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Sony launches new Cyber-shot cameras

Sony's digital imaging team has long used London Fashion Week as a backdrop for its new cameras - I can remember attending the odd fashion show myself as a guest of Sony, with a Cyber-shot pressed into my paws. This year Sony partnered with Matthew Williamson, to create a photographic account of the planning and build-up of the fashion designer's show.

Sony gave Williamson and his team samples of the new Cyber-shot range, resulting in a pretty good behind the scenes look at the weeks preceding a big show - a show that Williamson was keen to point out, was over in about seven minutes!

But Sony's event last night wasn't about fashion models, it was about its new range of Cyber-shot cameras, and there was certainly a lot to see. The big news was that Sony has rolled its Exmor R CMOS sensor out into the majority of new models.

The Exmor R CMOS, which was first announced last August, is a backlit sensor, making it more capable in low light environments. With a conventional sensor, light must travel through the metal wiring and electronics before finally hitting the light-sensitive substrate. However, with the Exmore R, the sensor is flipped over, so that the light hits the substrate first, improving sensitivity (according to Sony) almost two-fold.

Because more light is reaching the Exmor R CMOS, there's less need to increase the gain, which would consequently add noise to low light images. A more sensitive CMOS also reduces the need for a faster lens, although there are, of course, many other advantages to fast glass.

Sony launched six new Cyber-shot cameras equipped with the Exmor R CMOS.

Sony Cyber-shot WX100

Sony introduced the new WX100 by pulling it out of a cigarette packet, to highlight just how small it is. This is a trick that Canon used when it launched the original APS Ixus back in the mid-90s, but I won't hold that against Sony, since the WX100 is far smaller than the Ixus was.

There's a lot of debate at the moment about whether mobile phones will spell the end for small, compact cameras. With more and more people relying on their phone as their "carry around" camera, the small compact has become somewhat marginalised. But for me at least, the WX100 proves that there's definitely a place for a small, high-quality camera, no matter how good you might think your camera phone is.

The WX100 is, quite simply, a lovely little camera. It's simply tiny - about two-thirds the size of my Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone - yet Sony has managed to stuff it full of features. As well as sporting the 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, the WX100 has a 10x optical zoom, which seems almost impossible when you consider that the body is only 17.5mm thick at it's slimmest point!

The full dimensions for the WX100 are 92.3 x 52.4 x 21.6 (WxHxD), and it weighs in at a feather-light 103g.

The WX100 looks like the ideal camera to carry with you on nights out, where you want to get great pictures, without having to worry about carting something bulky around.

Both the images below were taken with the WX100, without using a flash. The orange tree was illuminated by a powerful modelling light at the other end of the balcony - the WX100 has managed to meter for the bright area of the tree, while still capturing all the detail in the darker areas.

The second image was again taken with no flash inside, with very uneven ambient lighting - this one proves that you'll have no problem photographing friends in a restaurant or bar without using a flash.

The Cyber-shot WX150 shares the same feature set as the WX100, but sports a larger 3in LCD viewing screen.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V sits at the other end of the spectrum from the tiny WX100. This is a powerful, super-zoom camera boasting a 30x optical zoom with a fast f2.8 aperture at the wide end.

The DSC-HX200V is aimed at a serious photographer who doesn't necessarily want the complications of a digital SLR, or even a CSC camera. As well as its ridiculously long telephoto ability, the HX200V also allows for full, manual control, opening the door to a world of creative photography.

The HX200V also has an integrated GPS, so you can geo-tag all your images for future reference, and friends can see exactly where you were when you captured that "magic shot", and potentially head out there themselves.

Low light performance is exemplary - not surprising when you're combining the 18.2-megapixel Exmor R sensor with a relatively fast lens. The HX200V also incorporates Sony's Sweep Panorama mode, which lets you shoot a panoramic shot without having to worry about stitching images together.

But the jewel in the crown is the HX200V's image stabilisation. As you can imagine, it's pretty hard to keep things steady at 30x zoom, but as the images below highlight, the HX200V does an incredible job of freezing the frame, despite the fact that there wasn't much light to play with. It's also worth noting that the crane in the pictures below was approximate two miles away!

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V provides the perfect combination of long zoom and compact dimensions. Utilising the same AA lens technology as the WX100, the HX20V manages to squeeze 20x optical zoom capability into a surprisingly compact chassis.

Complementing the Exmor R 18.2-megapixel CMOS is Sony's BIONZ processor, ensuring that image noise is kept to an absolute minimum, even when shooting in low light.

There's integrated GPS for geo-tagging, AVCHD Full HD 50p video recording, and manual controls for ultimate creativity. If you're looking for impressive telephoto reach in a very compact body, the HX20V is well worth a look.

If, however, you don't need quite that much zoom, the HX10V offers 16x optical zoom in the same chassis at a keener price point.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20

The final new model to come equipped with the Exmor R CMOS is the DSC-TX20, although this model sits apart from its siblings. The TX20 is a rugged compact, for anyone who wants to take great pictures, while enjoying any number of active pursuits.

The TX20 is water resistant to 5m, can survive drops of up to 1.5m and is also fortified against dust ingress and excessive cold. Obviously some of the stand out features seen in the other cameras are absent in the TX20, but it's fair to say that it's appealing to a different type of buyer.

Riyad has been entrenched in technology publishing for more years than he cares to remember, having staffed and edited some of the largest and most successful IT magazines in the UK. In 2003 he joined forces with Hugh Chappell to create They built TR into the UK’s market leading technology publication before selling the title to IPC Media / Time Warner in 2007. As Editorial Director at Net Communities, Riyad will be helping to develop the publishing portfolio, making IT Pro Portal the best publication it can be.