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.
Photo quality is good for an entry-level camera. Subjects are soft and smeary with little fine detail even at its lowest ISOs, and it only gets worse as you go to higher sensitivities. But, due to consistent color performance up to ISO 800, you can get decent shots in dim light. You won't want to blow them up, crop them heavily, or print them much larger than 4x6 inches, but considering the cost of the camera, they aren't bad.
The lens is noticeably low quality. There is obvious barrel distortion at the lens' widest position and minor pincushioning with the lens extended. Center sharpness is OK, but it drops off dramatically to the sides and in the corners, making things look very soft. If you buy this camera, make sure you frame up your subjects in the center of your shots. There is visible purple fringing in high-contrast areas of photos, which is typical on models at this Sony's price point. The amount is above average, especially off to the sides of the frame.
Color, exposure, and white balance are all very good for a camera in this class. The only real issue is highlight clipping, which happens with the majority of compact cameras.
Video quality is fine for catching quick clips of things to share online. Color is again its best attribute.
All in all, if you just need a basic, AA-powered point-and-shoot for capturing still subjects, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100 is a decent selection. The photo quality isn't the best I've seen in this class, but if your shots are headed to the Web or you don't need prints much larger than 4x6 inches, they should be sufficient.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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