The W380 is equipped with Sony's fast BIONZ processor, but its overall performance, while good by most standards, is not as fast as I was expecting. It can start up and take a picture in approximately 2.5 seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.7 seconds, which is only just above average. In continuous shooting mode it can take a burst of four frames in approximately 2.5 seconds.
Sony’s nine-zone compact camera autofocus remains one of the best on the market. The W380 focuses quickly and accurately in virtually any lighting conditions, with superb low light performance. It has a fast and very bright AF assist lamp with a useful range of at least four metres, and focuses quicker in total darkness than some other compacts do in daylight.
The built-in flash is also very good, with good frame coverage and a useful range of nearly five metres. Close range metering is excellent, and the recycle time after a full-power shot is a little over seven seconds.
Image quality is very good, thanks mainly to the excellent Sony G lens, which provides outstanding detail resolution, with excellent corner sharpness and no trace of chromatic aberration. Barrel distortion is digitally corrected. Exposure metering and focusing are both reliably accurate, and the Dynamic Range Optimiser (DRO) feature ensures good shadow detail and a minimum of burned-out highlights.
Noise control is generally good, but like most 14MP small-sensor cameras it's not perfect. Image quality is excellent at up to 200 ISO, but the noise reduction does reduce some fine detail at 400, but colour gradation remains consistent up to 800 ISO, which is good. As usual settings above 1600 ISO are best avoided.
The Sony Cyber-shot W380 is an excellent little camera, and certainly one of the best ultra-compacts currently available. It is quite expensive, but it offers superior build quality, stylish and efficient design, a good range of features, easy operation and reliably good results in any situation. Its low light performance is particularly good.