Having a hard time deciding between a Sony Cybershot DSCW80 and a Canon Powershot SD1000? Do not worry, your not the first. They're both excellent cameras with some excellent features. Some features that distinguish them are worth serious consideration, and some are just marketing hype. Let's take a closer look, and sort out the fact from fiction.
Lets start off first with the similarities between these two cameras. These features basically cancel each other out, and are a non issue. First of all price. At the time of writing, both these cameras were in the same price bracket of about 150-200 dollars. While you may find a 10 or 20 dollar savings between one or the other if you shop around, it's really not worth fretting over. Both have approximately the same number of megapixels. 7.2 for the Sony DSCW80 and 7.1 for the Canon SD1000. That's a wash. Both the Sony and the Canon fall into the ultra-compact category, with all the inherent pros and cons that go with that design. Optical view finders are common to both cameras. That's great especially for the Canon which I'll explain shortly. Face detection technology is one of those new features, that sounds real cool, but still has yet to prove it's usefullness (at least to this photographer). Useful or not, both the Cybershot and the Powershot have it.
Now on to the serious stuff. What are the features that set these two digital toys apart. First of all, and in my mind the most important from a usability stand point is burst mode. Burst mode is basically the number of pictures you can take per second. I'd rather not think about all the pictures I've missed using older point and shoot cameras with slow burst modes. The Canon weighs in here with a respectable 1.6 frames per second. Not bad at all for a camera in this category and price range. The DSCW80 however exceeds all expectations and clocks a remarkable 2.7 frames per second. Score one for Sony.
Image stabilization is another one of those new features whose time has come. Not necessarily new to photography in general, but certainly unheard of in ultra-compact cameras at this price range a few years ago. I was a little skeptical as to how good image stabilization (IS) could be in this type of camera. Then as they say, the proof is in the seeing. I took a look at a few side by side comparisons between pictures taken with and without IS at 1/5 seconds from the DSCW80. I was sold. Unfortunately for the SD1000, this feature is not available. Another plus for the Sony. I would however be remiss at this point if I did not mention the Canon A570IS, which is a slightly larger point and shoot for approximately the same price that does have IS. If your willing to go with a slightly bigger camera, it could be a good choice.
Our final important consideration is battery life. Both these cameras come with their own proprietary batter packs, so standard double AA batteries are not an option here. This is pretty common for the ultra-compact category of cameras. What is different here though, is the number of shots each camera can take before their battery pack dies. Again the Canon does a respectable job with 210 shots on one battery pack. And again, the Sony goes the extra mile and is able to shoot a far more respectable 340 pictures. One trick I often use on my point and shoots when batteries start to die, is to turn off the battery sucking LCD screen, and just use the view finder. This is especially useful for the Canon with a shorter battery life.
My one pet peeve with the sony Cybershot DSCW80 (and all things Sony) is the use of their proprietary memory stick for storing pictures. Probably goes back to being stuck with a Betamax video player so many years ago. Do not even get me started on the whole Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD fiasco. With the Canon, you can use the industry standard SD cards. Score one for Canon.