Canon Powershot TX1 Review

Canon PowerShot TX1

Steve's Conclusion

The PowerShot TX1 is the first hybrid digicam/tapeless movie camera we have seen from Canon (as of 6/2007), and falls in the same class as Sanyo's Xacti series models. This new model includes loads of high-end features, like a 7-megapixel still image sensor, 10x optical zoom lens, Optical Image Stabilization, 285° swiveling 1.8-inch Vari-angle display, and 720p HD (1280x720) movie mode, all packaged in a stylish and durable stainless steal body. Usable by every member in your household, the TX1 features full Auto and 7 pre-programmed scene modes for beginners, while advanced users have access to more control over the exposure process with Manual mode.

Ergonomics are a bit of a mixed bag. At about the size of a deck of playing cards (just a bit thicker), it can easily be tucked away in small pockets, and the metal body ensures it will hold up to your daily routine. While the controls are positioned within reach of your finger tips, I found the camera itself is a bit awkward to hold, with my right middle finger resting firmly against the bottom of the lens (when extended.) When reviewing images , where the lens in retracted in the camera, my finger then rested right on the lens cover. However, I found as you use the camera mode, it becomes more comfortable to hold. The onscreen menu system is true to all of Canon's recent models, easy to navigate and the Function menu allows for quick changes to many settings.

The TX1 's 285° swiveling 1.8-inch LCD, while small, is very high-quality display. I found it worked excellent both indoors and out. Although the coating is slightly reflective, I was still able to clearly see my subjects , even when the harsh sunlight was beating directly onto it. When shooting in marginal lighting, like indoors, the LCD also "gains up" extremely well, which will help you frame your subject in these conditions.

Shooting performance was impressive. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 2.4 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing an image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and about 3/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting a sequence of still images, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without the flash and 3 - 4 seconds with the flash, depending on the distance from the subject. The TX1 offers two continuous or burst mode settings (Continuous, Continuous Shooting AF.) Continuous mode allowed me to capture 10 photos in 3.9 seconds (without filling the buffer), surpassing Canon's claim of 2fps. Continuous Shooting AF mode captured 10 frames in about 7 seconds, still above the claim of 1.1fps. Using movie mode, I found the delay between clips was very short, at about 1 - 1.5 seconds. Switching from record mode to playback or vice versa takes about a second. All of our tests were done using a Lexar High-Speed 1GB SD card, with the image size/quality set at Large SuperFine, Manual mode, ISO Auto, preview off, with all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.

Like almost all of Canon's models, the TX1's image quality results were very pleasing. When shooting outdoors, our sample images were sharp from edge to edge and colors look very natural. The exposure system also does and excellent job, producing beautiful sky detail. Noise levels are average for a 7-megapixel consumer model, becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity is increased. Our portrait results were also good, even though Canon only rate the flash rage at 6.6 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto.) This is one of the shortest ranges I have seen, however the it performs relatively well in small rooms. I achieved the best results shooting from about 4 -5 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. This flash will by no means illuminate any open rooms, period.

The TX1 features an awesome 10x optical zoom lens that covers a 35mm equivalent range of approx. 39mm - 390mm. Offering a great deal of versatility in composing your shots over your typical 3x zoom, the 39mm wide angle end will afford nice group portraits and landscapes, while the 390mm telephoto end of the zoom range will help bring those distant subjects up in your face. I found the lens mechanism is very smooth and precise, but not continuous. I counted over 50 steps from wide angle to telephoto, more than enough to suit your composition needs. This high-quality lens also features Canon's legendary Optical Image Stabilization (IS), which is a very useful feature that will help improve the quality of your handheld images and movies. The lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at wide angle and slight pincushioning at the telephoto extreme. Purple fringing (aka Chromatic aberrations) were well controlled for a super-zoom, but I still saw slight traces in many of our photos.

Movie mode allows you to record VGA (640x480, 30fps) or QVGA (320x240 60 or 30fps) video with stereo audio when using the standard 4:3 aspect or 720p HD (1280x720, 30fps) in 16:9 mode. Unlike most digicams that record sound with movies, the TX1 allows you to use the 10x optical zoom while you are recording. Our movie samples turned out great, showing minimal amounts of compression noise, and the AF system does a good job at keeping the subject in focus while zooming. Just be sure you have a large SD/SDHC card as the HD video mode consumes about 4.8MB per second!

The TX1 is powered by a NB-4L 3.7v 760mAh lithium rechargeable battery pack, which is charged in the handy CB-2LV rapid AC charger. Canon claims this allows the TX1 to capture up to 160 images or up 4 hours of continuous playback. I found that the battery life was quite good, and permitted us to capture a large majority of our samples (about 90 stills and several movie clips) before the battery was exhausted. We strongly recommend the purchase of an extra battery pack and keep it charged and ready at all times, you wouldn't want to miss that spontaneous photo opt due to a dead battery.

Bottom line - Canon's Powershot TX1 is an interesting 7-megapixel model. While it's not as comfortable to hold in your hands as Sanyo's Xacti series models, the TX1 offers better image quality, performance, a more durable exterior and movie quality. At an MSRP of US$499 or less, the TX1 is slightly cheaper than its competitors, however still a bit expensive for a 7-megapixel digicam.

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