Sony Cybershot WX1 Review

Sony Cybershot WX1

The Sony Cybershot WX1 is a 10.1-megapixel point and shoot camera – but it isn’t just another camera with a new model number and more megapixels. The WX1 provides everything that you get in your run-of-the-mill point and shoot camera, but also adds some great features like an easy panoramic mode, an effective low light mode and a powerful new imaging sensor.

Sony Cybershot WX1 Key Features

  • 10.1 Megapixels
  • 5x Optical Zoom (24-120mm equivalent)
  • 2.7″ LCD
  • ISO 80-3200
  • Memory Stick Compatibility
  • Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery

How It Feels

Sony Cybershot WX1

The Sony WX1 is definitely a pocket camera.  I had no trouble toting the WX1 around in my jeans or shorts pockets.  Even for a smaller camera, the WX1 felt pretty good when shooting with it.  The shutter button only takes a very light touch and could be used one-handed; however, I still preferred putting two hands on the camera to minimize the shake.

Overall, I like the button layout and the handy mode dial.  I’m a dial fanatic though, so you may not consider this as convenient as I do.  As far as I’m concerned, if you can put it on a dial, button or wheel, then do it.

The WX1 doesn’t go that far though.  The key settings that ought to be on a dial can be found there, and those of us who like to tinker with customizing those settings can dig into the menus to find what we’re looking for.

5x Zoom Sony G Lens

Sony Cybershot WX1

I was impressed with the zoom range that Sony managed to pack into this small camera.  The 5x zoom gives you the equivalent of 24-120mm on a 35mm-sized camera. There is some barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom range, but that is to be expected.

Zoom speed from wide to tele and back is neither slow nor lightning fast.  I would consider it adequate for most point and shooters’ concerns.

Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilization works as advertised.  It definitely helps reduce blur from camera shake, and should probably be left on at all times.  I was surprised that I could get a family album keeper or two from such a slow shutter speed.  Big kudos to Sony on its image stabilization efforts.

Image Quality

The WX1 features Sony’s new Exmor R CMOS image sensor, which has just been introduced in Sony’s most recent compact camera update.  The WX1 is one of the first cameras to get this upgrade (the TX1 also gets the Exmor R sensor).

The Exmor R sensor takes a different approach over conventional imaging sensors from other manufacturers.  Ordinarily, there are wires and other circuit elements positioned above the light sensitive photo-diodes on an image sensor.  Sony’s Exmor R sensor puts this stuff behind the photo-diodes so it doesn’t have any unnecessary inhibitions to the sensor’s light gathering ability.

This sensor seems to make a difference too, as I was pretty impressed with the low light and high ISO performance of the camera.  It holds its own against bigger point and shoot cameras that are known for their low light performance.  I expected the Canon G11 to readily trounce it, but found myself second-guessing the G11 after squinting a bit at the images from it and the WX1.

The above image is a 100% view of two images from the Canon G11 and Sony WX1 at their highest ISO settings in rather poor lighting conditions.

For reference, here’s a zoomed out view of the whole scene:

More kudos to Sony for reigning in noise on such small camera.

Cool Features


Sweep Panorama is probably my favorite feature in the WX1.  This feature was originally introduced in the Sony HX1 at PMA 2009.  It works just as well in this smaller camera as it does in the much larger HX1.

Just set the mode dial to the panorama icon, and pan the camera in the direction of arrow.  When the WX1 has the shot, it will let you know.

This Sweep Panorama setting makes those huge panoramic images possible for those of us that aren’t going to take the time or effort to stitch several photos together in post-processing software. Granted, this process is much easier now, thanks to the availability of auto-stitching in consumer software products like Photoshop Elements 8; however, it’s still a very pleasing result to point and shoot your panoramic images with no further fuss.  (Note – the levels and saturation for the second image were tweaked in post-processing – the stitch is straight out of camera though)

Handheld Twilight is a low-light shooting mode that helps you capture scenes that would otherwise not be possible without the aid of a tripod or ridiculously high ISO settings.  This is another one of those “amazing” features.

When set to this HHT mode (as you’ll hear it referred to), the WX1 captures six images quickly and then combines them to create a single, sharp image with low noise.  The fast exposures aid in keeping noise down and preventing camera shake blur.  I noticed that some of the shots were a bit warmer in HHT mode than in other modes though.

Above, you see the results of the HHT mode on the left and a normal image captured in “P” mode on the right.  Look at how blurry the normal capture is and compare it to the HHT mode capture.  Handheld Twilight works as advertised.

Anti Motion Blur (AMB) mode is very similar to HHT mode, except that AMB mode is designed to help you stop action in low light, while HHT mode is geared toward use on non-moving subjects.  Both seem to do their job quite well.

All of these modes that I’ve talked about so far in this “Cool Features” section are accessible directly on the mode dial so that you don’t have to go digging around in menus to find them.  This accessibility will help those of you who are apprehensive about customizing the settings on your camera.  So, if you get a little lost in these modes, you can just flip the mode dial back over to the fully auto mode with the little green camera.

10 Frames Per Second is the last cool feature that I’ll talk about.  The WX1 actually gives you the ability to capture a succession of 10 frames in as little as 1 second.  Additionally, these frames are captured at full resolution, which is an uncommon feature on a point and shoot camera.  This burst mode is selectable via a small button near the shutter release on top of the camera.  It’s another convenient way to keep you out of the menu while you are trying to capture an image.  You can adjust the frame rate at 10 fps, 5 fps or 2 fps; however, the maximum burst is still 10 frames.

In the above images, I caught my favorite model strolling through the park using the high-speed burst on the WX1.  Panning and autofocus tracking of moving subjects are not strong-suits of the WX1; however, this mode will definitely have its uses for some.

Conclusion

Overall, I think the Sony WX1 is one of the leading, consumer-oriented point and shoot cameras. If you’re ready to recognize that a pocket-sized camera is smarter than you, and you can trust it to do it’s job, you’ll have a happy relationship with the Sony WX1.

However, don’t buy this camera unless you’re willing to move the mode dial away from the “full auto” setting.  The special features like Sweep Panorama , Anti Motion Blur and Handheld Twilight modes help distinguish the WX1 from the rest of the point and shoot crowd.  If you deny the WX1 the ability to help you in those low light settings, there’s only yourself to blame.

The Sony WX1 is available from B&H Photo at the following link:

Sony Cybershot WX1 at B&H Photo

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