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January 07, 2010

Sony redefines redundancy with ten overlapping Cybershots, but partially or fully embraces SDHC cards

Typically Olympus and Samsung lead the way in making nearly-identical clones, but this year Panasonic and Sony have stepped up their game. But of the four, Sony has taken the lead at CES, with eight new W-series models and two S-series models. You know a company has gone out of control in shiny-silver clones when they don't even bother to mention them in their own frakking press release! Only four out of the 12 get mentioned in detail, the rest are footnoted. Thank you Sony for the e-waste and consumer-confusion!


New Sony S2100 and S2000 AA-powered models
With more manufacturers fleeing AA-land, Sony perhaps saw this as a market-share-grabbing opportunity by launching two new AA-based S-series models, the S2100 and S2000. The S2100 goes for $120 in pre-order and features a 12mp 1/2.3" sensor, 3-inch LCD, 3X zoom lens, MemoryStick, and such.

The S2000 is not available in the US market, but Quesabesde says that it has a 10mp sensor and 2.5-inch LCD instead.


Eight new tangled-up W-series models
Of the eight, only four are listed at SonyStyle.com (W370, W350, W330 and W310). All except the W310 use the 14mp 1/2.3" sensor. The Sony Europe press release spotlights the W380, which has a 14mp 1/2.3" sensor, 5X optical zoom G-branded lens with OS that starts at 24mm f2.4 (24-120mm eq). Other features include 720p video, 2.7" LCD, SDHC or Memory Stick support. Battery life is rather low at 220 CIPA.

The W390 has a 3-inch LCD instead of the 2.7" of the W380 and that's the only difference between the two we could find while doing an A/B test on the spec-sheets!

The W370 is not found on the Sony UK site, but it is found at Amazon.com and Sony Style with a $230 price-tag. Being true to the 7 in its name, it actually has a 7X optical zoom lens that starts at 34mm (34-238mm eq) with optical image stabilization and carries the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar name-tag. It has a 3-inch LCD, MP4 movie mode, sweeping panorama and all the other Sony consumer-friendly amenities. According to SonyStyle, this takes MemorySticks. There is no mention of SDHC.

For the W360, we fly back to Europe. The camera remains at 14mp 1/2.3", but with a 4X optical zoom lens that starts at 26mm wide (26-102mm eq) with OS and has the CZ VT tag on it. This takes both SDHC and Memory Stick, has 3-inch LCD, and things like that.

The W350 has a 2.7-inch display but is probably similar to the W360.

We couldn't find the W340 anywhere. We don't even know (or care) whether it is supposed to exist :)

The W330 is *gasp* both at Sony UK and SonyStyle.com, and it is even pre-orderable at Amazon for $170 in multiple colors. A quick A/B comparison of the spec-sheets shows that the W330 is very similar to the W360, except the W330 does not have the Bionz sensor, does not have AF illuminator, does not have optical image stabilization, does not have HD-video and things like that. The UK specs show SDHC support, the SonyStyle.com do not.

Then we stay with Sony UK for the W320 which seems quite similar to the W330, and then fly back to SonyStyle.com for the W310 which is pre-orderable at Amazon for $150. This time the W310 starts at 28mm wide with its 4X zoom lens instead of 26mm. The W310 is the only one of the 8-pack that uses the 12mp 1/2.3" sensor. The rest are at 14mp 1/2.3".

The above is not intended to be a detailed comparison, just a quick overview of the mess.

At this point we can't tell what's the deal with SDHC support and the US models. Neither SonyStyle.com nor Amazon.com specs mention SDHC support, but we don't know if that is an omission or by design. The W350 and W330 for example, show SDHC support at the Sony UK site but not SonyStyle.com.

You can see details of six of the eight W-series along with the two S-series models at Sony UK.

For an executive summary, DP Interface has a spec-breakdown of the W-series.

We have to close by saying, what a horrible mess and poor choice of model names this is. We chase cameras 24x7 and it got us tangled up. Can you image how confused the average consumer will get with this mess?

This is one of the worst product announcements EVER!


Update on SDHC and US market
It appears there is a reference of SDHC at SonyStyle.com but only when you go to the "Features" sub-tab of each camera's product page. Then look for the "Media Card Slot" section and SDHC is mentioned. It is not mentioned in the Overview or Specifications pages (yet).


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