A high-resolution digicam that is small enough to slip into a shirt pocket and offers Full HD video recording.The Cyber-shot DSC-WX7 is one of five 16.2-megapixel cameras announced by Sony at the CES Show in January. Designed primarily for snapshooters, it's the first to be available for review and also claims status as the first compact digicam with a 3D Still Image mode that can record stereo pairs with only one lens and sensor. . . [more]
The Cyber-shot DSC-WX7 is one of five 16.2-megapixel cameras announced by Sony at the CES Show in January. Designed primarily for snapshooters, it's the first to be available for review and also claims status as the first compact digicam with a 3D Still Image mode that can record stereo pairs with only one lens and sensor.
Featuring a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens that retracts into the camera body to provide a slim silhouette, the WX7 is manufactured in five colours: black, silver, blue, pink and grey. Like other models announced concurrently, it supports Full HD video recording at a top quality setting of 50i in 1080 AVCHD format.
Build and Ergonomics
Physically, the most striking feature of the WX7 is its small size. Measuring only 92.2 x 51.9 x 19.1 millimetres and with an all-up shooting weight of only 120 grams, it fits easily into a shirt pocket. However, all controls are equally petite and anyone with large fingers and/or limited dexterity should probably steer clear of this camera.
Front view of the Cyber-shot DSC-WX7 with the lens cover retracted. (Source: Sony)
Rear view showing the monitor screen and tiny control buttons. (Source: Sony)
The 2.8-inch LCD monitor is small by current standards but covers three quarters of the rear panel. Its resolution of 460,800 dots is good, although not the highest available. Control buttons and dials are ranged along the right side of the monitor.
They include a slider that selects between stills, panorama and movie modes, a dedicated movie button and a pared-down arrow pad with surrounding control wheel and central OK button plus directional controls for accessing (clockwise from top) the display, flash, self-timer and drive settings. Below the arrow pad lie the Menu and Guide/Delete buttons, with the Play button to their right.
About the only way to engage these control buttons is to press them with the tip of a fingernail. But even this can be awkward and some controls are so sensitive they slip out of the selected mode before you can lock them in. The control wheel surrounding the arrow pad, which is used for shooting mode selection, is easy enough to move with the ball of your finger or thumb. But it's deceptively easy to bypass the setting you want and engage one you don't.
Top view, showing the recessed power on/off button, stereo microphone holes, shutter release button and surrounding zoom lever. (Source: Sony)
Looking down from the top you can see just how slim this camera is. Although this may contribute to the camera's pocketability, it also means the only button controls (the on-off switch) is particularly tiny and recessed into the top panel, where it's difficult to operate.
Fortunately, the shutter button and surrounding zoom lever are large enough to be easily used, although the camera's zoom control appears to be pre-set for specific focal lengths. Moving smoothly between them is difficult, if not impossible.
The battery and memory card share a compartment in the base of the camera and the battery is charged via the HDMI port, using the supplied USB/HDMI cable that can be plugged into the supplied charger - or connected directly to a computer. The tripod mount, which appears to be metal-lined, lies just off the optical axis of the lens.
As a snapshooter's camera, the WX7 has a limited suite of user-adjustable controls. Users can choose between three shooting modes: stills, panorama and movies. In the stills mode there's a choice between 'intelligent' auto and 'superior' auto and program AE and the Scene mode that accesses 14 pre-sets.
There's no Portrait setting as such; just a 'Soft Skin' mode that removes skin blemishes with processing. Other 'portrait' modes include 'Soft Snap' (which includes background defocusing) and Twilight Portrait (which combines slow shutter speeds and high sensitivity with flash).
Both the 'intelligent' auto and 'superior' auto modes include automatic scene recognition, in which the camera will recognise a wide range of common shooting situations and adjust shooting parameters accordingly. The 'superior' auto mode takes advantage of the camera's high-speed capture capabilities and records up to six shots then combines them to produce a single, full-sized image with improved clarity, optimal dynamic range and reduced image noise.
Multi-shot layering is also used for the Backlight Correction HDR (High Dynamic Range) setting in the Scene pre-sets. In this mode, the camera records six bracketed exposures to cover the brightness range in the scene and combines the shots to make a single picture with a wider dynamic range than would be otherwise possible.
Other selectable shooting modes include background defocus, which processes the image to blur background details, leaving the main subject sharply focused. There's also a 3D setting for shooting stereo pairs of images.
The panorama mode lets users choose between 2D and 3D Sweep Panorama settings, both of which will capture and stitch a high-speed burst of frames to create a single picture. An additional Sweep Multi Angle mode records 15 images at different angles and then compiles them into one photo. You can view images in simulated 3D on the camera's monitor by tilting the camera back and forth.
The camera's built-in multi-capture technology also enables the WX7 to record up to 10 frames per second in the continuous shooting mode and enables users to capture stills while recording a movie - but in only a few movie modes. (More on this feature below.)
The WX7 includes several other built-in shooting aids that have been offered for a couple of generations of Cyber-shots. They include Face Detection and Smile Shutter, both of which are accessed via the Menu system. You can turn either or both functions off and the Smile Shutter control, which releases the shutter automatically if a smile is detected, has three 'sensitivity' settings: big, normal and slight.
Sensor and Image Processing
The 16.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor in the WX7 has been used in five recently-released models (TX100V, TX10, HX7V, WX10 and WX7). Measuring 6.16 x 4.62 mm, it has a pixel pitch of just over 1.3 microns, which is tiny, even for a digicam.
The 'Exmor R' tag denotes a back-illuminated chip in which the light goes straight to the photodiodes instead of having to pass through the chip's electronic circuitry. This technology was introduced in August 2009 and claims double the sensitivity of front-illuminated sensors.
Sony has kept sensitivity levels conservative in the WX7, offering an upper limit of ISO 3200 with the lowest setting at ISO 100. In the continuous shooting mode, the upper limit is ISO 800.
Not unexpectedly, the WX7 is a JPEG-only camera. However, it supports both 4;3 and 17:9 aspect ratio capture for still shots and offers four image sizes for the former and two for the latter. Image quality cannot be adjusted. The table below shows typical image sizes.
4608 x 3456
3648 x 2736
2592 x 1944
640 x 480
4608 x 2592
In Sweep Panorama mode (2D), the camera provides two sizes (standard and wide), with the standard setting recording 4912 x 1080 pixels horizontally and 3424 x 1920 pixels vertically, while the wide setting records 7152 x 1080 and 4912 x 1920 pixels respectively. For the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, the respective resolutions are the same. The Sweep Multi-angle setting captures a 1920 x 1080 pixel frame.
The WX7 also offers plenty of choices for recording movie clips, with the highest resolution settings using interlaced frame capture that gives Full HD movie clips that are as sharp and smooth as clips from many digital camcorders when the highest resolution setting is used. The table below shows the options provided in this camera.
Recording time on 4GB card
1920 x 1080
1920 x 1080
1440 x 1080
1440 x 1080
1280 x 720
640 x 480
Scene selections available in movie mode include Soft Snap, Landscape, Twilight, High Sensitivity, Beach, Snow and Fireworks.
The 'Dual Rec' (dual still and movie recording) function is only available in the interlaced scanning modes (50i), which record slightly less information than progressive scanning. This means still pictures captured in this mode have substantially lower resolution than the camera is capable of. But the camera can record a burst of shots in this mode.
So, regardless of the image size setting you've set, when you press the shutter button in movie mode while a movie is being captured the camera will record up to 10 still frames at 3M resolution for 16:9 or 2M for 4:3. However, if you press the movie button while the camera is set for still capture clips are only recorded while the button is held down.
Still pictures from the review camera showed the usual boosted saturation and contrast that characterise shots from most small-sensor digicams. The resulting images looked very nice when displayed at full size on a computer or TV screen, although reds and oranges were a little emphatic. However, traditionally difficult hues like purple and cyan were reproduced with a close-to-natural appearance.
Prints from many images appeared visibly over-saturated and a little over-processed. Both factors were confirmed by out Imatest testing, which also showed resolution to be slightly below expectations for a 16-megapixel camera.
Resolution declined gradually as sensitivity was increased, with a significant drop between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Imatest also revealed significant edge softening , particularly at shorter focal lengths. Since this camera doesn't include an aperture control, users have no way to overcome this problem The graph below shows the results of our tests across seven zoom settings spanning the focal length range.
Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible at the shortest focal lengths, passing into the low band for most of the remaining zoom range. We only found a few instances of coloured fringing in test shots and they were in strongly-backlit areas. In the graph below showing the results of our Imatest testing, the red line represents the border between negligible and low CA, while the green line marks the beginning of the moderate CA band.
Autofocusing was generally fast and accurate and the Tracking AF mode was able to keep pace with subjects moving towards the camera at reasonably fast speeds when the high-speed burst mode was used. A burst of 10 frames is recorded within one second so subjects need to travel quite fast to move outside of the camera's depth of field. An example is shown below.
Low-light shooting was limited by a lack of shutter speed controls. Nevertheless, test shots taken at dusk showed relatively little noise throughout most of the camera's sensitivity range, although image softening was obvious at ISO 3200. This was probably caused at least partially by noise-reduction processing.
The built-in flash failed to illuminate subjects further than a 1.5 metres from the camera at ISO 100, largely because the aperture closes down to f/6.3 when the flash mode is selected. However, the camera was able to produce correct exposures from ISO 400 on. Softening was noticeable in shots taken at IOS 3200.
The auto white balance setting failed to compensate for colour casts in both incandescent an fluorescent lighting. The fluorescent light presets tended to emphasise the inherent green cast while the incandescent pre-set wasn't quite strong enough. Manual measurement was required to achieve a natural colour balance with both lighting types.
Video quality was generally very good, particularly with the AVCHD settings, where the camera's inherent rich saturation was used to advantage. MP4 clips were also above average in quality, particularly at higher resolutions. Compression artefacts could be seen with the VGA setting.
The stereo soundtracks were also surprisingly good, given the close spacing of the built-in microphones. However, the mikes were quite susceptible to wind noise, although they didn't pick up much noise from the optical zoom when it was used during a shot.
It took just over two seconds to power up the camera and extend the lens. Shot-to-shot intervals averaged 1.36 seconds and average processing time for a 16M JPEG image was 1.5 seconds. In the high-speed burst mode, the camera recorded 10 frames in 1.5 seconds, with an average processing time of 10.5 seconds to process each burst.
With the low-speed burst mode, shots were captured at intervals of 0.45 seconds. It took 14.8 seconds to complete the processing of a low-speed burst.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for a slim, shirt-pocketable camera for taking snapshots.
- You'd like a digicam that can record widescreen Full HD video clips with stereo soundtracks.
- You could utilise the fast burst capture rate.
- You want effective image stabilisation.
- You like bright, saturated colours in shots.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You want the ability to capture raw files.
- You want to adjust aperture and shutter speed settings.
- You require an optical viewfinder.
- You need a camera that can record a wide dynamic range in outdoor shots.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/2.6.
22mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/100 second at f/6.3.
Digital zoom; 22mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/4.
Sweep Panorama mode using the standard setting. 4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/2.6.
Sweep Panorama mode using the wide setting. 4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/2.6.
Close-up of a flower with a traditionally difficult colour to reproduce; 4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/8.
Low-light level exposure at ISO 100; 1/2 second at f/2.6; 4.8mm focal length.
Low-light level exposure at ISO 800; 1/20 second at f/5.6; 4.8mm focal length.
Low-light level exposure at ISO 3200; 1/60 second at f/8; 4.8mm focal length.
Flash exposure at ISO 200; 22mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/6.3.
Flash exposure at ISO 800; 22mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/6.3.
Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 22mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/6.3.
Portrait shot showing the saturation levels of reds. 12mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/125 second at f/4.
Still frame from an AVCHD Full HD video clip shot at the highest resolution.
Still frame from an AVCHD video clip shot with the HQ setting.
Still frame from an MP4 video clip recorded at the highest resolution.
Still frame from an MP4 video clip recorded with VGA resolution.
Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mm Exmor-R CMOS sensor with 16.8 million photosites (16.2 megapixels effective)
Lens: Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 4.5-22.5mm f/2.6-6.3 zoom;(26-130mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 5x optical; up to 36x Smart Zoom (digital) at VGA resolution
Image formats: Stills - JPEG (Exif 2.3); Video - AVCHD/MPEG4 with stereo audio
Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 16M (4608 x 3456), 10M (3648 x 2736), 5M (2592 x 1944); 16:9 12M (4608 x 2592), 2M (1920 x1080); VGA (640 x 480); Sweep Panorama (7152x1080, 4912x1080, 4912x1920, 3424x1920); 3D Sweep Panorama (7152x1080, 4912x1080, 4912x1920, 3424x1920, 1920x1080); Sweep Multi Angle (1920x1080); Video - 1920 x 1080 50i at 24fps, 1440 x 1080p, 1280 x 720p, 640 x 480 all at 25fps
Shutter speed range: 1 second to 1/1600 second
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
Image Stabilisation: Lens-shift type (Optical SteadyShot)
Exposure Compensation: -2 to +2 EV in 1/3 EV Steps
Focus system/range: Contrast-based 9-point TTL AF; range 90 cm to infinity; macro to
Exposure metering/control: Multi-segment, centre weighted average and spot metering
Shooting modes: iAuto, 'Superior' Auto, P, Easy, Panorama, Background Defocus, 3D, Scene Selection (Soft Skin, Soft Snap, Anti Motion Blur, Landscape, Backlight Correction HDR, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Handheld Twilight, High Sensitivity, Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Snow and Fireworks)
Scene recognition: For stills and movies - Scene Group: 11 (Auto / Portrait / Backlight Portrait / Twilight Portrait / Twilight / Backlight / Macro /Landscape / Infant / Spotlight / Low Light ); Condition Group: 3 (Auto / Tripod / Move)
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent (x3), Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, On, Off, Slow Sync (red-eye correction available); range 0.5 to 5.3 metres (ISO auto)
Sequence shooting: Max. 10 frames/second for 10 frames
Storage Media: Single slot that accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo cards
LCD monitor: 2.8-inch TFT LCD with 460,800 dots
Interface: Multi use terminal (USB/AV-out/DC-in), mini HDMI
Power supply: NP-BN1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for 230 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 92.2 x 51.9 x 19.1 mm
Weight: Approx. 120 grams (with battery and card)
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 7.5
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Still Image quality: 8.0
- Video quality: 8.8
- OVERALL: 8.0