The competition at the £160 mark in the point-and-shoot-camera arena is fierce. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 is a small, solid package with a good, 26mm-equivalent wide-angle f2.7 lens, a 4x zoom with optical image stabilisation, a 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD, and a high-definition movie mode. Plus, it's small and attractive, and has reliable options that are ideal for snapshooters. Those expecting more than a very good snapshot experience at this price should keep shopping, though.
Keep it in your trousers
The DSC-W350 is available in silver, black, blue, gold and pink versions. Its body is lightweight and compact enough to squeeze into most trouser pockets or handbags. The front is made of metal, with tiny concentric ridges adding a slight texture that improves grip. Those who have hesitated to purchase Sony cameras in the past because of their reliance on Memory Stick media will be pleased that the 2010 Cyber-shots accept SD and SDHC cards. The slot and battery compartment are protected by a lockable door, which you'll have to open regularly to remove the battery for charging. Although the internal memory is limited, it does host a small piece of software for quickly uploading photos and movies to sharing sites when the camera is connected to a Windows or Mac computer.
The controls are straightforward. On top are the power and shutter-release buttons. They sit flush with the body and, although they're easily pressed, they'll require most users to look to locate them. The remaining controls are on back, to the right of the reasonably bright, but not great, LCD display. A zoom rocker sits above the thumb rest. On the right edge of the body sits a vertical slider for moving from shooting stills to panoramas to movies. Playback, menu and delete buttons, and a circular direction pad, handle all other tasks.
In addition to navigating menus, the direction pad can change the flash and timer functions, alter the display information, and activate the smile-detection feature. Sony's menu systems remain fairly logical and uncomplicated compared with its cameras prior to 2009's interface changes.
The DSC-W350 is well-suited for snapshot photography and shouldn't be considered by those who like to fiddle with plenty of settings. That's not to say that Sony doesn't give you some control, though.
'Program auto' lets you adjust the ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering and exposure values, as well as control the extent of Sony's 'D-range optimization', which is used for rescuing shadow detail. The 'intelligent auto' scene-recognition mode delivers reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple of options available to you, such as exposure and setting the face-detection priorities. An 'easy' mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small), and enlarges on-screen text.