Aside from its 7-megapixel sensor, the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W70 is physically and functionally identical to its series brethren, the 6-megapixel DSC-W50 and the 8-megapixel DSC-W100. And just like its siblings, the DSC-W70 delivers a pleasant snapshooting experience--with the photos to match--making it a good choice for many casual and vacation photographers. However, photo artifacts will disappoint pickier shooters, and the deft finger work needed to manipulate its tiny controls may frustrate others.
Although it boasts a sleek, ultracompact design, the 5.5-ounce Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W70's controls are just a bit too small and closely spaced for easy operation, the mode dial is too easy to turn accidentally, the buttons are too flush with the surface, and the four-way-plus-center button lacks depth when clicked. The DSC-W70's 2.5-inch LCD is bright and acceptably visible in direct sunlight--you can make it a tad brighter--but if necessary, the tiny, distorted optical viewfinder serves adequately.
It's easy enough to access the top-level adjustments--image quality, flash, exposure compensation, macro, and self-timer--plus the Cyber Shot DSC-W70's handful of scene modes. As is typical of its class, many of the more advanced (albeit useful) features reside in the menus, such as metering, continuous shooting, and white balance. However, the camera lacks shutter- and aperture-priority modes altogether. One especially irritating trait of Sony's camera menus is that they don't wrap; when you reach the end, you have to reverse your clicks to reach the beginning.
Excellent color reproduction counts as one of the Cyber Shot DSC-W70's strongest assets. At its best, the vivid colors pop without crossing over to glowing, exhibiting good white balance. The 38mm-to-114mm lens (35mm equivalent) renders crisp, sharp images with limited fringing, and when properly exposed, photos exhibit solid tonal range and contrast. Exposure itself can be a bit hit-and-miss, in part because the LCD doesn't accurately display the current image. I got the best results by switching to spot-metering mode and using the histogram rather than my eyes to judge; that's not something I expect most snapshooters to do, however. When it misses, the Cyber Shot DSC-W70 tends to err on the side of overexposure but not by so much that it will ruin your priceless photo of Johnny on a camel.
Upon closer inspection, however--in prints larger than 8x10 and 100 percent zoom onscreen--areas of my photos displayed a variety of unpleasant artifacts. Even at ISO 100, noise in shadow areas combined with aggressive noise-reduction algorithms to produce that smeary oil-paint look we see so often. As long as you don't plan to crop in on details or print large, you'll be OK.
With the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W70, you can record good-looking VGA-resolution, 30fps MPEG-1 movies that play in Windows Media Player or QuickTime; they look better running at 320x240, however.
For the most part, the Cyber Shot DSC-W70 performs well relative to its classmates. From power on to first shot takes about 2.2 seconds, with about 1.4 seconds between shots thereafter. The flash recycles quickly, adding only 0.2 second to the shot-to-shot time. Though relatively fast to focus in good light--shutter lag is a decent 0.5 second--focus in dim light jumps to a not-so-good 1.9 seconds. Burst shooting at full resolution is limited to 4 frames at about 1.4fps despite its 58MB of built-in memory.
Although the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W70 is a decent enough camera, both the DSC-W30 and the DSC-W50 are probably better values than the DSC-W70. Because they're lower resolution, the photos are a bit softer, but they also produce significantly less noise than the DSC-W70. If you need the higher resolution, check out one of Canon or Fujifilm's competing ultracompacts.
Measured in seconds (smaller is better)
|Typical shot-to-shot time
|Time to first shot
|Shutter lag (typical)
Measured in frames per second (larger is better)
|Typical continuous-shooting speed