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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W230 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W230

At a reasonably low price for budget shoppers, the W230 has quite a few nice features. Unfortunately, the camera has a lens that is not too sturdy, below par image quality and a battery life that will disappoint.

Irene Mickaiel
When Irene's not finding reasons to go globetrotting, with a camera almost permanently fixed to her face, she's reading up on all the latest gizmos and gadgets or trying her hand at adventure sports.
Irene Mickaiel
5 min read

Design

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W230 is an average-sized compact camera measuring at 95.2x56.5x21.8mm and weighing 127 grams. It's neither large nor small like those credit card-style cameras. However, with the 3-inch LCD screen taking up most of the back of the camera, the control button and mode dial along the right side are smaller than a five-cent piece.

6.0

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W230

The Good

Easy mode is fuss free. Flash has a good range. Exposure bracketing.

The Bad

Buttons are too small. Battery life. Images displayed a fair amount of noise and colour artefacts. Flimsy lens. Smile shutter was too slow to respond and fussy.

The Bottom Line

At a reasonably low price for budget shoppers, the W230 has quite a few nice features. Unfortunately, the camera has a lens that is not too sturdy, below par image quality and a battery life that will disappoint.

In fact, all the buttons were too small. The on/off button, recessed at the top of the W230, and the buttons beside the LCD screen need a very precise press to get them working. You will have to use the pointiest part of your finger rather than the fleshy pad. Thankfully, the long capsule-shaped shutter button is of a reasonable size.

The lens trembles out of the camera's body, and feels flimsy and weak as if it may easily break with just one knock.

Features

The W230 is a 12.1-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens and 4x optical zoom. The camera also gives you the option to output still images in full HD for people who like to display their photos on a high-definition monitor. Unfortunately, recording video is in standard definition.

There are quite a few modes to choose from: Auto, High Sensitivity (ISO), Landscape, Easy (more on this later), Smile Shutter, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap (which is like portrait but softens the image), Movie and Program Auto. On top of those is also SCN, a scene mode that lets you choose between twilight, gourmet (a macro mode for photographing food), beach, snow, fireworks and underwater. And last but not least is intelligent scene recognition (iSCN), which recognises objects, faces and lighting conditions then snaps a photo based on what scene mode will best suit it.

With all the modes to choose from there is also exposure bracketing where the W230 will take three photos, one at the exposure you've chosen and then two more at plus and minus 0.3EV, 0.7EV or 1.0EV. It's a nifty feature for when you're taking a photo in a challenging lighting situation.

Easy mode is great for people who just want to snap away without having to think about camera settings. The only choice given to the user is to decide whether they want to use flash and if it should be a "large" image for prints up to A3 and over, or a "small" image for prints up to 10x15cm or 13x18cm.

Performance and image quality

At ISO 800 the image shows a high level of noise and grain as seen in the enlarged image above. There are also random coloured pixels and areas that should be black are filled with lighter pixels. (Credit: CBSi)

Smile shutter didn't exactly work as we hoped (mind you, it sure was hilarious). We pointed the camera at a friend and told him to smile and watched as the camera got to work with a smile meter on the left of the screen as a box followed the face around. Our friend went from a closed lip smile to a toothy grin to an all-out face-cracking all-teeth-bared smile before the camera deemed it a smile and slowly snapped the photo. We'll just stick to the good old-fashioned "cheese".

The W230 struggles taking clear photos at night or dimly lit rooms without a flash. Twilight shots are next to impossible to take without a tripod (and Sony recommends you use one). Twilight scene mode not only produced blurry images (even with SteadyShot turned on), but also displayed a fair bit of noise. We found it easier to use auto mode which managed to take shots that appeared reasonable on the camera's LCD, but once we transferred them to a PC we realised that the images displayed a lot of grain and noise as seen in the photograph to the right.

In dull and low light scenarios, the camera produced a lot of black gradients and did not capture any colours from the scenery. When photographing a scene with multiple colours, the W230 handled colour saturation reasonably well, but it did at times struggle to differentiate pinks from reds and blues from purples. When we photographed a scene that only had black and white the camera introduced colour artefacts.

The W230 started to display noise at ISO 400. Click image to enlarge. (Credit: CBSi)

Movie mode, like a lot of other cameras, doesn't allow you to zoom once you start recording. It does, however, allow you to pre-zoom to the distance you want before hitting record. Unfortunately, our quibbles don't stop there. If you were to move the camera a little too fast, the image would blur and the camera would go in and out of focus as it readjusts itself. Sound quality was reasonable, the mic picked up every sound within its vicinity.

Click image to enlarge (Credit: CBSi)

Barrel distortion is evident in scenes with straight lines (as seen by the image to the right).

The menu set-up is a bit convoluted, at times you have to dip into its murky depths to brighten the flash or turn on image stabilisation. What would normally only take two button presses to delete an image, Sony has made it three presses. Perhaps to ensure that no images are accidentally deleted?

Start-up to first shot time took an average of 2.5 seconds and two photos taken in a row took two seconds between shots. It's not a speedy result, but it's not a bad result either. With flash turned on it took approximately three seconds between shots. In our shutter lag test with the lens pre-focused and not pre-focused, it took on average 0.7 and 0.9 seconds respectively.

When using flash, it produced very good results. Some cameras tend to light up the foreground in a harsh light while the background is in complete darkness. That wasn't the case with the W230. We used slow synchro which highlighted the foreground in a soft light and didn't leave the background in complete darkness.

Battery life was below par as it only lasted for approximately 200 shots (with and without flash). Due to this we wouldn't recommend the W230 for a weekend away unless you have purchased a backup Lithium-ion battery or you know you will have a power source nearby.

Conclusion

At a reasonably low price for budget shoppers, the W230 has quite a few nice features. Unfortunately, the camera has a none too sturdy lens, below par image quality and a battery life that will disappoint.