Hands on: Sony Cyber-shot G3 Wi-Fi

Sony Cyber-shot G3 gives Wi-Fi photo sharing and basic web browsing
Sony Cyber-shot G3 gives Wi-Fi photo sharing and basic web browsing

TechRadar got a hands-on with Sony's new web-surfing G3 Cyber-shot camera at CES 2009 - and we're quietly impressed.

The camera itself feels like a slightly old-fashioned Cyber-shot - it's bigger and heavier than anything in the T-series, and distinguishes itself by having a lens cover that slides to one side instead of up and down.

Like the T-series cameras, though, it has an extremely solid metal chassis and a large (here, 3.5-inch) touchscreen LCD. You also get the usual intelligent scene selection, smile shutter, face detection and dynamic range optimiser features.

Shooting to thrill

As a camera, the G3 is on the average side. Colours on the (admittedly early production) model we tried looked over-saturated, and both detail and noise within the 10MP pictures seemed no better than average. The zoom rocker controlling the 4x optical zoom is also on the small side.

First indications that you're dealing with something out of the ordinary come when you hit the dedicated wireless button on the side of the camera. This is a great idea - it's pretty much impossible to activate the power-sucking Wi-Fi accidentally.

Entering the Wi-Fi mode brings a screen with Sony's five image-sharing partners - YouTube, Daily Motion, Picasa, Photobucket and Shutterfly. That's right, no Flickr at the moment - although one of Sony's stand staff hinted that could change in the near future.

Clicking through to any one of those takes you to a Sony portal site - basically a stripped-down version of the photo-sharing site optimised for the G3. You can browse and view the albums you already have online, or upload snaps from the camera at the touch of a button.

The G3 doesn't resize or compress images for upload. We found a VGA snap took just moments to upload, while a full 10MP took around a minute.

Email links

There are options to send a link to your image (or an entire album) to an email address, but you can't download images permanently from the website to the camera.

That's a shame, as the G3's 4GB of internal memory is pretty generous and the large screen is great for viewing. The G3 comes Easy Export software to save thousands of (resized) images from your PC to the camera, so you can carry your photo albums with you all the time.

The G3 also lets you browse simple HTML websites directly from the camera. It's no substitute for a real mobile internet device of course, but a handy virtual keyboard and tiny stylus prove surprisingly adept at navigating blog photo upload services and simple news sites.

The particularly good news, for Americans at least, is that Sony is subsidising unlimited Wi-Fi access via AT&T's network of thousands of hotspots from now until January 2012. That's over two years of free Wi-Fi - a pretty sweet deal even given the G3's hefty $500 (£350) pricetag.

The Cyber-shot G3 is available in the US now, in black only, with no set UK release date.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.