review: Sony WX1
Sony released the Cybershot DSC-WX1 digital camera in August ’09 – a nifty little P&S camera for which they claimed unprecedented low-light capabilities. This compact digital camera has a number of interesting features, of which one of the more interesting one is the Sweep Panorama Mode. It automatically stitches a panoramic image as you sweep the camera around in a near 180 degree angle.
In conjunction with Technorati and WeSay, Sony has launched a photo competition based on the Sweep Panorama feature. They provided me with a WX1 to review and for promotion of the competition.
Sony WX1 Sweep Panorama Mode
Before we check out the rest of the spec, a little more about the Sweep Panorama feature. It is simplicity itself to use. You simply dial the camera to that setting, hit the shutter button, and sweep the camera around you in a steady motion. That’s it.
Here are a few examples where I tried it out in New York. Now, the obvious way to use this camera would be in a landscape mode, capturing a sweeping vista around you. But in Manhattan, it just made sense to try the WX1 out in vertical mode.
I cropped the images here in a square format to post on the blog, so you will have to click through to the larger image to see the vertical sweep.
Times Square, New York
Here I captured a near-180-degree sweep overhead. I started the capture looking South down Times Square, and swept the camera overhead and backwards to capture part of the buildings behind me. Pretty wild! Click through the image and see.
Flatiron Building, New York
Similarly here, I used the Sony WX1 in an upward sweep.
Click through onto the actual image to see the vertical panorama.
I found this quite impressive. Actually, my response was more, “Cool!”
The beauty of this feature though is that the camera does this automatically for you, on the spot. No need to stitch it together in Photoshop.
You do see some artifacting, especially to the extreme edges as the camera tried to stitch together disparate parts of the scene. Also, if there are people or cars or such moving across the frame, it will give a jagged staggered rendering. This sometimes adds to the effect. But generally, this mode works better on static scenes and subjects. If your motion is unsteady, or the camera can’t stitch a panoramic image from what it is capturing, it will stop and inform you.
Here are two more images, in the more conventional horizontal panoramic mode.
(Once again, click through to see the larger image)
Now, a little more about the rest of the camera …
Sony WX1 hands-on review and specifications
I have to say that the WX1 is an incredibly easy camera to use. I like technology that is self-apparent, and is obvious in how to use it. The WX1 is as simple to use as that. To learn more about the panoramic feature, I barely had to scan through the manual.
High-Def Movie mode
The WX has a high definition (720p) video mode where it can record HD movies in MPEG4 format for impressively good playback. It can record up to 29 min (or up to 2GB) per movie in 720p format.
High-Speed Shooting mode
The WX1 can capture ten full 10.2 megapixel resolution images at up to 10 fps. It has a mechanical shutter that helps reduce distortion when continuously shooting moving subjects. Cameras with a digital shutter has a tendency to give a jelly-like appearance to motion. The WX1’s mechanical shutter helps avoid that.
Fast wide-angle zoom
The WX1 has a lens with a wide angle 24 – 120mm (5x) optical zoom. It has a fast f/2.4 max aperture on the wide-angle side. This helps with the low-light shooting capabilities of the WX1.
12 megapixel “Exmor R” CMOS image sensor
According to the spec sheet: “The WX1 features an image sensor that brings out the full resolving power of the camera’s G lens to deliver extremely fast speed, high resolution, and stunning low-light sensitivity with improved image clarity and drastically reduced grain – 2x better than traditional sensors of equivalent size and pixel count.”
Very well, but what does it look like. Here’s an image I grabbed during a recent concert by the Pixies when they played in New York. Jostling with the other audience members, the anti-shake mode helped in getting a sharp image. The image is at 800 ISO:
And this shows exactly what this camera excels at .. a surprisingly high-quality image from such a small camera, that also features a high-definition movie mode. And that makes it an ideal camera to carry around with you everywhere.