Don't judge a book by its cover, and don't judge a camera by its body. While the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 looks exactly like last year's lackluster Cyber-shot DSC-W30 and sports similar features, it performs better and takes better photos than its predecessor.
Though identical in size and shape to the DSC-W30, the 0.9-inch thick DSC-W35 is a full ounce lighter than its predecessor. With battery, the W35 weighs a scant 5.3 ounces compared to the W30's significantly heftier 6.8 ounces. A much lighter battery accounts for some of this weight difference, as the metal cameras respectively weigh 4.2 and 4.5 ounces without battery or memory card. Fortunately, the battery doesn't sacrifice any power with its weight; the W35's battery is a 3.6-volt, 960 mAh lithium-ion pack, just like the W30.
From the mode dial in the upper-right corner to the USB jack just below the LCD, the two cameras' designs are almost exactly the same. The controls are responsive and comfortable to handle, so we can't really find any fault in Sony recycling their design. The only problem we found was the anemic 2-inch LCD screen. We're glad that it leaves enough room on the back of the camera for an optical viewfinder, but these days a 2-inch screen just feels too small.
The W35 sports all the features you'd expect in a budget-minded snapshot camera, including a 7-megapixel sensor and the almost obligatory 38mm-to-114mm (35mm equivalent) 3x zoom lens. Though you won't find manual exposure controls, the camera has a handful of scene presets for shooting in different situations, including an ISO 1000 sensitivity mode for shooting in low light. It also has 56MB of internal memory, enough for taking 16 full-resolution photos without a memory card. If you want to shoot more than a handful at any given time, you should invest in a Memory Stick Duo card.
The camera performed quite well in our tests, considering its low price tag. After a mere 1.4-second startup time, we were rattling off shots every 1.4 seconds. With the onboard flash enabled, that time slightly increased to 1.7 seconds. Shutter lag was a peppy 0.4 seconds in bright light, though the lag increased to 1.7 seconds in dim environments. Burst mode was acceptable, snapping four full-resolution shots in just under three seconds for a rate of 1.34 frames per second.
Images taken on the W35 were generally clear and pleasing. Despite the slight softening of some finer details, the photos were nice and crisp. Colors generally reproduced well, though users should remember to switch to the tungsten white balance when shooting indoors--our tungsten-lit test shots taken under automatic white balance were harsh and yellow.
Sony does an impressive job of taming noise through the W35's sensitivity range. At ISO100 images were very clean, with no noticeable noise, even when viewed on a monitor. ISO 200 and ISO 400 had extremely minor speckles of noise that were visible on a computer monitor, but weren't noticeable in prints. At ISO 800, noise became visible in prints and was very noticeable on monitors. Surprisingly though, even at ISO 1000, the W35 produces usable, if grainy, prints with vivid and accurate colors. However, we'd suggest staying below ISO 1000 or ISO 800 when possible, for better results. This is a great improvement over the W30, whose high-ISO images were extremely noisy and dull.
For a budget camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is a very good choice. With satisfying performance and good picture quality, this sub-$200 shooter would fit well in the pocket of anyone looking for a reliable, inexpensive camera.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|