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!
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
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.