

The camera is essentially Auto, with no choice of aperture, shutter speed or manual settings. It has an Easy mode for those who want good images without the bother of selecting settings, a Program mode where the photographer can control certain aspects of imaging, a Superior Auto mode for sharp images with reduced noise, Intelligent Auto that selects settings as per the scene being photographed, a 3D setting for play-back through a 3D compliant player, and a Panorama setting that seamlessly stitches sweeping views.

In addition to the usual Face Recognition, Smile Detection and other such functions, there are some interesting options. One of these is the facility to blur backgrounds while keeping the subject sharp.

Despite providing an image similar to a 250mm lens on 35mm camera, the fact is the lens is a 44.5 mm lens and as such conforms to the laws of optics and gives a far greater depth of field than a 250mm lens. To counter this, the background blurring setting effectively gives a ‚”big camera‚” image, with sharp subject and blurred background.

A SCN setting gives 15 custom settings from which to choose.

Similarly, a number of picture effects can be employed. These include Painting, Black and White, a Mini effect, a Toy Camera effect, and a Water colour effect. An Illustration effect makes images resemble comic book drawings. To me, this and the monochrome facility are probably the most useful.

This little machine is a real eager beaver. It springs quickly into action with a press of the power button. Focus is fast and accurate. There is imperceptible lag when taking the picture and colours are clean and vibrant.

The 460k dot 2.7 inch LCD was a little disappointing as far as colour accuracy and enlarged resolution were concerned, but it was bright enough for use in harsh light. The camera has to be held as motionless as possible, especially when taking tele pictures in low light, as there does not appear to be image stabilisation for stills. There is for movies.

My final impression: This is one little mighty midget that can easily deliver detailed images, under diverse conditions, that will enlarge crisply to A4 and larger.

Sensor: 18.2 ¬Ω.3 inch backlit COMS sensor with BIONZ processor.

Lens: 10x Zoom Sony G 4.45 to 44.5mm ( 25mm to 250mm 35mm

equivalent) f3.3 f5.9 using the latest Advanced Aspherical optics.

Monitor: 2.7 inch 460k dot TFT LCD.

Data Storage: SD cards.

Image stabilizer: SteadyShot optical stabilizer.

Connections: HDMI and mini USB.

Video: MPEG 4 AVC/H with Dolby Stereo audio

Rating:

Styling and aesthetics: 4

Finish and Build Quality 18

Ergonomics and Ease of use: 12

Features and functions: 14

Performance: 42

Total 90

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