During the Photo Marketing Association show -- currently happening in Orlando -- Sony held a press event at the Hard Rock at which reps were handing out dozens of cameras. Unfortunately, they were only for us to take test shots at the event. It wasn't a schwag fest. (Just kidding. I never accept schwag, anyway.)
What had impressed me most about the cameras was their claimed ability to shoot at high light sensitivity (ISO). As I have written again and again and again , high ISO is one key to capturing natural ecolor, becaus it lets you forego the lousy-looking light from camera flash. But replacing lousy flash light with lousy grainy images isn't much of a bargain. So I really wanted to see how the Sonys handled high ISO levels.
Overall, they did pretty well. As with virtually all cameras, you never want to actually use the highest ISO setting (unless you will be displaying the picture at far below its full size -- no more than a 4"x6" print or in an even smaller image online). But Sony's pocket cams did pretty well one or two steps below the top of the ISO scale.
The slim, 6MP W50, for example, handled ISO 400 extremely well. (My fairly new Canon sd450 looks awful at this level -- like a Monet or Seurat painting gone horribly wrong.)
Check out this closeup of a photo of flowers, reproduced first at full size (pixel-for pixel) and again greatly reduce (Click photo to get and 800-pixel-wide version.)
You will see some noise on a big print, but very little at any point under full size. Even ISO 800 (top) and ISO 1000 are acceptable for small online pictures, like these.
I didn't actually shoot with Sony's W30, but the only difference, I believe, is a smaller LCD on the back (2 vs. 2.5 inches) and of course a smaller price up front. So I would expect it to perform similarly.
The low-priced S600 did about as well, also. The main drawback to the S600 is that it's a scale model of a brick. And it lacks some of the advanced control options of the W models. But for $199, it's a pretty good deal.
Finally, I tried out the W100, which goes to ISO 1250. Of course that didn't look good, but ISO 400 looked fantastic, and ISO 800 wasn't laughable. See the ISO 800 photos below. The first is scaled to a reasonable size for online posting (800 pixels wide, click for full-size); the other is the same photo, pixel-for-pixel.
The W100's high resolution (8.1 megapixels), combined with its low noise should enable some respectable large prints.