The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W220 subtly makes you give up features in exchange for a price tag of around £130. For example, the W220's stablemate, the Cyber-shot DSC-W290, has a longer, wider lens, larger LCD display, high-definition movie capture, and a few other extras that push its price to around £200. But all the differences are slight enough that there's a good chance you'll miss your £70 more than the features. Overall, the W220 is a well-rounded compact camera with decent photo quality and performance for its price.
Available in silver, black, blue and pink, the W220 is an attractive camera in a pocketable, lightweight body, dressed in brushed metal and plastic chrome trim. As a result, it looks good, but feels rather slick when you're holding it. The crowded mode dial is set into the body to prevent you accidentally changing modes, but it's exposed enough on its right side to make moving the dial easy. Above the dial is a small zoom rocker, and below is a playback button, followed by a directional pad for navigating menus, in addition to controlling flash, macro, display and timer settings.
Below the directional pad are Sony's slightly confusing home and menu buttons, found on previous models. This system puts context-sensitive shooting controls under the menu button, while the home button puts you in a different menu for other shooting options. Hopefully, Sony will eventually switch over all its cameras to a single-button system like that on the W290 and the Cyber-shot DSC-H20.
The mode dial on the W220 is crowded with 10 tiny icons. Three of the options are different degrees of automatic modes. Program auto gives you the most control, with access to ISO, exposure, white balance, focus and metering. Sony's intelligent auto picks from eight scene types (branded iSCN) and turns on face detection and image stabilisation. Sony's iSCN can be set to auto or advanced -- the difference being that, in difficult lighting, the camera will automatically take two shots with different settings so you have a better chance of getting a usable photo. Then there's the easy mode that takes away all but a couple of basic shooting options.
The rest of the options are scene modes, access to a list of more specialised scene modes, and a VGA movie mode (there's no use of the optical zoom while recording video). Despite the W220's relatively low stature, it has higher-end features, like Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer for improving shadow detail, and exposure bracketing that will take three photos -- one at the exposure you select and then two more at plus and minus 0.3EV, 0.7EV or 1.0EV.
For its class, the W220 is actually a fairly quick camera, although its shutter lag in bright conditions could be better. It takes 0.5 seconds to go from a press of the shutter to capture in good lighting. Its dim-light performance is better, at 0.7 seconds. From off to first shot takes a respectable 1.6 seconds, while shot-to-shot time is an equally good 1.7 seconds. Turning on the flash only adds 1 second to that time. The W220's burst performance is fairly fast, too, at 1.7 frames per second.