Sony DSC-WX10 Review
|Full model name:||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10|
|Dimensions:||3.7 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
(95 x 54 x 23 mm)
|Weight:||5.7 oz (162 g)
DSC-WX10 Review Summary: Sony manages to make its 16-megapixel sensor output good printed images from a camera that offers a nice set of special features and surprisingly fast autofocus.
Pros: Fast shutter lag; Full HD movie recording; 7x optical zoom; Good battery life; 10 fps burst mode; Good print quality.
Cons: Confusing shooting modes; Soft corners at wide angle; Image noise even at lowest ISO; Cramped controls; LCD difficult to see in bright sunlight.
Price and availability: Available only in black, the Sony WX10 digital camera started shipping in March 2011 with a suggested retail price of US$280 which has since been reduced to US$260. Be sure to check our shopping links for the latest deal on the Sony WX10.
Imaging Resource rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
Sony DSC-WX10 Review
by Greg Scoblete and Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 11/22/2011
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 is one of a new crop of 16-megapixel compact cameras from Sony to offer an array of shooting features plus high definition video recording in AVCHD format. Geared at mainstream consumers, with a price tag of $260, the WX10 combines intelligent shooting features for the point-and-shooters with a Manual Mode and more sophisticated functions for those who want to experiment.
Look and Feel: The Sony Cyber-shot WX10 is fairly understated aesthetically, with a dull black finish. Silver accents around the lens barrel do give it some flare, but it's not all that flashy (not that it needs to be).
Like most pocket digital cameras, the Cyber-shot WX10 leaves a lot to be desired ergonomically. There's not much in the way of a grip for your fingers, save for a slight ridge for the fingers of your right hand. The flash is placed dangerously close to where fingers could block it, but that's not uncommon.
At 5.7 ounces (162g), the Sony WX10 feels solid, conveying a good sense of quality in materials and workmanship. And while it's not the slimmest camera on the market, it's trim enough to easily drop into a pocket without being a burden.
Controls: Atop the Sony WX10 is a slender power button that sits flush with the camera but is nevertheless responsive. A small green LED light adjacent to the power switch indicates when you're powered on, and it glows amber when charging. Next to the on/off switch is a Zoom Lever with the Shutter button resting inside of it.
Drop to the back of the Sony WX10 and you'll find several controls crowded into the slender strip of real estate to the right of the WX10's 2.8-inch LCD. In the top right corner you'll find a small Movie Record button which can be activated in almost any camera mode. Below this is a Mode Dial, which is also on the small side, though its grooved edges make it easy to turn. Below the mode dial is a tiny Playback button followed by a four-way controller for adjusting the Display, Flash mode, Drive mode and Self-timer. There's a button in the middle of the controller for activating tracking focus and the controller also doubles as a scroll wheel for quickly navigating through menu items or photos in Playback mode. Below that are small controls for entering into the WX10's Menu and for either accessing the in-camera help guide when in Record mode, or deleting an image when in Playback mode.
For me, the controls are a bit too small and somewhat clumsy. They're not unresponsive -- you won't have to hit the same button twice -- but it feels cramped on the back of the WX10. It would have been better to forsake a few controls for improved usability.
Lens: The Sony WX10 boasts a 7x optical zoom Sony G lens that sits flush with the camera body when it's powered off and telescopes out when powered up. Sony has packed longer lenses into similar camera body sizes, so you won't have as much zoom range on the WX10 as you would on some other compacts, but 7x is still a pretty decent zoom range. It starts out at a wide 24mm equivalent, and zooms in to 168mm, and includes optical image stabilization, which the company calls Optical SteadyShot. It's a bright lens too, with an aperture of /f2.4 to f/5.9 across the zoom range.
The lens on the Sony WX10 is capable of focusing on subjects as close as 5cm (~2 inches), and the camera will drop into Macro Mode automatically as your lens gets close to your subject when you're shooting in Intelligent or Superior Auto Mode.
To reach far-away objects, the Sony WX10 includes both a Smart and Precision Zoom option. Smart Zoom extends the zoom ratio of the camera to 8.8x when shooting a 10-megapixel image. The trick is, you need to set the resolution of the camera first -- the WX10 won't automatically down-res your photo when you're in Smart Zoom mode, which limits its usefulness. You also have the option to extend to 12x zoom by shooting a 5-megapixel photo or take a VGA snapshot with 50x zoom -- although the resulting resolution is very low.
Precision Zoom functions more like a traditional digital zoom and can achieve a 4x magnification for a total of 28x. It's only active in Intelligent and Program Auto modes -- not Intelligent Auto.
On the focusing front, there's both a Semi-Manual focus and a full Manual focus. Semi-Manual autofocuses first, but then you can use the rear dial to tweak focus from there. When you activate either, the Sony WX10 will enlarge a portion of the scene on the display so you can fine-tune your focus accurately. It will quickly revert to a regular preview automatically, once your focus adjustments are done. You'll also have Multi, Center and Flexible Spot Autofocus options. Sony's usual retinue of face detection technologies, including Smile Shutter and Child and Adult Priority, are also on board. Tracking AF is also available.
Modes: The Sony WX10 has a fairly wide assortment of shooting modes to choose from. You'll find a Manual exposure setting for adjusting Shutter speed and Aperture. There's no Aperture or Shutter Priority, however. That's understandable though, as there are only two aperture settings at any given focal length, and the lens uses a neutral density filter, so depth-of-field won't change with aperture settings. And with only two apertures, the correct exposure may not be possible for every shutter speed, so Shutter priority wouldn't make much sense either.
The WX10 is one of Sony's 2011 Cyber-shots to offer two versions of a "smart" Auto Mode. The first is Intelligent Auto, which analyzes a scene and selects an appropriate Scene mode to optimize your photo. Within Intelligent Auto you can choose from a standard implementation or "Advanced" scene recognition which kicks on if the camera detects low light or back-lit environments and snaps a second exposure with different settings so you can pick between two different options (for instance if it detects twilight it will take the first shot in Slow Synchro and the second with increased ISO and shake reduction turned on).
Then there's Superior Auto which adds a layer of processing to the equation: for example, if the scene has excessive backlighting, Superior Auto will snap several images at varying exposures and automatically merge them into a single image in the camera. In practice, Superior Auto takes longer since you'll have to wait on the WX10 to process an image. It's not terribly long, but if you're in the heat of the photographic moment, Superior Auto is definitely going to slow you down.
Stepping back, one definitely gets the sense that Sony is getting a bit lost in the weeds here. When I see the word "Auto" I usually think the work is being done for me. But no, on the WX10 I have to choose between several different flavors of automatic. It's good technology, as far as it goes, but it's being somewhat undermined by packaging that's too-clever-by-half. Simpler to make a single auto mode and find another clever name for the other stuff.
Program: If you want to take more control of your photo, Program Auto gives you a fair amount to play with. You can adjust exposure compensation, ISO, flash mode, white balance, metering mode, focus mode, etc. You can select image contrast, with a choice of Standard or an Increase or Decrease. While the language is a bit imprecise here (increase by how much?) it is a bit easier to understand. You can also select from similar options for color saturation and sharpness Normal, Decrease or Increase.
There are 15 Scene Modes as well -- standard fare including Landscape, Beach, and Twilight, plus Sony's trademark multi-shot modes including Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, and Backlight Correction HDR.
Movie Mode: Without question, the movie recording on this Cyber-shot is one of its stand-out features. The Sony WX10 can record high definition video at 1,920 x 1,080 at 24Mbps in the AVCHD format. These are specs you'd normally see on high-end HD camcorders and it shows: The WX10 can give a $500-plus camcorder a run for its money in the video quality department. One slightly annoying feature on the WX10 is the constant reminder every time you set the camera to record at the highest bit-rate that you can't burn that footage to a DVD. One warning is enough!
You can use the 7x zoom during filming, although you won't get the full 24mm wide angle as you do when 4:3 shooting stills. Instead, the WX10 gives you a slightly cropped 26mm for 16:9 movies, which is still very nice.
You can dial back the bit-rate during AVCHD recording to save memory card space, dropping to 17Mbps at 1,920 x 1,080 or 9Mbps at 1,440 x 1,080. All AVCHD modes are 60i (60 fields per second interlaced), or 50i for PAL video. You can also record movies in the MPEG-4 format, which is easier for viewing on your computer. Options are 1,440 x 1,080 at 12Mbps, 1,280 x 720 at 6Mbps, and VGA (640 x 480) at 3Mbps. All MPEG-4 videos are shot at 30 frames per second progressive (30p, or 25p for PAL). However, there's a noticeable dip in the quality between the AVCHD and MPEG-4 movies the WX10 records.
Sony packed a fairly extensive set of features into the Movie Mode as well. You can choose from one of seven Scene modes or set it to Intelligent Auto and let the WX10 do the work. You can adjust the exposure or switch between Standard and Active image stabilization to compensate for camera shake. The WX10 lets you snap 3-megapixel still photos while simultaneously shooting video. On the audio front, there's a pair of stereo microphones with a wind-reduction setting in the menu (it's only somewhat effective and requires some digging in the menu to get to, but better than nothing). Finally, there's an HDMI output as well for viewing your videos on the big screen in all their high-def glory.
Background Defocus: Another processing-driven mode, Background Defocus does just that: blurs the background of an image to dramatize portraits, something that is difficult to do on compact digicams with their tiny sensors. The mode seemed to work better in the WX10 than it did on other 2011 Cyber-shots we tested, which tended to blur the background unevenly, leaving tiny but visible gaps where portions of the background were in focus. Still, even in the better shots we took with the WX10, the effect couldn't quite replicate the more natural blur produced by a d-SLR with a bright lens. It's certainly worth playing around with, though.
Intelligent Sweep Panorama (iSweep): One of Sony's cooler photo features, Intelligent Sweep Panorama lets you pan the camera vertically or horizontally and automatically stitches together a panoramic photo in-camera. And whereas older iterations of this technology had trouble with moving objects (they would appear stretched across the photo), the "Intelligent" version can better compensate for motion in the frame. It's still advisable to try and keep movement to a minimum in your shot, though. The WX10 even supports the High Resolution ("HR") mode, which generates 43-megapixel panoramas.
3D: Sony's been pushing 3D hard (they have TVs to sell, remember) and they've added to the WX10 more than a little 3D magic. There's a 3D still photo mode, which snaps two images in quick succession and merges them in the camera to create a 3D effect. It's not viewable in the camera and requires either a 3D monitor or 3D HDTV (and glasses) to view. They're saved in the MPO file format so your viewing options with third party photo software is limited -- at least for now.
You can also capture 3D images using Sweep Panorama and Sweep Multiangle - again, a 3D HDTV or monitor required although you can view 2D previews of both of these modes on the display. When you snap an image in Sweep Multiangle you can view a "tilting playback" in the camera. Essentially, Gyro Sensors kick on as you shift the camera back and forth and the scene shifts subtly, almost like a lenticular image. The 3D options aren't mind-blowing -- at least in my opinion -- but if you're one of the few people who has jumped onto this bandwagon, the WX10 does give you an on-ramp to creating personal 3D content.
Shooting: The Sony WX10 accompanied me on a trip to the Jersey shore (thankfully there were no Snooki sightings). Out in the blazing sun, it was somewhat tough to view the scene through the 2.8-inch display even though it has an anti-reflective coating -- and with no viewfinder (electronic or otherwise) my only recourse was to boost the brightness to the maximum. This helped a bit, but it wasn't perfect. Indoors and in less direct sun, the 2.8-inch display appeared nice and clear.
As mentioned above, the Sony WX10's controls are small and a bit cramped. They're not difficult to use while shooting, but combined with the lack of any good ergonomic grips, the WX10 is somewhat clumsy to shoot with -- too boxy with controls that are a bit too small to operate comfortably.
On the performance front, the WX10 is generally fast, but isn't always a speed demon by any stretch. Start-up time was decent but there was some noticeable delay between shots. However, you can compensate for this a bit with the camera's two burst modes. There's a low speed burst, which clocks in at 2 frames per second (fps) for a total of 10 full resolution frames, or a high-speed mode that delivers 10fps shooting for 10 full resolution frames.
If you keep the Function Guide turned on (which delivers short text descriptions of each setting in the camera as you navigate through the menu), the WX10 will slow a bit further: as you switch settings on the Mode dial, the live preview will yield to a full-screen illustration of the Mode with a short descriptive text. If you just leave the preview, it lasts about three seconds (feels like forever). You can hit the shutter button to speed the transition up, but the end result is additional delays every time you turn the Mode dial. Disabling the Function Guide eliminates this lag, but also removes the helpful text when you're in the camera's menu.
Aside from the sometimes sluggish performance, the WX10 took decent snapshots outdoors.
On the movie front, you can initiate movie recording at any point by hitting the dedicated Movie Record button, although there is a second or two of lag while the WX10 transitions over from still photo mode. Even when set to Movie Mode, the only way to start movie recording is through the Movie button -- not the camera shutter release-- which can be a bit confusing for those used to using the shutter button to start and stop recording. Sometimes hitting the Movie button won't initiate movie recording but simply set the display to letterbox, requiring another press of the shutter to get things started.
Menu: Hit the Menu button on the back of the Sony WX10 and a small bar will appear on the left-side of the display. You can scroll up or down through nice, large icons as additional options spill out into the center of the screen, all while maintaining a live preview on the display. Most of the core shooting functions are available in this on-screen menu, but you can go deeper into the WX10's menu structure here as well. You'll find four tabs that divide up additional shooting functions (red eye reduction, blink alert, etc.), camera settings, recording media settings and the date/time function. Press the shutter and you'll be automatically brought back into photo record mode.
All in all, the menu is quite intuitive and easy to navigate. If you get stuck, you can activate the Function Guide, which will describe camera functions as you scroll through them in the menu. If you require more help, the Sony WX10 usefully offers an in-camera guide. You can enter the guide via the dedicated button on the back of the camera or in the Menu and it's essentially a more interactive user manual for the camera. If you're unsure what a certain feature does or how to use it, you can consult the guide to learn more about it.
Battery & Storage: The Cyber-shot WX10 offers a dual-compatible memory card slot for both SD/SDHC/SDXC and Memory Stick Duo/PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo cards. There's nothing much in terms of internal memory -- just enough for three stills -- so a card is a must. You'll need a minimum of a Class 4 SD card to take advantage of the camera's high definition video recording capability.
The memory card is housed in a compartment with the lithium-ion battery at the bottom the Sony WX10. Both are protected by a sturdy hinged door. The plug for the multi-connector cable is adjacent to the battery compartment, so the door must be closed if you wish to use the connector cable. The battery is CIPA rated for 360 shots on a charge, which is pretty good.
Playback: The Playback menu on the Sony WX10 is fairly straightforward. You can view images by date or folder and video organized by AVCHD and MP4 files. You can choose to play back your images in a slideshow or in a slideshow with music. You can load your own audio tracks using Sony's included PMB software, or use the tracks Sony includes. You'll have some control over the slideshow, such as the ability to choose the effects used (Simple, Nostalgic, Stylish, Active) and the interval between images.
There are some basic editing features as well including resizing, red-eye removal, and unsharp mask (which preserves an untouched original of the photo in addition to a copy with the unsharp mask effect applied).
If you shoot stills in burst mode, you can take advantage of a Tilting Playback feature, which scrolls seamlessly through your burst sequence simply by shifting the camera: forward moves the frame sequence forward, backward reverses the sequence. It's not Earth-shattering, but it's still pretty creative.
Overall the Sony WX10 is a reasonably capable pocket camera that manages not to suffer too terribly from its high 16-megapixel resolution; a feature that's hampered many other pocket cameras in 2011.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 Lens Quality
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft at upper left
Tele: A hint soft at center
Tele: Mild blurring, upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's zoom shows strong blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, though the strongest blurring doesn't extend far into the image area. At telephoto, performance is better, with more moderate softening in the corners and still a hint of softness at center.
Wide: Some minor barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
Tele: No discernible distortion
Geometric Distortion: There is only mild barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.6%), and no perceptible distortion at all at full telephoto. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's processor is most likely keeping things in check here.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is quite low in terms of pixel count, with only a slight red or blue fringe visible. At telephoto, distortion is also quite low, with only a suggestion of reddish pixels and some blue pixels along target lines.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's Macro mode captures a soft image overall, though with reasonable detail. Blurring is quite strong in the corners and along the edges of the frame, however, a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode. Minimum coverage area is 2.79 x 2.09 inches (71 x 53mm), which is on the larger side of average. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens in the lower left corner of the frame, with a strong hot spot on the brooch. Stick to external lighting with shots this close.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's LCD monitor showed about 100% coverage at wide-angle and telephoto, which is excellent.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 Image Quality
Color: The Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 produced fairly good color, though with some noticeable hue shifts. Orange was pushed toward yellow, and yellow toward green, while cyans show a shift toward blue. Strong reds and blues are a little high in saturation (blues more so than reds), though bright yellows and greens are about where they should be in that respect. Dark skintones are pushed toward orange, while lighter skin tones are more accurate. Overall fair results.
A bit warm and red
Close, but a hint greenish
Incandescent: Manual white balance probably produced the most technically accurate color under our incandescent lighting, but the overall image has a slight greenish cast. The Auto setting erred in the other direction, producing a slight red tint, while the Incandescent setting produced a very yellow image.
Horizontal: 2,000 lines
Vertical: 1,950 lines
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,950 lines vertically. Extinction occurred just past 2,400 lines in both directions.
Tele: Slightly dim
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) doesn't work well at wide angle when the reported distance goes beyond 16 feet, because that takes the camera out of the main lab, so the wide-angle result at 23.3 feet is inconclusive. The telephoto test came out slightly dim at 9.5 feet, despite a major ISO increase to 800.
Auto flash produced very bright results (almost too bright) in our indoor portrait scene, retaining only a hint of the ambient light by using a shutter speed of 1/50 second, and raising ISO to 320. At this speed, image stabilization shouldn't be necessary, but it's good to know the Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 does have it available for darker conditions. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is good at ISO 100 and 200, though already some mild softening is slightly visible at ISO 200. Chroma (color) noise is pretty well controlled at all ISOs, though luminance noise and noise suppression increasingly smudge detail as sensitivity increases. By ISO 1,600 and 3,200, detail is all but gone and images appear quite blurry. See Printed section below for more on how this affects prints.
ISO 200 shots are likewise quite good at 13x19 inches, looking nearly identical to the ISO 100 shots. Shadows are just a little noisy, but not bad.
ISO 400 images are better at 11x14.
ISO 800 images make a better 8x10, with some luminance noise in the shadows.
ISO 1,600 images are pretty good at 5x7, save for reds, which tend to lose detail at this setting anyway. There's enough detail, though, to make a good print.
ISO 3,200 images are a little darker, but still make a quite usable 4x6-inch print.
Overall a surprisingly good performance from the Sony WX10, making a good quality ISO 100 and 200 print at 13x19, and even its highest ISO setting can make a decent 4x6.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 Performance
Startup Time: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 takes about 2.1 seconds to power on and take a shot, on the fast side of average for its class.
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very fast, at 0.17 second at wide angle and 0.25 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.014 second, which is excellent.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is also good, with the DSC-WX10 capturing a frame every 1.39 seconds in single-shot mode. Burst mode is capable of capturing 10 full-resolution images in one second.
Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's flash recycles in about 8.5 seconds after a full-power discharge, on the slow side of average.
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled. Very good performance here.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10's download speeds are moderately fast. We measured 6,218 KBytes/sec.
In the Box
The Sony WX10 retail package includes:
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 camera
- Rechargeable battery
- USB cable
- AC Adapter (USB charger)
- Power cable
- Wrist strap
- CD-ROM with Picture Motion Browser
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity SDHC or Memory Stick PRO Duo memory card. These days, 4GB is quite inexpensive, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 8GB should be a minimum.
- Camera case
Sony WX10 Conclusion
The Sony WX10 delivers a nice blend of point-and-shoot features with a number of settings that more advanced users will appreciate. Sony's innovative Sweep Panorama Mode gets a nice improvement and the addition of 3D gives the tech savvy something to sink their teeth into. As far as shooting is concerned, the Sony WX10 was at times sluggish, particularly in Superior Auto, but at other times it was quite quick, with very impressive full-autofocus shutter lag times, easily rivaling SLRs. We found the controls a bit cramped, so those with large fingers might not like the Sony WX10.
Having to choose from multiple Auto modes is confusing, but shooting in Program gave us fewer problems. The beauty of the Sony WX10's Superior Auto is that you can turn to it when you know you're going to need it, rather than going through the trouble of setting up a special mode.
Image quality gave us pause initially, primarily because of the overaggressive noise suppression and the artifacts it creates. But the Sony WX10 redeems itself in the printed results, with none of the artifacts affecting the image on paper. Unless you plan to crop heavily from images and post them online, the Sony WX10's images will print and reduce for online viewing just fine.
Overall, the combination of print quality, fast shutter lag, and Sony's useful special features work together to earn the Sony WX10 a Dave's Pick.
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