The Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 is somewhat of an oddball camera in the current Cyber-shot lineup. It could almost be an enthusiast compact or at least it's as near to one than any other small Sony point-and-shoot. That's mainly because it has a 7x, f2.4-5.9, 24-168mm Sony G lens (the highest-quality lens for Cyber-shots) and manual shooting options as well as more control over photo processing. That lens is brighter than most if not all 7x zoom cameras available, which potentially makes for better low-light performance. It also has the manufacturer's fast linear focus system that uses a magnetic coil instead of a mechanical gear to move the lens linearly, focusing in a straight back-and-forth motion and not rotationally.
The WX10 is considered a step up from Sony's WX9, which is geared more for simple snapshots, loaded with all automatic shooting options and featuring a 5x, f2.6-6.3, 25-125mm Carl Zeiss lens. But, despite the fuller feature set, the WX9 is the better deal and produces better photos.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9x2.1x0.9 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.7 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.8-inch LCD, 460K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||7x, f2.4-5.9, 24-168mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (interlaced; 24Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 360 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC/SDXC; Memory Stick Pro Duo; Eye-Fi Connected support|
|Bundled software||Picture Motion Browser 5.5, PMB Portable 5.0 (Windows), PMB Portable 1.1 (Mac), Music Transfer|
At small sizes, the WX10's photos are overly soft, even at its lowest sensitivity, ISO 100. When they're viewed full size, you can really see the lack of fine detail and noise, which just gets worse as higher ISOs. Noise reduction really kicks at ISO 800, which smears details and dulls colors. At ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200 colors look more washed out and subjects appear painterly. This smeary, soft appearance makes their 16-megapixel resolution sort of a waste. Of course, if you never do any cropping or enlarging and only make small prints and view photos at normal screen sizes, the photos are good. 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.
Oddly, it seems the lens--one of the main reasons to pick this camera--is somewhat to blame for the soft photos. It's 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.
The default Standard color mode produces bright, vivid colors, but they aren't terribly accurate. Most people will find them pretty pleasing, though. If you want more accurate colors, the WX10 does have a Real color setting as well as three other color modes in addition to Standard and adjustments for white balance, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. However, these things are not available in all shooting modes.
Movies captured by the WX10 are very good. The 60i frame rate and image stabilization make for some smooth movement, too. You will see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects, though, and things look a little oversharpened on occasion. It won't replace a full-fledged HD camcorder, but if you'd like a single device for capturing good photos and videos, this is a decent choice. The optical zoom does work while recording (though you will hear it moving in quiet scenes), and the stereo mic is a nice extra.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, Flash, Custom|
|Recording modes||Easy, Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, Manual, 3D Still Image, SCN, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Movie|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)|
|Macro||1.9 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center, Spot|
|Color effects||Standard, Vivid, Real, Sepia, B&W|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||10 shots|
The WX10 is packed full of automatic and manual shooting options. For the most control you can use a Manual mode with control over aperture and shutter speed. It's limited to two aperture settings each at the wide and telephoto ends (using a neutral density filter); f2.4 and f7.1 for wide and f5.9 and f18 for telephoto. There are a few more sets of stops available through the zoom range, too. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/1,600 to 30 seconds. There are no aperture- and shutter-priority modes, but for more control without worrying about aperture and shutter speed you can use Program. That lets you control everything else including color modes, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness.
For those who like to leave it in auto, there are three options: Easy, Intelligent Auto, and Superior Auto. Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. Intelligent Auto picks from 10 scene types and turns on face detection, dynamic range optimization, and image stabilization. Superior Auto takes Intelligent Auto and adds three multishot modes--Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, and Backlight Correction HDR--to shoot photos with the best possible settings.
Why not just leave it in Superior Auto? Multishot modes like these rapidly take photos and overlay them to help remove blur, correct exposure, and reduce noise. However, they don't work well with moving subjects and they require additional in-camera image processing so they take longer than a simple snapshot taken with Intelligent Auto and other single-shot modes. If there's a chance your subject might be moving--even slightly--while you're shooting I'd stick with Intelligent Auto. Also, these multishot modes plus 12 other standard scenes are available in the WX10's SCN mode so you can always pick the appropriate one when you need it. That said, Superior Auto does allow you to take full advantage of the camera's capabilities in an automatic mode.
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.
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.
Find out more about how we test digital cameras.