With its appealing specifications and fun feature set wrapped up in attractive , , or brushed-metal body, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 looks good on paper. However, the W150 fails to live up to its full potential, mostly because of its middling photo quality. It is available now for £130.
Weighing 170g with battery and Memory Stick Pro Duo card, and measuring 94mm wide by 58mm high by 23mm deep, the 8-megapixel W150 just squeaks under the bar as an ultracompact. Thanks to the not-quite-flush lens and carved-out display, it even looks larger than it is.
The design is very functional, though, and the raised edge of the 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD helps keep your thumb on top of the controls. Above the display is an optical viewfinder so you can shut off the display when battery life is low, but it's uncomfortably small for frequent use.
The controls feel tiny and crowded but manageable, even for big fingers. You access context-sensitive settings through the Menu button, while the Home button calls up all the camera's options. This can be confusing at first, but makes sense after using it for a while.
A small, slightly sunken dial lets you choose from ten shooting modes, including Sony's Smile Shutter, which takes a photo when it detects a smile, three for low-light shooting, Program Auto with control over ISO, white balance (no manual, though), flash intensity, exposure value and colour. There is no full manual mode, but the Program Auto controls offer more flexibility than most manufacturers include in this class.
Also atypical for its price, the W150 incorporates a 5x f3.3-5.2 28-140mm-equivalent lens. That's wider and longer than many. If you like to edit or play back images on your camera, Sony does a better job than most to make it fun and easy. There are a handful of effects (some cooler than others) that you can add to images, as well as basic cropping and red-eye retouching.
There's a dedicated slide show button, too, for impromptu presentations with music and effects. An lets you connect the W150 to a TV. Combine the lens, 8-megapixel CCD, 69mm LCD, an optical viewfinder, and plenty of shooting and playback controls and you have an excellent feature-to-price ratio.
Overall, it performs very well. While start-up takes a long time at 1.9 seconds, the W150 delivers solid shutter-lag times in dim and bright conditions of 0.9 and 0.4 seconds, respectively. The shot-to-shot time is a better-than-average 1.5 seconds, but adding the flash more than doubles that time to 3.7 seconds -- the only real disappointment.
But if you like shooting sports or other subjects on the move, the W150 has a very fast (for its class) continuous-shooting speed of 1.9 frames per second. It can sustain that rate for about 9 frames with a standard card, and up to capacity with a 30MB per second card.
The lens zooms smoothly, and Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation works well to minimise blur when the lens is fully extended, too. It exhibits noticeable barrel distortion in its widest position, however, and minor pin-cushioning when fully zoomed out -- not out of the ordinary for point-and-shoot models.
Photo quality, as with most ultracompacts, is the weak link for the W150. Colours are accurate for the most part, but when shooting outdoors in bright conditions there's some blooming and haloing, particularly with reds and whites. Photos are soft overall, lacking fine detail. Visible speckles of colour noise appear at ISO 200, and details become seriously obscured at ISO 800 -- though the camera can shoot at ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200, we don't suggest using these higher settings. Also, off-subject elements of scenes tended to look smeary and overprocessed.
The camera captures Web-quality 30fps 640x480-pixel resolution video. You can't use the optical zoom while shooting video, but you do get optical image stabilisation.
All things considered, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is a solid ultracompact camera. The 5x 28mm wide-angle lens doesn't match that of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5's 10X zoom, but it's faster, and though its image quality isn't nearly as good as the , which offers a 4x 28mm wide-angle lens, the W150 is slightly less expensive.
Additional editing by Cristina Psomadakis