I've been away from this community for a bit due to my involvement on Flickr and Sony's camera club
there. Part of the fruit of my labor there has been that first the Sony Blog editor and then the director of social media have sent me promotional cameras and other gear, as thanks for contributing to the Flickr group and to get promotional images from the new stuff.
Okay, so it's just two Cyber-Shot cameras, a bag, and a memory card over the course of two and a half years, but I like to think I'm cultivating a professional relationship.
The latest is the yet-unreleased DSC-WX150, what I would describe as a high-spec entry-level affair. It uses their latest 18 megapixel 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor (yikes!) and a stabilized 10X zoom lens, which starts at a relatively wide 25mm equivalent (in 135 terms). I will admit that I was a little disappointed when I was told to expect it, considering that I had just bought last year's flagship compact, the HX9V. My first thought was "okay, I'll use it and supply some images, but this is definitely my wife's new camera."
I already regret promising the WX150 to my wife. I'm not sure she can tell the difference, so I may slide her the HX9V instead. Why do I like it so much? First of all, it is much more compact. Carry them both for a day, and the HX9V looks like the box the WX150 arrived in. Second, in the compromise for size, Sony has streamlined the controls to a layout that I much prefer over the HX9V. Gone is the chintzy "big camera" mode dial on the top-plate--the mode dial is accessed via the wheel around the 4-way selector on the back. This same wheel on the HX9V serves no purpose in most of it's shooting modes, so this re-purposing is perfect. The WX150 keeps white balance presets, custom white balance, focusing modes, exposure modes, bracketing, and exposure compensation in "P" mode. The only controls I give up in trading away the HX9V are manual exposure and manual focus--which are of limited utility anyway--and the macro (or "pseudo-macro") mode, which the WX150 moves into seamlessly
without the need for menu-diving. To supplement the context-sensitive mode dial, the WX150 has a little sliding switch to move between the three basic shooting functions of the camera; regular stills, sweep panorama, and video--it's all I could want, and I can switch it when the camera isn't even on, just like the chintzy mode dial on the HX9V. Basically, the interface is blissfully efficient.
The HX9V has GPS, and the WX150 does not, but I find that GPS is really kind-of a distraction to shooting. I find myself worrying in the field whether it has found a satellite or not, or whether I'm invading anyone's privacy unnecessarily with a longitude and latitude pinned to their image. What I gain in the WX150 is the picture-effects mode, which gives access to all those indulgent art-filters present on all the latest Alpha cameras, such as Toy Camera, Selective Color, and HDR Painting
(which I think is gross, but I admit it has produced some of my more popular images).
Another thing I'm pleased about with this camera is the image quality. Don't worry, I will not labor or write under the delusion that I'm actually getting 18 megapixels worth of detail from this little thing. A spergy 100% pixel examination will reveal all the jpg artifacts you were hoping to find there to reassure yourself that your 16 MP DSLR is still worth it's weight. But what it won't reveal, or hasn't yet, is color fringing and chromatic aberration. Either the camera zaps it out, or that compact 10X "G" lens is that good. All I know is that this shot
should have had color fringing in the out of focus leaves at the top corners, and it didn't. The dynamic range is pretty decent, also, with easily more recovery room for highlights and shadows than any other Cyber-Shot I've used. The gradation of blue skies into blown out highlights, in a sweep panorama for example (which is very critical of a sensor's DR), is more gradual than what I've experienced on the TX7 and HX9V. On that topic, the WX150 seems to stitch panoramas a lot more successfully. Whereas my TX7 had only a low-rez version of that feature, and it was very reliable in stitching, and the HX9V had the "HR" version and took many passes to get a clean file, the WX150 has the HR version and seems to stitch with the same success rate as the low-rez version. That's 42 megapixel panoramas with good DR
and stitching artifacts (if any) small enough to address in Lightroom.Pros:
Excellent image quality (for a compact JPG-only camera)
Good dynamic range from the too-dense sensor
"Picture Effects" are a fun indulgence
Sweep Panorama HR has matured
Seamless macro shootingCons:
The Scene Modes and Picture Effects lock out various controls
No plain-old "black and white" mode
Telephoto end is soft-ish (but what were you expecting)
Occasional softness on left corners of the frame