Thinking back nearly a decade I can remember my first digital camera: a Canon Digital ELPH S100. It was the first mass-market digital camera that really took off, and at the time it felt like it had it all: compact size, a 2x optical zoom, took Compact Flash cards (vastly superior to “Smart” media cards… who leaves huge swaths of electrical contacts exposed? I mean really…), and most of all, 2MP sensor, delivering high resolution snapshots instantly. I was absolutely amazed by this… thing.

10 years later and I find myself similarly impressed by the Sony DSC-WX10. I’ve watched the Sony line mature from the old Mavica series to the current Cyber-shot line with interest; Sony has consistently exhibited a dedication to high quality imaging. As a company it’s clear that someone has been bitten by the idea that the need to not only to compete with Canon and Nikon in this space, but they have to win. As an owner of a Sony Alpha DSLR (the A350) I think that they’re definitely giving the big two a run for their money.

 

The Hardware

Back to the WX10, though. The only place where trickle down economics actually works is in the consumer electronics space; the research and development done on the Alpha line has found its way into the Cyber-shot line. The list of features under the WX10’s hood are both lengthy and impressive. Just to save time, here’s the line-up.

  • 16.2MP Exmor R CMOS Sensor. This is cool for a few reasons; CMOS sensors can produce a more natural looking image, and Sony’s Exmor R technology does a great job of capturing colours and contrast.
  • 7x optical zoom. It’s one heck of a feat of engineering to slam a 7x zoom into a camera body this thin. I suppose it’s become rather common-place among today’s high-end point and shoots, but I still find it impressive. I found the zoom on the WX10 to be responsive, but not hyper-active. You can zoom efficiently without overshooting your target, and the image was stable and clear even at full extension. Use good shooting technique and brace yourself, otherwise your mileage may vary.
  • 24mm wide-angle lens. It used to be that you’d pick between wide angle and telephoto. Not so much anymore; the wide-angle is sufficient for capturing landscapes, it’s also quite good at getting groups of friends and family when you’re in up-close and you can’t zoom out with your feet.
  • Full HD movie mode. Yup, it capture 1920×1080 at a full 30 frames per second in AVC HD. Make sure you’ve got a big card if you’re interested in this. I filled a full 4GB card in under 20 minutes at this resolution. Just a note: You can use Memory Stick Pro Duo cards or SDHC/XC cards… I’d recommend an SDXC, at least a class 6. They’re quick enough to keep up with the shooting you’ll be doing with this model.
  • 3D modes like Sweep Panorama (you can also get decent ordinary 3D shots out of this feature). Just to note: this won’t produce the same sort of vivid 3D image you’ll get from, say, Fuji’s 3D offerings, but it is a “good enough” solution.

 

The WX10 in action.

I started out by charging up the WX10’s battery and finding a decent sized SD card. I noted above that the 4GB card I used was absolutely chewed up by the highest resolution movie mode; if you’re going to be using a mix of video and photos and you want the best quality, opt for a 16GB or 32GB card to be on the safe side.

The camera itself is incredibly thin and small. It’s large enough to be easily gripped in my average-sized hands, but tucks into a pocket like it’s not even there. The Sony G-series lens extrudes from the body when powered up, and the back of the camera is dominated by a large LCD screen that takes the place of a viewfinder.

If you’re worried about that big, beautiful screen eating your battery, don’t be. I shot over 200 images, half with flash on, and still had battery life left when I got home.

The WX10 focuses quickly and snaps shots rapidly. You can shoot in burst mode, in 3D panorama, or you can even use the dedicated movie mode to switch up what you’re doing in real time.

While the WX10 doesn’t produce images that are Alpha quality, it comes pretty close. Intelligent metering, smart auto settings, and good glass make this camera a great point and shoot, and one I’d be happy to have as my carry-along in my Alpha camera bag.

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