The small size of the camera and its relatively large monitor screen mean that there isn’t a lot of room on the back for the controls. The six-position mode dial is very small, but it has both a splined edge and a raised knob, which makes it easy to turn despite its size. The buttons are a bit small and fiddly, but not obstructively so. They are at least clearly labelled and operate with a nice positive feel.
The W380 is an all-auto point-and-shoot camera so it doesn’t offer too much in the way of direct creative control. The main shooting mode is Intelligent Auto, in which optical image stabilisation, face detection, red-eye correction, auto white balance and ISO, dynamic range optimisation and automatic scene recognition are all activated, and there aren’t many shooting situations which the camera can’t cope with on its own. All the user has to do is press the shutter button.
The menu system is similarly simple, with a maximum of only 10 entries in the main shooting section (and even less in iAuto and Easy Auto modes) laid out in a simple list, but it is very clear and easy to use, with brief explanatory notes for each selection. There are no options for image adjustment or tone control, but it does include metering mode, AF mode and Sony’s very effective Dynamic Range Optimiser, the original and still the best of the contrast boosting functions.
The W380 has Sony’s Sweep Panorama feature, which can capture wide panoramic shots by simply panning the camera across the scene while holding the shutter button. The camera automatically stitches together a rapid sequence of images into one long panoramic shot. It’s great for landscape snaps, and has already been copied by other manufacturers.
The W380 can record HD video at 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps, with full optical zoom and image stabilisation. The zoom motor is virtually silent and can barely be heard on the soundtrack. Recording time is limited only by memory card capacity.