Check out an examination of photo quality from the DSC-WX10, Sony's full-featured 7x wide-angle compact.
These are 100 percent crops taken from the center of our test scene. At small sizes, you can see that the photos are overly soft, even at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's lowest sensitivity, ISO 100. Viewed larger, though, you can really see the lack of fine detail and noise, which just gets worse at higher ISOs. Of course, if you never do any cropping or enlarging and only make small prints and view photos at normal screen sizes, the photos will likely be good enough. However, because the WX10's overall results were not as good as Sony's other Exmor R-sensor cameras, it got a lower rating than models such as the WX9 and HX7V.
There are a few ways to take low-light shots with the WX10. In this example, I took shots using Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, and the Handheld Twilight scene mode. All of these were taken at ISO 800. The Intelligent Auto mode only takes one shot, and while that resulted in more noise, it's also a bit sharper than the others. Superior Auto and Handheld Twilight are multishot modes, where the camera takes several shots and combines them into one photo with reduced noise and blur from hand shake. (More correctly, Superior Auto combines the Intelligent Auto mode with three multishot modes and the camera decides what's best to use.)
Regardless of method, if you're using the photos at small sizes and not heavily cropping them, all of them work well for capturing low-light subjects without a tripod or other support. However, all of the multishot modes require still subjects and shouldn't be used with anyone or anything moving.
The WX10 does well with close-ups, able to focus just 1.9 inches from a subject. The results are a little soft when viewed at full size, but you can tightly crop them and still get a good-looking photo. Plus, with the f2.4 maximum aperture you can get a shallow depth-of-field in macro.
In an attempt to give a more "pro" look to photos, there's a Background Defocus mode that takes two shots, identifies the background, and blurs it while keeping the subject sharp and in focus. Recommended distance from the subject is about a foot (30cm according to what the camera says onscreen) and you can set the amount of blur to low, medium, or high; this sample photo was taken at medium. It works best when your subject is well in front of the background, but even then it's not perfect. At small sizes, though, it can be convincing.
The WX10's zoom range is a middle ground between the typical 4x/5x zooms of ultracompacts and 10x to 18x zoom range of a compact megazoom. The lens starts at an ultrawide-angle 24mm and extends to 168mm (35mm equivalent), or 7x, all without making the body big and bulky.
The default Standard color mode produces bright, vivid colors, but they aren't terribly accurate. Reds and blues are especially punchy, which many people find pleasing. If you want more accurate colors, the WX10 does have a Real color setting and three other color modes in addition to Standard. However, these things are not available in all shooting modes, including Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto.
The WX10's high-speed burst option is capable of capturing up to 10 frames per second at full resolution. Since the camera focuses once for the entire burst, moving subjects won't always be in focus. On the other hand, you'll be able to get shots not possible with many compact cameras and they'll be fine for 4x6 prints. There is one more caveat, though: once they're shot, you have to wait a couple seconds for each shot to save to memory before you can shoot again.
There is a slight amount of barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top), but pincushioning isn't a problem at the telephoto end (bottom). The lens is not sharp in the center and gets noticeably softer at the edges and corners, which is disappointing given this camera's price and that it's a high-end Sony G lens.
Fringing in high-contrast areas isn't an issue with subjects at the center of the frame, but it's definitely visible for background and off-center subjects such as these tree branches. Also, unless I took advantage of the camera's Backlight Correction HDR scene modes, highlights were regularly blown out.