Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 (Black) review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 (Black)

Along with these options there's Sony's Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode for capturing horizontal or vertical panoramas with one press of the shutter release; this is unlike other cameras that require you to take several shots. Intelligent Sweep separates itself from Sony's regular Sweep Panorama by automatically detecting faces and moving subjects to avoid distortion. It's definitely one of those features you might not care about until you try it. Once you realize that it's fun and works well, you end up using it all the time. Added in to this mode is a high-resolution option that produces larger and better-looking results. And by larger I mean huge: the resolution is 10,480x4,096, and a single shot can be more than 20MB.

The WX10's movie mode is capable of recording at HD resolutions up to 1,920x1,080 pixels in either AVCHD or MPEG-4 formats with use of the optical zoom while recording. Though you can actually enter a dedicated movie mode, you can also just press the record button anytime you want to start shooting. Pressing the shutter release while you're recording will grab 3-megapixel stills, too.

Lastly, there are three 3D shooting modes. The 3D Sweep Panorama works just like the Intelligent Sweep, but creates both a normal panorama shot and one that can be viewed in 3D on a 3D-enabled HDTV. As you sweep the camera it shoots separate photos for the left and right eyes, which is how it's able to create 3D images with just one lens. The Sweep Multi Angle works similarly by taking 15 photos at different angles as you sweep across a scene. The camera then coverts those into one photo. By tilting the camera back and forth during playback, the camera's built-in gyro sensor displays the image in a 3D-like view on the camera's LCD. Finally, there's the 3D still image mode that quickly takes two shots, analyzes subject distance between foreground and background, and creates a single 3D photo. The results are OK, but there's definitely room for improvement. For example, the modes can't handle anything moving, so it's really just for landscapes or stationary subjects. Also, it's pretty easy to see the image slices that are stitched together. Still, if you were already planning to buy an ultracompact camera and have already started collecting 3D equipment, this is one more reason to pick up the WX10.

The WX10's shooting performance is pretty quick, which is the case for all of Sony's Exmor R-based cameras I've tested. From off to first shot is 1.3 seconds with a shot-to-shot time of 1 second. Turning on the flash, though, slows the camera down to 3.3 seconds between shots. Its shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is good at 0.4 second in bright lighting and 0.7 second in dim conditions with less subject contrast. The camera's burst shooting mode is capable of up to 10fps. This burst shooting sets focus and exposure with the first shot, and once you've fired, you're stuck waiting for the camera to save the photos, generally two seconds per photo.

Sony WX10 controls
The overall design of the WX10 is good, but the controls might be a little too cramped for some users.

With all its capabilities, Sony managed to keep the overall design and usability pretty simple. The biggest issue is that the control panel on back is very cramped with a shooting mode dial, control pad, movie record button, and three other small buttons. Really, it's the price you pay to get a camera this small, but those with bigger hands will probably want to try it before buying. The screen is large and bright making it easy to see in bright conditions (you'll still struggle in direct sun, though).

Menus are easy enough to navigate, and if you're not sure what something does, there's a full manual stored on the camera available at the press of a button. Though most people familiar with digital cameras will have no problems using the WS10 out of the box, some of the shooting modes have a lot of settings and limitations. It might take some time to get acquainted with all this camera can do.

There are a couple other design things to be aware of. For some of its 2011 Cyber-shots including the WX10, Sony switched to charging the camera battery in the camera via USB. You can charge it by connecting to a computer or the included wall adapter. However, it's a proprietary port on the camera so if you lose the cable, you'll have to buy one from Sony. Also, the battery life is a CIPA-rated 360 shots, which is really very good. But, if you're shooting a lot video, have the display brightness cranked up, or using a lot of the multishot modes or burst shooting, this will cut into your battery life. If you buy a backup battery you'll probably want to buy an external charger as well, or just plan ahead.

Like the rest of Sony's Exmor R-based cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 is loaded with a lot of fun and useful features to help you get the best looking photos with the least effort. And for those that want to tinker with settings, there's stuff here for you, too. However, the WX10 also turned out some of the softest photos I've seen from a Sony camera this year. If you rarely blow up your photos and don't do a lot of heavy cropping, you'll probably never notice these things. But if you need larger prints and a lack of sharpness bothers you and you're not one to sharpen photos with software, you should probably skip this camera.

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