Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: November 16, 2009

Last Updated: March 29, 2010

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 ($349) is an ultra-compact, point-and-shoot camera that uses a new "back-illuminated" CMOS sensor, which promises better higher sensitivity and less noise than traditional CCDs. Throw in a wide and fast 5X zoom lens, HD movie recording, and a fair number of point-and-shoot features, and the WX1 looks like it could compete against the reining low light champ, the Fuji FinePix F200EXR.

The WX1 is quite similar to the DSC-W290 (see our review), with a smaller body and the new lens/sensor combination. Here's how the two compare:

Feature DSC-W290 DSC-WX1
Average price
(at time of publication)
$212 $341
Sensor type 1/2.3" CCD 1/2.4" Exmor R CMOS
Resolution 12.1 MP 10.2 MP
Lens branding Carl Zeiss Sony G
Optical zoom 5X 5X
Lens max. aperture F3.3 - F5.2 F2.4 - F5.9
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 28 - 140 mm 24 - 120 mm
LCD size 3.0" 2.7"
LCD resolution 230,400 230,400
ISO range 80 - 3200 160 - 3200
Burst rate 1.8 frames/sec 10 frames/sec
Manual controls None White balance
Sweep panorama No Yes
Anti-motion blur / handheld twilight No Yes
Playback retouching features 10 3
Internal memory 11 MB 11 MB
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
300 shots 350 shots
Supports conversion lenses Yes No
Supports underwater case Yes Yes
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 3.6 x 2.1 x 0.8 in.
Weight 145 g 120 g
Available colors Silver, black, blue, bronze Black

You can see that in some respects, the WX1 is actually a step down from the cheaper W290. It has a smaller LCD, the lens is slower at full telephoto, it doesn't support conversion lenses, and it has fewer playback mode features. Aside from that, though, the DSC-WX1 wins the spec war versus its less expensive sibling. Some of the WX1's features (such as sweep panorama) won't be found on any of its competitors.

The WX1 has some tough competition, not only from the Fuji FinePix F200EXR, but also the Canon PowerShot S90 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. How well does it perform? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 has a pretty standard bundle for a point-and-shoot camera. Inside the box, you'll find the following:

  • The 10.2 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 camera
  • NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser software, Cyber-shot handbook and Step-up Guide
  • 59 page basic manual (printed) plus 135 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's recent cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 has built-in memory, in lieu of having a memory card included in the box. The WX1 has a paltry 11MB of onboard memory, which holds just two photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a memory card, and fast. The DSC-WX1 supports Memory Stick Duo cards, and I'd recommend a 2GB card at the very least.

The WX1 uses the familiar NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery for power. This battery has 3.4 Wh of energy, which is about average for a camera in this class. The WX1 also supports the NP-FG1 battery, which has the same amount of juice, but adds InfoLithium technology, which allows the camera to provide a minute-by-minute countdown of battery life. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect from the DSC-WX1:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot S90 * 220 shots NB-6L
Casio Exilim EX-FC100 ** 300 shots NP-40
Fuji FinePix F200EXR * 230 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix S640 * 270 shots EN-EL12
Olympus Stylus 7010 * 170 shots LI-42B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 */** 380 shots CGA-S005
Samsung TL320 */** 280 shots SLB-11A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 */** 350 shots NP-BG1

* Wide-angle lens
** HD movie mode

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

As you can see, the DSC-WX1 comes in second place in the battery competition. Despite not taking the gold medal, the WX1's battery is still well above the group average.

I should point out a few things about the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the WX1 and every other camera in the table above. Proprietary batteries tend to be more expensive than their AA counterparts, with a spare NP-FG1 costing at least $27. In addition, should that battery run out of juice, you can't pick up an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day.

When you're ready to charge the WX1's battery, just pop it into the included charger. And then you might want to find something else to do for the next four or five hours, as that's how long it can take to charge the battery. If you want a faster charger, Sony would be happy to sell you one.

And on that note, here's the list of accessories available for the DSC-WX1:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Marine pack MPK-WEB $230 Lets you take the camera up to 40 meters (132 feet) underwater
Sports pack SPK-WB From $70 A less serious underwater case, lets you go 3 meters (10 feet) underwater
HD output cable VMC-MHC1 From $33 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
Multi-use terminal cable VMC-MD1 From $33 Very similar to the included USB + A/V cable, except it adds support for the optional AC adapter
AC adapter AC-LS5K From $39

Power the camera without draining your battery; requires the multi-use terminal cable above

Compact battery charger BC-TRG From $39 Charge your battery in a third of the time as the bundled charger
Party-shot IPT-DS1 $150 A camera cradle that tilts and pans automatically to take pictures at parties (for example)
GPS unit GPS-CS3KA $110 Lets you easily add location data to your photos
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

One of the big differences between the DSC-WX1 and the other cameras in the W-series is that it does not support conversion lenses of any kind. It also supports one underwater case, instead of three.

Sony offers tons of cases for the WX1 -- too many to list.

PMB Launcher

Sony includes version 4.3 of their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-WX1. This software remains Windows-only, so Mac users will have to use something else (iPhoto works just fine). The first part of the software you'll probably encounter is PMB Launcher, which is the gateway to all of PMB's functions. Here you can import photos, upload them to popular photo/video sharing sites, burn a CD or DVD, or just jump right into the photo browser.

Speaking of which, above you can see the actual Picture Motion Browser software. On the main screen you'll find the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos in a calendar format, as well. You can sort photos by date, whether they contain people, smiles, or scenery, by label, and more. From here you can also e-mail, print, or upload your photos to sharing sites; a slideshow option is also available.

Editing in Picture Motion Browser

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to the edit screen. The tools here include auto correction, brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, redeye removal, and trimming (cropping). You can even adjust the tone curve, with wasn't available on earlier versions of PMB. If you want to print the date on your photos, you can do that as well.

Another part of Picture Motion Browser allows you to transfer music from your computer (or a CD) to the camera for use with the slideshow feature. Sony includes a standalone Mac application for doing this, as well.

The documentation for the DSC-WX1 comes in two parts, and that's not good news. Inside the box you'll find a printed "basic" manual, which is enough to get you started. If you want more detail, you'll have to open up the Cyber-shot Handbook, which is on an included CD-ROM disc (bah). In terms of user friendliness, both of these manuals are about average, though they could be a lot more detailed. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your computer.