The Buddha preached that the middle way is the path to liberation, so we're setting aside our enormous digital SLRs and minuscule ultra-compact cameras to look at Sony's new Cyber-shot DSC-WX10. It's a medium-sized, mid-range compact camera that nevertheless packs in some impressively high-end features.
It's due out at the end of March and will cost around £280. Here are our first impressions.
The WX10 is a decently sized snapper. It measures 94 by 56 by 17mm and weighs about 109g, so, while it's not the thinnest or lightest camera we've ever held, it's still extremely easy to lug about.
The camera is pleasingly designed. The chassis curves forward on the right-hand side, making the WX10 easier to hold. There's also a mode dial on the back of the camera, which makes cycling through shooting modes much quicker than it is when you have to click your way through on-screen menus.
The WX10 has a 7x optical zoom lens, which should prove handy, even if it's no match for the Nikon Coolpix S9100's 18x zoom. Behind the lens, there's a 16.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor. That's the same sensor as found in Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V superzoom, which we suspect is a good sign.
On the back of the camera is a 2.8-inch LCD display. As is usually the case with compact cameras, there's no viewfinder, but we found the display worked perfectly well for framing snaps and checking out photos we'd already taken.
What killed the radio star?
A dedicated video button on the back of the WX10 allows you to quickly start shooting 1080i footage. We haven't seen a final retail unit of the camera, however, so we can't comment on the WX10's image quality for now.
Sony's equipped the camera with some 3D features to boot. You can take 3D snaps, or make a great, big 3D panoramic image. Unlike proper 3D-enabled compact cameras, which have two lenses, the single-lens WX10 takes two shots in quick succession at slightly different focus points. You can't see the photos in 3D on the WX10 itself either -- you'll have to hook the camera up to a 3D-enabled TV or laptop and wear some dorky specs.
Our tingling sensation tells us that the WX10's 3D features could prove gimmicky. Still, we'll keep an open mind until we've given the camera a full review.
Finally, there are two auto modes. The first just chooses the best scene setting for your photo. The second 'superior auto' mode will take a number of shots in quick succession at different exposures, combining them to produce a single image with a high dynamic range, so you get more detail in both brightly and dimly lit areas. This second mode should come in useful if you often find yourself taking photos in low light.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX10 probably won't set the world alight, but we're impressed by the high-end features it offers. If its image quality is up to snuff, it could be an ideal snapper for taking on holiday. Stay tuned for the full review.
Edited by Charles Kloet