Today's compact digital cameras dependably generate good quality images outdoors in decent light, but they don't do as well in low-light (read indoors) and after dark. While there have been some encouraging recent developments (like the Fuji F70EXR and F200EXR, the Canon S90, and the Panasonic LX3) low-light capability is one area in the ongoing digital imaging revolution that still needs improvement.
Sony's new Cyber-shot WX1 utilizes an innovative back-illuminated Exmor "R" CMOS sensor to produce (according to Sony) a 200% increase in sensitivity over traditional front-illuminated CMOS sensors. Sony claims this new technology will significantly improve low-light performance - resulting in sharper, more detailed images with much less noise and more vibrant colors than images shot with digital cameras utilizing conventional CMOS and CCD sensors.
The 10 megapixel WX1 features an attractive "minimalist look." In addition to its improved low light performance, the WX1 provides some very useful features that are sure to appeal to more demanding shooters. Most ultra-compact digicams mount 3x or 4x zooms. The WX1 features a relatively fast (f/2.4) 5x zoom that starts at an equivalent 24mm. That is noteworthy since most ultra-compact digicam zooms start at around the 38mm mark. If all that isn't enough to pique your interest, the Cyber-shot WX1 also sports a tough metal-alloy body, a 2.7 inch LCD, face/smile detection AF, intelligent scene recognition, an ISO 3200 top sensitivity, a 10 (full resolution) fps burst mode, a new Sweep Panorama mode for super-wide landscapes, a 720p HD video mode, and an HDMI output.
Low light, high expectations
I'm always interested when a new camera is introduced that claims to have enhanced low light/natural light/existing light capture capabilities. A perfect digital camera would cover a very broad dynamic range - able to capture every detail in a scene from the dimly lit shadows to the harshly lit highlights - but there are no perfect cameras. Photography has always been about compromises. I've only been using the WX1 for a few days, but Sony's new sensor (coupled with a faster processor and Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization) produces some impressive results - it captures high quality images in low light environments and preserves shadow detail nicely.
On the other side of the coin, it appears the WX1 doesn't do as well when dealing with bright outdoor lighting - sometimes burning out highlights. In addition, there are some auto white balance anomalies that negatively affect color accuracy. Based on our early results, the WX1 may be best suited for the photographer who loves to shoot existing light portraits, dimly lit indoor venues, and night scenes.
Full review on the way...
We've got a lot more on the way, including a full range of ISO test shots from the studio. Stay tuned for our full review of the Sony Cyber-shot WX1.