Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20

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Background Defocus mode rapidly takes two photos and processes them together, keeping the foreground subject sharp while blurring the background. Joshua Goldman/CNET

Along with these, you also get several scene modes, a background defocus option that simulates a shallow depth-of-field by softening the background in camera, and you get seven of Sony's Picture Effects: HDR Painting, Richtone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy camera, Pop Color, Partial Color, and Soft High-key.

Shooting performance is for the most part very good. True to Sony's claims, the TX20 does focus and shoot quickly, making it easy to catch that one-off shot of your kids or pets. Slide the lens cover down and it's ready to shoot in 1.4 seconds. Shutter lag is good at 0.4 second in good lighting and 0.7 second in dim conditions. It burst shoots at 10 frames per second at full resolution; however, as with past Sony models with this feature, you're stuck waiting for the pictures to get stored on your memory card before you can shoot again. Plus, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so if your subject is moving, there's a good chance they won't be in focus for all 10 shots. Regular shot-to-shot times were pretty quick, too, at 1.5 seconds without flash and 3.6 seconds with flash.

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The slide-down lens cover and slim, slippery body could make the TX20 undesirable for beach use. Sarah Tew/CNET

Actually shooting with the camera is another story. If you've got strong, tiny hands with nimble fingers you'll probably be fine. Me and my big hands had trouble using the camera when they were wet or cold, and keeping my fingers out of shots (the biggest drawback to this type of internal zoom lens). Also, while the metal body looks good, it doesn't give you much to grip -- not good if you have wet or sweaty fingers. The touch screen doesn't function properly when wet, either, so Sony suggests you shut off its controls when using it in water. That's fine, but you'll have to remember to get in the correct shooting mode before it gets wet and understand that you might not be able to easily change settings. Lastly, the slide-down lens cover has the potential to trap sand or dirt and grind scratches into the body.

When it's not wet, the touch screen is responsive and snappy, but because of its size and the location of some icons, I would accidentally hit the wrong thing. Sony includes a tiny stylus that clips to the wrist strap, which is much more efficient than your fingers, if not as convenient. The camera itself is easy to operate out of the box, and if you get lost, there's a full operating manual stored in the camera.

Though Sony's other TX-series models use microSDHC or MemoryStick Micro cards, the TX20 takes a full-size SD card or Memory Stick. However, it has a very small battery pack that runs down pretty fast if you're doing more than snapshots. Along with that, the camera uses a proprietary USB port for charging, so if you lose the cable, you can't just use an off-the-shelf Micro-USB cable.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 looks and operates just like the manufacturer's nonrugged TX-series cameras. That's the good news. Overall, though, it's not the best design for a rugged camera for frequent outdoor adventures. But, if you just want something tougher than your average point-and-shoot, it gets the job done.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
Pentax Optio WG-2

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20

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