There’s not physically enough of the otherwise well-constructed WX5 for Sony to have provided a grip, so there isn’t one. Instead the thumb of the right hand finds a resting place on the shooting mode dial at the back, whilst the LCD quickly becomes smeared with fingerprints as you try to keep the camera steady and level with your other hand. As such you’ll be constantly wiping the screen clean. Well-labelled buttons and cartoonish icons alongside the display aid ease of use, but clash slightly with the sophisticated air imparted by the faceplate.
Whilst you might find the aforementioned headline features, or a near match, on a competing compact, the WX5 is further billing itself as not just any old compact by virtue of featuring an Exmor R CMOS sensor, a type of chip first introduced into Sony’s digital SLR range. This isn’t the same physical size as an APS-C DSLR sensor, but it has enabled the inclusion of technologies such as the WX5’s Superior Auto Adjustment mode.
This combines exposure information from up to six different images to produce one low noise, high dynamic range shot, whilst a new background defocus option combines two images to simulate the effect one might achieve with a DSLR and a wide aperture; which is mostly suitable for portraiture. Both options are squeezed in between the six other options crammed on to the camera’s tiny shooting mode dial, so you don’t have to go hunting through menu screens – they’re just a finger flick away.
As well as the previously touched upon 2D and 3D Sweep Panorama settings, the WX5 hides a further option for those of us not lucky enough to own a 3D TV at present, but who still ache for the 3D effect. Sony calls this feature Sweep Multi Angle Pan with the camera shooting in an arc as usual – here through a slightly curtailed 15 frames – and when done, the camera will play this back as a lenticular style animation, visible if you tilt the camera from side to side.
Obviously you only get this effect when viewing the image on the back of the WX5 itself, or if hooking the camera up to a 2D TV via supplied cabling. If you want to record the scene for posterity and shove it on your hard drive, we feel the 2D Sweep Panorama option is the option to go for. All these fancy features have an effect on battery life, such that the WX5’s wafer-thin rechargeable lithium-ion unit powers down after around 230 shots on a full charge. In this respect, the WX5 is pretty average for its class of camera.
The recessed on/off button powers-up the WX5 in two seconds. The large and obvious shutter release button is encircled by the zoom lever, the lip of which has a roughened surface so your finger doesn’t slip from it. Press the button down half way and focus and exposure is determined in a mere second, with AF points highlighted in green. A choice of Sony’s Memory Stick Duo or more widely available SD share a single slot at the base, with full resolution JPEGs saving in around two to three seconds. That’s much slower than the blink-of-an-eye write speed of the dual processor equipped Casio EX-ZR10, but is still a pretty standard timing for even a fairly classy point and shoot such as the WX5.