The photo quality from the W350 is very good for a sub-$200 camera, but not without its issues. The camera is capable of consistently fine-quality snapshots, particularly outdoors in daylight. Sensitivities go from ISO 80 up to ISO 3,200, but usability for prints more than 8x10 inches drops off at ISO 200. This is because even at ISO 80, photos viewed at full size have noise to them that only gets more pronounced as sensitivities get higher. Add to that the watery effect of Sony's noise suppression and you end up with pictures that appear soft and painterly. If you're planning to make prints larger than 4x6 inches, just keep the ISO as low as possible. However, if you're OK with some noise in exchange for getting a shot, photos up to ISO 1,600 can be usable for small prints or for online use, as long as you're not doing a lot of cropping.
And speaking of cropping, ideally a 14-megapixel resolution should buy you a fair amount of room for cutting down your images. However, the W350's photos are generally soft and lacking in fine detail when viewed at full size with the exception of those taken in macro. If you're one to crop in a lot on subjects and then want to create 13x19-inch prints, you probably won't be happy with this camera (or any other current sub-$200 compact, really). Also, despite the camera creating 45x60-inch photos, Sony only recommends prints up to 13x19 inches for the W350.
As for the wide-angle lens, Sony keeps the barrel distortion in check and there's no sign of pincushioning at the long end of the zoom, either. The amount of purple fringing is normal for a camera in its class. Center sharpness is fairly good on the W350, but subjects off to the sides are noticeably softer.
Colors are bright and natural and reasonably accurate, though blues seem to be a bit pumped up. Exposure is generally good, leaning toward underexposed, but highlights are prone to clipping.
Video quality was good, too, on par with a pocket video camera and again you do get use of the 4x zoom while you're recording. Unfortunately, if you want to view HD movies and photos directly from the camera on an HDTV, you'll need to pony up for a proprietary component cable that connects to the multiuse terminal on the camera's bottom.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350 is a great little snapshot camera. It has just enough features to justify its price along with a good-looking design and uncomplicated operation. As is the case with most models in its class, the W350 is at its best in bright conditions for portraits and landscapes. And regardless of the resolution stamped on its body, the photos will generally not be great viewed at their full size from a foot away on your computer screen. They will, however, make fine prints at 8x10 inches or smaller, and look good viewed on a TV from a proper distance or on your favorite photo-sharing site.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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