Compact cameras have become smarter and more professional with larger-than-usual sensors, better processors and superior optics. This development, combined with better cameras in smartphones, have largely been able to check the success of small-sensor compacts. Yet, the prohibitively high prices of most of these ‘professional’ compacts make it out of bounds for most compact camera users. Hence it makes perfect sense for a manufacturer to keep a limited number of models in the small sensor compacts along with the highend compacts. The Sony WB500 is one such compact super-zoom camera with a small compact sensor.
Design and Build Quality
The Sony WB500 is built solid with a combination of metal and engineering plastic on the exterior. The front panel is finished with a metal sheet, and there is no real hand grip on the camera. The top panel houses the power button, shutter release button-zoom lever unit, mode dial, built-in flash, and the flash (pop-up) lever. The camera has a plastic tripod receptacle, but we cannot complain since the camera itself is quite light at approximately 236g. The HDMI port is at the bottom. The lens has a three- segment construction. The battery chamber door is very flimsy, as is the case with most compact cameras.
The 18.2 megapixel Sony WB500 uses a 1/2.3-inch Type (6.16 x 4.62mm) Exmor R CMOS sensor. It also features the latest BIONZ X image processor. The camera features a ZEISS Vario- Sonnar T* 25-750mm f/3.5 – 6.4 lens constructed with 11 elements in 10 groups including five aspherical elements. Total aperture range is f/3.5 to 8 at the wide-angle and f/6.4 to 8.0 at the telephoto end. This means that at the telephoto end, you get less than a stop of flexibility in aperture. In fact, you will get a full stop difference only till 7.6x optical zoom (about 190mm). The lens features Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation combined with electronic compensation. The image stabiliser also compensates for rolling shutter effect seen in videos. The lens focusses from 5cm to infinity at the wide-angle end and 250cm to infinity at the telephoto end. Focus modes available are Single-shot AF (AF-S) and Continuous AF (AF-C). Focus area options include Wide, Centre, Flexible Spot (Small, Medium and Large), and Expanded Flexible Spot. It also has
provision for Lock-on AF.
The camera has the usual three metering modes — Multi pattern, Centre-weighted, and Spot. Exposure can be compensated up to +/- 3.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 to 3200 for still images and ISO 80 to 1600 for videos. White Balance options are Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent (Cool White, Day White, Daylight), Flash, Custom, One Push, and One Push Set. Shutter speed range from 30 to 1/2000 second. Self-timer can be set to 2 or 10seconds for up to three consecutive shots.
Still images are captured in JPEG format with maximum dimensions of 4,896 x 3,264 pixels, while videos are recorded in AVCHD, MP4 or XAVC S format at the best quality of 1,920 x 1,080/50p. The camera can shoot continuous frames at the rate of 10 frames per second for up to 10 shots at full resolution, but only at certain settings. Shooting modes include Superior Auto, Intelligent Auto, Program, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Panorama, Scene Selection, and MR (Memory Recall). Movie modes include Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual Exposure. Scene Selection mode provides sub-modes such as High Sensitivity, ight Scene, Night Portrait, Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Advanced Sports Shooting, Gourmet, Pet, Soft Skin, Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, Backlight Correction HDR, Sunset, Picture Effect, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy Camera, Pop Colour, Partial Colour, Soft High-key, Water Colour, Posterisation, Retro Photo, Soft Focus, High Contrast Monochrome, and Illustration. The camera offers Auto Macro, Face Detection (detects up to eight faces), Face Registration, Smile Shutter, Zebra, and Histogram among other useful features. The WB500 also provides an optical zoom of 30x during movie recording. It has a manual pop-up type built-in flash with a range of approximately 0.3 to 5.4m at the wide-angle end and 2.5 to 3.0m at the telephoto end when ISO sensitivity is set to Auto. Flash modes include Auto, Flash On, Slow Sync., Flash Off, and Rear Sync.
The camera uses a 3.0-inch, 921,600- dot Xtra Fine TFT for display, and it can be tilted up by approximately 180 degrees. The WB500 uses a Memory Stick (Duo/PRO Duo/PRO HG Duo) or SD/SDHC/SDXC card for external storage. The camera features multi-use terminal, Mini HDMI, Wi- Fi and NFC. The device is powered by a 1240mAh Li-ion battery pack (supplied). It can be charged through USB cable. The camera has dimensions of 101.6 x 58.1 x 35.5 mm (W x H x D) and weighs 236g with battery and Memory Stick.
As mentioned in the Build Quality section, the WB500 does not have a well-defined hand grip. The metal surface is slippery. Also, in cold weather, it can get very uncomfortable to hold. Although we cannot complain about the buttons and dials being too tiny for a camera of this size, we feel that it can be a problem for people with larger hands. The HDMI port on the bottom plate necessitates
the camera to be resting on the LCD or lens while connected to another device. This can cause scratches on the screen or damage the protective shutter in front of the lens. We found it difficult to use the flash pop-up lever since it is very tiny. The screen appeared rather dull by today’s standards.