The point-and-shoot crowd has been all aflutter about the sleek, 10-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 ever since its announcement at CES in January. It's the first camera with a built-in web browser, "one-touch" Wi-Fi photo uploads, and 4GB of on-board flash storage (in addition to a Memory Stick slot).
Admittedly, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3's Wi-Fi tricks are nothing new: the Eye-Fi card adds Wi-Fi capabilities to any camera that supports it, and cameras from Kodak, Nikon, and Panasonic have all boasted wireless connectivity in the past. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3's browser and flash storage, however, are notable additions to the mix.
What all that Wi-Fi wonderfulness means, of course, is that you can easily upload shots to Daily Motion, Photobucket, Picasa, and Shutterfly directly from the camera, as well as upload videos to YouTube. You can access other photo- and video-sharing sites via the Cyber-shot DSC-G3's web browser, as well, but the sites mentioned here are made more easily accessible by dedicated icons on the camera's wireless menu screen.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3's functionality may be a boon to travellers, students, and backpackers who want to share their photos and videos immediately. In fact, we can imagine YouTube enthusiasts taking serious advantage of the feature, uploading one video at a time as they shoot them.
However, we found the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3's optional web browsing feature limited in several ways, not the least being a clumsy interface. You must delete and enter URLs character by character (no "select all" here), and with a small, somewhat slow touch-screen interface, that can become pretty frustrating.
You can also upload only one file at a time - a batch-upload feature would have been great. The chief attraction to the wireless aspect of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 is clearly its simple photo-uploading ability; don't expect to be visiting all your favourite websites on this camera's browser.
Like its predecessor, the 4GB (but non-Wi-Fi-enabled) Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 is quite the looker. Its sleek metallic front slides aside to reveal the flash, a focus-assist strobe, and the Zeiss-Tessar lens. Covering the back is a 3.5in touchscreen that really shines when you enable the G3's slideshow feature. The 4GB of storage comes in handy if you want to cue up your own tunes to accompany the on-screen images.
Photographers with short fingernails will want to use the supplied stylus, because the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3's touchscreen isn't the most responsive one on the planet. However, having longer fingernails and thin fingers, we found few problems using the screen, and Sony's menu system remains straightforward and easy to navigate.
Comments on the internet regarding Sony's new side-slide design have been mostly favourable, but we're not fans. (That is, aside from the protection for the lens and flash that it offers, of course.)
Slid open, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 becomes more heavily weighted on the left, forcing us to shoot two-handed. Some camera-slingers may value the extra grip space it creates, but we like to shoot quickly and often one-handed.
Our final critique of the design: the zoom, shutter, playback, and WLAN buttons are practically recessed into the camera body, making pressing them a bit tricky at times. All of these little things slowed us down more than we would have liked.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 provides most of the features of its T700 cousin, including a smile-triggered shutter, face detection, and scene selections such as snow, fireworks, beach, a night mode and a portraiture mode that supposedly softens the background while keeping the subject in focus.
We had mixed results with the last setting (to make it work, your subject should be at least a few feet from the background). While the flash could be a bit overpowering, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 allows you to modify its power from -1 to -3, a feature we love to see in a point-and-shoot. You can also select white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation, more welcome features that help you get the shot you want under adverse conditions.
The image quality was generally quite good, but regrettably the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 has trouble at the far end of the (4X) optical zoom range. Here, we encountered considerable noise in mono-tonal areas, such as sky and sea. That's not unusual in a consumer-level point-and-shoot, but we expected better from an expensive hunk of design.
Likewise, high-contrast scenes were hit-and-miss, as a lot of edges exhibited halos. The camera hemmed and hawed finding focus in low-light settings, and the usual digital noise was present at ISOs over 400.
(Again, such results are not uncommon for a point-and-shoot, but still, Sony: this is not a cheap camera.)
Our shots outdoors under neutral or late-afternoon light, however, were impressive: colours were saturated, exposures were right on, autofocus was quick, there was no noticeable shutter delay, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 proved it could resolve a great deal of detail.