The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100 is the company's entry-level compact camera. It's currently the only model in Sony's 2010 lineup to feature AA-size batteries. That is really its key selling point other than a larger-than-typical LCD. The camera is targeted at beginners looking for convenience and easy operation, and it delivers those. However, its photo quality is merely OK, which is to be expected at its price, and its performance is far from snappy (also expected). The camera isn't totally without value, though, and depending on the end use of your photos, its results may be satisfactory for your needs thanks to some excellent color quality.
Available in three colors--black, silver, and orange--the S2100 is certainly one of the more attractive budget-friendly cameras I've seen and feels well-constructed for its price. Again, the camera is powered by AA-size batteries, and to make room for them Sony bumps out the right side creating a nice handgrip in the process. Though the majority of the body is plastic, Sony used a piece of brushed metal on front around the lens to give the camera a higher-end look. Also, Sony went with a 3-inch LCD, which is larger than the 2.5- and 2.7-inch screens typical of its class.
Controls are basic. Other than the power button and shutter release on top, the controls are on back to the right of the LCD. There's a rocker switch for the modest 3x zoom; a switch for changing between photo and movie modes; a play button for reviewing shots and movies; a four-way control pad for navigation and changing flash and timer functions, display information, and activating smile detection; and menu and delete buttons. The buttons are somewhat small, but easy to press. However, the control pad and the select button at its center could stand to be larger.
The menu system is as straightforward as the controls. Pressing the Menu button brings up shooting modes as well as the settings specific to the mode you're in. At the bottom of the list is a toolbox icon that accesses the secondary menu for setup options, such as formatting a memory card or shutting off the loud beep that accompanies every button press.
For output to a computer, TV, or monitor, there's an exposed Micro-USB/AV port on the lower left side of the body. On the bottom are a standard tripod mount and the non-locking door covering the battery compartment and memory card slot. Like all of Sony's 2010 Cyber-shots, the S2100 has a single slot that accepts Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD/SDHC cards.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100|
The S2100 is a snapshot camera for those who like to stay in auto. That's not to say this Sony doesn't give you some control; the Program Auto lets you adjust ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering, and exposure values. The Intelligent Auto scene-recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple of options available to you, such as adjusting exposure and activating burst shooting. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (you get a choice of large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. There are eight scene-shooting options, including High Sensitivity for low-light shooting and Gourmet for pictures of food. Lastly, the Movie mode records at VGA quality with a mono mic for audio; there's no use of the optical zoom while recording.
Though I wouldn't call them extras, the camera does have settings for activating face detection, smile detection sensitivity, and SteadyShot electronic image stabilization, which adjusts ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to help counteract camera shake and motion blur.
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.
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