With the Cyber-shot DSC-TX1, Sony packed a lot of fun into a little camera. Without getting into all the technology, the ultracompact shines in low-light conditions, can shoot 10 frames per second at full resolution, and creates panorama shots with near-zero effort. That it can do these things at its petite dimensions is fairly amazing and is really what makes up most of its tidy sum. However, view its photos at full size or heavily cropped and you'll easily notice shortcomings like noise/artifacts, lack of fine detail, and a general overprocessed appearance. Its photos are best suited for prints of 8x10 inches or smaller, viewing on a TV, and Web use. So, if your eye isn't that critical, its features and design definitely make it worth considering.
|Key specifications||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.7x2.3x0.6 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||10 megapixels, 1/2.4-inch Exmor R CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD (touch screen), 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||4x, f3.5-4.6, 35-140mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/MPEG-4 (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||3,648x2,736 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 250 shots|
|Storage type||Memory Stick Pro Duo|
The TX1 looks the part of a nightlife camera. Available in four colors--blue, gray, silver, and pink--it is eye-catching for its size alone. Add in its near-total lack of physical controls, the slide-down brushed-metal lens cover, and the 3-inch touch-screen LCD, and you're bound to get looks and questions. The slim body doesn't give you much room to rest your fingers and with the internal lens positioned high on the front left side, it's easy to accidentally get your digits in shots and touch the lens.
The only physical controls are the power and shutter buttons, a small zoom rocker, and a small Playback mode button at the top of the display. The camera can also be powered on or off by lowering or raising the lens cover. Everything else is handled through the LCD.
The touch-screen display is fairly responsive to fingers, but it works better with the included stylus likely because you can be more precise with it. It clips onto the wrist strap and lets you quickly poke around menus and view and edit photos. Because it has a wide-screen LCD, there are gutters on the left and right sides when using the camera's full resolution. If you want to use the full screen to frame shots, you'll need to shoot in a wide-screen aspect ratio, which drops photos to a 7-megapixel resolution.
Sony, thankfully, reworked its touch-screen interface making settings faster to find. Tap the Menu icon in the upper left corner and a panel of available shooting options slides out as well as a Toolbox icon to take you to a secondary menu for general settings. Back out to the main screen for framing shots and down the left side is a row of four customizable shooting function icons (changing them is a simple drag-and-drop procedure). On the right side of the screen are shooting mode and playback icons. And if you don't want to see anything but what's in the lens, a simple tap and swipe on the left side hides everything else.
What's also nice is the camera's capability to warn you about adjusting certain settings. For example, if you set the TX1 to spot meter light you won't be able to turn on Face Detection. The TX1 tells you onscreen that Face Detection is not available because of Spot metering being selected. Cameras from other vendors generally make you guess what needs to be shut off in order to turn on a blacked-out option.
Still, touch screens aren't for everyone, and if you don't like them before using the TX1, it's doubtful this one will change your mind. It's also not nearly as responsive as, say, the iPhone or other touch-based devices.
A multiuse port on the bottom of the camera works with the included cable for connecting to a computer, display, or TV by USB or AV output. The battery cannot be charged in the camera, so Sony includes an external wall charger. Also, if you want to use the TX1 to playback video or photos at resolutions up to 1080i, you'll have to buy an additional cable.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent 1, 2, and 3, Flash, Underwater 1 and 2, Custom|
|Recording modes||Program Auto, Scene Recognition Auto, Easy, Sweep Panorama, Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, SCN, Movie|
|Focus modes||9-point, Spot AF, Center-weighted AF, Macro AF, Touch AF|
|Metering||Multipattern, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||10 photos|
Sony keeps shooting options geared toward snapshooters on the TX1. Though you won't find full control over aperture or shutter speed, you do get something for just about every point-and-shoot user. Pop open the Shooting Mode menu and you'll find a Movie mode capable of 720p HD-quality video with use of the optical zoom; Program Auto with access to ISO, exposure, white balance, focus, and metering; Sony's Intelligent Auto; the Sweep Panorama setting that lets you shoot horizontal or vertical panoramas with one press of the shutter release; Anti Motion Blur and Hand-Held Twilight; and SCN with 12 scene situations including Pet and High-speed Shutter. An Easy mode can be found under the main shooting options menu, which takes away all but a couple basic shooting options.
If you're looking for reasons to buy this camera over another model, it's the Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, and Sweep Panorama modes. The first two use the camera's capability to quickly capture six images and combine them into one photo with less blur and better detail than you would otherwise get with just one shot. The results are impressive as long as you don't look too closely at the images at full size. They are quite usable at 8x10 inches or smaller, though. The Sweep Panorama function is a perfect fit for the TX1 as it's definitely something you'll want to use at a party, special event, or sightseeing.
If you tend to leave it in Auto mode, Sony's Intelligent Auto turned in reliable results as it picks from eight scene types (branded iSCN) and turns on face detection and image stabilization. Sony's iSCN can be set to Auto or Advanced, the difference being that in difficult lighting the camera will automatically take two shots with different settings so you have a better chance of getting a good photo. There are three levels of high-speed full-resolution shooting, too, which all live up to Sony's performance claims. However, once the photos are shot you have to wait for them to be stored to the memory card--roughly 2 to 3 seconds for each photo taken.