A junior version of the 7-megapixel DSC-W7, the 5-megapixel Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W5 boasts the same no-nonsense, compact, metal-alloy body; gorgeous 2.5-inch LCD (which is coupled with a modest optical viewfinder for use in bright ambient light); 3X Carl Zeiss zoom lens; and basic array of automatic and manual controls. Decent image quality, a versatile burst mode, and convenient AA battery power make this Sony suitable for photo fans who want a pocketable camera with a useful set of mostly automatic features. Minimovie buffs will like the ability to edit 640x480, 16fps clips right in the camera.
The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W5 does have a few notable shortcomings. While shutter speed can be set manually and there's limited manual control over apertures, manual focus requires a trip to a menu where only five preset distances are available, from 0.5 meter to infinity. Some commonly accessed settings, such as red-eye reduction, also mandate a visit to menu land. We wish this fast-operating camera had an action scene mode, too, the better to streamline sports photography, or at least shutter- and aperture-priority modes. There's only 32MB of internal memory supplied with this Cyber Shot, so a Memory Stick Pro should be slotted into your shopping list.
The 3.6-by-2.4-by-1.5-inch, 9-ounce camera's controls are arranged logically, although one-handed shooting can be clumsy for those with large hands if you want to position an index finger over the top-mounted shutter release while thumbing the zoom lever on the back. Only an on-off switch, a power LED, and a knurled mode dial reside on the top panel; the display info, menu, and quick-delete/quality buttons, as well as four-way cursor control pad with a central OK/Set button are arrayed on the back. The cursor keys are used to set flash options (on, off, auto, and slow sync), to activate the macro mode and self-timer, and to review the last photo taken.
Access to the menus that adjust other settings is easy, but it's still annoying when you find it necessary to press several buttons for common functions such as exposure compensation. On the plus side, when the exposure compensation menu pops up on the screen, at your option, it can be flanked by a histogram that you can use to determine how much tweaking to apply, plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV steps. Contrast, sharpness, saturation, ISO, white balance, and other settings appear in additional menus.
Press the cursor pad's center key when in manual mode and a display pops up on the LCD to monitor changing the shutter speed with the up/down keys, from 30 seconds to 1/1,000 second; or your choice of two apertures with the left/right keys: f/5.2 and f/10 at the telephoto end of the zoom range or f/2.8 and f/5.6 at the wide-angle position.