Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100 review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100

(Part #: S2100Black)
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Takes AA-size batteries; simple operation; 3-inch LCD.

The Bad Bare-minimum features; soft, smeary photos.

The Bottom Line Though it doesn't offer anything beyond basics, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100 is a decent AA-battery-powered entry-level compact.

6.2 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Image quality 6.0

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100 is the company's entry-level compact camera. It's currently the only model in Sony's 2010 lineup to feature AA-size batteries. That is really its key selling point other than a larger-than-typical LCD. The camera is targeted at beginners looking for convenience and easy operation, and it delivers those. However, its photo quality is merely OK, which is to be expected at its price, and its performance is far from snappy (also expected). The camera isn't totally without value, though, and depending on the end use of your photos, its results may be satisfactory for your needs thanks to some excellent color quality.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100
Price (MSRP) $109.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 6.5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3x, f3.1-5.6, 35-105mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA size (2, Alkaline included), 170 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media Memory Stick Pro Duo, SD/SDHC cards
Bundled software Picture Motion Browser 5.0, PMB Portable 5.0 (Windows), PMB Portable 1.1(Mac)

Available in three colors--black, silver, and orange--the S2100 is certainly one of the more attractive budget-friendly cameras I've seen and feels well-constructed for its price. Again, the camera is powered by AA-size batteries, and to make room for them Sony bumps out the right side creating a nice handgrip in the process. Though the majority of the body is plastic, Sony used a piece of brushed metal on front around the lens to give the camera a higher-end look. Also, Sony went with a 3-inch LCD, which is larger than the 2.5- and 2.7-inch screens typical of its class.

Controls are basic. Other than the power button and shutter release on top, the controls are on back to the right of the LCD. There's a rocker switch for the modest 3x zoom; a switch for changing between photo and movie modes; a play button for reviewing shots and movies; a four-way control pad for navigation and changing flash and timer functions, display information, and activating smile detection; and menu and delete buttons. The buttons are somewhat small, but easy to press. However, the control pad and the select button at its center could stand to be larger.

The menu system is as straightforward as the controls. Pressing the Menu button brings up shooting modes as well as the settings specific to the mode you're in. At the bottom of the list is a toolbox icon that accesses the secondary menu for setup options, such as formatting a memory card or shutting off the loud beep that accompanies every button press.

For output to a computer, TV, or monitor, there's an exposed Micro-USB/AV port on the lower left side of the body. On the bottom are a standard tripod mount and the non-locking door covering the battery compartment and memory card slot. Like all of Sony's 2010 Cyber-shots, the S2100 has a single slot that accepts Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD/SDHC cards.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Easy, Program, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Face AF, 9-point AF, Center-weighted AF, Macro AF
Metering modes Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects None
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 100 shots

The S2100 is a snapshot camera for those who like to stay in auto. That's not to say this Sony doesn't give you some control; the Program Auto lets you adjust ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering, and exposure values. The Intelligent Auto scene-recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple of options available to you, such as adjusting exposure and activating burst shooting. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (you get a choice of large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. There are eight scene-shooting options, including High Sensitivity for low-light shooting and Gourmet for pictures of food. Lastly, the Movie mode records at VGA quality with a mono mic for audio; there's no use of the optical zoom while recording.

Though I wouldn't call them extras, the camera does have settings for activating face detection, smile detection sensitivity, and SteadyShot electronic image stabilization, which adjusts ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to help counteract camera shake and motion blur.

Entry-level cameras are generally slow performers, so this Sony's easygoing performance is not a surprise. It is, however, slightly faster than other cameras in its class. From off to first shot takes 2.3 seconds. Shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is 0.6 second in bright lighting and 1 second in dim conditions. Shot-to-shot times averaged 2.1 seconds; turning on the flash basically doubled that wait. The one thing the S2100 does do pretty quickly is continuous shooting at 1.1 frames per second. Of course, typical of point-and-shoots, it only focuses and sets exposure on the first shot. These performance numbers mean it's best suited for capturing still subjects, not fast-moving kids, pets, or athletes.

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