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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W380 - Performance and Results

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W380 front angle

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

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.

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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.

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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.

Verdict

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.

ruthless

July 23, 2010, 3:00 pm

Excellent review as ever Cliff. I've been looking for a compact around that price that performs really well in low-light conditions. Seems like this could be it.

Jazzyboy

July 23, 2010, 4:42 pm

This camera was also reviewed earlier this year by Mark Goldstein on another site. According to him IQ is disappointing and he posted sample pictures to prove his point.


These pictures were shot mostly under a grey sky. So that may be the difference; or is it sample variaton?

the near side

July 23, 2010, 5:54 pm

Thanks for yet another review. I'm thinking of buying a Sony Wx1 or W380. A modest price difference between these two cameras is not important to me. What are the relative strengths and weaknesses?





Thanks for all the info and entertainment!

cliche

July 23, 2010, 6:20 pm

@ruthless - my Fuju F31FD is remarkable is low light. Old now but is still a legend in photo circles for low light

FordPrefect

July 23, 2010, 6:23 pm

The reviewer on Pocket-lint complained that the camera has a plastic case and poor build quality as well as poor video quality and excessive noise due to the 14.1 mega-pixel sensor. Was he even looking at the same camera? Picture noise is something that all reviewers seem to complain about as manufacturers cram more pixels into their sensors. Is the Sony better or worse than the competition as this camera might finally tempt me into replacing my ageing Fuji.

Steve 12

July 23, 2010, 8:37 pm

@FordPrefect


Their review is indeed very different, but their link to purchase the camera (for an amazing £119.99) is actually the W320. So maybe they are reviewing that one with the wrong photo set ? Looking at the sony website does not help in identifying whether the W320 is plastic or not though

snap happy 1

July 25, 2010, 2:01 am

The main difference between the WX1 and W380 is in the sensor. The WX1 has a backlit sensor (Exmor R CMOS) which should help the camera perform better in lowlight. Other features on the WX1 like Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur are also meant to give lower noise and sharper images in low light conditions. Also, the WX1 has a brighter lens at F2.4, which also should help in low light photography.

Money

July 25, 2010, 3:51 am

Great review Cliff, I am usually be the one that criticised Sony for producing inferior cameras, but this time, I think Sony is on the right track.


Especialy the G-Lens, it is an amazing quality glass that produces excellent images; however the sensor is still too small for a 14 megapixel camera, as result in some compression artifacts.


Nevertheless, it is a good effort from Sony.





If Sony decided to put a 1/1.6 sensor on a similar camera with metal body, and supports RAW file format - it would be an awsome combination, and it may even rivals Panasonic LX3.

noham

July 27, 2010, 9:03 pm

I have the same question regarding the wx1 vs 380 - saw people saying wx1 got issues with flash at 24mm - do you guys confirm? also trusted reveiw seems to say picture quality of wx1 is inferior to 380 - however wx1 features looks better (cmos and other options) - any thoughts ?

snap happy 1

August 6, 2010, 5:22 pm

My preference is WX1 as I think the backlit sensor helps in low light photography. If you're not in a hurry to purchase, Sony is about to launch the WX5 in September, which is the newer version of WX1.

Cake600

September 24, 2011, 12:18 am

If you get a good price on the W380 take it. A phenomenol camera the size of a bank card that in good daylight not only matches the LX5 and S95 in many areas but can go head to head with APS dSLRs for sheer detail capturing power. The f2.4 24mm wide angle lens is superb - with only a tad of softness at the corners. Super fast focussing in any light (or not light even) but with a slow shot-to-shot time which may be a limiting factor for some. I shoot with the 16:9 format which gives 11 megapixel resolution - files that make terrific 14" wide prints and even look pretty good at 19". The build quality is top drawer and the sleek design is smart. All in all something quite amazing in a form factor this small.

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