The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 is a bit of surprise. Last year, Sony's high-end 10x zoom camera, the HX7V, though pocketable, was still a chunk of camera. The WX150, on the other hand, gets the same zoom range -- 25mm to 250mm -- but in a slimmer, smaller, lighter body.
It's actually so small, Sony bumped it from its high-zoom H-series models, and it's now with the W-series ultracompacts. However, making cameras smaller usually comes with compromises to something else, be it performance, photo quality, or functionality. That was the case with Canon's PowerShot Elph 520 HS.
That's not the case here, though, and that's what's kind of surprising; it's an ultracompact megazoom that's worth seeking out.
It's not perfect, but for its price and size, it's an excellent choice if you're after a very pocket-friendly snapshooter with some extra zoom.
Overall, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 produces very good photos both indoors and out. At lower ISOs, you can definitely get shots that look good printed up to 10x13 and they stand up to a little enlarging and cropping. That's probably more than most people need, but it also means that the occasional 8x10 isn't out of the question. Subjects do get visibly softer above ISO 400, but shots are usable at small sizes up to ISO 1600. Sony's Handheld Twilight mode can help out here, though, as the results are not quite as soft and noisy when shooting in low light. I wouldn't bother using the two highest ISOs, though, as they look more like artist renderings than photos and have off colors.
The WX150 produces bright and vivid colors that most point-and-shoot users should find pleasing. However, they aren't always accurate, especially when it comes to blues. Neutrals, reds, and greens were truer, though. As for the lens quality, there is a little bit of barrel distortion present at the camera's wide end, but no pincushioning at the telephoto end. Center sharpness is very good, but the lens does get softer out to the sides and in the corners. My test camera was particularly soft in the top left and right corners. Purple fringing is visible in high-contrast areas, but generally only when photos are viewed at larger sizes. (Read more about the WX150's image quality in the slideshow above.)
Movies captured by the WX150 are very good as well, on par with an entry-level video camera. The 60i frame rate and image stabilization make for some smooth movement, too. You may see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects, though, especially if you view them on a larger HDTV. If you'd like a single device for capturing good photos and videos, this is one of the better options available. For the best results you'll want to record in AVCHD, but for Web sharing there is the option to record in MP4 format. The optical zoom does work while recording (though you may hear it moving in quiet scenes), and there is a fairly good stereo mic on top.
Sony promised fast autofocus speeds for the WX150, and that's what you'll get. Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- took just 0.2 second in bright conditions, so shooting feels near instantaneous. It slows down some in low light and with the lens extended, but it's still good at 0.6 second. From off to first shot is a quick 1.3 seconds, though it did drop to 1.7 seconds from shot to shot. It feels faster than that time suggests, though. The only time it really lagged was when using the flash. That drove the shot-to-shot time up to an average of 4.3 seconds.
The camera's burst shooting mode is capable of up to 10fps, but in our more demanding test it averaged 7.2fps, which is still very good. However, this burst shooting sets focus and exposure with the first shot, and once you've fired, you're stuck waiting for the camera to save the photos, generally a second or two per photo. Though its speed is excellent for a point-and-shoot, that doesn't mean it's going to be perfect for shooting active kids and pets, especially since its many multishot modes require still subjects.
Design and features
Save for the lens, the WX150's design isn't very different than last year's WX9. That camera had a Carl Zeiss 5x, f2.6-6.3, 25-125mm lens, which was a very nice lens. Unfortunately, in the move to a 10x optical zoom, the WX150 loses the WX9's bright f2.6 maximum aperture; the WX150 starts at f3.3 instead. It's not the end of the world, but it does mean the WX150 will need its higher ISO sensitivities a little bit sooner when you have less light.