Review: Sony Cyber-shot WX5

 
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Published: December 13, 2010 11:00 PM
By Franck Mée / Morgane Alzieu
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
A year ago, Sony changed the rules of the game in the compact camera market, releasing the first point-and-shoots to feature a backlit sensor, known as the BSI (back side illuminated) CMOS. The pioneering WX1 got five stars when we originally tested it, although this has now been brought down to four in line with current market standards. One year down the line, the Cyber-shot WX5 has a couple more Megapixels and several attractive new technical features.

Handling

The WX5 looks every bit the successor of the WX1. It has the same 24-120 mm zoom lens and a very similar camera body, with the same flat mode-selection dial just under the thumb. At first glance, the most noticeable difference is its slightly more rounded shape and the improved integration of its various features.

The real differences between the two models are more noticeable when you start to use the camera: the zoom control has moved up around the shutter release button, there's a video record button under the thumb, and there are two extra settings on the mode dial—3D (for taking stereoscopic shots, as outlined in our review of the Sony TX9) and the i+ Superior Auto Mode, adding advanced functions to the regular scene detection mode. We do, however, think that including two intelligent auto modes could prove confusing for some users, especially since those who choose an intelligent auto mode usually do so to avoid having to make such decisions!

One major change is the screen, as the WX5 features a 3-inch display with 460,800 dots and good viewing angles. It's practical and pleasant to use. However, the screen's calibration still leaves something to be desired, with an inaccurate gamma and approximate colour reproduction. In other words, the screen is great for lining up shots but shouldn't be trusted for sorting through your snaps and deleting images for reasons of colour or exposure. Note that these screen tests are a new feature of our reviews and it's possible that the previous model's display was no better.

Responsiveness

We were a bit disappointed with this new model, as the WX5 shows no real improvement on the WX1. The autofocus is exactly the same (pretty good, but no rival for the best models out there), as is the burst mode of 10 frames per second. It takes slightly longer to save a photo, which is to be expected with 2 extra Megapixels, and the start-up time is a disappointing 2.4 seconds, compared with 1.4 seconds for the previous model!

This contributed to the WX5 losing its fifth star, along with the disappointing battery life listed as 230 photos.


Picture Quality

If you read our reviews regularly, we could sum this section up by saying 'as expected' because the WX5 has the same lens as the WX1 and the same internal electronics as the TX9.


For ISO sensitivity, the similarity to its super-slim relation is striking, as the results look identical. Smoothing and granularity can be a problem at 1600 ISO but picture quality is still excellent and is up there with the best compacts in the field.

The 24-120 mm lens does a decent job. In wide angle, there's a slight loss in sharpness in the corners of the shots. This will be visible on an 8" x 10" print but it's not too serious. In telephoto, the shot is a little less sharp in the middle but more consistent across the frame. On the whole, photo prints will be excellent quality unless they've be been heavily cropped or blown up to sizes over A4.

Video

The good news is that the WX5 films in 1080 HD. As standard it records AVCHD files in 1440 x 1080i at 9 Mbps. It can also film Full HD footage at 17 Mbps (still interlaced, at 50 fields per second) and there's a 25 fps MP4 mode that records in 1440 x 1080p resolution.

Picture quality is excellent unless deinterlaced, when some quality is lost. You can use the optical zoom while filming and stereo sound is recorded. Unfortunately, the sound doesn't quite live up to the picture, with a metallic overtone that's rather harsh on the ear.

4/5 Sony Cyber-shot WX5 DigitalVersus 2010-12-14 00:00:00

Pros

  • Great design and build, pleasant to handle and use
  • Burst mode takes 10 frames per second
  • Good picture quality, even in low light
  • Full HD video with stereo sound, zoom and separate record button
  • Advanced modes (sweep panorama, 3D photos etc.)

Cons

  • Possible confusion between Intelligent and Intelligent+ modes
  • Slight loss of picture quality in the corners of shots taken at 24 mm
  • Takes its time to switch on
  • Screen poorly calibrated
  • Sound is metallic and picks up echoes

Conclusion

The Sony WX5 is an excellent compact camera. It's pleasant to use and takes high-quality photos and videos. However, its slow start-up time (2.4 sec.), poor sound and a battery that'll only give you half a day's use unfortunately hold in back from a five-star score.

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