THE LOW-DOWN: This camera has an 18 megapixel sensor and an image-stabilised 25–500mm (film equivalent) lens. Zoom action is smooth. There is GPS built-in and the 75mm LCD is a fine, bright, high definition viewer. The body is bulky and heavy for a compact but it is the mass and volume that speaks quality of construction. While it is clearly intended to be used in one of the fully automatic modes there is some degree of user control. Auto focus is reasonably quick, even in low light conditions, and accurate. At the 500mm reach of the lens all responses slow down, as is to be expected. There are the usual special effects, some useful and some gimmicky. The 3D capability will appeal to those with 3D TVs and the sweep panorama could be useful. Movie mode is full HD.
LIKE: Auto white balance is astonishing. Under a variety of light setups, from incandescent to florescent and daylight the colour is almost always spot on, or so little off true that it is easily corrected.
DISLIKE: There is fine detail smudging at even the lowest ISO setting, caused by aggressive noise reduction made necessary by the high pixel density. Bleeding reds are a problem but reducing the saturation in the main menu helps.
VERDICT: Our constant complaint about excessive pixel counts is getting a bit monotonous, so let’s approach it from another angle. If your intended photo output is sharing on the interweb or printing up to postcard size at home or in the shop you won’t notice the smudging. The Sony is a great camera for modest output. For party snappers posting pictures on Facebook or Flickr it is good value for money. If you are more ambitious then look for a compact with fewer pixels.