ISO comparison

These are 100 percent crops of photos taken of our test scene. Even at its lowest ISO, the WX50's photos aren't particularly sharp and they really can't be used for much at full size because subjects just look soft and painterly. Basically, you won't want to do any enlarging and heavy cropping. However, that can be said about the majority of sub-$200 cameras and in general the WX50's shots are excellent at smaller sizes up to ISO 400 and can be printed up to 13x9.

Noise reduction kicks in more at ISO 800, though, which smears details and dulls colors some. There's a noticeable increase in noise and noise reduction at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, making colors look more washed-out and subjects appear even more painterly; 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. Forget about using ISO 6400 and ISO 12800; I'm pretty sure they're included just for marketing purposes.

Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 100 at 100 percent

To give you a real-life example, this photo was taken at ISO 100 and is a 100 percent crop of the inset photo. Details look soft and painterly and there are plenty of image artifacts.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 100 at 33 percent

This is the same photo from the previous slide, but cropped at 33 percent of its full size, which leaves you with a photo that's good enough to print at larger sizes up to 8x10 (or even 13x9 depending on how critical you are).
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Macro

For those who like to shoot close-ups, the WX50 can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Color

Though not accurate, colors are bright, vivid, and pleasing from the WX50, which is typical for point-and-shoots. Also typical are its blown-out highlights, though Sony at least has shooting modes to help out with extreme cases.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Backlight Correction HDR

If you're faced with a subject with heavy backlight, Sony's multishot Backlight Correction HDR works very well to bring out details that would have been lost in highlights and shadows, without making things look too processed.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Lens distortion

There is some slight barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens, but no signs of pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. Also, 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 softer at the edges and in the corners. If you want your subject at their sharpest, you'll need to frame them in the center. There is some purple fringing in high-contrast areas of photos, though generally it's only visible when photos are viewed at larger sizes onscreen.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Zoom range

The WX50's lens goes from an ultrawide-angle 25mm to 125mm (35mm equivalent), a 5x zoom. It allows for better framing opportunities without adding bulk.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Picture Effects

One of the big feature differences between this model and its predecessor, the WX9, are new Picture Effects. There are nine in all; this is Watercolor.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Background Defocus

Sony's Background Defocus mode takes two shots, identifies the background and blurs it while keeping the subject sharp and in focus. Recommended distance from the subject is about a foot (30cm according to what the camera says on screen) and you can set the amount of blur to low, medium, or high; this was taken at medium. It works best when your subject is well in front of the background. It's not perfect, but at small sizes it can be convincing.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Intelligent Sweep Panorama

Sony has two versions of its Sweep Panorama mode, one regular one Intelligent. The cameras with a Sony Exmor R sensor get the latter, which includes the WX50. The benefit is that it does a better job of handling moving subjects, such as the woman walking in the center.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:
Hot Galleries

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for a gadget upgrade

Check out these 8 tablets you'll want to bring home for the holidays.

Hot Products