Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $250
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
April 5, 2009
Overview

The Sony Cybershot DSC-W150 with its 8.1 megapixel sensor and 30mm-150mm (equivalent) 5X zoom lens is an easy to operate camera that produces quality images, has features that one would expect only to find in more expensive cameras like optical image stabilization, an orientation sensor, 2.7” 230,000 dot LCD, and two 30 fps movie modes. All this and the low cost makes it my Best-in-Class pick.

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My Best In Class Pick
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150

It is refreshing sometimes to come across a reasonably priced camera without a lot of extraneous bells and whistles that produces good pictures without a lot of muss and fuss. The Sony Cybershot DSC-W150 is just such a camera. Starting with a compact, lightweight metal body with well placed, easy to use controls and a huge 2.7” LCD, Sony added an 8.1 effective megapixel CCD and a excellent Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 5.0-25.0mm f3.3-5.2 (30mm-150mm, 35mm equivalent) 5X zoom lens with built-in image stabilization. With shutter speeds from 1 to 1/1600 second, ISOs from 80 to 3200, and a built-in flash, there are few normal shooting situations that the W150 can’t take on with ease.

Image quality is good overall, but as with all small, high density image sensors noise is a real problem even at the lower ISOs. However, Sony has controlled it well in the W150 with only a hint noticeable at 200. At 400, images are still good with noise apparent, but not objectionable, and only a slight loss of sharpness. At 800, noise is quite noticeable, but images are still moderately sharp and usable. 1600 and 3200 are very, very noisy with image smear and extreme loss of fine detail and sharpness and, thus, should only be considered for emergencies. One other thing worth noting: images, regardless of ISO, are undersharpened directly out of the camera, probably, assuming final adjustments will be done in post processing. If you intend to print direct out of camera, you’ll need to adjust the default sharpening to a higher value.

The W150 has two MPEG movie resolutions: 640x480 and 320x240, both up to 30 fps. Image quality is good and the camera’s built-in microphone works well, but the lens is not zoomable while recording. So, you’ll need to pick your focal length before starting.

The Sony Cybershot DSC-W150 is a great little camera for the money. It even has a decent Macro mode and Manual Focus. It has all the image parameter settings that the more expensive models do, but for the most part the defaults are fine. It is the perfect camera for those who only occasionally need an easy to operate, inexpensive camera.

Comparison with Sony Cybershot DSC-W170

The Sony Cybershot DSC-W170 with its 10.1 megapixel CCD is a slight feature improvement over the W150, but is essentially the same camera, otherwise, with the same image quality. It just costs a little more.

Pros
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    Price
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    Optical Image Stabilization (in-the-lens)
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    Dynamic Range Optimization
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    Manual focus option
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    USB 2.0 Interface
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    Size
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    Weight
  • +
    Battery life
Cons
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    Objectionable noise above ISO 400
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    Menus too complex
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    No Live View
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150 is the Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 30mm (17% wider)
  • Resolution: 8.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Sony Cybershot DSC-W150
2
Sony Cybershot DSC-W170
Customer Rating
Price $488.88
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Sensor Type
Super HAD CCD Super HAD CCD
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Effective Sensor Resolution
8.1 megapixels 10.1 megapixels
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.04 sec 0.01 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.3 - 0.6 sec 0.4 sec
Power to First Shot Time 2.5 sec 2.8 sec
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
30 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
150 mm 140 mm
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
Min ISO Setting 80 80
Max ISO Setting 3200 3200
Viewfinder Type Optical Optical
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LCD Screen Size
2.7 in. 2.7 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 230000 pixels 230000 pixels
Computer Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480 Mbit/s) USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480 Mbit/s)
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
Weight (with batteries) 6.1 oz 6.0 oz
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Sony Cybershot DSC-W170

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 is essentially the same as the W150 with the same Carl Zeiss 5X zoom lens, 2.7” LCD, features and image quality, but with a slightly larger 10.1 megapixel image sensor and slightly higher price. The larger sensor gives the camera a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 28mm to 140mm.

Sony Cybershot DSC-W170 is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Sony Cybershot DSC-W170
  • Best Price: $488
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

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