Building on the success of their "T" series line of ultra-compact cameras, Sony has added their most powerful model yet, the Cyber-Shot DSC-TX1. Sharing many of its features with the DSC-T90 we reviewed last year, the TX1 boasts some very appealing specifications, such as a 10-megapixel "Exmor R" CMOS imaging sensor, Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom lens, 720P HD video recording, 3.0-inch tocuchscreen LCD, 10fps burst shooting at full resolution, iAuto exposure mode and much more.
Designed for those who want an extremely portable, yet easy to use camera, the TX1 boats an intelligent "iAuto" exposure mode which not only chooses the standard exposure settings that your typical Auto mode controls, but also uses iScene recognition to add the best possible scene mode settings to the subject being framed. This is all done in an instant, right in the camera with no input from the user. For those who want to manually select the scene, you have access to 11 options from Twilight, Pet, Snow, etc. This model also offers Sony's Sweep Panorama mode for capturing easy panoramic type photos, which are stitched together in-camera.
Like we've seen with past touch enabled "T" series models, the TX1 offers an effective touch panel system. The large 3.0-inch LCD is bright and easy to view in most lighting conditions. In marginal lighting (like indoors), the display gains up well to help you see your subject, with very little grain. Outdoors, I found the LCD was usable in bright conditions, however the coating on the LCD does have some angles which show reflections. The menu system was very easy to navigate thanks to the clearly labeled icons that are right on the screen. You can also touch the LCD to choose the focus area while taking pictures. This is a nice feature that makes it easy to ensure the subject or object you want to be in focus is nice and sharp. Another feature that I feel is a necessity with touch device is a touch screen calibration option. Many touch devices on the market these days do not offer this, which can make them difficult to use; especially if you have "fat" or large fingers like myself.
Like we've seen in the past, the TX1's feature layout and body design is identical to its predecessor, the T90. I find the ergonomics of these cameras is pretty good when you consider their size. You can comfortably shoot with one or two hands, just be sure you watch out for your fingers on the left side of the camera. The lens is very easily blocked, as it is located in the top left corner of the camera. I found using the "pinch" technique worked very well to help eliminate any chances of this. You will also want to check the front of the lens for finger prints often, otherwise your photos could turn out soft and have a wired bright cast to them. The only controls or buttons that remain are the power, play, shutter release and zoom lever. As mentioned in the paragraph above, all of the other camera settings are accessed via the on-screen touch menu. The screen can be operated with your fingertips or the included "paint" stylus pen.
Shooting performance is right in line with most of Sony's Cyber-Shot models; robust. From the time you flip the front cover down until you are able to take your first photo is between ranged between 1.8 - 2 seconds, mainly dependent on my reaction time. Shutter lag is pretty much instantaneous, with or without the AF system. It measured less than 1/10 of a second when the camera was pre-focused, and only 1/10 of a second including autofocus. In single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged between 1.3 - 1.6 seconds between frames with the flash off, and 2.0 - 2.5 seconds with the flash on. Unlike past "T" series cameras, the TX1 really shines in Burst mode. Older models would not perform the best in this area, but thanks fo the TX1's Exmor R CMOS sensor, it can pump out 10fps at full resolution. You have three settings to choose from; Lo, Mid, and Hi. I actually achieved better results than what Sony claims during my testing, capturing 10 frames in only 5/10 of a second. That's 20fps at 10-megapixels! This has to be one of the fastest digicams on the market, with only some of Casio's High-Speed models coming close. The only drawback with the TX1's burst mode is that it's limited to 10 frames in a sequence, and using Hi speed mode might be too fast for some subjects. Our tests were performed using a Sony 4GB Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark 2 memory stick, iAuto mode, flash off, review on, and all other settings at the factory default unless noted. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
Image quality from Sony's Exmor R sensor is impressive. The TX1 consistently captured sharp images throughout the zoom range with fine detail, accurate exposure and real to life colors. In fact, the TX1 captures better photos than pretty much any other compact Cyber-Shot that we've ever worked with, not to mention many of it's competitors. The 4x "folded" optical zoom lens in completely housed inside the cameras body. With an equivalent range of 35 - 140mm, the lens favors the telephoto end. This range should be sufficient for most snapshots, however you could find the field of view is a bit narrow when shooting indoors. On the opposite, this lens is great for capturing close-up photos, like portraits, macros, etc.
Indoors we saw similar results. Because this is such a tiny camera, you have to realize that its tiny flash is not going to illuminate an open room or subjects more than 6 or more feet away. Sony claims an effective range of up to 9.8 feet at wide angle (ISO
Auto), however I achieved the best results when shooting from no more than 5-6 feet
away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom. Like past models, the TX1 showed a good amount of red-eye in our portrait type photos, even with Red-eye reduction enabled. Thankfully, Sony did include an effective in-camera Red-eye
correction option which is accessed in playback mode. I was impressed with the TX1's performance indoors when using ambient lighting (no flash). While the iAuto mode increased the ISO to 400 or higher, the photos produced still look great for small to mid sized prints. Sure, at 100% you can see a good amount of noise due to the increased sensitivity, however it's not likely that this will be visible when viewing your prints from normal viewing distance.
Another area where the TX1 really excels is video capture. This camera captures some of the best 720p HD video I've seen from almost any consumer digicam. You can choose from 720p (1280x720) HD Fine or Standard modes, both at 30fps
as well as a smaller VGA (640x480, 30fps) option. Our videos are really clear, show good exposure, and the AF system does well at keeping moving subjects in focus. Overall, I was very impressed with our video results. The Audio portion is on par with most digicams on the market. The sensitivity and position of the mic can pick up a slight breeze as well as background noises that you might not have noticed while recording the video.
The TX1 is powered by Sony's
NP-BD1 3.6v 680mAh InfoLITHIUM rechargeable battery pack. This tiny batter is charged out of camera in the included AC charger, which offers fold-away prongs for easy storage in your camera bag or purse. Sony claims this
pack can power the camera for up to 250 images on a full charge. I was
able to capture about 180+ images, several short movie clips, and
conclude all of our other tests before the battery was exhausted. While this is pretty good battery life for an ultra-compact camera, I still suggest you pick up an extra battery pack when possible, especially if you're planning a vacation in the near future. You can change one pack while using another, ensuring you don't miss a shot due to a dead battery.
Bottom line - the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX1 is an awesome little gem. This camera out performs most all other models in its class, capturing beautiful 10-megapixel images, not to mention at up to 20fps (Sony claims 10fps) when using it's Hi speed burst option. With pleasing build quality, a nice durable metal body, awesome HD video mode, and an effective iAuto exposure system, the TX1 delivers the goods. These awesome results come at a cost though, with a street price of about $300, the TX1 is not cheap. However, I feel the TX1 still offers great bang for your buck, and have no problem giving it a high recommendation.
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