The Cyber-shot S2100 holds a clear place at the ground floor of Sony's point-and-shoot line, lighter in both price and features than its slimmer W and T series counterparts. It's their only compact camera that uses AA batteries. Of all the Cyber-shot models announced so far this year, the S2100 is the least expensive with an introductory price hovering just above $100.
That "S" should stand for "simplicity." The 12.1-megapixel Cyber-shot S2100 has been designed to meet the needs of a beginning photographer with basic exposure controls in program mode and few controls in "Easy" mode. Does the Cyber-shot S2100 strike the right balance between ease of use and quality picture-taking? Read our review to find out.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Sony S2100 takes on a similar shape to most AA-powered compacts. The right side is bulkier where the battery compartment is located. The front is sculpted to offer a bit of a handgrip. The lens and camera body feel like plastic, though there's a nice layer of brushed aluminum over the front of the body.
It's not nearly as slim as its pricier Cyber-shot counterparts, though it doesn't take up a lot of room in a coat pocket or purse. The AAs give it a fair amount of weight in the hand or wherever you happen to be carrying it. Loaded up and ready for action, it weighs about 6.5 ounces.
As a member of the graduating 2010 class of Sony Cyber-shots, the S2100 will now accept standard SD and SDHC memory cards. The memory card slot will still accept Memory Stick Pro Duo cards if you've already invested in Sony's proprietary format, but new users won't be required to buy into that system. That's a welcome change and a benefit to those of us already equipped with SD cards.
Ergonomics and Controls
I had no trouble powering the S2100 up and shooting one-handed. The weight of the battery compartment makes it comfortable to hold in the right hand and adds some stability.
The controls on the right side of the LCD include a four-way controller with a center button surrounded by three smaller circular buttons for playback mode, menu, and delete. A sliding switch on the camera's edge toggles between still image and video capture modes. Above is another switch for zoom.
For a camera that's designed to be easy to use, the buttons are awfully small. The buttons around the compass switch are a little bit hard to push, and I often had to dig in with my fingernail to make sure I was pushing the right one. The switches for zoom and still/movie mode were easy to use. This didn't create any serious usability problems for me, but someone unaccustomed to using a camera might have a tough time getting used to the controls.
Menus and Modes
Sony has made some helpful changes to their menu structure recently, like combining the "home" screen with the main camera menu. Shooting modes and exposure settings are accessed by hitting the small menu button below the compass switch. Options appear on the left side of the screen and users can instantly see the effects of altering settings like white balance. Selecting a briefcase icon brings up the camera menu where adjustments can be made to settings like sound, date, and time.
Controls are easy to master. I would have preferred having the quick menu under the center control button and the more involved menu options accessed through a separate control, but the current layout doesn't get in the user's way. The four-way control offers shortcuts to smile shutter sensitivity, display settings, flash settings, and self-timer.
Shooting modes include:
The 3.0-inch LCD boasts a 230,400 dot composition. It seems adequately sharp and fluid for composition and image review. It was easy to view indoors, but became trickier to use in the glare reflected from snow outside and direct sunlight.
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