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.
The Cyber Shot DSC-W5's big 2.5-inch, 115,000-pixel LCD is spacious and bright enough to allow easy composition of images under all but the brightest and dimmest lighting conditions. It washes out in direct sunlight and doesn't gain up in poorly lit environments. The tiny optical viewfinder can sub for the LCD in a pinch, although it suffers serious parallax errors when you're shooting closer than a few feet.
The Cyber Shot DSC-W5's 38mm-to-114mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range gives you neither a very broad wide-angle nor a notable telephoto capability, but you can autofocus with a center-point or a user-selectable five-point system down to 2.25 inches. Autoexposure operates in spot, center-weighted, and 49-point evaluative modes. Seven scene modes are available, including Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Landscape, Beach, Snow, and Soft Snap for soft-focus portraits.
Although this camera took nearly 4 seconds to wake up for its first shot, it was quite responsive thereafter, firing off shots every 1.4 seconds--2.6 seconds with flash--and capturing 9 full-resolution images in burst mode at about 1.6 pictures per second. At 640x480 resolution, the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W5 was just as speedy and had room in its buffer for 100 shots in about 60 seconds. Shutter lag was minimal under high-contrast lighting at 0.5 second but became merely middle-of-the-road at 1.1 seconds when the focus-assist lamp was called into duty under low-contrast lighting conditions.
We found image quality to be generally crisp, with even exposures in both highlights and shadows. There was a distinct tendency toward clipped highlights, however. The automatic white-balance controls were easily fooled by incandescent lighting, often giving us very warm color casts indoors. Flesh tones sometimes had a yellowish hue. Visual noise wasn't obvious until we bumped the sensitivity to ISO 400, and Sony's automatic noise reduction feature, which kicks in at slow shutter speeds, helped reduce multicolored speckles from long exposures. Chromatic aberrations were also kept to a minimum.