Although it is primarily a snapshot camera, the W7 does have a good selection of manual and creative options, including full manual exposure with apertures of F2.8 and F5.6 and shutter speeds of 30 seconds to 1/100th of a second. To help gauge the correct exposure, spot and centre weighted metering are available as alternatives to the default multi-segment metering. Noise reduction automatically kicks in on shutter speeds longer than 1/6th of a second, but more about that later.
Other creative options include a menu-controlled manual focus which allows you to set focus distances of 0.5, 1.0, 3.0 and 7.0 metres as well as to infinity. Flash output can be manually varied but only to the extent of being plus or minus the recommended setting. Contrast, saturation and sharpness can also be varied, but again only within very limited parameters. Likewise white balance can be set to a range of pre-set values, but there is no option for setting it manually. Although these manual options do give a degree of creative control, it is very limited.
With the dual benefits a 7 megapixel Sony Super HAD CCD and a high quality Carl Zeiss lens picture quality should be exceptionally good, but in fact it is a little disappointing, and frankly not a patch on the rival Nikon Coolpix 7900. Colour rendition is near perfect, pictures are correctly exposed and in focus, but there is a certain softness that robs them of the level of detail you might expect from such a powerful sensor, and this is probably the fault of the noise reduction system.
The W7 only has three manual ISO settings, 100, 200 and 400, but even at the highest value images are relatively noise free. That said the higher the ISO setting the lower the level of detail, so it’s best to stick to ISO 100 wherever possible. Despite this criticism the W7 is capable of producing very good photos that can be printed at around 10 x 8 inches at full photo quality, or A3 size at near-photo quality.
The W7 also has a very good movie mode, capable of shooting in 640 x 480 resolution at a full 30 frames per second with sound. Movies are recorded in the MPEG1 format, with very little visible compression, and it will shoot until the memory card is full.
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W7 represents a good middle ground in the new 7 megapixel snapshot market. Image quality could be a little better, but overall performance, build quality and handling are everything we’ve come to expect from Sony. At a price point of around £239 it represents excellent value for money, and will not disappoint.