Party goers and nightclubbers haven't been forgotten in the 2009 crop of compact cameras. Sony's TX1 adds a curious feature to the mix with the inclusion of its Party Dock, which also works with the.
We've seen cameras like Samsung's ST550 come with a range of "social lubricants" as standard. The other drawcard this year has been tweaks to internal specifications. In Sony's case, it's the Exmor R CMOS sensor — claiming increased sensitivity, clearer night-time shots and better noise performance.
Design and features
Sharing a similar look and feel to other touchscreen cameras in Sony's Cyber-shot range like the T90, the TX1 has a brushed metal exterior with a sliding cover that moves down from the top of the camera to the bottom to reveal the lens. It's an incredibly svelte body, with just 1.65cm in depth, the only noticeable protrusions being the wrist strap holder on the side. It weighs just 119g without battery or memory card.
Common controls are within easy reach, such as the zoom rocker at the top right-hand side — small but nicely positioned — and the shutter button and power switch alongside each other at the top. At the bottom, a Memory Stick Pro Duo and the Lithium-ion battery slot in neatly next to one another, and there's a proprietary dock connector on the base as well.
Seeing as the compact camera market is getting so crowded with manufacturers touting the latest and greatest technologies, the TX1 has to have something interesting enough to grab a consumer's attention, and in this case it's what's on the inside that counts. It has a 10.2-megapixel Exmor R sensor, using the same technology that's trickled down from the HX1, which claims to have improved low-light capabilities, improved noise control and is supposed to be twice as sensitive as a traditional CMOS sensor.
Another technology that's made the journey from the HX1 superzoom is sweep panorama that allows you to pan the camera either along a horizontal or vertical axis and it will automatically stitch together a vista of the scene in-camera.
The lens performs all the zooming operations within the camera so there's no protrusion as it extends and retracts to its 4x optical zoom reach. It's a disappointingly small aperture (f/3.5) at the wide end — which is incidentally only 35mm, no wide-angle optics here. HD video is provided at 720p like it was on the T90.
All common shooting functions and menu options are relegated to the touchscreen interface, which hasn't really changed from previous iterations that have appeared on cameras such as the Cyber-shot DSC-T90. The touchscreen is relatively straightforward to use, but the 3-inch unit doesn't provide that much space to position the options around the screen without a little squashiness. In terms of functionality, the TX1 lets you touch the screen to select a point of focus if you'd rather take control.
Let's get ready to party!
Like any good addition to a soiree, the TX1 brings a pleasant guest to the proceedings — an optional party dock (AU$229). Put the camera in this thing, turn it on, and like one of those vacuum cleaners that scoots around the room autonomously, the TX1 will pivot back and forth, up and down looking for its next victims — or should that be smiling faces — to photograph. It can be tethered to mains power or via two AA batteries.
When it finds an appropriate target the camera will snap an image automatically. In the intervening time, the lights underneath the dock flash and glow and the unit rotates constantly in the never-ending search for incriminating situations. We put it to the test in our podcast and found that the camera accurately snapped those smiling, happy faces for posterity.
Like the T90, the TX1 isn't the quickest camera off the mark — shutter lag measures 0.3 second, and in the high-speed burst mode the TX1 captures 10 frames in rapid succession, at an interval of approximately 0.1 second between each shot. It takes a fair while for the camera to process the shots in one go afterwards though, during which time the camera is inactive for other shooting.
Sony rates the battery for the TX1 at 250 shots which is about average for a camera of this class with a touchscreen.