Early in August should be a great time to test out panoramic photography on a riverside rooftop, but sadly the weather has other ideas. So today we got our hands on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 and DSC-WX1, two very smart new 10-megapixel cameras, against a bleak London sky. We also got to try out the Sony Party-shot camera dock, which cheered us up by being just a little bonkers.
Both cameras use a new sensor first seen in the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 superzoom. In fact there's a bunch of high-end technology from the HX1 trickling down into these sophisticated compacts, including a clever panorama function. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The Exmor CMOS sensor is unusual in the still camera space: CMOS is increasingly common in camcorders, but stills snappers tend to pack CCD sensors instead. Sony reckons backlighting the sensor improves low-light performance. Both cameras include twilight and anti-blur modes that take a selection of pictures at different settings -- known as bracketing -- and run them through the wash, rinsing out noise and improving dynamic range.
Click through our gallery for more on the Sony TZ1, WX1 and batty Party-shot.
The WX1 boasts a 76mm (3-inch) screen. To use the panorama mode, you simply sweep the camera in one motion, rather than having to line up each image. It's very fast to process the resulting image, and very slick indeed.
The lightning-fast 10 frames per second burst mode -- at full resolution, no less! -- is accessible by this handy dedicated button. A smart touch. After taking a burst, the camera can pick the best shot with smile and blink detection.
This is the Sony Party-shot. Although we were initially sceptical, it's hard not to be charmed when you see the little fella in action. It spins in both directions, with the camera's face detection picking out people and snapping away merrily. We should note, however, that it worked well when we were sat neatly around a table in a decently lit room, and we've yet to see it in action in a dank warehouse basement full of skanking revellers. Sadly, it doesn't do video.
The Party-shot runs off AA batteries, or can be plugged into the mains. Sony reckons the batteries will last 10 hours. Ten hours?! We'd like to go to
Sony's parties. You can set the frequency of photos to high, standard or low, with the actual number of pictures depending on the lighting conditions and how well the face detection copes with the number of people around. At the moment it only works with the TX1 and WX1.