The Sony Cyber-shot TX200V is the ultimate ultracompact with an astronomical price to match. See if its photos help make it worthwhile.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's 18-megapixel resolution doesn't really bring anything to the table for regular snapshots. If you view photos at 100 percent (these are 100 percent crops of our test scene) you'll see noise and subjects look soft and painterly, especially once you get above ISO 200. Despite having a resolution you might find on a larger digital SLR, the photos do not compare.
That said, at reduced sizes -- 60 or 70 percent or smaller -- photos do look very good up to ISO 800. If most of your shots end up on Facebook or get turned into photobooks or 8.5x11 prints or smaller, you'll probably be pretty happy with what this tiny camera turns out.
For those that like to shoot close-ups, the TX200V can focus as close as 1.2 inches from a subject. As long as you stay below ISO 200 (this was taken at ISO 64), you can get good enough fine detail to enlarge and crop images for use at small sizes. If you look at them larger, though, the photos don't hold up.
If you're looking for accurate colors, you won't get them with the TX200V (reds were an exception). However, they are bright and vivid, which, frankly, is what most people want from a point-and-shoot. If you don't fall into that category, Sony's added simple sliders to its auto modes for brightness, hue, and saturation, so you can tune them to your liking.
Sony's added a new digital zoom option to its models with Exmor R sensors. Called Clear Image Zoom, it uses the camera's processor to compare patterns found in adjacent pixels and create new pixels to match selected patterns, resulting in better digital zoom photos. It doubles the optical zoom range and the shots are usable at small sizes (top). However, viewed at 100 percent, it's basically a painting (bottom).
There some noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top) that's visible in both photos and movies. There even seems to be a little with the lens extended (bottom). The lens has OK center sharpness, but at least it's consistent edge to edge; my review camera only had a little bit of softness in the upper corners. I did see fringing in high-contrast areas of photos, but for the most part it's only visible when photos are viewed at full size.
To give a more "pro" look to photos, there's a Background Defocus mode that takes two shots, identifies the background, and blurs it while keeping the subject sharp and in focus. Recommended distance from the subject is about a foot (30cm according to what the camera says onscreen) and you can set the amount of blur to low, medium, or high; this sample photo was taken at medium. It works best when your subject is well in front of the background.
Sony offers two HDR (high dynamic range) modes in the TX200V: one for artistic effect, one for correcting difficult lighting. Backlight Correction HDR is the latter. It works by taking three shots at different exposures and quickly processing them together to get a more balanced exposure. The photo on the left is taken in Intelligent Auto, while the shot on the right is with this HDR mode.
The TX200V has a Picture Effects mode with nine options, all rendered at full resolution and visible live while you're shooting.
From top to bottom, left to right: Superior Auto (Backlight Correction HDR), HDR Painting, Richtone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy Camera, Pop Color, Partial Color (green), Soft High-key, Watercolor, and Illustration. The last two are available in playback as well, should you want to turn a regular shot into a painting.
Sony has two versions of its Sweep Panorama mode, one regular and one Intelligent. The cameras with a Sony Exmor R sensor get the latter, which includes the TX200V. The benefit is that it does a better job of handling moving subjects.
While the Intelligent Panorama mode is good for small prints and Web use, the HR Panorama mode creates higher-quality results at a resolution of 10,480x4,096 pixels (quality has been greatly reduced for faster loading). The files are huge, though; this one is 14MB.
The camera's Dual Rec feature lets you capture 13-megapixel stills while shooting full HD video. Just press the shutter release and you get a shot that's good enough for viewing on a TV or computer screen, or small prints.