Sony Cyber-shot QX10 Digital Camera Review
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By the Numbers
The Sony Cyber-shot QX10's unique form factor presents a number of issues when trying to analyze its performance. Chief among these issues is the lack of control currently provided by the Sony PlayMemories application. As such we have elected to not put the QX10 through our normal battery of performance tests because, quite frankly, it isn't possible. For the tests we were able to run, we have included the results below.
The QX10 uses a standard 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor with a 10x optical zoom, but unlike most Sony point-and-shoot cameras, it doesn't include a variety of color modes. The only mode that is available was acceptably accurate—you're not going to see any incredibly weird color shifts—but it definitely opts for vibrance over accuracy.
As you can see in the results chart above, the main issue with this standard mode is controlling blues and magentas. The reason for the inaccuracy is obvious: vibrant magentas, blues, and reds look good in a final image. When we correct for these saturation enhancements, the QX10 has a color error (∆C00) of 2.66, which is actually very good for a point-and-shoot. The shot was somewhat oversaturated, however, with a saturation percentage 116.9% of the ideal.
What does that mean for your photos? You can expect pretty accurate shots with pleasing vibrancy that will be suitable for most scenes. The lack of control continues to be worrisome, but for everyday snapshots it isn't a big deal.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about the QX10, relative to most smartphone cameras, is the 10x optical zoom lens. While a 10x optical zoom lens with a maximum aperture range of f/3.3-5.9 is nothing special for a point-and-shoot, it's far better than what you get with your average smartphone. But just how good is the QX10's lens?
In our testing, we found that the QX10's lens produced adequately sharp images throughout the focal range, with plenty of detail in the center of the frame giving way to soft corners. Surprisingly, there wasn't a great deal of oversharpening applied to the shots right from the camera, so there's some room for improvement with some post-processing.
Overall, the sharpest results were seen in the center of the frame when shooting at full wide angle, with an average result of 1787 line widths per picture height (LWPH) at MTF50P. When we zoomed in part way (16.2mm), the resolution in the corners rose by quite a bit, though the overall average resolution dipped to 1728 LWPH. At full telephoto the maximum aperture shrank to f/5.9, which introduced some diffraction, causing the resolution average to fall all the way to 1361 LWPH at MTF50P.
The QX10 performed quite well in our white balance testing, though the camera lacks custom white balance functionality. In our automatic white balance testing we found that the QX10 handled daylight and fluorescent settings well, with an average error of less than 200 kelvins. Tungsten proved to be much more of a challenge, however, as the QX10 returned a very warm result, with an average error in excess of 2000 kelvins.
That result may seem like a big deal, but truthfully the automatic white balance systems on most cameras fails to account for the warmth of incandescent lighting. Errors of greater than 2000 kelvins are not uncommon, especially for point-and-shoots. If you don't want warm shots and you're shooting indoors with normal incandescent tungsten lights we'd recommend using the tungsten preset available in the PlayMemories app.
It's difficult for us to get a full account of how the QX10 handles noise because the Sony PlayMemories app lacks any and all ISO control. This is disappointing, to say the least, and it makes it difficult to say exactly how good or bad you can expect the QX10 to perform in challenging lighting scenarios.
We did shoot our normal still life scene in both bright light and low light with the three modes that are available: Program Auto, Intelligent Auto, and Superior Auto. While we couldn't control ISO directly, this does at least give us some idea as to what your shots will look like depending on the lighting condition. The bright light condition is shot at around 1700 lux (a little brighter than your average overcast day) while the low light shots are taken at 40 lux (equivalent to a dim restaurant).
As you can see in the crops above, there isn't a great deal of difference between the three auto modes in terms of overall image quality. Superior Auto seems to do the best with fine detail in both bright and low light, but it's only possible to spot the differences when viewing images at 100% magnification.
Generally speaking, however, the image quality in the low light (40 lux) examples is disappointing for shots in the ISO 800-1000 range. They are better than you'll get with your typical smartphone camera, but they're no better than your run-of-the-mill $250 point-and-shoot. It's also worth noting that all of these shots were taken on a tripod, with automatic modes electing for shutter speeds of 1/6th or 1/8th of a second—far too slow to be useful if shooting handheld, especially given the handling challenges the QX10's form factor presents.
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