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Battery life is good, although not exceptional. The W200 is powered by a surprisingly heavy 940mAh Li-ion battery for which Sony claims 300 shots on a full charge. I shot about 120 frames during testing and the charge indicator was reading two out of four bars, so that’s probably accurate enough. As for card capacity, the W200’s 12MP JPEG files average about 3.4MB, which is smaller than I’d have expected, and a 1GB Memory Stick Pro Duo card should be enough for about 300 shots, but the camera seems to think it can only fit about 200.
Of course the crucial issue here is image quality, because if the W200 isn’t significantly better than a similar 10-megapixel camera, then is it really worth paying extra just for the sake of having that number 12 on the front? If you take a look at the accompanying sample images, you’ll see that indeed the W200 is capable of outstanding image quality. A proportion of that is, of course, due to the superior Carl Zeiss lens, but there’s no denying that the combination of the 12.1MP SuperHAD sensor and Sony Bionz image processor is capable of recording an extremely high level of detail. However comparing the results directly with a camera such as the excellent Pentax Optio A30, it’s pretty clear that the larger sensor offers no decisive advantage in this area.
In other areas, including exposure and colour rendition the camera performs extremely well, and the lens produces exceptional clarity from edge to edge. If dynamic range is reduced by the smaller photocells, then the effect is minimal. Yes, it did clip highlights on some shots, but shadow detail was generally good. Unfortunately the other affect of shrinking photocells – increased image noise – is more of a problem, with very visible noise from 400 ISO, and the selling-point maximum settings of 1600 and 3200 ISO being particularly bad, with uneven colour reproduction and a loss of the 12MP sensor’s raison d’etre, fine detail.
There’s no question that the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 is a very good camera, capable of producing very high quality images, and with exceptional performance, especially in low light conditions. Build quality is superb, and the optional manual exposure and focusing options are a bonus for experienced users. However the 12.1-megapixel sensor offers no real advantage over a 10-megapixel sensor, and may in fact have a negative impact on image quality at high ISO settings. As such there are better cameras that cost less money.