Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX220 Review

May 28, 2014 | Jack Baker |
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Image Quality

Ultra-compact cameras like this aren’t usually associated with top notch image quality, but the DSC-WX200 does sport a serious sensor in the shape of Sony’s Exmor R chip, and it’s paired with the company’s new BIONZ X processing engine. That translates to a maximum sensitivity of ISO3200, or even up to ISO12800 when using the camera’s Multi Frame NR feature.

With all this top end tech there’s no excuse for poor picture performance, and thankfully the DSC-WX220 does deliver. Images shot at ISO800 or below are vibrant with decent detail, and whilst you can spot some grain even at ISO100 if you scrutinise, that’s to be expected for what’s still a small 1/2.3” sensor. The acid test for how well a compact camera can resolve detail at low sensitivities is to shoot a landscape view, as it’s all too common to find noise reduction processing gets carried away and smears grass instead of noise. Fortunately the DSC-WX220 doesn’t get caught out by this and avoids the painterly look similar cameras can produce.

Push on to ISO1600 and the camera’s battle against grain is starting to take its toll on detail levels, but there’s little sign of any colour speckling and images still look the part. Only at ISO3200 do photos exhibit obviously blotchy colours with noise reduction noticeably smearing away fine detail. Switch to Multi Frame NR mode and the camera captures a burst of exposures in an attempt to minimise noise, but even this trickery can’t make images captured at ISO6400 or ISO12800 look attractive.

The camera’s 10x zoom lens doesn’t let the side down and is distortion-free at all focal lengths. It also produces an impressively low amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high-contrast areas, and corner sharpness is almost a match for the centre of frame.

Noise

The DSC-WX350 has eight sensitivity settings available at full resolution. The six settings between ISO100 and ISO3200 are available in single-shot mode, or you can activate the Multi Frame NR feature to capture images comprised of multiple consecutive exposures at up to ISO12800.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg
   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso12800.jpg

Focal Range

The camera’s 10x zoom lens boasts a focal length range of 25-250mm when converted into a 35mm camera format. That may sound limited compared to the 30x lenses on the latest superzoom compacts, but in reality it’s enough to cover most shooting scenarios. The lens is also capable of a maximum aperture of f/3.3 at wide-angle, which is nothing special but fairly typical for a camera at this price point. It means the lens can’t open particularly wide to let light through to the sensor, hence the camera must compensate with longer shutter speeds and higher sensor sensitivities. Luckily Sony’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation system does a great job of ironing out any camera shake, though we can’t show you the difference this makes as there’s no way to disable the feature.

25mm

250mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

File Quality

Two JPEG compression quality options are available to accompany all image sizes: Fine and Standard. Strangely there’s barely any difference in file size regardless of which setting you choose, indicating a possible firmware bug. Testing the similar Cyber-shot DSC-WX350 also flagged up the same issue, indicating this anomaly is not just confined to our test sample.

Fine (100% Crop)

Standard (100% Crop)

quality_fine.jpg quality_standard.jpg

Sharpening

We found that if the pictures have any noise in at all, you're going to increase the appearance of it by adding any sharpening in post production.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX220 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with purple and blue fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Macro

The DSC-WX220 will macro focus down to 5cm, however you can’t manually activate this. That’s no big deal though, as in all three automatic modes the camera reliably detects a close-up subject and focuses correctly without your help.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg

Flash

Four flash settings are available: Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync & Advanced. A separate menu option controls whether or not red-eye reduction is active, although even with this deactivated our testing showed no evidence of red-eye. The flash itself is reasonably powerful, but there is some vignetting visible at wide angle from a distance of 1.5m.

Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (250mm)

Forced Flash - Telephoto (250mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots.

Forced Flash

Forced Flash (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg
   

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Night Scene

Although there’s no manual shutter speed control on the DSC-WX220, it does feature a Night Scene mode that’ll hold the shutter open and keep the sensor sensitivity low to maximise light input without producing significant image noise. The 4-second exposure time does make a tripod essential though.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Picture Effects

The DSC-WX220 contains thirteen Picture Effects, some with additional sub options: Toy camera (normal, cool, warm, green, magenta), Pop color, Posterization (colour, mono), Retro photo, Soft high-key, Partial color (green, blue, yellow, red), High-contrast mono, Soft focus (low, mid, high), HDR painting (low, mid, high), Rich-tone mono, Miniature (top, middle horizontal, bottom, left, middle vertical, right), Watercolor, Illustration (low, mid, high).

Toy Camera

Pop Color

effect_01-Toy_camera.JPG effect_02-Pop_color.JPG
   

Posterization Mono

Retro

effect_03-Posterization-mono.JPG effect_04-Retro_photo.JPG
   

Soft High Key

Partial Color Green

effect_05-Soft_high-key.JPG effect_06-Partial_color-green.JPG
   

High Contrast Monochrome

Soft Focus

effect_07-High_contrast_mono.JPG effect_08-Soft_focus-mid.JPG
   

HDR Painting

Rich Tone Mono

effect_09-HDR_painting-mid.JPG effect_10-Rich-tone_mono.JPG
   

Miniature

Watercolor

effect_11-Minature.JPG effect_12-Watercolor.JPG
   

Illustration

 
effect_13-Illustration-mid.JPG  

iSweep Panorama

Sony’s dedicated iSweep Panorama mode gives you three width options: Standard (roughly 120-degrees), Wide (180-degrees) and a full 360-degree pan. There’s no ability to simply stop panning at will though. Whichever width you choose, the result is a seamless panorama with a consistent exposure, albeit considerably downsized to 1080 vertical pixels with a distinct loss of detail. To be fair to Sony, most competing compact cameras with sweep panorama modes have similar limitations. If you’re after something more spectacular, you’d be better off manually snapping adjacent overlapping images and stitching them on a computer with additional software.

panorama.jpg