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Like all of Sony’s cameras the W200 is certainly well made. It has a strong all-metal body (aluminium I believe) and all the controls have a crisp and businesslike feel to them. It’s not a particularly small camera, measuring 91 x 58.5 x 27.3mm, and weighing 173g fully loaded it’s no lightweight either, but that extra size and weight does give it a nice feeling of solidity, and there’s plenty of room hold the camera comfortably. The front left of the body has a slightly raised lip, providing a token fingergrip. I have to say I don’t think it’s a particularly attractive camera, in fact I think it looks a bit awkward and lop-sided but maybe that’s just me.
As a high-end model the W200 has a fairly complete list of features. As I mentioned, it has optional manual exposure, with a three-stop range of aperture settings (f/2.8 to f/8) and shutter speeds of 30 seconds to 1/1000th of a second in 1/3EV increments. It’s not exactly a digital SLR, but it’s more versatility than most compacts offer. Other exposure options include program auto, scene programs for landscape, twilight, twilight portrait and soft snap, as well as a high ISO mode for very low light situations, which can push the ISO setting as high as 6400. There is a scene mode, but with only three settings; beach, snow and fireworks.
Going into the beautifully designed and rather musical menu system reveals yet more options. There are few real surprises, but everything you’d expect to find is there, including spot, C/W and multi-zone metering, a range of focus modes including pre-set distances and infinity, auto bracketing, adjustable sharpness and contrast and several colour options. The only really noteworthy items are the Dynamic Range Optimiser, a system borrowed from the Sony Alpha DSLR which helps to extend detail in shadow and highlight areas, and the exposure compensation function, which is buried in the menu rather than having its own button.
Overall performance is very impressive. The camera starts up in just under two seconds, which isn’t bad, and in continuous shooting mode it can fire at a little over two frames a second, a speed which it can keep up until the memory card is full. In single shot mode there is no appreciable delay at all, and the camera will shoot pretty much as quickly as you can press the shutter button. The AF system is superb, focusing in a fraction of a second even in very low light, and without the aid of an AF assist lamp. The multi-zone autofocus is very accurate and reliable, in fact I would go as far as to say it’s one of the best I’ve seen on a compact camera. The image stabilisation system also works extremely well, providing a reliable two stops of extra hand-held stability.