Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 Digital Camera Review
Read a review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 digital camera.
Testing / Performance
The Sony W35 is part of a series of Cyber-shot digital cameras that typically produces decent but not fabulous results. We tested the W35 to see if it follows suit. To test color accuracy, we photographed an industry standard color chart with the camera. We then uploaded the charts to Imatest imaging software, which analyzes color accuracy.
Below is a picture of the chart that has been modified by the software program to show the chart’s original color in the vertical rectangle within each of the 24 tiles. The Sony W35’s colors are shown in the outer portion of each tile, with the central square showing the ideal, corrected for luminance.
Imatest also provides a chart that better shows the error between specific colors. The original colors of the chart are represented by squares, and the W35’s colors are depicted as circles. The line connecting the two theoretically shouldn’t be there, but shows the color error. If the circles are positioned closer to the edges of the chart than the center, they are oversaturated. If closer to the center, they are undersaturated.
Most of the camera's colors are tightly tethered to where they should be, so the Sony W35 performed quite well. The red and purple colors are the most inaccurate, but most digital cameras exaggerate those colors to enhance 'flesh tones.' The colors are only slightly oversaturated at 102.2 percent. The mean color error is 6.67, which gives this model a 9.00 overall color score. This mark approaches fabulous image quality as its colors are generally very accurate; this is much better than its W-series predecessors’ performances.
**Still Life Scene
**Below is a shot of our color and texture-oriented still life scene, as recorded by the Sony Cyber-shot W35.
This Sony digital camera has a 7.2-megapixel Super HAD CCD image sensor. To test its resolution, we shot an industry standard resolution chart at different focal lengths and apertures to ensure the sharpest shot possible.
Using data collected from Imatest imaging software, we sorted through our many photos and selected the sharpest image, which was taken at a19mm focal length, with an aperture of f 5.2, and ISO 100. The image above shows significant barrel distortion. The program judges resolution in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a theoretical measurement of how many alternating black and white lines of equal thickness could fit across the frame. This shows us how much detail the Sony W35 can capture.
Apparently, not too much. This Cyber-shot read 1573 lw/ph horizontally with 2.6 percent oversharpening and 1548 lw/ph vertically with 6.8 percent undersharpening. This is sub-par when compared to the Sony H5’s 1793 lw/ph horizontally and 1577 lw/ph vertically. The H5 is touted as a nicer SLR-inspired digital camera, but both models have a 7.2-megapixel Super HAD CCD. By today's standards, the Cyber-shot DSC-W35 doesn’t capture a lot of detail and yields just a 1.75 overall resolution score.
Noise – Auto ISO*(1.71)*
In optimal lighting conditions, we tested the camera’s ability to automatically select an ISO setting and produce low noise. In the studio’s bright lights, effective cameras choose the lowest ISO setting possible. The Sony W35 aimed a bit higher, as its noise output was equivalent to ISO 200. There is more noise at this sensitivity level than ideal, so the camera came out with an overall 1.71 auto ISO noise score, a slide down from its predecessor the W30, which had a score of 2.39.
Noise – Manual ISO*(6.43)*
This point-and-shoot digital camera has nearly the same manual ISO range that was available on the W30. It reaches from 100-1000. On all digital cameras, upping the ISO sensitivity allows photographers to capture images in various natural light conditions without using the flash. However, doing this also increases the likelihood of noise. Below is a graph showing the W35’s manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the percentage of the image that deteriorates into noise on the vertical axis.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 shows a reasonably steady curve of noise that moves upward as the ISO increases. This curve looks very similar to the W30’s performance, although it starts and ends with slightly less noise throughout the range. Still, the curve with the plateau between ISO 400 and 800 is reminiscent of the W30. The shots for this test were taken in optimal lighting though. To see how well the camera handles noise when the lights turn low, check out the next section.
Low Light*(5.5) *
Because not all photos are taken in the perfect lighting of our testing lab, we dim the lights and deactivate the flash to see how the camera performs. We ran the Sony W35 through four low-light tests, dimming the lights more each time. We started out at 60 lux, which is the amount of light produced by two soft lamps in an otherwise dark room - a comfortable amount of reading light. The next test was at 30 lux, which is approximately the light from a single 40-watt bulb and is more likely to cause readers to squint. The last two tests are done at 15 and 5 lux, which aren't common shooting situations but tests the limits of the image sensor. We photographed the color chart at the decreasing light levels and the images are shown below.
The Sony W35 had trouble keeping the subject illuminated, mostly because it didn’t open the shutter very long. As the lights dimmed, the colors were increasingly inaccurate. The mean color error at a 0.4-second exposure was a fairly normal 6.68. That nearly doubled to 12.6 when a 1.2-second shutter speed was used in low light, and to 22.3 mean color error at two seconds. Colors weren’t the only aspect of the picture to suffer in low light either. Noise was apparent in all of the pictures. Below is a chart showing the exposure time on the horizontal axis and the amount of noise on the vertical axis.
The noise level remains fairly steady, although there isn’t much variation in the exposure time on this digital camera. We used the ISO 400 setting for this test, and there is more noise than expected. Most point-and-shooters who are photographing in light this low will probably hike the ISO up as high as it can go: ISO 1000. This will produce very noisy images though. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 came out with a low light score of 5.5, which is better than its predecessor but that’s not saying much.
Dynamic Range* (7.25)*
We tested the Sony W35’s dynamic range by photographing a standard chart that shows a row of rectangles in various shades from black to white. A camera with better dynamic range can distinguish more of the different rectangles, but a camera that lacks dynamic range would only be able to pick up a few with detail. The chart below shows how many exposure values the W35 can distinguish at the different ISO settings, which affect the noise and therefore the detail in the photo.
This Cyber-shot has fairly decent dynamic range throughout all of its ISO settings. The test photos produced about seven exposure values at the lowest ISO setting, and when set to ISO 200 there was a sharp decline to six values. There was another significant drop in range between ISO 400 and 800 but that is to be expected on point-and-shoot cameras that have relatively small image sensors and thus, small pixels. Users should remember that this test stretches the ability of the camera to its best. Everyday photos probably won’t garner seven exposure values - this test is meant to compare cameras.
The curve of the dynamic range chart looks similar to the Sony W30’s results, but the W35’s line is just above the W30’s. This slight improvement yields a better overall score of 7.25.
Startup to First Shot (8.7)
The W35 takes 1.7 seconds to start up and snap its first picture. This isn’t blazing fast, but it isn’t as slow as the older W30 and many other competing compact digital cameras. In this price range, it’s quite good.
The W35 will only shoot continuously in burst mode and is capable of taking four shots in a row at 0.9 seconds per shot. The whole burst lasts 3.8 seconds, and then takes another 3.4 seconds to process and write to the memory card. This rate isn’t very impressive, but impressive burst modes aren’t available at this price. Continuing to hold down the shutter will put the camera into recording mode, where it makes a single animation of rapid shots. These recording mode animations cannot be separated into individual frames on the camera.
With a fairly quick auto focus system, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 takes only a tenth of a second to snap a picture. That is enough shutter lag to miss the perfect shot in a hurdle race, but it won’t cause blinked eyes in portraits. Many budget digital cameras take their time to snap pictures, so the W35's shutter lag is relatively minimal.
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