Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 Performance, Timings and Image Quality

by Theano Nikitas Reads (121)

PERFORMANCE
The Sony G3 is fun to shoot with and it definitely has a cool factor with its pull-apart design, huge touchscreen LCD and WiFi capabilities. Shooting with the G3 has its frustrations-the touchscreen interface (like those on other cameras) can be a little unresponsive at times, although it does pretty well when you select a focus point with your fingertip. Getting the WiFi feature to work can be tedious, as is the one-by-one uploading of images.

As a point-and-shoot camera, the G3 fares better. As you’ll see in the following paragraphs, it performs pretty well from start-up to shot-to-shot time. However, there are a couple of areas in which the camera delivers only-average or below average performance.

Shooting Performance
Once you figure out how to open the camera, the G3 starts up pretty quickly. Shutter lag is minimal and there’s relatively little delay between shots. Of course, the flash will slow down shot-to-shot time-but not by much.

Autofocus is decently fast and accurate in bright light and even at dusk. In low light, however, the G3’s AF is a little sluggish as it searches for enough contrast to lock in. But the face detection functions work well at honing in on faces, while the smile shutter and blink detection features, for the most part, worked as planned.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S230 0.02
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS
0.03
Pentax Optio P70 0.05
Casio Exilim EX-Z150 0.22

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 0.26
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS 0.34
Nikon Coolpix S230 0.51
Pentax Optio P70 0.87
Casio Exilim EX-Z150 1.15

Continuous shooting speed, at about 1.6 frames per second is nothing to write home about but it’s not terrible for a camera of this type. But the buffer is pretty large and you’ll be able to capture close to 100 images in a single burst, according to Sony (I stopped after about 55 shots).

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames* Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 3 3.6 fps
Nikon Coolpix S230 2 2.2 fps
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 20 1.6 fps
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS 1.5 fps
Casio Exilim EX-Z150 13 1.3 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Shutter speed is limited to a high of 1/1000th of a second but that’s generally fast enough to stop most action. And when the lights are low, Sony’s SteadyShot mechanical image stabilization can be used to help compensate for slower shutter speeds. You might gain a stop or two, so a small tripod will come in handy when you don’t want to raise the ISO (read on to find out why).

Where the camera falls short is in battery life, which is limited to about 200 shots per charge. The numbers might not look bad comparatively but since the G3’s 4GB internal memory, huge LCD and multiple viewing options are so enticing, as is its WiFi functionality, it’s a shame that if you make use of these features the battery will drain more quickly than expected.

Lens Performance
Equipped with a 4x optical zoom, with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 35-140mm, the G3 doesn’t excel at either end of the spectrum. With a mere 35mm wide angle, the camera can’t compete with the multitude of 28mm-equipped point-and-shoot models on the market. The telephoto range isn’t bad, though, and should work for zooming in mid-distant subjects.

The lens isn’t terribly fast with an f/3.5-f/10 range. On the other hand, having an f/10 aperture helps give you a better depth-of-field.

Even at a mere 35mm wide angle, the G3 exhibits minor distortion at wide angle. It’s noy gt terrible but at 35mm, but it should be better. Chromatic aberrations, i.e., purple fringing along high contrast edges, and some softening in the corners were also present in some test images.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
Wide angle

Video Quality
The Sony G3 offers three video options (no HD, though): 640×480 at 30fps (fine), 640×480 at 17fps (Standard) and Web-ready 320×480 at 8fps. Not surprisingly, the best results are achieved at the “fine” setting, and footage at this resolution and fps is quite good for this class of camera. Colors and exposure are generally accurate and noise isn’t overwhelming under better lighting conditions.

The zoom can be operated during movie capture although it’s fairly slow, and recording times max out at 10 minutes. Be aware, though, that you need a Memory Stick PRO Duo (vs. the Memory Stick Duo) when shooting at the highest (fine) quality.

Image Quality
Image quality is good for this class of camera. Colors are nicely saturated and accurately rendered-unless faced with some shades of red (mostly flowers) where many digital cameras stray a bit from reality. If you want a bit more pizzazz, colors can be bumped up via the Vivid color mode option.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
Default

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
Vivid

Intelligent Scene Recognition is pretty good at analyzing shooting conditions and choosing the right “scene mode” settings for it, but it does get it wrong on occasion. Still, it’s one of the best ways to truly achieve no-brainer photography!

Otherwise, exposure is fairly accurate even in tricky just-before-sunset lighting outdoor conditions and Las Vegas’ cacophony of neon displays.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3

The lens, despite its faults (see earlier discussion), delivers fairly sharp images with good detail and can handle macro shots pretty well. Try to engage the DRO setting when shooting in high contrast settings, though, to get the best results.

Auto white balance worked well outdoors but delivers very warm images under incandescent light indoors. Best to use the presets when you’re shooting in anything but daylight conditions.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

With an ISO range of 80-3200, the G3 offers a lower light sensitivity setting than most and, whenever possible, you should keep the ISO as low as possible to keep image noise at a minimum. As you can see from the samples, image noise starts to minimally affect image quality at about ISO 200 and increases from there.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 80
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 80
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 100
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 100
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 200
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 200
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 400
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 400
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 800
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 800
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 1600
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 1600
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 3200
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
ISO 3200

Ideally, ISO should be topped at 200 for the best results but you can get decent prints up to about ISO 800, although you might want to keep them at snapshot sizes of 4×6″ or 5×7″. Overall, though I was pleased with my test shots, especially the ones shot in Vegas, which is a colorful but sometimes challenging environment to shoot in.

Additional Sample Images

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3


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