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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 Digital Camera Full Review
by Ben Stafford -  4/2/2007

Sony's W series of Cyber-shots almost seem to hide in the shadows of the slim and stylish T series digital cameras, but they're high-performing, high quality, affordable digital cameras. The 7.2 megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W35 is the cheapest model in Sony’s W line of digital cameras.  It features a 3x optical zoom and 2 inch LCD.  Its style, quick operation, good image quality and great battery life make this camera a worthy of consideration when looking for a sub-$200 compact point and shoot.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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NUTS & BOLTS

Image Sensor

The W35 has a 7.2 megapixel, 1/2.5” CCD imaging sensor.  Full size images are 3072x2304 pixels in size.

Viewfinder/LCD

The W35 has a 2 inch LCD with 85K pixels of resolution.  The colors displayed on the LCD are accurate and the brightness gains up and down depending on the lighting conditions.  Outdoors, in bright conditions, viewing the LCD was just “ok”.  It was better than the Sony S700 that I recently reviewed, but still not great.  There is a very tiny optical viewfinder.  Refresh rates are good enough to provide a smooth preview of your shot.  Even though the total pixel count is only 85K, it still provided a sharp preview as all those pixels are in a 2 inch frame.

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Zoom

This camera gets a fairly typical 3x optical zoom.  The maximum aperture ranges from f2.8 to f5.2, depending on the zoom setting.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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Focus Modes and Focus Ranges

As this is a fairly entry level camera, you simply get a normal focus and macro focus.  In normal mode, you can focus as close as 19.7 inches.  In macro mode, you can focus on something as close as 0.74 inches.

Auto focus is quick and accurate as long as you’re in the right focus mode.  A green light on the LCD stays solid when a focus lock is achieved.  Focus is determined by a multi-area AF or center AF.  You can also "set" the focus at 0.5, 1, 3, and 7 meters as well as infinity.

The W35 does have a focus assist lamp that helps get a focus lock in dim conditions.  Also, in addition to "single" AF, which focuses when you partially depress the shutter, you can set the camera to "monitor" AF.  This mode will attempt to focus continuously at the cost of battery life.  However, if you have a moving subject, the continuous AF will help keep track of your subject.

Flash

The built-in flash has a range of 6 inches to 12 feet, 8 inches at wide angle and ISO set to Auto.  If you bump the ISO up to 1000, the range goes out to 23 feet.  The flash can be set to auto, always on, disabled, and slow synchro.  If you want red eye reduction, you have to enable it via the setup menu.  Flash modes are set by using the up direction on the control pad.

Memory Media

The W35, like the rest of the Sony cameras, use Memory Stick Duo (and Pro Duo) media.  There is also about 56MB of internal memory.

Image/Movie File Format(s)

Still images are recorded as JPEG only.  Movies are captured as AVI files (Motion JPEG).

Connectivity

There is USB 2.0 jack and A/V out jack.  Another DC-in jack works with an optional power adapter.

Power

The W35 is powered by a lithium-ion battery that Sony calls its "G" type battery.  There is an external charger that can charge the battery in just a few hours.  Sony claims that 380 shots can be taken on a single charge.

EXPOSURE

Auto/Program Mode

As the W35 is more of any entry level camera, it doesn’t have any manual exposure modes like shutter priority or aperture priority.  However, you get an auto mode and a program auto mode.  All the shooting modes of the camera are available on the mode dial on the back of the camera, which makes for easy operation.  Auto mode is the mode with the green camera icon.  In auto mode, your options are limited – you can choose if you shoot a single, burst or multi-burst, the exposure compensation, flash mode, timer mode, and macro mode.  If you switch to program auto (P on the mode dial) – you can adjust more settings and the camera is still essentially in "auto".  In program auto, you can change color settings, focus area, metering modes, white balance, ISO, JPEG compression level, flash level, contrast, and sharpness.

The burst mode on the W35 can take four shots relatively quickly (around second per frame) at full resolution.  You won’t win any races, but it’s sufficient for a camera in this class.  There is also a multi-burst mode that allows you to set the interval (1/30, 1/15, or 1/7.5 sec) and it captures 16 low resolution frames in quick succession.  When you transfer these to a computer, all 16 images are meshed into a single frame that is 1280x960 pixels.

Scene Modes

I’ve always liked the way Sony does the scene modes.  There aren’t 800 different options in the camera menu system, but you’ll find a select few available right on the mode dial.  As you turn the mode dial, a short description appears on the LCD.  A High ISO mode boosts the ISO and disables the flash.  The other modes are: Soft Snap (for portraits), Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Landscape, Beach, and Snow.

Movie Mode

Movie mode is another slot on the mode dial allowing easy access.  The W35 can capture movies at 640x480, 30 fps (MPEG VX Fine), but it requires a Memory Stick PRO Duo card.  Without a PRO card, you can capture movies at 640x480, 16fps (MPEG VX Standard).  If you need really small movies, you can capture them 160x120, 8fps.  During movie capture you can adjust the color, focus area, metering method, and white balance.  Mono sound is recorded and optical zoom is not available during movie capture.

Metering

While in program auto mode and the movie mode, you can choose the metering method between spot metering, center weighted metering and "multi" metering.

White Balance

During movie capture, you can set white balance to auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, and incandescent.  For still capture, in program auto mode, you get an additional choice of flash.  Some white balance settings will be unavailable at different times.  For example, if you have the flash set to always on, you can only set the white balance to auto or flash.

Sensitivity

The camera has an ISO range from ISO 100 – 1000.  Control over the ISO setting is only available in program auto mode.

In-Camera Image Adjustment

Besides being able to adjust things like color (B&W, sepia, natural, rich, and normal), contrast, and sharpness during image capture, there aren’t a lot of other options.  Post-capture, you can resize and rotate your images.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The W35 is compact and slim.  Its measurements are 3.5 inches x 2.25 inches by 7/8 inches.  It weighs in at 5.3 ounces with battery and memory card.  The metal body feels sturdy and still manages to stay lightweight.  The brushed metal finish on the front of the camera adds a nice touch of style to the camera.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
Sony S700 on left, Sony W35 on right (view large image)

The controls are straightforward.  The mode dial on the back and shutter release on the top are easy to operate.  The zoom control is my preferred style (the ring around the shutter button).  The Disp, Menu, and delete buttons are easier to operate than the S700 that I also reviewed since they’re raised just bit more.  However, the buttons have a “cheap” feel about them.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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In addition to the lens on the front of the camera, you’ll see the flash, self-timer/focus assist lamp, and viewfinder port.

The top of the camera has the power button, zoom control, microphone port, and shutter release.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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The back of the camera is mostly taken up with the 2 inch LCD.  Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder and button to access playback mode.  The shooting mode dial is just to the right of this.  Moving down, the Disp button changes display modes and the Menu button accesses the menu system.  The control pad lets you navigate menus and change flash, timer, exposure compensation, and macro settings.  The quality/delete button lets you change the capture resolution during image capture and delete images during playback.  Below the LCD is the plastic door that covers the USB and AV out ports.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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The right side of the camera has the wrist strap attachment point and DC in port.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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The bottom has a tripod mount and door to the battery/memory media compartment.

sony cyber-shot dsc-w35
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Included

Included with the camera are NP-BG1 rechargeable battery, battery charger, USB cable, AV cable, wrist strap and CD-ROM of software (and manual).

PERFORMANCE

I was very pleased with the image quality from the W35.  My test shots were sharp across the entire frame and had a high level of detail.  As with the Sony S700 that I also reviewed, colors had a high level of saturation, but were accurate.  This high color saturation is typical of many point and shoot digital cameras since consumers typically like bright, snappy colors.  Also like the S700, I took this camera along to the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati for an orchid show and got some great pictures of some gorgeous displays as well as the regular exhibits.

Since the W35 has multi-area AF capabilities, you’ll need to make sure you keep an eye on the LCD during focus acquisition.  If it chooses the wrong thing to focus on, you’ll want to reacquire focus or use the center AF mode.

Chromatic aberration (color fringing) was very well controlled and the default exposure did a good job of exposing shots well, preserving details in highlight areas and shadow areas.

Barrel distortion (straight lines bow out away from center) was not bad, but the pincushion distortion (straight lines bow towards center of frame), at telephoto, was pretty noticeable.

Noise levels at anything higher than ISO 200 are fairly noticeable.  However, I was able to capture some great snaps (taken at ISO 320 and 400) of my son in a fairly dim restaurant that would still make a nice 4x6 print.  Noisiness is something that you’ll have to figure out your tolerance for since it depends a lot on how the image is displayed (computer, printed, photo frame).

The claimed flash range is almost 13 feet but that is a pretty ideal number. In a fairly dark room taking a picture of a dark object (very difficult conditions for a flash), flash range was much less.  If you need more distance, you'll definitely want to increase flash output and increase the ISO.  The W35’s flash did perform much better than the Sony S700 that I also reviewed just recently.


Indoor shot with flash (view large image)

Sample Images

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Timing/Shutter Lag 

The W35 operated very quickly.  Shutter lag, when you’ve already achieved a focus and exposure lock with a partial press of the button, was less than 0.1 seconds.  If you have to resort to a complete press of the button, shutter lag was around 0.3 seconds. 

The cycle time (time between shots) was also very good.  I turned off the post-capture review and was able to take successive shots, without flash, at less than 1 second apart.  If you use the flash, you’ll have to add a couple seconds on to give the flash time to charge (this also depends heavily on battery condition).

Focus times were also very good.  In well-lit conditions, focus was achieved in just under 0.5 seconds.  In darker conditions, it takes just a bit longer, but just over a second or so.

Conclusion

I reviewed the Sony W70 a while ago and was impressed with that camera.  The W35 is one of the models in the latest generation of W cameras from Sony and I remain impressed.  To begin with, the camera is compact and stylish.  Then, when you get around to taking pictures (this is a camera, after all), it performs well, with detailed, colorful shots.  Color saturation may be too high for some, but would make many people perfectly happy.  The camera also operates quickly, with minimal shutter lag, fast shot to shot times and quick focus times.  Battery life is excellent.  Overall, this is a good choice for a compact point and shoot camera for someone who likes Sony cameras, wants quick operation, and wants something above the entry level S models but similar in price.

Pros

Cons