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DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 11, 2008
Last updated: March 11, 2009

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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 ($249) is a compact camera with a 5X optical zoom lens, image stabilization, 2.7" LCD display, optical viewfinder (yay), VGA movie mode, and more.

The W150 is part of Sony's five camera W-series, and I put together this chart to show you the differences between the various models:

Feature DSC-W120 DSC-W130 DSC-W150 DSC-W170 DSC-W300
Street price
(at time of posting)
$195 $245 $249 $299 $349
Resolution 7.1 MP 8.1 MP 8.1 MP 10.1 MP 13.6 MP
Optical zoom 4X 4X 5X 5X 3X
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 32 - 128 mm 32 - 128 mm 30 - 150 mm 28 - 140 mm 35 - 105 mm
Lens max. aperture F2.8 - F5.8 F2.8 - F5.8 F3.3 - F5.2 F3.3 - F5.2 F2.8 - F5.5
LCD size 2.5" 2.5" 2.7" 2.7" 2.7"
LCD resolution 115,000 pixels 115,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
ISO range 100 - 3200 100 - 3200 80 - 3200 80 - 3200 80 - 3200
Intelligent Scene Recognition No No Yes Yes Yes
D-Range Optimizer No No Yes Yes Yes
Enhanced playback mode No No Yes Yes Yes
Supports underwater case No No Yes Yes No
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
350 370 400 390 300
Available colors Black, silver, pink, blue Black, silver, pink Black, silver, gold, red Black, silver, gold, red Black

Alright, with that out of the way, we can begin our review of the Cyber-shot DSC-W150!

Since the cameras have so much in common, I will be reusing portions of the DSC-W130 review here.

What's in the Box?

The DSC-W150 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 8.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-W150 camera
  • NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser, Music Transfer, Cyber-shot Handbook, and drivers
  • Basic manual (printed) + 137 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like most point-and-shoot cameras these days, Sony built memory right into the DSC-W150, in lieu of bundling a memory card. The W150 has 15MB of memory, which won't hold very many 8 Megapixel photos. Therefore, you'll want to buy yourself a Memory Stick Duo card right away, and a 1GB card is a good place to start. MS Duo cards come with an adapter that allows them to fit into regular Memory Stick slots (like on printers or card readers).

The DSC-W150 can use two different batteries: the included NP-BG1, and the optional NP-FG1. The only difference between the two is that the NP-FG1 has the InfoLithium feature, which allows the camera to tell you exactly how many minutes of juice you have left. Both of these batteries have 3.4 Wh of energy, which is on the low end of the spectrum. Despite that, Sony managed to squeeze out some excellent battery life, as illustrated by this chart:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS * 320 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z200 * 400 shots
Fuji FinePix Z100fd * 170 shots
GE E1050 200 shots
Kodak EasyShare M893 IS * 225 shots
Nikon Coolpix S600 * 190 shots
Olympus Stylus 840 * 190 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5 * 310 shots
Pentax Optio M50 210 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 * 400 shots

* Has image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

Despite its relatively anemic battery, the DSC-W150 managed to tie the Casio EX-Z200 for the best battery life in this class. Way to go, Sony!

I should mention a couple of "gotchas" regarding the proprietary battery used by the DSC-W150 (and every other camera on the above list). For one, they're fairly expensive -- buying a spare NP-BG1 will set you back at least $25, with the FG1 costing at least $43. Secondly, if the BG1 or FG1 runs out of juice, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery like you could on a camera that uses AA batteries. This is one of the trade-offs that comes with owning a compact camera.

When you're ready to charge the W150's battery, just pop it into the included charger (which plugs directly into the wall -- my favorite). And then be prepared to wait, as the charge times are excruciatingly slow -- a typical charge takes a whopping 4.5 hours. If you want a faster charger, then you'll have to pony up at least $33 for the BC-TRG charger, which takes only 1.5 hours to charge the battery.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 in the hand

As is the case with all compact cameras, the W150 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.

The DSC-W150 has a decent amount of accessories for a compact camera, and I've compiled them into this handy chart for you:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Wide-angle lens VCL-D0746 From $53 Reduces the focal length by 0.75X, bringing the wide end down to 22.5 mm. Conversion lens adapter required.
Telephoto lens VCL-D2046 From $59 Boosts the telephoto end of the focal range by 2.05X, to 307.5 mm. Requires conversion lens adapter.
Conversion lens adapter VAD-WE From $30 Required for the conversion lenses above.
Underwater housing MPK-WD $200 Lets you take the W150 up to 40 meters under the sea
Macro ring light HVL-RLS From $66 Lights up your macro photos. Attaches via tripod mount.
Cyber-shot Station CSS-HD2 From $53 This camera dock charges your battery, and can connect to a computer or to an HDTV. Includes component and composite video cables, and a remote control.
HD output cable VMC-MHC1 From $31 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
Fast battery charger BC-TRG From $33 Charges the battery in 1/3 the time of the included charger
Silicone camera jacket LCJ-WA $30 A silicone "wrap" to protect your camera
Carrying cases

LCS-WF
LCS-CSL

From $26
From $16
Soft and leather cases, respectively.
Accessory kits ACC-CLGB
ACC-CLFG
From $40
$60
Both include a leather case; first one has the NP-BG1 battery, the second one has the NP-FG1 InfoLithium battery
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

Not a bad selection, if I do say so myself! The underwater housing appears to be unique to the W150 and W170. One thing missing here is an AC adapter -- there isn't one.

[Accessories list updated 5/16/08]

My production-level DSC-W150 did not come in a retail box, so I did not get the software CD-ROM. When you open the box, you'll find Sony's Picture Motion Browser 3.0 (Windows-only) and Music Transfer (Mac/Windows) software. Picture Motion Browser is a basic image acquisition and editing tool, while Music Transfer lets you custom slideshow music onto the W150. You can read more about Picture Motion Browser 2.0 (the last version I tested) in my DSC-T200 review.

Sony breaks the DSC-W150's manual into a few parts. In the box, you'll find a printed "Instruction Manual", which has enough information to get you up and running. For more details, you'll have to open up the "Cyber-shot Handbook" on the included CD-ROM (grrr). The quality of the manuals are just okay -- there's a lot of fine print, and they're not what I'd call pleasure reading.

Look and Feel

The DSC-W150 is a compact camera (though not as thin as, say, Sony's T-series models), made almost entirely of metal. The front panel has a brushed metal appearance, which looks pretty nice. The W150 feels pretty well put together, save for the usual weak spot: the door over the memory card/battery compartment.

The camera can be used with one hand without much trouble. Your thumb sits right on the mode dial, so you have to be careful not to accidentally turn it. The W150's buttons are on the small side, as the 2.7" takes up most of the real estate on the back of the camera.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W130 in black, pink, and silver
Images courtesy of Sony Electronics

It's almost a requirement for a compact camera to come in multiple colors, and Sony certainly didn't disappoint in that area. The W150 comes in silver, red, black, and gold. No, that's not actual gold. Really.

Now, here's a look at how the DSC-W150 compares to other compact cameras in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 9.6 cu in. 155 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z200 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 119 g
Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 138 g
GE E1050 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 145 g
Kodak EasyShare M893 IS 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 117 g
Nikon Coolpix S600 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.6 cu in. 130 g
Olympus Stylus 840 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 130 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5 3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 7 cu in. 119 g
Pentax Optio M50 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 116 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 142 g

The DSC-W150 is the second largest camera in the group, with only the Canon SD890 above it. Despite that, you should be able to fit the camera into almost any pocket you may have.

Okay, let's start our tour of the DSC-W150 now, beginning with the front of the camera.

Front of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

The DSC-W150 features a new 5X optical zoom lens, which is the most "powerful" lens ever in a W-series camera. The focal length is 5 - 25 mm, which is equivalent to a very nice 30 - 150 mm. The lens is on the "slow" side, though, with a maximum aperture of F3.3 - F5.2. While the lens itself is not threaded, you can attach the optional conversion lens adapter to the camera (I think it just snaps on), which lets you use the conversion lenses I mentioned in the previous section.

Deep inside the lens is Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization system. If you've been frustrated with blurry photos, especially in low light conditions, then you'll appreciate this feature. Sensors inside the camera detect the camera shake caused by tiny movements of your hands, and the camera moves a lens element to counteract this movement. It won't freeze a moving subject, nor will it allow for handheld 1 second exposures, but it will allow you to use shutter speeds that would result in a blurry photo on an unstabilized camera.

Want some evidence? Have a look at this:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

The photos above were taken at 1/13 sec, which may not sound that slow, but I took them at about 3X zoom. As you can clearly see, the SteadyShot system did a great job of producing a sharp photo under these circumstances. You can use image stabilization in movie mode as well, and this brief video clip shows it "in action".

To the upper-right of the lens is the optical viewfinder, with the AF-assist lamp next to that. The AF-assist lamp is used as a focusing aid in low light situations, and it doubles as a visual countdown for the self-timer, as well.

Moving to the opposite side of the lens, we find the W150's microphone and built-in flash. Unlike on the DSC-W130 which I just reviewed, the W150's flash has a decent amount of power. The working range is 0.2 - 4.2 m at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 2.7 m at telephoto. Officially, you cannot attach an external flash to the W150, but I can't help but think that the Sony HVL-FSL1B slave flash would work just fine.

Back of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

The first thing to see on the back of the Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is its 2.7" LCD display. Not only is the screen larger than the 2.5" one on the W120 and W130, but it's a lot sharper too, with a resolution of 230,000 pixels. The screen has very good outdoor visibility, and in low light, the screen brightens automatically, so you can still see your subject.

Just above the LCD is the camera's optical viewfinder. Yes, it's really tiny, but since most cameras in this class don't have one at all, I'll take what I can get. There's no diopter correction feature (not surprisingly), so you'll need to keep your glasses on to see things properly.

Moving now to the top right of the photo, you can see the W150's zoom controller. It moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.5 seconds. I counted eleven steps in the camera's 5X zoom range.

Below that is the camera's mode dial, which is packed to the gills with options. They include:

Option Function
Easy shooting mode As simple as you can get: only two menus options (image size and flash setting), with everything else being automatic
Auto record mode Point-and-shoot, some menu options locked up; an auto scene selection feature is available
Program mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
Movie mode More on this later
Scene mode Select the situation, and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from twilight, beach, snow, fireworks, and underwater
Twilight portrait More commonly used scene modes get their own spots on the mode dial
Landscape
Soft snap
Smile Shutter
High sensitivity

There are a few things to talk about before we continue the tour.


The Easy Menu

While the DSC-W150 has no manual controls, it does have plenty of auto modes to choose from. The Easy Shooting mode has just two options: image size (large and small) and flash setting (auto, off).

A new (to Sony) feature found in the Auto Record mode is Scene Recognition. This one isn't quite as elaborate as the one on Panasonic's latest cameras: it only detects various twilight and backlit scenes. You do have the option of having the camera take one photo with the auto-selected scene mode, and another without it.

The W150 has Sony's "famous" Smile Shutter feature, which has been enhanced a bit since last year. Simply put the camera into Smile Shutter mode, press the shutter release down, and the camera begins hunting for smiles (a "smile meter" is shown on the LCD). When it detects one, it takes a photo (up to six are taken). You can adjust the sensitivity and whether adults or children have "priority" in the record menu. Does it work? You bet -- quite well, in fact. The only real negative is only one person in the frame needs to be smiling in order for a photo to be taken.

The high sensitivity mode will boost the ISO up to 3200, in order to obtain a blur-free photo. Unfortunately, the resulting image will quite noisy and lacking in detail (example), making it not great for printing. Thus, I'd skip this one.

Below the mode dial you'll find the Menu and Home buttons. The menu button does just as it sounds -- it opens the traditional record or playback menu. The home button -- which I secretly hoped would disappear on Sony's 2008 cameras -- opens a totally separate menu system. I'll tell you about both of these menus later in the review.

Continuing downward, we find the four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as:

  • Up - Display (toggles info shown on LCD)
  • Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec)
  • Left - Macro (Auto, on)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, flash on, slow synchro, flash off)

The last two buttons on the back of the camera are for entering playback mode, and for starting a slideshow.

Top of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

On the top of the DSC-W150 you'll find the speaker, plus the power and shutter release buttons.

Side of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

Nothing to see here.

Side of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

Nothing here, either. The lens is at the telephoto end in this shot.

Bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

Our tour ends with a view of the bottom of the W150. Here you'll find the battery/memory card compartment, metal tripod mount, and the cable/dock connector. The door covering the battery/memory compartment is on the flimsy side. In addition, you will not be able to get at the memory card while the camera is on a tripod.

The cable/dock connector is where you'll plug in the included USB+A/V cable, or the optional HD video cable. It's also what attaches the camera to the optional HD camera dock. The W150 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

The included NP-BG1 battery can be seen at right.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150

Record Mode

It takes the DSC-W150 about 1.4 seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's not bad.


A histogram is available on the LCD in record mode

The DSC-W150 is one of the fastest-focusing compact cameras out there. In the best case scenarios (wide-angle, lots of light), the camera took between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds to lock focus. Telephoto focus times were quick as well, rarely approaching 1 second. Low light focusing was great too, due in part to the W150's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot speeds were excellent, with a delay of about a second before you can take another shot. If you're using the flash, expect to wait two or three seconds before you can take another photo.

You cannot delete a photo right after it's taken -- you must first enter playback mode.

There are just a couple of image quality choices available on the DSC-W150. You can't actually control the amount of compression applied to each image -- you can only change the resolution. Here's the brief list:

Resolution # images on 15MB on-board memory # images on 1GB memory card (optional)
8M
3264 x 2448
4 306
7M (3:2 ratio)
3264 x 2176
4 309
6M (16:9 ratio)
3264 x 1840
5 326
5M
2592 x 1944
6 390
3M
2048 x 1536
10 626
2.1M (16:9 ratio)
1920 x 1080
16 1002
VGA
640 x 480
96 6013

See why I recommended buying a memory card right away?

The DSC-W150 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats, nor would I expect it to.

The file numbering system used by Sony is quite simple. Files are named DSC0####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The numbering is maintained as you erase and swap memory cards.

As I mentioned earlier, the DSC-W150 has two totally separate menu systems. The one you get by pressing the Menu button is traditional, attractive, and easy to navigate (though it's a big sluggish). The Home menu, on the other hand, doesn't really know what it is. It's redundant, useful options require too much button-pressing, and it's just too slow. But enough complaining -- let's talk about what options you'll find in each of these menus.


Traditional record menu

I'll start with the traditional record menu. Keeping in mind that some of these options may not be available in all shooting modes, here's what you'll find there:

  • Scene selection (Twilight, beach, snow, fireworks, underwater) - only available in SCN mode
  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Face detection (Off, auto, child priority, adult priority) - see below
  • Smile detection (Off, child priority, adult priority) - only available in Smile Shutter mode
  • Smile sensitivity (Low, medium, high)
  • REC mode (Normal, burst, bracket ±0.3, ±bracket 0.7, ±bracket 1.0) - see below
  • Scene recognition (Off, auto, advanced) - only available in auto mode; see below for more
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) - more on this later
  • Metering mode (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • Focus mode (Multi, center, spot AF, 1.0, 3.0, 7.0 meters, infinity)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent 1/2/3, incandescent, flash) - no custom option, unfortunately
  • Underwater white balance (Auto, underwater 1/2, underwater flash) - only available when using underwater scene mode
  • Flash level (Low, normal, high)
  • Redeye reduction (Auto, on, off) - whether the flash fires before the shot is taken for redeye reduction purposes
  • Dynamic range optimizer (Off, standard, plus) - see below
  • Color mode (Normal, vivid, sepia, black & white)
  • SteadyShot (Shooting, continuous, off) - see below

I'd like to talk about a few of those before continuing on to the Home menu.


The camera found all six faces in our test scene

Sony's implementation of face detection is excellent. The W150 can detect up to eight faces in the frame, and you can choose to have it prioritize for adults or children. The camera easily found five of the six faces in our test scene, which is better than most cameras with this feature can do.

Next, how about those REC mode options? In burst mode, the W150 took twelve shots in a row at 1.9 frames/second, before slowing down to 1.1 fps (surprisingly, those results are slightly different than the DSC-W130 that I recently tested). According to Sony, you can take up to 100 shots in a single burst, and I have no reason to doubt them. The LCD keeps up with the action fairly well, so you should be able to follow a moving subject. The three exposure bracketing modes all work in the same way: the camera will take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. The exposure interval between each shot can be ±0.3, ±0.7, or ±1.0 EV.

I touched on the scene recognition feature earlier, but here are a few more details. First, you must be in Auto Record mode in order to use this feature. Once that's taken care of (and iSCN is turned on), the camera can detect the following "scenes" automatically: twilight, twilight portrait, twilight w/tripod, backlight, and backlight portrait. Yeah, it's not quite as elaborate as Panasonic's version of this feature, which can detect portrait, landscape, macro, and more.

The DRO (dynamic range optimizer) feature is borrowed from Sony's digital SLRs. In Standard DRO mode, the camera looks at the whole scene in order to just contrast. In DRO "plus" mode, the camera breaks the scene into smaller parts, and adjusts the contrast for each. Does it make a difference? Have a look:

DRO Standard DRO Plus

While there's a bit more shadow detail in the DRO plus shot, it's not dramatic. There is a processing delay when you use DRO Plus mode, which slows shot-to-shot times by a couple of seconds. Thus, you may want to use it only when necessary.

There are three SteadyShot (image stabilization) options to choose from. If you want to compose your photos without the effects of camera shake, then choose "Continuous". For more effective blur reduction, choose "Shooting", which doesn't activate the IS system until the photo is actually taken. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable when the camera is on a tripod.

Home Menu Shooting settings, found via the Home Menu

So far, about all I've told you about the Home menu is that I don't like it. Enough about that, here are the options you'll find inside it:

  • Shooting
    • Shooting - yes, really
  • View Images - more on these later
    • Date view
    • Folder view
    • Favorites
  • Slideshow
    • Slideshow
    • Music Tool - used for transferring music from your computer
  • Print
    • Print
  • Manage Memory
    • Memory Tool
      • Memory Stick Tool (format, create/change rec. folder, copy)
      • Internal Memory Tool (format)
  • Settings
    • Main Settings
      • Main Settings 1
        • Beep (Shutter, on, off)
        • Function guide (on/off) - whether a description of functions is shown on the LCD
        • Initialize
        • Smile demo mode (on/off)
      • Main Settings 2
        • USB Connect (Auto, PictBridge, PTP/MTP, Mass Storage)
        • Component video (HD, SD)
        • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
        • Wide zoom display (on/off) - whether images are shown at 16:9
    • Shooting Settings
      • Shooting Settings 1
        • AF illuminator (Auto, off)
        • Grid line (on/off)
        • AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
        • Digital zoom (Off, precision, smart) - see below
        • Conversion lens (Off, wide, telephoto)
      • Shooting Settings 2
        • Auto Orientation (on/off)
        • Auto Review (on/off) - post-shot review
    • Clock Settings - set date/time
    • Language Setting

There are two AF modes offered by the Cyber-shot DSC-W150. Single AF is what most people are used to: press the shutter release halfway, and the camera locks the focus. Monitor AF starts focusing before you even touch the shutter release button. This reduces the focus times, but it puts an extra strain on battery life.

There are two digital zoom modes available on the camera. Precision digital zoom just digitally enlarges the shot, which reduces image quality -- it should be avoided. Smart digital zoom allows you to get closer to your subject without reducing image quality, but the catch is that you must lower the image size. If you go down to 3 Megapixel (perfectly acceptable for 4 x 6 inch prints) you'll increase the W150's zoom power to 8X.

Alright, that's it for menus -- let's move onto photo tests now, shall we?

The first thing you'll probably notice about the macro test shot is a brown color cast. The DSC-W150 lacks a custom white balance option, and the tungsten preset (nor any others) cannot handle my quartz studio lamps. This shouldn't be a big deal for most people, but if you shoot in mixed or unusual lighting, it's worth finding a camera with custom white balance. Aside from that, the news is good. The subject is sharp, with a nice "smooth" appearance.

The DSC-W150 handles close-up shooting a bit differently than previous Sony cameras. The full focal range is always available, so you can take a macro shot at any time. There's still a dedicated macro mode available, which simply prioritizes close-up shooting, at the expense of focus speeds. Whichever mode you choose, the minimum focus distance remains the same: 10 cm. That's a little further away than what your typical compact camera can do.

Like the DSC-W130 I just reviewed, the W150 is no great shakes at night scenes like the one you see above. There's no manual control over shutter speed, so you're stuck with the twilight portrait mode. Combine the 2 second maximum shutter speed with a slow lens, and you just don't bring in enough light to do this shot justice. While the photo is on the soft side, purple fringing is not a problem.

Since I can't control the shutter speed on the W150, I was unable to perform the low light ISO test. I do, however, have the studio ISO test below.

There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the DSC-W150's 5X zoom lens. You can see what this does in the real world by looking at the "curving" building in this photo. Vignetting (dark corners) was not a problem, and corner blurriness was at a minimum.

Compact cameras almost always have redeye problems, and the DSC-W150 is no exception. However, the camera offers a redeye removal tool in playback mode that does a good job of removing this annoyance. See for yourself:

Now that's a lot better if you ask me!

Here's that ISO test that I promised you. Its taken in our studio, and can be compared with other cameras that I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to to the noise levels at each ISO sensitivity, it's always a good idea to view the full-size images. Here we go:


ISO 80

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The first three crops are all very clean, with just slight amounts of noise reduction artifacting at ISO 200. Noise reduction becomes more obvious at ISO 400, reducing your print size to small or midsize. More traditional noise gets thrown into the mix at ISO 800, though this setting is still quite usable for small prints, at least in good light. Things really start to go downhill at ISO 1600, with a significant loss of detail, plus a noticeable drop in color saturation. As you'd expect, it only gets worse at ISO 3200. Therefore, I'd avoid using both ISO 1600 and 3200 on the DSC-W150.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the quality of the photos produced by the Cyber-shot DSC-W150. They were well-exposed, with accurate (though not terribly saturated) colors. Sharpness was right in the middle of the range: not too soft, not too sharp. As the ISO test above illustrated, noise isn't a problem until iSO 800 (though you'll see it sooner in low light), though the effects of noise reduction can be seen at ISO 80. Thankfully, the noise reduction isn't too bad here (probably because this is "only" an 8 Megapixel camera), so you don't lose too much detail. Purple fringing was minimal.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, maybe printing a few photos if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the DSC-W150's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The DSC-W150 has a pretty standard movie mode. In Fine mode, you can record video at 640 x 480 (30 frames/second) with sound until you hit the ten minute mark -- a restriction that wasn't there on previous Sony cameras. A high speed memory card is required to use the fine quality movie mode.

Two other resolutions are available. The Standard mode also records at 640 x 480, but at a choppy 17 frames/second. There's also a 320 x 240 mode available, but the 8 fps frame rate will make it look like one of those Tim Burton stop-motion films.

As is usually the case, you cannot use the optical zoom (or the digital zoom, for that matter) while recording a video clip. The image stabilizer is available, however.

Movies are recorded using the good 'ol MPEG-1 codec.

Here's the usual train station sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (11.6 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, MPEG format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The Cyber-shot DSC-W150 has a pretty elaborate playback mode (even more so than the DSC-W130). Basic features include DPOF print marking, image protection, slideshows, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge a photo by as much as 8X, and then move around the enlarged area.

Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. There are also a number of special effects you can apply to photos, including unsharp mask, soft focus, partial color, fisheye lens, cross filter, radial blur, "retro", and a very creepy "happy faces" feature, which "puts a smile on a person's face". You'll also find the redeye removal tool in the retouch menu, and it's definitely the most useful of the bunch.

The DSC-W150 lets you view photos in the traditional sequential manner, by date, or with a "face filter". This last view lets you see photos with all people, children, infants, or those who are smiling. If you've found a photo you like, you can tag it as a favorite, which allows you to quickly retrieve it at a later time.


Setting up a slideshow

The slideshow feature is extra-fancy, with transitions and background music. You can add your own background music via the Music Transfer software that I (barely) touched on back in the software section. The "face filter" is available here too, so you can restrict your slideshow to people pictures.

By default, the DSC-W150 doesn't show you much information about the photo you've viewing. However, press "up" on the four-way controller, and you'll get the screen you see above, complete with histogram.

The W150 moves through photos at a pretty good clip. You'll wait for less than a second to see the next full resolution image.

How Does it Compare?

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is a competent little camera that offers a pleasing combination of zoom power, image stabilization, performance, and point-and-shoot features. Being that it's completely devoid of manual controls, it's not a great choice for those who take long exposures, or shoot under unusual lighting conditions. For everyone else, though, the Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is worth checking out.

The DSC-W150 is a compact (but not super-tiny) camera made almost entirely of metal. It's well put together, and pretty stylish, too. Controls are small, but generally well-placed, though your thumb will rest on the mode dial. The only weak spot is the usual one: the door over the battery/memory card compartment. Speaking of which, you won't be able to get at the memory card while the camera is on a tripod. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the W150 comes in multiple colors, and you have a choice of silver, black, red, and gold. The DSC-W150 features a 5X optical zoom lens, with a really nice range of 30 - 150 mm. The lens is on the slow side, so it's not the best for shooting in low light conditions. Like most of Sony's cameras these days, the W150 features their Super SteadyShot image stabilization system, and it works as advertised. On the back of the camera you'll find a 2.7" LCD and a tiny optical viewfinder (but at least there is one). The LCD is sharp, and offers good outdoor and low light visibility.

The Cyber-shot DSC-W150 is a 100% point-and-shoot camera, with absolutely zero manual controls. For the average shooter, that's just fine. The camera offers an "easy" mode, which is as basic as you'll find, a regular auto mode with a somewhat limited auto scene detection feature, and numerous scene modes. One of the scene modes is Sony's now famous Smile Shutter feature, which waits until your subject is smiling before taking a photo. Smile Shutter works hand-in-hand with the camera's well-implemented face detection system. The twilight scene mode is a bit of a disappointment, with the slowest shutter speed available being just 2 seconds. It would've been nice to have some kind of action scene mode, as well. The W150 has a rather clunky menu system, especially the Home menu. It's slow, sometimes redundant, and requires too much button-pressing to get what you want. On a more positive note, the W150's playback mode is quite elaborate, giving you fancy slideshows with music and sound, a "face filter" to find people pictures, and numerous retouching options, including redeye reduction. The camera's movie mode offers smooth VGA recording, but there's a 10 minute limit per clip.

When it comes to performance, the DSC-W150 does not disappoint. The camera starts up in 1.5 seconds, which is average, but everything else is great. Focus speeds are very snappy, even at the telephoto end of the lens and in low light. Shutter lag isn't a problem, and shot-to-shot delays are minimal. The one exception to this is when you've got the D-Range Optimizer set to "plus" -- it adds a few seconds to the shot-to-shot times (and it's not really worth it, in most situations). The W150 has a pretty good continuous shooting mode, with the ability to shoot a dozen photos at 1.9 frames/second, before slowing to 1.1 fps until you reach a total of one hundred photos. Battery life was best-in-class, and the camera's support for the USB 2.0 High Speed standard means that your pictures will quickly transfer to your Mac or PC.

Photo quality was very good. The W150 took well-exposed photos, with accurate (though not terribly vivid) colors. Sharpness is right in the middle of the range, and purple fringing should not be a problem. While "traditional" noise won't be an issue until ISO 800 (in good light, at least), you will see the effects of noise reduction at ISO 80 (the lowest setting). Thankfully, it's pretty mild until the ISO climbs above 400. Redeye is a big problem on the W150, but the built-in removal tool can rid your photos of this annoyance.

There are a few final issues that I want to mention. First, the battery charger included with the camera is very slow, taking 4.5 hours for a typical charge. Second, the 15MB of built-in memory is just too little for an 8 Megapixel camera. And finally, the full camera manual is only available on CD-ROM, which is always disappointing.

If you want a compact camera with a semi-wide-angle 5X zoom lens, image stabilization, and fun point-and-shoot features, then it's worth checking out the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150. If you desire manual controls, shoot under unusual lighting conditions, or enjoy long exposures, then you'll probably want to look at something else. For those of you wondering if it's worth spending the extra money to step up from the DSC-W130, I'd say "definitely".

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality; ISO 800 still usable
  • 5X optical zoom lens with nice 30 - 150 mm range
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Compact metal body comes in four colors
  • Large and sharp 2.7" LCD display; good outdoor and low light visibility
  • Optical viewfinder (though it's tiny)
  • Snappy performance
  • Well-implemented face detection and Smile Shutter features
  • Elaborate playback mode includes redeye removal tool, "face filter", special effects, and fancy slideshows
  • Support for conversion lenses and underwater case
  • Best-in-class battery life
  • USB 2.0 High Speed protocol supported

What I didn't care for:

  • Noise reduction smudges fine details, even at ISO 80 (though it's not too bad)
  • Redeye a big problem (but at least you can fix it)
  • Lens is on the slow side
  • Clunky user interface
  • No manual controls
  • 10 minute movie clip limit
  • Flimsy plastic door over memory/battery compartment; can't access memory card while camera is on a tripod
  • Very slow battery charger included
  • Not much built-in memory; full manual only on CD-ROM

Some other compact cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z200, Fuji FinePix Z100fd, GE E1050, Kodak EasyShare M893 IS, Nikon Coolpix S600, Olympus Stylus 840, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS5, and the Pentax Optio M50.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Cyber-shot DSC-W150 and its competitors before you buy. And I really mean it for this camera!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our photo gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or for technical support.

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