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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20

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The Good Stylish, slimline camera. High-resolution touchscreen. Good video quality. Decent image quality if you just want snapshots/web use.

The Bad Surface is slippery even when dry. Buttons might be too small for some hands. Can't use touchscreen underwater.

The Bottom Line Style and a little bit of substance can go together in a tough camera, as long as your expectations of photo quality are not too high. The TX20 is a slimline, waterproof model that will appeal to fashionistas more so than fashion photographers.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall

Design and features

A few years ago, the phrase "stylish tough camera" was considered an oxymoron. Fortunately, camera makers have started to heed our cries for an attractive camera that can survive both the surf and snow parties, with Nikon and Sony pushing the aesthetic boundaries.

The TX20 is a very slender camera, almost looking too delicate to be classified as a tough performer. Looks can be deceiving, though, and in this case they definitely don't give away the secret that it can dive down to 5 metres, is shockproof from 1.5 metres and is dust and freeze resistant.

Like the earlier tough range from Sony, the TX20 sports a 3-inch high-resolution touchscreen that takes up the entirety of the back panel, as well as some tiny buttons that will challenge even the most delicate digits. The front panel is a slide-down design, which both covers the lens element and turns the camera on. It's a rather pedestrian 4x optical zoom, but it does the job for most snapshots.

A range of the picture effects available on the TX20, including HDR, monochrome, selective colour and toy camera.
(Credit: CBSi)

While style is certainly something that we value in a camera, the price you pay for attractiveness may often come at the cost of usability. Unfortunately, in the case of the TX20 it's just so small, and its surface just so slippery, that even on dry land it can be difficult to get a firm grip. There's a wrist strap provided in the box, but it's not enough to stop it from falling out of your hand when underwater.

The touchscreen, when clean and dry, responds well and provides an easy way to change shooting settings. There's a stylus provided in the box just in case your digits have trouble selecting anything on the screen. Underwater, it becomes impossible to use the touchscreen, so you have to ensure that all of the shooting options are set when the screen is dry. The sliding cover also tends to attract both water and dirt underneath it, so if you are using it on your Splash Mountain adventures, make sure to thoroughly clean and dry it as per Sony's recommendations.

Modes are all of the automatic variety, but you do get almost all the same controls on non-rugged Cyber-shot cameras. The TX20 offers an intelligent as well as superior auto mode, a program auto mode, panoramic shooting, background defocus, scene, 3D and picture effects.

The TX20 offers USB charging, which is useful for when you're near a computer, but not so great for on the road. It's also got a proprietary port, which can make it tricky if you lose the included cable.

Compared to

AW100 vs. FT3

Olympus Tough TG-1 Panasonic Lumix FT4 Sony Cyber-shot TX20 Nikon AW100
12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS 12.1-megapixel CCD 16.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 16.0-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS
3-inch OLED (610,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch touchscreen (921,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)
Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m
4x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 4x optical zoom 5x optical zoom
25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging No GPS tagging GPS tagging
HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080i) HD video (1080p)


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 2.210.4
    Panasonic Lumix FT3

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in seconds)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 2.5
    Panasonic Lumix FT3
  • 1.2
    Nikon Coolpix AW100

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The TX20 is a nimble performer, so it responds and focuses quickly. This means that you're more likely to get the shot than not, particularly compared to some other, slower rugged cameras that suffer from prolonged shutter lag. Note that the TX20 takes 10 shots in a row in its high-speed continuous mode (as measured above) before stopping to process the photos.

Sony rates the battery at 250 shots, but with the continuous use of the touchscreen and recording video, it didn't last as long as predicted in our tests.

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