View an examination of photo quality from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W570, an ultracompact with a 5x, f2.6 25mm-equivalent wide-angle lens.
Photo quality from the W570 is very good for its class, but like most compact cameras it still stumbles at higher ISOs. Photos at ISO 80 and 100 are relatively sharp with very good fine detail and low noise. At ISO 200, subjects soften some, losing a touch of sharpness and fine detail. At ISO 400, images get noticeably softer and there's an increase in noise in darker areas of images. If you're printing at and below 5x7 inches and not doing heavy cropping, the results are very good. Photos at ISO 800 and 1,600 look painterly from noise reduction, so subjects will appear soft and smeary; it's even worse at ISO 3,200 making it unusable. Colors get muddy as well, especially at ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200; you'll probably want to reserve these two highest sensitivities for emergencies when you need to shoot in low-light conditions or get a faster shutter speed regardless of the results.
The W570's Macro mode can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject and the photos can be very good. The inset shot, for example, withstood a heavy crop and still looked good printed. You won't be able to do that with every photo from the W570, but the capability is there.
Like most point-and-shoots, the W570 takes soft photos that benefit from some sharpening with photo-editing software. If you don't want to mess with software, the camera has an unsharp mask option in playback for sharpening your shots. The top photo here is the original and the bottom is with the unsharp mask applied. The sharpening definitely helps bring out the fine details; however, at larger sizes you will see more noise and subjects can look crunchy.
The f2.6 aperture is larger than on many competing cameras and does let you create a shallow depth of field, at least when shooting in macro. More importantly, though, you can use a slightly lower ISO when shooting indoors or in dimmer lighting.
Color is excellent from the W570. While blues and reds may not be as accurate as other colors, they are bright and vivid. Plus, they're consistent up to ISO 800; above that, things get slightly washed out and muddy-looking. Exposure and white balance are good as well, though highlights tend to blow out.
The W570's lens goes from a wide 25mm to 125mm (35mm equivalent), a 5x zoom. It allows for better framing opportunities without adding bulk or cost or degrading photo quality. It's also longer and wider than its predecessor, the W350.
Sony does an excellent job of controlling barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens and pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. I saw no evidence of either in my test shots. (Though like any ultrawide-angle lens you will get some fish-eye distortion if your subject is too close to the lens.) The lens' center sharpness is very good, but gets noticeably softer at the edges and in the corners.
Sony includes two levels of its Dynamic Range Optimization (DRO) feature, which helps bring out details that would otherwise be lost in shadows. On the left DRO is off, and on the right it's on at its highest setting.
The camera has a version of Sony's Sweep Panorama feature that allows you to quickly and easily take panoramic shots horizontally or vertically. Though fun, the results are just on par with a screen capture from a video clip. Consider them for Web use only, for viewing on a TV from a proper distance, or for very small prints.