Camera manufacturers are a largely conservative bunch, often sticking with designs that mimic old-fashioned film snappers. Is it time to shrug off traditional designs in favour of something more futuristic? Sony certainly thinks so if its £170 Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is anything to go by. But does the camera's unconventional approach extend beyond aesthetics or is its appeal only skin-deep?
The J10 has a showy two-tone design, available in black and blue, turquoise and silver, or white and pink. The device is pleasingly slim, shiny and tactile, although the surface is prone to attracting fingerprints. Its modern appearance is enhanced by rounded corners and metallic power, shutter-release and zoom buttons on the top edge.
There's a practical element to the J10's unusual design, too. It comes with its own pop-out USB arm, not unlike a Flip Video camcorder, allowing you connect the device directly to a computer, without having to scrabble around for a compatible cable.
In addition, the camera's internal memory contains a photo app that you can use on any PC, wherever you might happen to be, in order to browse, upload and share your snaps online.
Also unusual is the fact that the camera's storage is entirely self-contained. There's no slot for SD or Memory Stick cards. Instead, the J10 comes equipped with 4GB of internal flash memory. The allotted space is enough for about 550 shots at top quality, but you'll have no option other than to regularly transfer and delete your image files if you're a frequent photographer.
Straight and narrow
Besides its design and internal memory, the J10 is fairly conventional. Its 16.1-megapixel resolution, for instance, is certainly impressive, but not unheard of at the camera's price point. Also, the 4x optical zoom is acceptable but hardly exceptional. Similarly, the 2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel screen is of an average size and resolution, and it's not touch-sensitive, either -- everything's handled by good, old-fashioned buttons.
The video mode is a disappointment. At this price, we'd hoped for at least a 720p option, but the highest-quality movie setting available is sub-high-definition 480p.
Intelligent-auto, face-detection, smile-shutter and easy-shooting modes, among others, place the J10 towards the hassle-free end of the photographic spectrum. There are a few tweakable settings, though, such as white balance, ISO and exposure compensation. There's also a handful of scene presets to play with, including, rather oddly, one called 'gourmet', which is apparently designed for taking pictures of food.