It's hard to criticise a camera that retails for roughly £110. You simply can't expect greatness at that price point, and while a low-priced model will probably excel at something, it's inevitably because other things were sacrificed. Such is the case with Sony's 7-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-S750, which ponies up a stylish, ultracompact body and easy operation at the expense of good picture quality and speedy performance.
Measuring 91mm wide by 56mm high by 28mm deep and weighing 128g, the S750 fits easily in a pocket or small bag. Dressed in silver, the body is a combination of metal and plastic. It's strong enough to resist damage from banging around in a bag, making it great for keeping handy in case of surprise photo opportunities. The only flaw is that the door on the bottom concealing the rechargeable battery and Memory Stick Pro Duo slot slides open a little too easily -- even during use. It's also very easy to put the battery in incorrectly since it's not clear which way round it should go.
Instead of the Carl Zeiss lenses found on many of Sony's point-and-shoot cameras, the S750 uses a Sony 3x f2.8-4.8 35-105mm-equivalent lens. Other than the power and shutter buttons on top, all controls are on the back next to the 2.5-inch LCD. The inset mode dial is small, but moves well and stays put when pulling the camera in and out of pockets. Actually, all the buttons are tiny and occasionally require repeated presses.
Navigating the menu system is extremely simple, partly because there just aren't many options on the camera. It has the requisite scene modes, sub-par video capture (320x240 pixels without zoom for up to 10 minutes), and a Program Auto mode that lets you adjust exposure values, metering, focus, ISO and white balance. A bonus for this camera is the face detection, which works quickly and accurately. One oddity, though, is a feature that lets you pull up a histogram on the screen. We don't think users would find it as helpful as composition guidelines, which are not available.
The S750 is not a fast camera, but the performance is decent given its budget status. Time to first shot is 2.2 seconds. Shutter lag averages at 0.7 seconds in our high-contrast test and 1 second in our low-contrast test, which mimics bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. Without the flash, the shot-to-shot time is 2 seconds; adding the flash nudges the wait time up to 2.6 seconds between shots. The burst mode on the S750 is limited to three shots, but drops the shot time to a relatively fast 1.5 frames per second.
Picture quality is about what we expected for this camera: better than a camera phone, but not very good. In all conditions, photos lack sharpness and detail and have noticeable fringing. Colours and white balance are passable, though it has some problems in the blues. Shooting at ISO 200 and below is your best bet -- at ISO 400, what little detail the camera captures becomes smeary and riddled with colour artifacts. The S750 has an ISO boost mode that takes it up to ISO 1250, but from ISO 800 up, pictures would only be usable at small sizes because of the number of artifacts.