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|
|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|
|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.
The W370's photo quality is good to very good, losing points because its low-light quality isn't as good as the less expensive W350's is. In the ISO 80-200 range, photos you take with the camera look better than expected for its features and price. However, if you view them at 100 percent, the pictures have a decidedly digital look to them and might appear soft and lack fine detail. Photo prints at 8x10 inches or smaller looked nice, natural, and relatively sharp. Even larger prints up to 13x19 inches are fine as long as you're not overly critical on image quality. Higher ISO photos--those at and above ISO 400--are where this camera falls apart in comparison to the W350. The W350's color performance was consistent from ISO 80 to 3,200 and while its noise suppression made subjects look painterly, the photos were still usable for small prints when sensitivities above ISO 400 were used. With the W370, these higher ISOs yield poor results with noticeable shifts in color and a lot of noise.
Ideally, a 14-megapixel resolution should buy you a fair amount room for cutting down your images. If you're one to crop in a lot on subjects and then want to create 13x19-inch prints, you probably won't be happy with this camera--or any other current sub-$230 compact.
Despite not having a wide-angle lens, the W370's images have some barrel distortion when taken at the lens' widest position. Having a slight pincushion distortion when the lens is extended is common, but there was no sign of it from the W370. The camera's center sharpness is pretty good, though my test camera is softer on the left side, particularly in the upper corner. The amount of fringing around high-contrast subjects is average to above average for its class. At small sizes, it's easy to overlook, but anything larger than a 4x6, and your eye will likely be drawn to it.
The W370's color performance is very good and reasonably accurate. Reds tended to look oversaturated, but otherwise subjects looked bright and natural. The camera's exposure is generally good, but blown highlights are frequent. Its white balance is also good.
The camera's video quality is respectable, too, on par with an HD minicamcorder. You can use the 7x zoom while you're recording, but the lens movement is jerky and you will hear the lens motor on your recordings--though this is common for compact cameras.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370 is a decent camera for those interested in getting the most specs for the least money. However, Sony makes trade-offs to get the low price such as using its lowest-quality lens and a less capable image processor than its Bionz Engine. As is the case with most models in its class, the W370 is at its best in bright conditions for portraits and landscapes. Regardless of the resolution stamped on its body, the photos will generally not be great viewed at their full size from a foot away on your computer screen. However, they will look fine on prints at 8x10 inches or smaller, when viewed on a TV from a proper distance or when viewed on your favorite photo-sharing site.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
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