Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 Review
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As the first camera to be released as part of a new budget range of stylish cameras from Sony, the Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is a slim, good looking digital compact camera with 16 megapixels, a 4x optical zoom, massive 4Gb internal memory and a built-in USB arm for easy upload to any computer. Sharing the limelight with the T series, the features are less than that of the more prestige T models as they lack certain notable traits such as the Carl Zeiss lens, sliding metal lens protector and BIONZ processor. However, the J10 is priced at £180 - around £50 less than a T series model - so will a sub £200 digital compact camera be worth the saving?
Ease of Use
We don't normally get swayed by how a camera looks, but the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is something else. From the pebble shaped design, to the flush screen and semi-transparent lens surround, a lot of thought has gone into making this camera as nice to look at as possible.
As we investigate the Sony J10 further, it's becoming more obvious that this is a model for the fashion conscious that want a good looking camera but also require something for going travelling with. The J10 is perfect for that thanks to its 4Gb included memory and built-in USB arm. Because of the arm, the camera can be plugged into any computer, including ones in internet cafes in other countries. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 doesn't have a removable battery or external memory card slot, mirroring Apple products, so the camera charges up using the USB dock on the computer. The other major advantage to having the USB arm for charging the battery is that you don't have to carry around a charger and cable if you are travelling around the world or on holidays.
On the top of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is a small power button which sits recessed into the body so you don't accidentally turn the camera off while taking pictures because it's in very close proximity to the long, thin shutter release. Accompanying these two buttons is a small spring loaded zoom rocker to operate the 4x optical zoom.
Moving onto the back of the camera, the screen is sat behind a thin layer of plastic to give the smooth, glass-like feel on the back while other buttons such as playback, menu and the navigation pad only bulge out slightly so you know you're pressing them. There's a small switch for flicking between taking pictures, panoramas and video and this kind of spoils the effect because it brings this otherwise futuristic looking camera back into the present day with a bang.
The exterior of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is a mix of plastic and what feels like a thin rubber on the lower section of the front. It feels solid enough and all the internal moving parts mean that it needs a special kind of person to be able to break anything.
The USB arm is situated on the right side of the camera and is opened up using the small switch located on the bottom of the camera. It opens in two parts, the arm and a small cover to house the metal part of the USB arm when it's folded into the camera. This prevents any dirt getting into it and we think it's a really neat idea. As you push the USB arm back into the camera body, the cover also starts to collapse meaning it's really easy to use and not at all fiddly.
The 2.7 inch LCD screen on the back of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 looked off when we first turned it on. If you think the same thing, pressing the "disp" button on the top of the navigation pad will adjust the brightness. At first we thought it was too bright but after scrolling through the display options, we think that the normal setting simply lacks contrast and setting the bright option corrects that.
The main menu system is the typical orange and black Sony variety which superimposes itself onto the screen so you can still see your subject in the background while you make adjustments. This is particularly useful for modes such as white balance which can drastically alter your picture if you're not careful. The camera features an intelligent auto mode as well as program, the latter allowing more control over the picture taking process.
Technophobes will be pleased as punch to know that the J10 sports an easy mode which removes all information and options from the menu aside from resolution. Even then it only asks if you want the pictures big or small so you're not bogged down by trying to calculate the multiples of screen size. For those of you new to photography or have been out of the loop, the intelligent auto system is a clever program that analyses the frame and sets the camera up to take the best picture according to the information that it collected. So if you have an insect in the frame, the camera will see you're focusing closely to something and will automatically switch itself into macro mode.
Because the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is designed more towards the point and shoot user, it's a bit low on features. We've tested cameras around the same price that are bristling with features in comparison. However, one cool feature that Sony have developed is the Sweep Panorama and they've fitted it to the J10. It works by taking a rapid succession of pictures while you sweep the camera around in an arc. The camera then stitches all the pictures together for you so to get a good panoramic not only do you not have to stitch anything together in an editing software but you also don't have to align the pictures as you take them which is usually the case.
Another good mode they've included is the smile shutter. It's quite commonly used by other manufacturers these days, but Sony developed the mode to advance their face detection systems. In smile shutter mode, the camera looks out for smiles in the faces that it's detected. Once it sees smiles, it automatically takes a picture without the need to press any buttons.
In the box, Sony have been quite generous. Even though the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 has an internal battery and will charge from the computer, they've still included an external charger if, for example, you don't have a computer near you. It works using a simple figure 8 kettle lead that plugs into the charger unit. This has a USB port on the other side for direct plugging in from the camera or, if you prefer, you can plug in the included extension cable. On top of this, you also get a driver CD and an actual real life paper instruction manual - quite a rarity these days for compact cameras.
On the surface, we're extremely impressed with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10. It's a very pretty camera to look at thanks to some interesting styling and is very useful for certain types of consumer. We can see travelling students going for something like this thanks to its easy upload system but we think that Sony have missed a trick because the camera could include automatic uploads to popular photo and social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. The camera is easy to use and all the buttons are responsive enough even when flicking through the menu at speed. Unusually, we found that the left and right arrows weren't as fast as the up and down ones.
We're puzzled as to why the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is bereft of the fun features usually found on cameras at this price point. Maybe they needed the space for the 4Gb internal memory? Whatever the reason is, it looks like Sony have only a narrow market to sell this camera to. We can only really see holiday makers, gap year students, children and people who don't own a computer looking at a camera like this one.
16 megapixels is a lot to fit onto a tiny sensor so we're especially interested to take a look at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10's image quality.