It might look dainty, but the super-slim Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 is as hard as nails. You can drop it from 1.5m, freeze it, and dunk it in up to 3m of water, and it'll keep coming back for more. It boasts Sony's latest hi-tech features too, including 'intelligent sweep panorama', 10-frames-per-second shooting and 720p high-definition movies. For around £280, that doesn't sound at all bad.
The TX5 lets you have your cake and eat it. Despite its ruggedised construction, it's just as slim, dainty and elegant as any other Sony ultra-compact camera. It comes in five different colours (silver, black, red, pink and green), and has a supremely fuss-free exterior, with nothing on the front except brushed steel, and nothing on the back except a big, 75mm (3-inch) LCD touchscreen.
To start the TX5 up, you slide down the lens panel on the front. It's slightly tricky, but, then again, it doesn't exactly matter if you drop the camera. This powers up the rear LCD and its touchscreen interface.
Camera touchscreens don't always work particularly well, but Sony's judged this one to perfection. The sensitivity is just right, and a tiny chime provides audio feedback to confirm your actions. The interface takes some getting used to, though, and it's less than obvious how to use the mode setting in particular. Once you've got it figured out, though, everything becomes much more straightforward.
That's when you start to appreciate this camera's rather special qualities. There's the autofocus speed, for a start, which, as usual with Cyber-shot compacts, is exceptionally fast. The 10fps continuous-shooting mode is quite a revelation, too, since most compacts struggle to surpass 1fps at full resolution. The only drawback is that the camera takes several seconds to empty the buffer after a high-speed burst, and you can't take any more shots until it's finished.
The 'sweep panorama' mode is rather good too, especially now that it's 'intelligent'. It can now stitch frames together seamlessly even if there are people moving in the frame. It doesn't save panoramas at full resolution, but they're big enough, at 4,910x1,080 pixels, and the joins are remarkably good given that everything's done in-camera in just a few seconds.