When it comes to point-and-shoot compacts for taking on holidays and nights out, many people want a decently specified camera that's both easy on the wallet and pocket-friendly. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7, sibling to the , is just such a camera. Like the TX5, the TX7 offers slender proportions and a metal body, with a sliding face-plate mechanism that covers the lens when not in use. It's available now for around £280.
Sliding open the face plate powers up the camera in just over a second, and sliding it shut turns the camera off. There's also a dedicated power button, should you wish to review photos or video without exposing the lens. The camera weighs a portable 133g, and is only marginally larger than a business card, at 98 by 60 by 18mm. It's available in blue, silver and pink.
The TX7 offers a 1/2.4-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor (Sony's flagship chip), and a 10.2-megapixel resolution. It can capture 1080p AVCHD video at 50 frames per second and still photos at 10fps. It also offers Sony's intelligent 'sweep panorama' function, which produces an extra-wide image if the user sweeps the camera in an arc.
Sweep panorama is a fun feature that's supposed to detect any movement in the shot and stitch around it to avoid unsightly joins. In practice, the joins aren't always seamless, but it's still a useful feature.
The camera's response times are near instantaneous. Navigating the touchscreen interface is as fluid an experience as you could wish for.
Minimalist looks, maximum impact
An internally folded 4x optical zoom mechanism ensures that the lens never protrudes from the body. Unfortunately, its positioning at the top right-hand corner of the face plate means it's all too easy for your fingertips to creep into the frame. Since the camera's smooth, shiny surface and lack of anything approaching a grip can make it difficult to hold rock-steady, the optical image stabilisation is welcome.
A large, 89mm (3.5-inch) touchscreen swallows up the entirety of the TX7's rear, so there are very few physical buttons. There's the main shutter-release button, another for playback, one for alternating between photo and video modes, a power control, and a lever for operating the zoom. The positioning of the zoom lever means it conveniently falls under the forefinger. The action of the zoom is smooth, steady and near silent, and, fortunately, it can be used for recording video as well as stills. It's quite slow, though, taking a leisurely 4 seconds to drift through the breadth of the camera's focal range.
Back in black
Sony suggests its 'TruBlack' screen technology minimises reflections and boosts contrast for richer detail, even when outdoors in bright sunlight. We used the camera almost exclusively in sunny conditions and never felt the need to cup our hands around the screen to see detail.