A pocket-size shooter from Sony, the Cyber-shot DSC-W30 provides impressive photos and fast, easy operation in a simple package. Digital neophytes may question its modest allotment of seven scene modes, but the available exposure modes do a good job of handling most situations. In fact, casual photographers will probably be very pleased with the results they get from this camera. However, a limited 3x zoom lens and a paucity of manual controls limit the DSC-W30's enthusiast appeal to those looking for a small second camera.
Sony's W series is aimed squarely at casual photographers. That means the Cyber-shot DSC-W30 lacks features advanced shooters demand, such as add-on lenses and manual exposure and focus. In fact, its existence in Sony's line is something of a mystery, given the tiny step up in price to the DSC-W50, which is essentially the same camera with a slightly larger screen.
At 89 by 58 by 23mm, the 192g (including battery and memory card) Cyber-shot DSC-W30 is part of a new lineup of smaller 6-megapixel W-series cameras from Sony, which includes the DSC-W50, the DSC-W70, and the slightly larger DSC-W100. All four of these silver-toned, plastic-bodied cameras use the same 38mm-to-114mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x zoom lens, but the W30 has a 51mm (2-inch) LCD instead of the 64mm screens that the other cameras in the line have. That puts the W30 squarely behind most of the competition as far as screen size, where 76mm LCDs are becoming more common.
Surrounding the shutter release, the zoom lever is difficult to use when shooting one-handed. In fact, anyone with large hands or fingers will probably prefer two-handed shooting with this Sony. All the other controls are arrayed on the back. A tiny review button sits to the right of the small optical viewfinder -- you'll need the latter when the LCD washes out in bright sunlight.
All the rest of the controls are stacked to the right of the LCD in an area less than 25mm wide. The knurled mode dial offers a choice of Auto, Programmed and Movie settings, along with notches for the Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Soft Snap (soft focus) and High Sensitivity (ISO 1,000) scene modes. Under the mode dial is a Disp button for changing the LCD's information display and a menu key for accessing Sony's well-designed menu system, where you'll find setup options and settings that you normally adjust only once in a shooting session, such as ISO, white balance and autofocus mode.
Frequently used settings such as file size, exposure compensation, flash and macro, as well as the 2- or 10-second self-timer can be accessed menu-free using the Quality/Trash button and the four-function cursor-control pad. To keep you from getting lost in the menus, full descriptions of each setting or mode appear on the LCD as you toggle through them. For example, when changing EV, a prompt reminds you that pressing down on the pad makes the image darker, while pressing up makes the image lighter. Scene modes have their own descriptors too -- for example, the one for the High ISO setting helpfully notes that this mode is for 'shooting without flash in low light, reducing blur'.
While the camera doesn't include manual controls for exposure or focus, you can choose between five- or single-area autofocus points down to 25mm from your subject (in macro mode) or manually set focus from among five preset distances between 0.5 metres and infinity. Both single- and continuous-autofocus (better for moving subjects) are available. You can also opt for multipattern, centre-weighted or spot metering. Shutter speeds range from 1 second to 1/2,000 second.
Other features include black-and-white, sepia and enhanced saturation effects and a movie mode with in-camera trimming of clips. The DSC-W30 has 32MB of internal memory. It's nice in a jam, but you'll want to buy a Memory Stick Duo or a Memory Stick Pro Duo for any real shooting.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W30's performance is generally very good, except for a limited burst mode that delivers only 3 full-resolution shots at 1.4fps. It can maintain that rate until you've filled the card with VGA-resolution pictures, however.
We're impressed with the camera's shutter-lag time of 0.3 seconds under high-contrast illumination, but the delay balloons to a frustrating 1.7 seconds under low-contrast lighting with the red focus-assist lamp. Power-on to first shot takes 1.6 seconds. Thereafter, the shot-to-shot time remains a speedy 1.3 seconds, slowing to 1.6 seconds if the flash needs to recharge.
We're very impressed with this camera's photos. They come out well exposed under a variety of lighting conditions, with lots of detail in the shadows and highlights. The DSC-W30 doesn't blow out whites as much as many other cameras in its class. It produces neutral but highly saturated hues, especially in the reds and the oranges. The most serious image problem was noise. While it's barely visible at ISO 80, you can start to see smearing from the noise reduction at ISO 200 and discolourations at ISO 400 and beyond. Most people will find the high-ISO noise annoying, but at least it's available for moments when you really need to forgo the flash.
Even though it's the bargain of the W series, the DSC-W30 offers impressive low-ISO image quality for its resolution and price class. If you're looking for a camera this size and don't need manual controls, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W30 could do the trick.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
||Typical shot-to-shot time||
||Time to first shot||
||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Edited by Philip Ryan
Additional editing by Nick Hide