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Product review – Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W120

Paul Banas
Author Paul Banas
Submitted 04-07-2008

Sony Cyber-shot DSCW120MDG/P 7.2 MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom with Super Steady Shot

$180 – Amazon

I love this camera! We just got the DSCW 120 for our summer holiday and I was hoping it would work well and replace our five year-old DSC V1. The two cameras have several things in common: a Zeiss lens and many manual over-ride features, but the new camera is far smaller and easier to use.

This is a great little camera and represents how far Sony has come in developing an interface that is easy to use. This is the first camera I’ve seen where an explanation of the icons shows up on-screen when you dial a selection. No more trying to remember what an icon of a tree or a mountain is. The explanation is there in big type for you.

The 2.5 inch screen is super clear. One of the main benefits of the camera is the “Smile Shutter technology,” but you have to make sure you dial to the smile icon first, or you’ll miss the feature. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Once dialed in though, it took a great photo of my four-year-old who is notorious for NOT saying, “cheese.” The camera also boasts “face detection” to reduce facial glare, shadows, and red-eye.

The buttons all appear to be strong and well-placed, though don’t look for industrial strength materials here. While sturdy, I did not get the feeling that the buttons and dial will last a lifetime. This may not be an issue but should be noted. The case feels strong and solid. No buttons wiggle or feel poorly made.

My eight year-old daughter had no trouble operating this camera, but said she preferred something with fewer buttons and dials. I noted only 2 more buttons than her Kodak EasyShare camera, but other features like the viewfinder and extra dial settings confused her. This isn’t a reason to not choose this camera, but it is a camera with more features, which, for some, means more daunting choices.

While other cameras deliver more megapixels, I was more than happy with the 7.2 MP in this camera. At this point, extra megapixels seem to me to just mean bigger memory cards. In fact, I set our photos at 5 MP so I could get about a third more photos out of the memory. This trick is good, but only if you don’t ever plan to do much cropping or enlargements beyond 8X10. With a 1 Gig memory stick, I was able to get almost 400 photos, enough memory for plenty of photos and lots of mini-movies.

Probably the most enjoyable feature of the camera though, was the fast shutter speed. Set on “no flash,” I had very little shutter lag, and could take multiple photos in a row. If you use flash, however, you’re back to the frustration of long shutter lag common to most point and shoot digitals. This is where the “Smile Shutter” technology, which is not unique to Sony, really helps out, since you can catch those fleeting smiles that used to be lost to shutter lag.

The biggest frustration I had was the use of the Sony memory stick duo (not included with the camera). My wife’s camera takes an SD card, which also fits directly into a Palm Treo, so I was hoping to eliminate one memory card and simplify our lives just a tiny bit. Additionally, to lighten our baggage a little, I decided to leave the bulky and proprietary data cable behind in favor of a small memory card reader that could read both SD and Sony memory sticks. Unfortunately, the reader could not read the memory stick duo format, and I was unable to transfer photos off the memory stick during the trip. Luckily, a 2 Gig card was enough to get me through about 320 photos and a few small movies with plenty of room to spare, but I was unable to send any email photos home along the way.

One last recommendation: I got a geeky Sony (LCS-TWF/B) Soft Carrying Case to make carrying the camera easier. While belt holsters really aren’t my thing, I must say that this made taking photos a lot simpler than trying to get my camera out of a bag or even out of my pocket. This holster has a strong magnetic closure, is pretty lightweight, and holds the camera very snugly. I wish they had built a tiny tiny pocket into it to keep an extra memory stick or battery, but otherwise, it’s a very practical addition that I’m sure helped me take more pictures.

Strengths: 7.2 MP, Big clear screen with bright picture, 2.5 inch LCD, easy to read menus, Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom (you can’t beat the images from these lenses).

Weaknesses: Uses the Sony memory stick duo, so less flexiblity, USB cable is bundled with video, so has proprietary plug. This makes it more convenient (one cord to store), but you’re out of luck if you lose it since it isn’t a common USB cable. Memory sticks seem to have more issues than SD cards for compatibility so there may be some issues with older card readers that can’t read your stick.