With its attractive specifications and fun feature set wrapped up in attractive black, red, silver, or gold brushed-metal body, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150 looks good on paper. However, the W150 fails to live up to its potential, mostly because of its middling photo quality.
Weighing 6 ounces with battery and Memory Stick Pro Duo card, and measuring 3.7 inches wide by 2.3 inches high by 0.9 inch deep, the 8-megapixel W150 just squeaks under the bar as an ultracompact. Thanks to the not-quite-flush lens and carved-out display, it even looks larger than it is. The design is very functional, though, and the raised edge of the 2.7-inch LCD helps keep your thumb on top of the controls. Above the display is an optical viewfinder so you can shut off the display when battery life is low, but it's uncomfortably small for frequent use.
The controls feel tiny and crowded but manageable, even for big fingers. You access context-sensitive settings through the Menu button, while the Home button calls up all the camera's options. This can be confusing at first, but makes sense after using it a bit. A small, slightly sunken dial lets you choose from 10 shooting modes, including Sony's Smile Shutter, which takes a photo when it detects a smile; three for low-light shooting; and Program Auto with control over ISO, white balance (no manual, though), flash intensity, exposure value, and color. There is no full manual mode, but the Program Auto controls offer more flexibility than most manufacturers include in this class.
Also atypical for its price, the W150 incorporates a 5x f3.3-5.2 28-140mm-equivalent lens. That's wider and longer than many. If you like to edit or play back images on your camera, Sony does a better job than most to make it fun and easy. There are a handful of effects (some cooler than others) that you can add to images, as well as basic cropping and red-eye retouching. There's a dedicated slide show button, too, for impromptu presentations with music and effects. An optional dock lets you connect the W150 to a TV. Combine the lens, 8-megapixel CCD, 2.7-inch LCD, an optical viewfinder, and a lot of shooting and playback controls and you have an excellent feature-to-price ratio.
Overall, it performs very well. While start-up takes a long time at 1.9 seconds, the W150 delivers solid shutter-lag times in dim and bright conditions of 0.9 and 0.4 second, respectively. The average shot-to-shot time is a better-than-average 1.5 seconds, but adding the flash more than doubles that time to 3.7 seconds--the only real disappointment. But if you like shooting sports or other subjects on the move, the W150 has a very fast (for its class) continuous-shooting speed of 1.9 frames per second; it can sustain that rate for about 9 frames with a standard card, and up to capacity with a 30MB per second card. The lens zooms smoothly, and Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization works well to minimize blur when the lens is fully extended, too. However, it exhibits noticeable barrel distortion in its widest position and minor pin-cushioning when fully zoomed out--not out of the ordinary for point-and-shoot models.