The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 12.1-Megapixel Pocket Camera; Taking A Fun Camera Seriously Page 2

The workings of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 can be learned almost entirely without reference to a handbook, simply by sitting down with it, turning on the LCD menu screen and toggling through the modes and commands. Each mode setting and function is explained on screen by simple, descriptive language. I had to look to the camera's handbook only once, and that was to discover how to adjust the brightness of the LCD screen. Every other function I needed I found quite easily and directly in just a few minutes of playing with the camera.

Both the Sony and Canon reproduced the flower fields with just minor differences, mostly the result of slight variations in the way each camera set the Auto White Balance.

The Bottom Line--How Seriously Can You Take The Sony DSC--W200?
My first reaction when hearing about this 12.1-megapixel, pocket-sized, point-and-shoot digital camera was--would it produce images that support making serious, quality, prints? So, after exposure and downloading, I opened the files in Photoshop CS3. I found that each shot required some adjustment, such as tightening up the gamut optimization; adjusting the midpoint to set overall picture brightness; using the Highlight/Shadow dialog to bring more detail out of the shadows and pull down the highlights; increasing saturation and adjusting color balance; and finally, adding Smart Sharpening to obtain a crisper definition of detail in the images. This might seem excessive, but these are all of the editing adjustments I regularly make with raw format files produced with my Canon 5D.

In fact, adjustments on shots made with the 5D and the Sony DSC-W200 for this test were actually about the same, which was somewhat surprising. The only significant difference in workflow was that before adjusting the Sony JPEG files I converted them from sRGB to my work space profile, Adobe RGB, and made a Mode change, increasing the bit depth from 8 bit to 16 bit. (Note: It has been my experience that even though nothing is added with the 8 to 16 bit change, the greater bit depth seems to lessen any further loss of detail by making adjustments that might push some data out of an 8-bit gamut.)

(Top): Sharply defined detail and deep depth of field was provided by the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 in this shot of the Foley Estates vineyard and winery on Highway 246 just west of Buellton, California. (Above): This winding lane through a vineyard is typical of the landscapes along Foxen Canyon north of Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley, the center of the area's wine country.

When viewed on screen after adjustments, both the Sony JPEG and Canon raw files were well matched in tonal range and color balance. The only disparities were seen with the images zoomed in to 100 percent; this revealed a little less detail in the Sony DSC-W200 images, particularly in shadow definition and contrast, as well as somewhat less subtle color variation, particularly in highlights and shadows. This brought me to the conclusion that if the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 supported raw format as well as Adobe RGB color space it might just match the image quality of my D-SLR!

Print Comparisons
The adjusted files were then printed with a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5000 on 13x19" PremierArt Watercolor paper. Because of the previously mentioned aspect ratio differences, I printed a 12x16" image from the Sony and a 12x18" image from the Canon 5D. Viewed side by side the images of the same subject showed only slight differences and I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find one better than the other. My conclusion? In simple terms, a photographer can make serious-quality images with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200, given that the camera is used carefully and precisely.

This shot of the tasting room veranda of the Melville vineyard and winery was so contrasty it was close to the limit of adjustment. It was an easier scene to edit from a raw file made with the Canon EOS 5D, which pointed out the significant shortcomings of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200--the lack of a raw format save option and the exclusion of an Adobe RGB output profile option.

Of course, I would not want to be limited to using the Sony DSC-W200 in place of the Canon 5D D-SLR because a fixed lens point-and-shoot camera is much more limited in almost every way. The D-SLR has it over an integral lens camera in terms of the breadth of lenses, the use of external electronic flash of all kinds, the speed of response, etc., etc., etc. But, as a companion camera that can be carried around comfortably for ready-access photography, the Sony DSC-W200 is an ideal choice, better than any film miniature camera of the past. It provides greater versatility as well as the potential to produce serious image quality, all with the conveniences of digital capture. The cost of the Sony DSC-W200 is somewhat greater than similar point-and-shoot digital cameras with lesser resolution, but with a street price range of $325-$471, it is a reasonable amount relative to the potential quality it can produce.

For more information, contact Sony Electronics, 16530 Via Esprillo, Ste. MZ 7104, San Diego, CA 92127; (877) 865-7669; www.sonystyle.com.

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