Sony DSC-W370 14.1MP Digital Camera Review

by Brad Pretzer

Boeuf Bourguignon in a Le Creuset 5-Quart French OvenI picked up this digital camera so I'd have something to throw in my pocket when going out with friends and for photos for publishing photos to finekitchenliving.com. At first glance, it may seem that all digital cameras in this price-range, be it Nikon, Kodak, Canon, or Sony, offer nearly the same features. After closely comparing several models I have found a few significant differences. I confident the picture quality is the same between all models in this arena considering the tiny size of the lens aperture and small sensor on any of these pocket point-and-shoot cameras. Surely, the camera cannot use the full ability of the 14.1MP sensor and this number is just a marketing gimmick. Ken Rockwell has this explained very well in his article, The Megapixel Myth.

Taxiing out at a desert airportI chose this particular camera because it has a video mode, 7X optical zoom, image stabilization in both still and video modes, and does not require AA batteries. The Sony DSC-W370 has a proprietary lithium-ion battery. Some of its competitors use AA batteries which I find to be frustrating. Continually buying AA batteries is expensive and wasteful; also, I didn't want to have to buy a charger and lithium-ion rechargeable AA batteries. It is important to make sure the camera comes with it's own battery and charger. The Sony DSC-W370 14.1MP Digital Camera does not charge when hooked up to a computer via USB. This should be a feature. Finally, Sony got rid of its proprietary memory stick format and this camera takes a SD memory card.

Simone and Dalma in Boeing 767 EngineThe Sony DSC-W370 is a more updated version of Sony's DSC-W350 camera. The DSC-W350 is also a 14.1MP camera; however, it has a Zeiss lens whereas the Sony DSC-W370 has a Sony Lens. I would say the Zeiss is a superior optic; however, with such a small aperture and tiny sensor I don't think it makes any difference. The real important update is that on this newer model there is a larger LCD monitor on the back, taking it to 3 inches from 2.5. 3-inch screens have become the standard on almost all cameras, both point-and-shoot and DSLR and make reading the menus and framing a picture very easy.

In video mode you can easily hear the stabilization and autofocus systems working, creating a chattering noise in all your videos. This is very annoying and I found that overlaying music on my videos is the only possible way to get rid of the grinding noise. A friend with this same camera commented on the same problem.

As with any camera in this price range, it is slow to autofocus and shutter release is delayed. This is unfortunately the case with all small point-and-shoot cameras and can only be remedied by moving up to a digital SLR.

Monte Carlo Classic CocktailThe menus are easy to navigate and allow for a reasonable amount of user-adjustment. The first thing I did was disable the flash. Nearly all pictures taken with on-board flash look miserable. Furthermore, the tiny little flash on the camera is hardly adequate enough to provide quality fill-flash, let alone illuminate an entire scene. I do all my picture-taking in the P Program-Auto mode. I have never liked intelligent-auto modes I know much better what I am attempting to capture than the computer does.

Overall this camera functions exactly as I had anticipated. It is small and lightweight allowing me to toss it into a bag or my pocket. No camera in this price range will offer a good flash or quick response so that is not a negative on this particular camera.

For less than the price of two of Sony DSC-W370 14.1MP Digital Cameras you can pick up a Nikon D3000 Digital SLR and a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens. This setup will allow you to grow within the camera and Nikon system for the rest of your life. Granted, there will be no optical zoom with a 50mm lens, but with such a large aperture and the superior sensor you can use your computer to crop and enlarge as you see fit. The digitally enlarged picture quality will be equal to that produced by the small optics on the Sony DSC-W370.

Taxiing out at a desert airportDon't be afraid of a DSLR. You won't loose any of the auto modes that are present on the Sony DSC-W370, but you will gain the option to take more control of your photography, should you choose. Additionally, the camera will be significantly more responsive in focusing and shutter release. Aside from the additional cost, weight, and size a DSLR would be a much wiser choice. Though, should you really only want a small camera to toss in your pocket and are willing to accept its shortcoming then the Sony DSC-W370 is a fine choice as well.