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Customer Review

96 of 107 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many compromises., May 20, 2013
This review is from: Sony DSC-W730 16.1 MP Digital Camera with 2.7-Inch LCD (Silver) (OLD MODEL) (Electronics)
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The DSC-W730 contains a 16.1 megapixel sensor in the 1/2.3" format (about 28 square millimeters, smaller than a fingernail). The obvious drawback here is noise. The more pixels you cram into a small area, the more digital noise that will be evident in the resulting file. On its own, that's a reduction in quality that negates the need for such a dense sensor; who cares about the extra megapixels if you're not getting any more actual information, just noise? All it's doing is filling up your hard drive faster. In the case of the DSC-W730, you're talking about around 6.5MB per image. You'll even hit the limits of the optics well before 16.1 megapixels, so there's absolutely no reason (other than marketing) for Sony to put such a sensor in this camera.

Unfortunately, they did it anyway. And probably because of the increased sensor noise, they decided to really crank up that in-camera noise reduction. It looks awful, and it's evident at all ISO settings. This NR cannot be reduced or defeated. It's there for good, and it's even noticeable when viewing an image on my computer at 50% of its original size. Of course, the higher the ISO, the more destructive they get with the noise reduction, which just makes matters worse. The issues are somewhat less noticeable when shooting low ISO outdoors with the lens at its widest setting. In fact, in that specific scenario I'd say the image quality is pretty good. Once you change any of those parameters though, you start to see more problems.

The lens is an 8x optical (25-224mm in 35mm terms) lens, f/3.3 at the wide end and f/6.3 at the tele end. In other words, slow and dark. You will almost always need to use the flash indoors, especially if you're zooming in at all. Autofocus indoors with zoom is spotty at best and generally takes a couple of seconds to lock on to something (if it can lock onto anything at all). Sony attempted to combat this by adding a retina-frying orange LED as an AF-assist lamp, but while it might occasionally increase the odds of getting good focus on a subject indoors, it doesn't really seem to speed the process up at all. Outdoors (and sometimes indoors with the lens zoomed out all the way), the camera locks focus much quicker (around half a second).

In the majority of cases, indoor flash photos are exposed pretty accurately. Outdoors without flash, I noticed in many cases the camera underexposed by 1/2 to 1 stop, and sometimes even more underexposed that that when trying to shoot indoors without flash (especially when zoomed in at all). Combined with the existing noise from the ISO setting and the very heavy handed application of NR, trying to bring up the exposure of those ambient light indoor shots to normal levels is going to increase the shadow noise quite a bit. It's not pretty.

The build quality is about what I'd expect from a low-end compact in this price range, entirely plastic. It may not be particularly confidence inspiring, but for the most part it seems pretty solid. It's small and light enough to carry easily in a pocket. I'm not a huge fan of the shutter button though, which has no distinct half-press. It's there, but you can't really tell when you've gotten there like you can with most cameras. You just sort of rest your finger on it with some light pressure.

There are a couple of interesting features, such as a panorama mode that operates similar to that of a phone camera -- rather than taking several shots and stitching them, it does a panning style capture. There's a "smile detection" mode, which I admit was fun for a couple of minutes. When engaged (there's a shortcut button on the camera for it so you don't need to dig into the menus to turn it on) it actively searches out a smiling face. When it sees one, it automatically takes a picture. I'm not sure how it works with groups (do they all need to be smiling, or just one?) but regardless I think the novelty won't last long with that feature.

My suggestion? Honestly, if you're determined to find a camera in this price range and you can't save your pennies for something better, I'd recommend looking at the used/refurb market. For example, top-of-the-line Canon Powershot SD cameras from late 2009 were about the same size and weight as this DSC-W730, around 12 megapixels (still more than enough for any camera this size), built like small tanks, with better optics and overall better image quality. These days even those high-end models can be bought for less than this camera. A quick search shows that an excellent condition Canon Powershot SD980 IS can be had for around $60-$80 (or refurbished by Canon for $129 which I think includes a warranty) and that was the best, most expensive Powershot SD model of its time. It even has a big touchscreen display.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 12, 2013 12:21:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 12, 2013 12:21:48 PM PDT
tombguard70 says:
Too much negative info for an inexpensive camera. Must be a competitor.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2013 1:42:14 PM PDT
Jeff Kraus says:
A competitor? Are you suggesting that I work for a camera manufacturer?

It's funny, because in other reviews where I'm most thorough, I've been accused of working for either that company or a competitor (depending on which way the review goes) a number of times. Your accusation is as baseless as it is unoriginal. I'm employed as a software engineer for a Web CMS/advertising company. My only tie to Sony (as tenuous as it is) is a GOOD one, considering that one of my company's overseas offices has a contract with Sony.

So, no. I am not a competitor of Sony, just like I am not an employee of Precor, Pentair Aquatic Systems, Mr. Coffee, or Western (the company that makes a model of digital hygrometer I once reviewed). Thanks for playing.

Posted on Sep 24, 2013 9:35:46 PM PDT
Justin Clark says:
Thanks I found it helpful, I am now looking for a used model of the Canon you listed.

Posted on Dec 11, 2013 5:31:18 AM PST
cycle0525 says:
You just reviewed a 130 dollar camera as if you were talking about a Canon 70D SLR. Its 130 dollars. Its not supposed to be perfect. Its a good camera for the money for traditional photos. If you don't like Sony and like Canon then stick to Canon. Don't go throwing all of your knowledge on here about a camera that doesn't need to be reviewed like that. Most people won't understand what you just said anyways!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2013 6:44:55 AM PST
Jeff Kraus says:
I reviewed the camera the way that I saw it. If I see a problem with the camera, like the lack of the half-press detent (which is on other $130 cameras) or the consistent underexposure when flash is off (which is unacceptable, no matter how little you paid for it), then I'm going to let people know! What should I do, ignore these problems and keep them quiet? The whole reason that I review things in the first place is to help people be informed about the products they're interested in. I wouldn't be doing that if I was selectively leaving things out of the review.

I don't know why you think that I "don't like Sony and like Canon". I gave one example camera that, in my opinion, is superior to this one for a similar price. In fact, I do prefer Canon for DSLR's, but of the half dozen or so P&S cameras that I have, neither of the two Canon models I own are my favorites. So let's not try to make this into a brand loyalty issue, because it's not. It's purely about information. If I feel that Sony has released an inferior product compared to other cameras in the same price range, why shouldn't I be allowed to say so?

I'm not going to intentionally leave out information just because "it's not supposed to be perfect". Anyone reading this review is welcome to say, "You know what? I don't care about the shutter button detent, so that part of the review doesn't apply to me." But I'm still going to put it out there, because it's something I noticed, and since when is it a bad thing to have thorough information about a product you're interested in buying? If you don't care about certain things I mentioned in the review, then gloss over that stuff. Don't worry about it. I promise I won't be offended. But don't ask me to hide information that might be potentially useful to someone else.

Posted on Dec 16, 2013 10:40:00 AM PST
Thank you. I really appreciate the technical review. It's not difficult to understand what you're saying and makes a lot of sense. There are other cameras on the market in this price range with better lenses and sensors.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2013 10:55:33 AM PST
Jeff Kraus says:
Thanks for your comment, Katherine. I'm glad the review was useful to you!

Posted on Apr 9, 2014 4:29:04 PM PDT
Great review. It was very informative and I only wished that I could of read this before I purchased this camera. Not many people are going to understand your review, but there are many people who will like myself. You don't sound like a competitor to me, you sound like a person who knows about cameras and wants to share his knowledge about this specific camera with others. Thank you for that. All the positive and negative remarks you made about this camera, I agree with you. In the end, the list of negatives is longer than the positive. There are other cameras for the same price or cheaper, and that performer much better. If I would of written a review about this camera, I would written what you wrote...except you wrote it better.

I own a 2006 Sony camera and I love it. I bought this camera because I wanted the panorama feature as well as to zoom when I record video. However, the quality of the photos are not that great compared with my old Sony camera. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to write this review. I found it very helpful and stating a lot of true facts.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2014 11:57:48 AM PDT
Jeff Kraus says:
It's true, looking back, that there may be a few people that don't understand one or two of the concepts mentioned in my review. Hopefully, that will serve as a reason for those people to learn about those concepts -- after all, there's no harm at all in becoming a more knowledgeable consumer! Readers are also welcome to post questions here and I'll be perfectly happy to explain in more real-world terms.

At any rate, thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2014 1:11:39 PM PDT
R. Wamsley says:
I actually appreciated his review and from the research I have done, I totally agree with him. Everything I read says that high MP crammed in these little cameras is a no-no. People who have used them, keep complaining about lots of unwanted noise in their pics. He's the first person to say was I was thinking...that they are only increasing the MP, b/c that is all people like me "were" looking at, until I did some research. Now, I know, that I should not looking at just MP to find the best image producing camera. Buying a camera in this price range is a big deal to me. It is a lot of money, and I want the best and so appreciate a detailed review.
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