Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370

The Good Simple to operate; 7x zoom lens in a compact body; inexpensive for its general specifications.

The Bad Long shutter lag; mediocre low-light photos; lower-end components.

The Bottom Line Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W370 is an inexpensive compact camera with a long lens; however, its shutter lag and low-light photo quality keep it from earning a higher rating.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 6

On the surface, the specs-to-price ratio of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370 is excellent. It has a 14-megapixel resolution, a 7x zoom lens, a 3-inch LCD, supports 720p HD movie capture, and has an HDMI output for quickly connecting to an HDTV--all for less than $230. The W370 is sort of the update to 2009's overall excellent W290; however, the model actually has more in common with the 2010 W350.

The "on the surface" qualifier is because it's not immediately apparent where Sony cut corners to get the price low. For example, Sony has three classes of lenses; from lowest-end to highest, it's Sony, Carl Zeiss, and Sony G. The W370 has a Sony lens--and not terribly wide one, if that matters to you. This camera also doesn't use Sony's Bionz image processor, which helps explain the increased image noise at higher ISO sensitivities and its slow shooting performance. If you're after a Sony compact with very good photos and shooting performance, go with the W350. If you're in love with the idea of a reasonably priced camera with a 7x optical zoom in a compact body, the W370 is worth checking out, but it's not without sacrifice.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370
Price (MSRP) $229.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.9x2.2x1 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 6.3 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 7x, f3.6-5.6, 34-238mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,320x3,240 pixels/1,280x720 at 29.97fps (progressive)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 230 shots
Battery charged in camera No, external charger supplied
Storage media Memory Stick Pro Duo, SD, SDHC
Bundled software Picture Motion Browser 5.0 (Windows), PMB Portable 1.1 (Windows, Mac)

The camera is available in silver--actually more of gun-metal gray; red; and green versions, all have chrome trim on the top and right side, and the W370's body is compact enough to squeeze in most pants pockets or handbags. The 7x lens adds some weight to the package, so you probably won't forget that you have the camera with you. The camera's body is metal and a bit too slippery to securely use one-handed; there is a slight bump out on the right front, but not enough to make a difference. If you've ever hesitated to buy a Sony camera because its devices use Memory Stick media, you will be pleased that the 2010 Cyber-shots accept SD and SDHC cards as well as Memory Sticks. On the right side of the body is a flip-open door that hides a Micro-USB/AV port and a Mini-HDMI port.

The card slot and battery compartment are protected by a door that doesn't lock and slides open easily; something to keep in mind if you're going to keep it loose in a bag. The camera's battery life is average for its class, but that's actually pretty short and the pack must be removed to charge it. Though internal memory is limited, it does host a small piece of software for quickly uploading photos and movies to sharing sites when the camera is connected to a Windows or Mac computer.

The W370's controls are straightforward. On its top are the power and shutter release buttons. The power button is flush with the body and, though easily pressed, it'll require most users to look to locate it. The remaining controls are on back to the right of the LCD, which was barely bright enough to use in sunny conditions. A zoom rocker that some people may find finicky sits at the top and below it is the shooting mode dial. Playback, Menu, Delete, and a circular directional pad handle all other tasks. In addition to navigating menus, the directional pad can change flash and timer functions, change display information, and activate smile detection. Sony's menu systems remain fairly logical and uncomplicated compared with its cameras prior to 2009's interface changes. Out of the box, it's simple enough to master its controls after a little use.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, Flash, Custom
Recording modes Easy, Intelligent Auto, Program, Sweep Panorama, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects None
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Up to 100 photos

The W370 is well-suited for snapshot photography, and people who like a lot of control shouldn't consider buying it. 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 as well as control the amount of Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization used for rescuing shadow detail. Its Intelligent Auto scene recognition mode turns out reasonably reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple options available to you like exposure and setting face detection priorities. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. There are 10 scene shooting options including High Sensitivity, Beach, Snow, Food, and Pet. There's a version of Sony's Sweep Panorama feature, too, that let you quickly and easily take panoramic shots horizontally or vertically. While fun, the results just aren't as good as those taken with Sony's Exmor R-based models such as the WX1 and HX5V. Consider them for Web use only or very small prints. Lastly, the Movie mode records at resolutions up to 720p HD with a mono mic for audio.

Overall, the W370's shooting performance is average for its class, with its biggest issue being shutter lag. The time from off to first shot is an OK 2.3 seconds. Its shot-to-shot times averaged 1.9 seconds without flash and 4.2 seconds with flash. Its full-resolution continuous shooting mode is good for this category of camera at 1.3 frames per second. However, the W370's shutter lag--how quickly the camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is poor at 0.8 second in bright conditions and 1.6 seconds in low light. If you're considering the W370 for capturing moving subjects, you'll likely be disappointed. However, with some practice and the continuous shooting mode, you might get lucky.