An Impulsive Instructive Interlude – Sony W570

In recent weeks I’ve been immersed in the delights of Ricoh’s digital compacts, most specifically the utterly joyful 28mm GR Digital III – probably the most intelligently designed camera I’ve ever used – and its very similar zoom (24-72mm, but for me, 24 or 28mm) sibling, the GX100.

But sometimes, still, a distraction comes along, with a sideways glimpse and price ticket too alluring for the curious bargain hunter in me to resist.

And so, suddenly the shopkeeper appeared, and I found myself with a tiny (really tiny, like, half a dozen credit cards stacked on top of each other tiny) shiny metallic Sony Cyber Shot.

37798218625_0d5c41d579_b

I have a good history with Sony Cybershots.

The first cameras I really used with intention were Cyber Shot phone cameras, like the now very humble seeming 5MP C902 from 2008.

4329121836_e51ef98560_bI remember them being well built, easy to use, and very capable, especially considering the tiny lenses.

I also had an older (than this new one) W series camera, I think a 7MP version, which was great fun until it died.

Not to mention the couple of Sony A mount DSLRs that gave me some excellent pictures, and of course the Sony NEX which I used with at least 100 different vintage lenses in the last few years. I’ve shot more photographs with Sony cameras than anything else, even Pentax!

The new (to me) Sony is a Cyber Shot DSC-W570. Snappy name eh?

37797283745_96c78d7cb4_bHere’s what I like about it, and why these features suit me.

It’s super light and compact.

Even turned on with the lens extended it still fits in a pocket. Switched off it disappears in the palm of your hand.

The buttons are fairly small, but once you’re set up, for my style of photography all I need to press is the on/off switch and the shutter button. Beautifully simple, something I appreciate more and more in a camera.

Despite the overall size though,  the screen is big, bright and clear.

Whilst in larger cameras I love a high quality viewfinder, in compacts a screen seems the ideal solution, plus it allows you to get into positions you couldn’t if your eye was pressed up against the viewfinder.

Plus with the W570 you can switch all the icons off on the screen (something I hate in compacts, how the composition is crowded with 25 icons of info) so all you see is the centre little AF brackets and, when you squeeze the shutter button to lock focus, it shows you aperture and shutter speed. Very zen.

It’s capable, but simple.

16MP CCD sensor, fairly fast Carl Zeiss f/2.6 lens. A bunch of scene modes I’ll never use, but crucially, Program mode, plus the things I do want to influence, I can – ISO (I use ISO400 so there’s a bit of grain/noise), exposure compensation, white balance (though I stick to Auto), AutoFocus (I use Spot AF), metering (I use matrix), flash (it’s always off).

26908900659_cf002a81c4_zIt’s near silent.

Powering up you do get an audible, yet very rapid extension of the lens initially. After this, the AF is silent, the shutter almost silent. Both you can just about hear if you push your ear up against the camera in a quiet room.

It sounds what a happy newborn baby photocopier in a model of an office the size of a matchbox might sound like.

The lens is 25mm (35mm equivalent) at the widest.

Wider than most, and for me 24-28mm is ideal with a compact. It zooms to 125mm, but I haven’t yet shot a single image at anything other than its widest 25mm. So essentially it’s a prime, like the Ricoh GRD III.

It’s JPEG only (no RAW).

Which is actually refreshing for me in that it means faster post processing and smaller files. I’m not sure I even need the full 16MP JPEGs, I’m going to experiment with the 10MP versions and see if it’s enough, which would make the files even smaller and even quicker to upload, process and save.

(Update – I unscientifically took a picture of the same scene at 16MP and 10MP settings. And preferred the 10MP. So I’ll be sticking to this. Plus it’s a 4MB file compared with near 6MB at 16MP or the 13MB+ RAWs my Ricoh GRD III creates. So in theory three times the speed to upload etc, and a third of the storage space.)

Oh and it uses standard SD cards.

Which doesn’t seem worth mentioning except all of the three or four previous Sonys I’ve had, have used a different variation of a memory card/stick, completely incompatible with each other and all other brands.

Sony finally saw the light and stopped losing customers via this particular avenue of planned obsolescence at least, so kudos for that.

26908898629_c8642a6fc9_b

Some things I’m not sure about – 

Aspect ratios are 4:3 and 16:9.

I’m unlikely to use the latter at all. 4:3 I know well from my Nikon Coolpix but after years of shooting 3:2 anything else just doesn’t look quite right.

It doesn’t handle as well as the Ricohs.

But what does? And to be fair, given its size, it handles about as well as is physically possible. Also the classy metal build adds tactile appeal, as does the large, clean screen.

It doesn’t have a black and white mode.

Whilst with the Ricohs I don’t actually use the b/w JPEGs, and convert the RAW files to b/w in LightRoom after, having the screen show the world in b/w whilst shooting is hugely helpful in finding compositions best suited to b/w.

Having said this, I’m experienced enough now to know what to look for in my head, even if the screen (and the scene in front of me) is in full colour. Then I just convert to b/w afterwards, as with the Ricohs.

What this little Sony has taught me mostly is any half decent digital compact from the last seven or eight years (The W570 arrived in 2011) can produce very respectable results. 

Especially with some fairly painless tweaking in LightRoom afterwards, for me mostly to convert to b/w and add a bit of contrast.

Which means other factors become far more important in choosing the one or two cameras you stick with.

Such as, user interface, ability to set up and control vital functions, lens width and speed, build quality, size and feel.

And the Sony scores very well on all of these.

38653670992_76b9612f2e_b

Compared to the Ricoh GRD III, it’s much smaller, lighter, quieter and quicker, higher resolution, and cost about a sixth of the price.

But there’s no way I’d swap the two.

Instead I see the Sony as a camera to experiment with, and its size (did I mention it was tiny?) means I can have it with me virtually everywhere, all set and ready to go.

Normal Ricoh service to be resumed shortly…

Do you use any digital compacts? Please set us know which and why, or why not, in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

15 thoughts on “An Impulsive Instructive Interlude – Sony W570”

  1. My first digital was the Sony Cybershot UK which was tiny and fitted snuggly into any pocket or hand. I actually still have it but stopped using many years ago when the screen stopped working.

    1. How long ago was that, do you remember? Sony must have made hundreds, if not thousands of different Cybershots by now.

      With Sony you always get very capable technology, what they sometimes lack is soul and charm. The W570 above has enough class to make you want to pick it up, though you couldn’t really say it has soul or charm.

      1. Hmmm, it was when my daughter was younger so I would guess sometime around 2002. It was nothing special just a convenient and pocketable little thing. I cannot remember what film camera I had at the time.

        1. Canon have their online camera museum for all their old film cameras. You wonder what Sony’s digital equivalent would look like – they must release a hundred models a year!

  2. I love capable compact digital cameras. I’d own 20 if I weren’t such a skinflint.

    My ideal compact P&S digicam has a zoom lens that’s 24 or 28mm equivalent on the wide end and 100-135mm on the zoom end, does a stellar job of correcting for the lens’s faults (CA, distortion, etc.) in camera, and renders color vividly yet realistically. It has an easy way for me to click-dial in the standard focal lengths. As long as the camera does at least 10 MP I’m good.

    For the documentary work I do on the road, I want to have to do as close to zero Photoshoppery as I can to be able to use the images. The best possible outcome is one in which I have to correct only my own mistakes in perspective and framing. Because on a solid road trip I can come back with 300, even 500 images and ay yi yi the time it takes to edit and process them. I want 80+% of my shots to be usable directly from the camera. If that can happen, I don’t need the camera to shoot RAW. I *like* having it for when I want full control, but I’d forego it if I could hit that magic four-out-of-five-shots-are-awesome-in-camera metric.

    My Canon S95 fires on all of these cylinders *except* in the vivid-realistic color. Its color palette is actually kind of flat. Almost every shot needs quick hits of auto this and auto that in the PS RAW editor. Bleargh.

    1. Jim, I think you’d be surprised what you can pick up that falls within the “skinflint” price range! The Sony above cost me £25 in mint condition and I also just got a 9MP Ricoh CX1 (a slightly simplified but still very capable and lovely to use sibling to the GRD/GX100) for only £20. eBay is littered with 5-10 year old compacts that people bought, used half a dozen times, then upgraded and left it in a drawer.

      With these compacts (including the Ricohs mentioned above) I’ve experimented with LightRoom more and have a preset with a few tweaks that I apply to all photos I upload straight away in one swoop. Then I go through, and for any I want to keep, I make any further very minor adjustments (exposure and contrast) then export. It’s working well for me, and means each image only gets maybe 10 or 20 secs edit time.

      I haven’t done much with colour, to be honest, it’s far more complex I’m finding than b/w. Though I have some presets from Preset Love – http://presetlove.com/ (free) and XEquals https://x-equals.com/product/xequals-bundle/ ($12 for a ton of stuff) that are working well for me.

      I wonder of you could find a preset that you could then apply en masse to all your images like I do to save editing each one from scratch?

  3. Hi Dan… after having so many digital compact cameras two come to mind as being “keepers” one being the Sony a6000…. and the other being the Canon g7…. the a6000 is a super camera for using the “old skool ” lenses be it Rikenons or Pentax taks …. the g7…Although no RAW pictures… the jpegs are superb and even though it came to me via a doctor selling it on eBay from Germany…. it’s travelled many more miles as my go to camera when going anywhere and everywhere… both have been very reliable and have served me well…. others…well the fuji compacts were very tactile…. the Samsung one lasted only 5 months… as did the Panasonic (7months)…like you quite rightly say in this posting…. nigh on any compacts brought in the last 6/7 yrs gives anyone interested decent enough pictures… nice write up… can’t wait till the Ricoh services are resumed… my NOS GX100 is on its way…. yippee…
    Kind regards Lynd

    1. Hi Lynd, the Sony W570 is a whole different category compared with the Ricoh GX100. Yeh the Sony is great and super svelte, but it doesn’t have anything like the user interface and endearing design of the Ricoh. Hope you’re going to love yours as much as I do mine.

      Your a6000 I know is a descendant of the NEX 3N I had for four years and used over 100 lenses on. They’re the ultimate lens testing cameras! But somehow difficult to bond with, back to that thing of being a very capable device but without much soul or personality.

      The Canon sounds good, they should know their stuff with their pedigree!

      I think with compacts, not having RAW isn’t a big deal. Unless we’re making massive prints I doubt we’d see any difference between a JPEG and RAW once it’s processed and exported.

      It would be good to have a camera that creates great JPEGs straight out of camera, and the Ricoh GRDIII and GX100 are both very good on this front, but for me I like that slight extra tweaking afterwards.

  4. Really interesting Dan.

    I re-started non-iPhone photography earlier this year with a Nikon Coolpix A300. That is about the same size as your cybershot, i.e. “forget it’s in your pocket” light and tiny. A lovely capable little camera too. BUT it doesn’t have PASM modes and over time, the internet convinced me/I convinced myself that I really, really needed that capability. So a few months ago I bought (second-hand) the higher spec Coolpix S9900. It’s still compact though substantially larger and heavier than the A300. I like it lot, but shoot most of the time in P mode with the saturation turned right down to B&W and ISO set at 400. Pretty much how the A300 was usually set up. Go figure!

    I’ve come close to selling the A300, but can’t bring myself to. The extra bulk of the larger camera means it’s with me far less often than the A300 was when it was my only camera. I love the notion of using it as a photography sketchbook that’s always with me. I can then go back later for “better” images with the S9900 or my 35mm SLR. I’m going to try it for a while and see how often I actually go back for the better shot…

    Great idea though, thanks.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Richard.

      I’m well aware that I’m someone who tends to be very immersed in whatever particular camera/music/book etc I’m into at the time, almost to the exclusion of all others. With cameras, this has extended a little to a certain type of camera rather than just one specific camera. So currently it is the three Ricoh digital compacts I have – GR Digital III, GX100, and now a CX1.

      The CX1 is very similar to use as the others, but a little simpler. It has no RAW, just JPEG, and no PASM modes on the dial, just Program and some scenes, plus, crucially for me, the MY custom modes like its siblings so you can set it up exactly how you want it (ISO, focus, metering, colour/b/w etc) initially then just concentrate on compose and shooting after that.

      The lens isn’t as good as the GRD III but it is a zoom, and much slower at the wide end. The GRDIII’s lens you can shoot all day wide open at f/1.9 and it’s fantastic. The CX1’s lens does seem as good, if not better, than the GX100’s, though that lens goes to 24mm, not 28mm.

      Anyway, the point I was going to make was the CX1 with no RAW and no Av mode I’m finding just as much fun to use, and am getting very pleasing photographs with it. Being JPEG only (and a little newer), it writes much faster than GX100, and the screen is significantly bigger and better.

      It’s not as compact as the tiny Sony, but I do prefer it in use (that glorious Ricoh user interface) so the Sony is pretty much a redundant option now. Also I’ve found the Sony screen is very good when you’re looking at it head on, but as soon as you tilt a little it becomes far harder to see. The Ricoh screens seem far better in this aspect.

      I’m wondering now about maybe in the future selling all my DSLR stuff (3 bodies, maybe 15 lenses) and investing in a later Ricoh GR with APS-C sensor instead, so impressed have I been with the Ricohs. If the GRD III is giving me more than good enough results, the GR with APS-C will be at another level still.

      But as I said, I tend to be “all in” with cameras, and a few months later switch to something else, so maybe in three months when colour starts to return I’ll use the DSLR(s) again and would regret selling them now.

      Interesting point about debating whether to “go back for the better shot”. I’ve never really thought about this, I just try to get the “best” photographs I can with the camera I have with me at the time. Inevitably I do return to some places multiple times, and probably take very similar shots with different cameras, but don’t specifically compare them afterwards.

      I know some people use their iPhone/smartphone as a second camera purely to capture the location of certain photographs, so this might be an interesting option for you if you had plans to return to places with other cameras weeks or months later…

      1. Did you get yourself one of the APS-C Ricoh GRs in the end? This album is almost all shot with one, using a combination of the built in high contrast B&W profile and a slightly tweaked version thereof that I have saved as one of the ‘My’ settings on the mode dial:

        Another day trip. I see something that makes a pleasing photograph and suddenly my mind is 'in the zone', seeing images I want to make everywhere.

        Posted by Peter Boorman, Photographer on Sunday, June 4, 2017

        (Sorry about the ridiculously long URL!)

        This wasn’t really a ‘photographic’ outing, just a trip to the seaside with the family, but I’m still quite happy with some of what I brought back from the day.

        I also have a GX200 (and the lovely Ricoh GXR, which, with the 24-72mm equiv. unit fitted is pretty much the GX200’s sibling) and the APS-C GR is very definitely a step up in image quality. In particular, low light performance, as you’d expect from the bigger sensor, is streets ahead. On the GR I (usually) have it set up so the ‘Fn’ button on the end of the camera accesses the crop fields of view: with 16 very nice megapixels, cropping the 28mm (equiv.) frame to 35mm (equiv.) still leaves eminently usable files. The latest firmware update adds a 47mm (equiv.) crop as well, which is still pretty good.

        For some reason, even though I do love the interface, it took me longer to warm to the GR than some cameras, but now that I have, it’s one I really enjoy and use a great deal.

  5. Peter, great shots with the GR! Actually the ones I like most are the more gritty and grainy. Partly because of this, I’m not in a hurry to get one – the GRD III is more than high res enough for my needs.

    What does appeal though is the GXR, because with the APS-C 50mm lens could be a serious challenger to my Pentax DSLRs, which I generally shoot at 50mm with more often than not. Also the APS-C 28mm lens module could replace the GRD III, and negate the need for a GR too… Plus, I’ve realised that with the Leica M module, you can then get adapters to use other lenses on, like Pentax K and M42. Which makes it potentially even more of a DSLR killer…

    I love the interface of the Ricohs too, just right at home with it, and you know where everything is.

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