December 10, 2009

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)

If you’d like to purchase the Sony WX1, it is available through B&H.

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.

If you’d like to purchase the Sony WX1, it is available through B&H.

 

 

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{ 5 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Gorka December 11, 2009 at 3:41 am

Hi Neil.Believe it,or not,this Sony “point & shoot” camera wins “hands-down” the ISO challenge,against my – theoretically better – Canon Powershot Sx10 IS “bridge camera”.This 800 ISO picture is very sharp,and grain is within acceptable levels.Impossible for my camera to match this,unless I shoot at 400 ISO or lower.

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2 Ron Lemish Lph. December 11, 2009 at 7:36 am

a useful comment from th b & h site
[14 of 14 customers found this review helpful]

Nice camera!
By Nick from Denver NY on 9/29/2009
Bottom Line:Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
Comments about Sony DSC-WX1 Cybershot Point & Shoot Digital Camera (Black):

After 3 weeks of waiting for this camera to be released I now have it in my hands and taken over 500 pictures. Within those photos I have found out the best settings for the right scenes and conditions. With that, I will clear up problems previous owners have had. First, I’m sure all of you want to know how good the new Exmor R sensor is. It’s pretty good, WITH THE RIGHT SETTINGS. I will go into that later. This camera really has some cool features, Like Sweep Panorama, Smile Shutter, Handheld Twilight and AntiMotion Blur Mode. The key is setting the camera up for the right scenes, which means not keeping it set on Intelligent Scene Recognition (iSCN) Mode(AKA Auto everything). I find that iSNC mode and easy mode don’t work well and as a result people are complaining about the the noise, the low light picture quality and outdoor picture quality. I’m now going to go though the scenes and the right settings and modes to put the camera on for best results. For Low Light shots(at widest zoom): Again iSCN Doesn’t work well at all in low light. You have to switch the camera to Handheld Twilight mode and adjust the Exposure Value(EV) from -0.3 to -1.7(this is a very important setting that needs to be set on order to remove the noisyness and grain from the photo, a setting people don’t adjust and then complain about how bad the photo looks in low light). You might also want to try different White Balances,setting correctly results in really nice low light shots. Outdoor shots: This camera in iSCN mode seems to keep the lens all the way open(F2.4)and it adjusts the shutter speed(a big No No)resulting in washed out over exposed photos(yuck). The solution: switch to “P” Mode which closes down the lens to around a nice F5.0 to F7.1(much better) and switch the White Balance to “Flash” . Also for better exposure you can again adjust the EV. Panorama Shots: This one’s tricky, from where you press the shutter to start the panorama it locks the exposure at that point. If you start in a dark scene and move across through a bright scene, It’s going to be over exposed. Make sure you start in a modernity lit scene and if needed switch EV from -0.3 to -1.0. Hopefully this information helps and clears up previous reviewers problems with this camera. Other good things to add: This camera does quite nicely in bright sun light(see my test photos above, however [...]doesn’t let you upload them in high quality but you’ll get the idea). Takes really nice close up Marco photos. High Definition video is really nice and clear(just remember to adjust the EV in low light 1.0 to 2.0 to remove noise). Over all a nice Sony camera great size, style and pictures. UPDATE: I just found out today that a White Balance setting might be the key to this camera for outdoor shots. When setting on “P” mode I found out that switching the White Balance from “Auto” or “Daylight” to “Flash” in improves outdoor photos color, tone, exposure and warmness. I was so amazed in the difference!! See my photos above!

hope you find this usefu. Neil did you shoot on auto everything mode or did you go into the menus

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3 Neil December 11, 2009 at 11:06 am

Ron, I did indeed control the white balance for many photographs. But the WX1 is surprisingly good for such a compact camera, and doesn’t offer much user control anyway other than WB .. that I just let the camera handle everything.

Neil vN

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4 Stephen December 11, 2009 at 5:57 pm

And here I though Canon was the leader in point and shoot cameras.

I went over to the contest site, and Neil’s panorama shots are sharper/crisper than most of the contest entries. The nighttime shots on the contest site exhibit quite a bit of noise as well, so I don’t know how that is different than Neil’s concert shot, which has less noise.

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5 william December 11, 2009 at 7:39 pm

In Asia, Canon is still the leader in point and shoot cameras, especially after the recent release of the astounding S90 which comes with a fast f/2.0 lens. Neil, if you have the chance to test this, you should see the output at high ISO 1600 non flash fired. Then again the added movie + panorama features of the Sony WX1 wins hands down.

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