Friday, January 10, 2014

The Sony QX-10 - A Little Competitions

So I recently picked up one of those Sony QX10 cameras, you know the ones that pair with your phone.  They are the lens and the camera internals, but you control the whole thing from your phone.  When you are done, the pictures are all on the phone (ready to be modified or shared as you wish - though a copy also remains on a memory card in the camera).  So if you have read this (and I do not update it often), you will know I like to carry around as little as possible.  I have been taking more pictures with my phone as a result of that (and when I wanted a better camera I bring the Canon SX260 along - I almost never carry the DSLR anymore).  However, the SX260 still leaves a lump in the pocked, and the QX10 is much easier to carry around (and no funny eye-fi cards to deal with).

However this all begged the questions.  Is carrying anything around really worth it as the GS4 gets pretty good pictures on its own?  Will the QX10 be able to fully replace the SX260?  Does any of this really matter anyway?  and finally why do I really care.  Well, if we ignore the last 2 questions, I think we can really get somewhere.

First of as I said before, the SX260 can not replace the DSLR.  I know I take fewer and fewer pictures with the DSLR, but when I really want something off the wall and special, I have to get the DSLR out (though it is getting old in the teeth as I have not updated in along time).  It has all the controls for exposure - more flexible flash and I can mount a lens that best suites the situation.  So I still have the DSLR, but do not use it much anymore.

Just looking at the SX260 and the QX10 somethings will jump out at you.  First is that the QX10 has no flash.  I think this really is its biggest short fall.  I like to use a little fill flash on many of my shots, and the QX10 just does not offer this option (I can use the flashlight on the phone, but that is not much use most of the time).  The second obvious item missing is the zoom range.  The QX10 is a 10x optical zoom (which is respectable).  The SX260 is 20x (and it does mean alot).  There is also one non-obvious short coming to the QX10 and that is control.  The QX10 is largely automatic (there are varying levels of automatic control, but there are no manual modes like the SX260 supports).

However, where there are short comings, there are also strengths.  The first is that the camera is stand alone.  There is a little piece that allows you to attach it to your phone (so it works more like a phone), but I hardly ever use this (and I do not carry it).  This means that I am able to get different vantage points easily.  For example I can hold the QX10 over my head while composing the shot on my phones screen.  This allows me to get over a crowd (or just a different vantage point).  This is also really nice in pictures I plan on being in (I can actually see the end result instead of framing it and walking over).  Yes the QX10 does have delays (so you have time to put the phone in your pocket or get it out of the picture).  Obviously this also means that I can leave the camera somewhere (hanging with my Gorilla tripod) so I can get even different perspectives.

The major strength however is the connectivity.  If you look back, I purchased the eye fi card for the SX260 as I am a bit paranoid about losing pictures (it happened to me once when out on vacation, the story should be somewhere below).  With the QX10, there are copies on the phone and on the camera (so you need to lose both).  Once on the phone they are easy to upload and save (no clunky eye fi interface).

Ok, so those are the physical differences, but what about quality (and why did I not bring up the GS4 by itself yet - though really those shortcomings and strengths are obvious extensions of the above).  So I went outside and took a few pictures with each (it was a grey day, so I apologize).  The last set of pictures are probably the most important with some low light issues.

As always, click the picture to get a full view.  Also for the GS4 and the GX10, I left them in Auto (they are designed to be in Auto) for these pictures.  For the SX260, I left much of it in Auto, but forced the ISO to 200 as any higher the noise starts to get bad.

First we will do the GS4 by itself:

Not bad.  The green comes out and there is reasonable sharpness though it looks like a little haze crept in.

Now for the SX260:

Again, not bad, the color on the canon is actually a little greener and there is no haze.

Now for the GX10:

Unfortunately this is a little more zoomed in, but the colors are still good, but the sharpness is off the charts compared to the others (but the zoom might help).  It is even possible to make out the moss on the bark for the tree.  This is pretty good and the best of the bunch (though the zoom helped it a little that does not explain it all).

Now, lets try a turning around and looking at a few leaves.  Again, we will go with the GS4 first.

Sharpness is good close up.  The details and blemishes show up well in the leaves.

Now for the SX260:

Again, the zoom is off a bit, which will end up working against the GS4, but the SX260 also has very good detail in the leaves.

Finally lets go to the GX10:

Ok, so I was not having a great day (I need to think this more through when I start).  The exposure here is a bit different as I am now looking into more snow and down not up as much (the advantage of being able to hold the camera differently from the viewfinder).  However I think you get the point, detail is really good here as well.  

So all the cameras behave pretty good when outside and plenty of light (guess that should not be a surprise to anyone).  What happens when I bring them inside and take my normal test picture of the book case.  

First up for the final picture is the GS4:

So this is where the GS4 starts to suffer (don't worry, I will post a blow up comparison below).  There is really starting to get to be some noise and even some strange halos (maybe the GS4 is doing quite a bit of noise reduction/sharpening).

Now for the SX260:

Ok, so this is better, but the SX260 still has noise in the picture (if you read below, that has always been my complaint).  However the strange halo's are missing.  This is not a bad picture and for most uses will be really good.

Finally the GX10:

Sharpness here is fantastic.  The detail is extraordinary for a camera of this type (more on that below).  I am really impressed by this.

So to make it easier on all of you, there is a blow up below.  The pictures are not all zoomed the same (look at the box of tissues and the end of the cabinet).  However, I zoomed the SX260 and GX10 about the same (the GS4 is actually zoomed a little less).

The GS4 is on the left, the SX260 in the middle and the GX10 is on the right.  This is not a case of the Sony having more pixels bringing in the sharpness (though it does not hurt), this is the Sony just not having nearly as much noise.  If you look below in other comparisons, you will see how Canon loses noise at it approaches the magic 10MP size (what I thought was probably the best size for there compact cameras).

The Sony is an 18MP sensor, and still look at the colors in the books.  Yes there is some noise, but it does not compare with the others.  So for low light use (and don't we all seem to take our pictures in low light), the Sony seems to be the camera of choice.

After this, I think I am going to be much more comfortable leaving the SX260 home, and just carrying around the GX10 (when I expect to take pictures, the GS4 will still work for some of those surprise settings).  The only item I would like Sony to address with the next version would be some type of pop up flash or something.  I think that the small flash would make this a complete solution.