Build quality is generally good and the camera does feel nice and solid, although the large card/battery hatch, mounted unusually on the side of the camera, does feel a little flimsy when open. Apart from the shutter release and the power button, the main controls are all on the back of the camera. Main shooting mode is selected via a small but easy to operate dial, the selections of which are accompanied by an on-screen display and a tool-tip explaining what the mode is used for. The D-pad is rather small, but operates smoothly, again with an on-screen notification and audio cue. The three buttons, for the main menu, playback mode and something called “Home” are quite small and fiddly, being mounted almost flush with the camera body. The labelling on the D-pad and mode dial are either too small or are silver on a chrome background, making them difficult to see. I’m also not too fond of the zoom control, which is a small and rather unresponsive rocker switch.
The camera uses two menu systems. It has a fairly normal main menu with the usual options including picture quality, recording mode, drive mode, colour options, ISO setting, metering mode and focusing mode. It also includes exposure compensation, which I would have preferred to see having its own button. The “Home” button leads to another menu with a smaller list of options, including print tagging, memory card formatting and a couple of playback mode settings. I don’t see why these options need their own menu, when they would have been more sensibly located on a page of the main menu; it just adds a superfluous button. That said, the menus are beautifully designed and very easy to use, not surprising considering Sony’s expertise in computers, game consoles and the like.
The range of options is about what I’d expect for a camera in this class. It has no manual exposure control of course, just program auto exposure and a limited number of scene modes, selected via the main dial. It has spot, centre-weighted and multi-zone metering with exposure bracketing, and wide, centre and spot AF as well as several pre-set distances and an infinity focus setting. Colour adjustments are limited to high-saturation, natural, sepia or monochrome. Face detection is also available. Playback options include a HD slideshow with music feature for use with a HD TV set.
The W80 has an optical viewfinder, which will no doubt please some people, but it is very small and tunnel-like, with rounded frame corners and only about 70 percent frame coverage. If you really don’t want to use the monitor then it’s better than nothing, but not by much. The monitor screen is a little grainy at only 115k dots, and it isn’t one of the brightest I’ve ever seen either. It also has a shiny reflective surface, so using it in bright sunlight could be a problem.
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