Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 Review
The Sony DSC-WX5 is one of the first Cyber-shot compact cameras to offer 3D Sweep Panoramas. In addition the WX5 also features a 12.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor for better low noise performance, 1080i Full HD movie recording, 5x optical G Lens with a f/2.4 maximum aperture, 2.8 inch LCD screen, Superior Auto mode which combines up to 6 images to reduce noise and maximise dynamic range, and Background Defocus mode to create portraits with a smoothly defocused background. The Sony DSC-WX5 is available in silver, black, bronze or violet and costs around £225 / $300.
Ease of Use
Stylish point and shoot cameras are two-a-penny, so what's the hook with this one, being as diminutive as Nikon's Coolpix S5100 if marginally broader in depth? Well, Sony's 12.2 effective megapixel, 5x optical zoom Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 is notable, along with the DSC-TX9, for introducing the 3D Sweep Panorama functionality first seen on its NEX compact system cameras to the snapshot Cyber-shot range.
This means that anyone of us who can manage to sweep the well-made camera in a continuous arc can now take software-enhanced, elongated 3D snaps combining up to 100 sequential images to create one stereoscopic frame, although, again, the results are only viewable in 3D with a suitably equipped TV or monitor. The 3D pictures generated are saved as MPO files alongside the 2D JPEGs. On the camera's screen and when downloaded to a regular desktop, the results are distinctly flat and 2D. So in that respect Fuji's FinePix W3 with its lenticular screen display (not to mention its 'true 3D' twin lens and sensor set up) still has the advantage for those looking to create pure 3D content, and view it in situ. Nevertheless, when viewed on a large screen the Sony's results are impressive and fun in their own right, the depth drawing you into the image, which is surely the effect every photographer wants to have on their viewer.
And, fortunately for those of us who don't yet own a 3D-equipped viewing device, Sony has provided a compensation of sorts in another new feature introduced on the WX5 and TX9 in Sweep Multi Angle, also located with a twist of the rear plate shooting mode dial to the '3D' option. This combines a high-speed burst of 15 frames to provide a shorter panorama with a lenticular effect visible if tipping the camera from side to side. Of course if you hook the camera up to your TV when doing so there's the opportunity to experience the same effect on your regular 2D set. This second option in practice we found much less satisfying than the first and more of a gimmick, though nice to have a fallback if you haven't got that 3D set. We also get regular 2D intelligent Sweep Panorama mode of course, fast becoming a standard feature across the Cyber-shot range.
In fairness, creating multi dimensional media isn't the WX5's main thrust, and we can't imagine you'll be shooting 3D panoramas all day. In this respect the feature is perhaps better viewed as a fun little extra on a portable and easy to use pocket snapshot that also includes a bright and clear 2.8-inch, 4:3 aspect ratio, high 460,800-dot resolution LCD screen for framing and reviewing shots. In the expected absence of any optical viewfinder, the user is totally reliant on the WX5's backplate LCD for composition and review, so fortunately it proves an adequate tool.
Among the headline features we also get an Exmor R CMOS sensor, first introduced into Sony's DSLR range, plus one touch Full HD 1080i video recording, Auto Focus tracking and up to 10 frames per second burst capture. The WX5 looks and feels the part too, thanks to its attractively brushed metal faceplate – although the big and obvious backplate buttons do let it down a little – and is overall small but robustly constructed, HDMI connectivity further provided with the requisite port hidden under a plastic flap to the side, while standard output is via unprotected port at its base. Official camera dimensions are 91.7x51.9x21.5mm, while the WX5 weighs just 130g without battery and card, so is marginally heavier in the palm than the Cyber-shot T99 we were testing alongside it in that respect.
To facilitate hand held shooting and cut down on instances of blur that 5x optical zoom is image stabilised and with a helpfully versatile focal range equivalent to a wide angle 24-120mm in 35mm terms it offers the ability to take in landscapes as well as pulling distant subjects closer, despite the distinct lack any handgrip. We were pleased to discover that the optical zoom can also be accessed during recording, with any mechanical noise as it makes transitional adjustments going almost unnoticed. The fact that the lever for the zoom has a ridged and rough upper edge helps prevent your finger slipping off it as you toggle left and right to zoom out or in respectively. There's no concession to a handgrip on this camera though, and its surfaces are distinctly slippery. The rear screen then perhaps inevitably attracts a fair share of finger and thumbprints as you try to hold it steady.
If you're using a tripod for best effect and consistency then, other goodies worth retrieving from under the WX5's bonnet include Superior Auto Adjustment mode which combines exposure information from a sequence of up to six images to produce one low noise, high dynamic range shot, whilst a new background defocus option combines two images to simulate the effect you'd get from a DSLR and a wide aperture, most effective when shooting a portrait. Both options are found ranged around the shooting mode dial, situated beneath the dedicated movie recording button top right of the backplate. Again, the differences between what we achieved shooting in regular intelligent auto mode on the Sony and results in Superior Auto mode were quite subtle, even when shooting the same subject and comparing the two images side by side, so like the 3D option you probably wouldn't buy the camera for this feature alone.
Nevertheless, its little extras such as the above which suggest that the WX5's official manufacturer's asking price of around £229 at the time of writing isn't actually that bad a deal.
Further indicating that there's more to this camera than just an attractive fascia are the large and obvious shutter release button encircled by a zoom lever and twin stereo microphones mounted into its top plate, plus dedicated drive mode button (for switching between single and burst mode capture), HD AVCHD insignia and bright f2.4 lens for (theoretically better) lower light shooting without flash. Power up the camera and with rear screen bursting into life and lens pulsing forward from its storage position flush to the body and the WX5 readies itself for the initial capture in all of two seconds; no match for a DSLR but quick enough to ensure most of the time you'll get that shot you saw in your mind's eye.
A half press of the shutter release button and focus and exposure is determined in a further second, AF points highlighted in green. Press down fully to take the shot and a full resolution JPEG is written to either SD card or Sony's own Memory Stick Pro Duo, with the two sharing the same narrow slot at the base. The process takes around two to three seconds; average in this class of camera then.
As indicated, it's the backplate of the WX5 where most of the camera's attractions lie. This isn't one of Sony's touch screen models so naturally we get a physical shooting mode wheel, the sizde of a half pence piece, with its not one but two intelligent auto settings, plus program, Sweep Panorama, movie and 3D settings, 14-strong scene selection options plus, interestingly background defocus option for anyone looking to ape DSLR type results with their portraiture. It's fair to say however that a snapshot camera such as this can really only deliver snapshot quality, and, if you do truly want superior quality, stick with a DSLR or one of the high performance compact models, such as the Panasonic LX5, Samsung EX1 et al. Using in-camera software fixes such as Superior Auto adjustment mode to preserve detail in both shadows and highlights for a shot with an increased dynamic range, can result in slightly washed out images that appear as if someone has overdone it with the Curves tool in Photoshop.
Beneath the shooting mode wheel we find a dedicated playback button squeezed between this and the four-way control pad immediately below. Ranged around this multi directional pad are a means of altering both screen brightness and the amount of information provided thereon, via the self-explanatory 'disp' (display) option at twelve o'clock on the dial. Continuing clockwise around the pad we find a means of adjusting the provided flash settings, though red eye reduction is not among them, merely auto, on, slow sync or off. Red eye reduction is, instead, turned on or off by delving into the set up mode proper, which requires a bit of hunting around the first time one comes to use the flash. Bottom of the pad we find two or ten second self timer options, plus the ability to set the self timer running when the camera detects one or two faces in the frame; again a useful tool when taking self portraits. At nine o'clock on the pad meanwhile is Sony's familiar smile shutter option – the camera automatically firing the shutter when a grinning face is detected.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Beneath this pad we find a menu button situated next to a tiny delete button. A press of 'menu' and a toolbar appears down the left hand side of the WX5's screen, with white icons on a partly translucent white background. It's here we get to adjust image size and image ratio, from 4:3 down to 9 megapixels or two megapixels if opting for 16:9 instead, exposure compensation (+/- 2EV), ISO sensitivity settings (from ISO125 up to ISO3200), plus white balance, focusing (multi AF, centre AF or Spot AF) and metering (multi, centre and spot) settings.
Whilst one flank of the camera is devoid of any features entirely, the other includes a loop for attaching a wrist strap, plus the aforementioned HDMI connection, although the actual lead wasn't included with our review sample.
The bottom of the WX5 then includes a trap door with sliding catch, beneath which is revealed the shared compartment for both battery and media card. A screw thread for a tripod is ranged right over to one side of the camera, rather than featuring dead centre or directly below the lens.
Battery life here is good for an official 230 shots from the WX5. That's unremarkable but par for the course within its price bracket and within the point and shoot sector of the market.
And so, what of the images that the WX5 is capable of producing… does it transcend its snapshot status and do combination of quality sensor and brighter than average lens produce notably better results than humbler alternatives? Read on to discover for yourself…
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.
Sony's claims of DSLR-like features (background defocus mode, superior auto functionality et al) and quality from the WX5 come across as slightly over-playing its potential, detailed as some of the results might be. All is fine here if you treat the WX5 as the snapshot camera it is, and in doing so you'll be happy with the colourful snaps it delivers. Colours are warm and exposure is even, though we noticed some loss of focus towards the corners of the frame when shooting at maximum wideangle, to be particularly picky.
Still, plaudits to Sony for trying to push the envelope in terms of the picture quality achievable from an otherwise humble point and shoot, even if only partially successfully. Image quality is also noticeably better on the whole than that from the T99 we were testing alongside the WX5, so paying an extra £50 or so if pictures are a priority over size and diminutive proportions we feel is well worth it.
And, impressively, the WX5 actually lives up to some of the hype when shooting in low light. We were able to get usable results up to and including its top manually selectable ISO 3200 setting, which is no mean feat on a pocket camera around the £200 mark. There is some noise visible – inevitably perhaps – at this top setting and a slight smudging of detail. But as we say, this is relatively slight. Overall then a very good showing.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Sony CyberShot DSC-WX5. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 125 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft and ideally benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-WX5 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-WX5 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Sony CyberShot DSC-WX5 are Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash, with a Red-eye Reduction option in the Main menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (24mm)
Forced Flash - Wide Angle (24mm)
Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (120mm)
Forced Flash - Telephoto (120mm)
And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Forced Flash setting or the Red-Eye Correction option caused any red-eye.
|Forced Flash (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-WX5's maximum shutter speed is 2 seconds, which is not good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 3200.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
Sweep Panorama Mode
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and now even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.
This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Lens Extended
Front of the Camera / Lens Extended
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
In providing one touch Full HD video recording in stereo and 3D capability (up to a point), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 offers good value for anyone wanting all the latest must-haves in one pocket sized package that won't cause the bailiffs to come knocking.
If it's the 3D facility that's drawing you to the WX5 we'd recommend taking a look also at the Fujifilm W3, which adds on the ability to view the images in 3D at the moment of capture via its built-in screen. This immediately shows you whether or not the image is 'working' in 3D in terms of composition and framing, so has the obvious advantage over its Sony rival, which as we've noted in the main body of our review requires a compatible TV set to do likewise.
Having said that the WX5 is £100 cheaper than the W3, which could make all the difference. Especially as, when viewed as a standalone product, the WX5 comes across very well when ranged against most snapshot rivals around the £200 mark in terms of ambition, build and creative opportunity. While not wholly a success, and gimmicky in parts, here Sony is delivering your money's worth. It's one of the better point and shoots on the market for around £200 and includes most of the latest must haves. We feel therefore that if you're looking for an occasional snapper to slip into a trouser pocket (or handbag), you won't go far wrong with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||5|
Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 from around the web.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 digital camera replaces the company's previous WX1 model, and is based around a 1/2.3"-type 12.2 effective megapixel backside illuminated Sony Exmor R CMOS image sensor with RGB color filter array, coupled to a Sony G-branded 5x optical zoom lens. The Sony WX5's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 24mm wide angle to a moderate 120mm telephoto (or 26 - 130mm in 16:9 aspect ratio mode). The camera can capture 4:3 aspect ratio images at up to 4,000 x 3,000 pixel resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio images at up to 4,000 x 2,248 pixels, or 60 fields-per-second video at 1080i (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution or below with Dolby Digital stereo audio, using AVCHD compression.
Read the full review »
|Precision Digital Zoom||Approx. 10x(Total)|
|Smart Zoom||up to 31x (with VGA)|
|Focal Length (f= mm)||4.25-21.25|
|Focal Length (f=35mm conversion)||24-120|
|Macro (cm)||W:Approx.5cm(0.16') to Infinity, T:Approx.90cm(2.95') to Infinity|
|Filter Diameter (mm)||NO|
|Conversion Lens compatibility||NO|
|Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Lens||NO|
|CCD Type||Exmor™ R CMOS sensor|
|Size (Inches)||1/2.3 type(7.81mm)|
|Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels)||Approx. 12.2|
|Intelligent Sweep Panorama||YES|
|Underwater Sweep Panorama||NO|
|3D Sweep Panorama||YES|
|Clear RAW NR||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Multi Point)||9 points(Under Face Undetected)|
|Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Spot)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot)||NO|
|Focus Preset (m)||NO|
|Aperture Auto Mode||YES|
|Aperture Priority Mode||NO|
|Aperture Manual Mode||NO|
|Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec)||iAuto(2" - 1/1,600) / Program Auto(1" - 1/1,600)|
|NR Slow Shutter||1 / 3sec or slower|
|Hand Shake Alert||YES|
|Exposure Control||+/- 2.0EV, 1/ 3 EV step|
|White Balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set|
|Automatic White Balance (Under water)||YES|
|Light Metering (Multi Pattern)||YES|
|Light Metering (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Light Metering (Spot)||YES|
|ISO Sensitivity (REI)||Auto / 125 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200|
|Scene Selection||8 modes (Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Twilight using a tripod / Backlight / Backlight Portrait / Landscape / Macro / Portrait)|
|AF Illuminator||Auto / Off|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Distance limitations using Flash (m)||ISO Auto: Approx.0.2-Approx.5.1m(Approx.0.66'-Approx.16.73')(W) / Approx.0.9-Approx.2.1m(Approx.2.95'-Approx.6.89')(T), ISO3200: up to Approx.10.0m(Approx32.81')(W) / Approx.4.1m(Approx13.45')(T)|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|Super SteadyShot capability||NO|
|Optical SteadyShot capability||YES|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|LCD Screen Size||7.0cm / 2.8"|
|LCD Total Dots Number||460.800|
|LCD Monitor Type||TFT|
|Auto Bright Monitoring||YES|
|Recording Media||Memory Stick™ Duo(still only), Memory Stick PRO Duo™(Mark2 only for movie). Memory Stick PRO Duo™ High Speed (Still only and no Speed Advantage), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ (No Speed Advantage)|
|Recording Media-II||SD Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), SDHC/SDXC Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), Internal memory (32MB)|
|DCF (Design rule for Camera File System)||YES|
|DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)||YES|
|Burst Mode (shots)||Approx. 10 fps(10 shots)|
|Burst Interval (approximately sec)||Approx. 0.1 sec.(10 shots)|
|Still Image size (14 Mega 4320 x 3240)||NO|
|Still Image size (13 Mega 4224 x 3168)||NO|
|Still Image size (12 Mega 4000 x 3000)||YES|
|Still Image size (10 Mega 3648 x 2736)||NO|
|Still Image size (9.0 Mega, 3456 x 2592)||NO|
|Still Image size (8.0 Mega, 3264 x 2448)||YES|
|Still Image size (7.2 Mega 3072 x 2304)||NO|
|Still Image size (5.0 Mega, 2592 x 1944)||YES|
|Still Image size (3.1 Mega, 2048 x 1536)||NO|
|Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080)||NO|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4320 x 2432)||NO|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4000 x 2248)||YES|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode, 4000 x 2672)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3648 x 2432)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3456 x 2304)||NO|
|2D Panorama||7,152 x 1,080(295deg) / 4,912 x 1,080(202deg) / 4,912 x 1,920(203deg) / 3,424 x 1,920(142deg)|
|3D Panorama||7,152 x 1,080(295deg) / 4,912 x 1,080(202deg) / 4,912 x 1,920(203deg) / 3,424 x 1,920(142deg) / 1,920 x 1080(79deg)|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Fine Approx.9Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (320x240 30fps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1920 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.17Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1440 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.9Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1440 x 1080 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.12Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1280 x 720 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.6Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 640 x 480 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.3Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|HD (High Definition) Playback||YES|
|Slideshow with Music||YES|
|Cue & Review (MPEG)||YES|
|Index Playback||16 / 25 images (Date / Folder-Still / Folder-MP4 / AVCHD)|
|Auto Image Rotation||YES|
|Auto grouping and & Best Picture Recognition||YES|
|Battery Remaining Indicator||YES|
|Exposure Warning Indicator||YES|
|Disk / Memory Stick remaining indicator||YES|
|PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol)||YES|
|Print Image Matching||YES|
|Shop Front Mode||YES|
|Start up time (approximately sec)||1.8|
|Menu Language||English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian|
|Multi use Terminal with HD||Type3, AV (SD/HD Component*5)/ USB / DCIN*5|
|Multi use Terminal||YES|
|USB 2.0 Hi-Speed||YES|
|Battery System||Lithium N|
|Stamina (battery life) with the supplied battery(s) in normal shooting condition||230 shots, 115min (CIPA standard with LCD screen on)|
|Battery for Clock||Manganese-Lithium (MS614SE)|
|Weight (g)||Approx. 130 (4.6oz.)|
|Weight with Accessories (g)||Approx. 146 (5.2oz.)|
|Supplied Software||Picture Motion Browser Ver.5.3(Windows only)|
|Supplied Accessories||Rechargeable Battery Pack(NP-BN1),Battery Charger, Multi Connector Cable (USB, AV), Power Cord, Wrist Strap, CD-ROM|