DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7 Review
Brad Soo - July 18th, 2005 (Updated January 31st, 2006)

If you think this camera looks related to the Sony Cyber-shot W1 or W5, you're absolutely correct! The new 7 megapixel Sony Cyber-shot W7 maintains the excellent battery life, unlimited VGA movies at 30 FPS, that high-quality Carl Zeiss lens, a large 2.5 inch LCD and compatibility with conversion lenses which made the W1 great, plus the W7 has a little changes in looks, 32 MB internal memory and 2 extra megapixels (The resolution of the LCD has been reduced slightly). Aside from those, everything else is the same as the W1.

Size and Weight

The W5 is fairly compact in size and it's heavy enough to feel sturdy. Yes, the W5 can easily be slipped into your pocket, being slightly larger than the Canon SD550 Digital ELPH.

Open up the Box

The W5 in its box also includes:

  • A set of two AA NiMH rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM
  • A user's manual

Storage and Power

No memory card included here, the Sony Cyber-shot W7 has 32 MB of internal memory. You may want to start off with a 512 MB Memory Stick since the internal memory isn't much. As with many other Sony cameras, the W7 doesn't take advantage of high-speed cards but does when using Memory Stick Pro cards. VGA 30 FPS movies require Pro cards while VGA at 16 FPS does not.

Since the W7 comes with 2 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries, the only reason you'd be buying more would be as spares. Those in-the-box batteries can take 380 shots on one charge (CIPA Standard) which is excellent. As with the W5, the Sony W7 can run for a whole day using the same set of batteries and still have some extra juice left (I used the flash most of the time too!).

Extras

The W7 is compatible with a ton of accessories, which include:

  • Conversion lens adapter
    Enables you to use the conversion lenses and filters with the Sony W7
  • Wide-angle conversion lens
    Reduces focal length to 0.7x (About 27 - 81 mm)
  • Telephoto conversion lens
    Increases focal length by 1.7x (About 65 - 194 mm)
  • Super telephoto conversion lens
    Increases focal length by 2.6x (About 99 - 297 mm)
  • Filters
    Various filter kits
  • External slave flash
    Boost the flash illumination range of the W7
  • Underwater case
    Go swimming or diving with your W7 up to 40 m deep

Camera Tour

Of course, the Sony Cyber-shot W7 comes in silver and...

...black. This, of course, is a black W7.

The Sony Cyber-shot W7 has a nice Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with a focal length of 38 - 114 mm and aperture value of F2.8 - F5.2. The W7 has a shutter speed of 30 to 1/1000th of a second. Behind that lens is a 1/1.8 inch CCD with 7 effective megapixels.

The AF-assist beam, also the self-timer light, is located on the ring around the lens. It's bright and orange, and it helps the W7 focus in low-light. There is a built-in flash on the W7, centralized above the lens and it has a maximum range of 4.5 m at wide-angle and 2.5 m at telephoto which is okay. Left to the flash is a microphone for sound memos and video with sound.

An optical viewfinder is located on the top right of the W7. The shiny ovalish piece on the W7 (Can't miss it!) acts as a finger grip when shooting. This little grip actually bulges a little - See the W7 top view later.

The Sony Cyber-shot W7 features a 2.5 inch LCD which is quite in resolution, 115,000 pixels. The LCD is clear both indoors and outdoors as well as bright in low-light. There is a small optical viewfinder on the Sony Cyber-shot W7. Though it is small, it's bright and clear. The optical viewfinder has no dioptric correction.

The zoom controller marked W/T zooms in and out when framing photos plus shows thumbnails or zooms into taken photos. The display button turns the LCD on/off and toggles the amount of info on it while the MENU button, well, brings up the menu.

There's the 5 way controller which allows you to select and customize camera settings in the LCD menu. When the menu is closed and you're in any one of the shooting modes, the 4 of the 5 buttons act as shortcut buttons:

  • Up - Flash setting
  • Down - Self-timer
  • Left - Quick review
  • Right - Macro

In between the 5 way controller and zoom controller is some empty space with 6 bumped up dots for holding.

On the top of the W7 is a power button and shutter button with a mode dial wrapped around it. The mode dial features (Going from the green camera and anti-clockwise):

  • Automatic
  • Playback
  • Movie recording
  • Scene modes (Soft snap, landscape, beach, snow, candle, twilight portrait, twilight)
  • Manual
  • Programmed auto

In manual mode, the aperture values are limited and preset. There's also no fast shutter or portrait in the scene mode selection area. As I mentioned earlier, the Sony Cyber-shot W7 has a grip which bulges out a little. There is a compartment for the battery and Memory Stick at the bottom - whose door is fairly sturdy - a tripod mount and speaker.

Shooting

The ISO speeds selectable on the Sony W7 are ISO 100, ISO 200 and ISO 400. The W5 has the average digital zoom and, unlike other cameras (And like most other Sony cameras), the Sony Cyber-shot W7 has Smart Zoom which avoids image quality loss with the catch being it only can benefit from small-sized photos. You get the full potential of Smart Zoom when taking VGA sized stills. The W7 has 4x Smart Zoom. The Sony Cyber-shot W7 has a simple battery indicator and a whole lot of preset functions. Preset functions mean that you don't have full control, just a few options, over those features. Manual focus, for example, has options such as 3.0 m, infinity, etc and is not as precise as the "real thing".

Recording

Like most recent Sony cameras, the W7 can take VGA movies up to 30 FPS (Only 16 FPS with a normal Memory Stick) which is limited only by the Memory Stick PRO capacity. The Sony W5 is unable to utilize its zoom lens while recording a movie. Movies are recorded in the space-saving MPEG format.

Overall movie quality was great.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot W7 starts up and is ready to go in 1.3 seconds. It takes under 1 second to focus in normal conditions and a little more in low-light. In burst mode, the W7 took 9 photos (Full resolution) at about, according to my tests, 1 FPS. But on the other hand, it can take 16 (1 megapixel) photos in a row at a tremendously fast pace. The lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.9 seconds.

Image Quality

Like the W5, the W7's noise levels are low at low ISO speeds but high at ISO 400. Chromatic aberration (Color fringing), soft and slightly over-processed photos should not drive you nuts but red-eye will. Shutter lag, though, is almost zero. Overall, photo quality is good. Movies are overall sharp and smooth.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot W7 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, print marking, direct printing (The W7 is PictBridge enabled), slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies. You can also zoom up to 5x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info about your photos. When it comes to histograms, the W7 shows a histogram in both shooting and playback. Excellent compared to other digital cameras which only show a histogram after the photo is taken.

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot W7 is a camera with great photo quality, excellent battery life, lots of accessories and solid build. What the W7 lacks is real manual controls, a LCD of higher resolution, better continuous shooting and some better photos

What's hot:

  • 7 great megapixels
  • Excellent battery life
  • Rechargeable batteries included in the box
  • Large and clear 2.5 inch LCD
  • Many of scene modes
  • Lots of accessories
  • Excellent movie mode
  • USB 2.0 High-speed interface

What's not:

  • Limited manual controls
  • Too much red-eye
  • High noise levels
  • Low resolution LCD
  • Mediocre continuous shooting feature
  • No fast shutter or portrait scene modes

Recommended Accessories

~A set of 4 AA NiMH batteries
~512 MB Memory Stick Pro card
~Camera case
~Conversion lens adapter
~One or two conversion lenses (You might find them useful!)

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