Though it might seem like the whole world is trading in point-and-shoots for smartphones, there are still plenty of people who don't have or want a smartphone, or who want something faster and with better photo and video quality that won't kill their phone battery while shooting all day. That's why Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 exists. It's a powerful camera that can outperform a smartphone in many ways, in a body that weighs just a few ounces and is no thicker than a AA battery.
The TX66 is almost the same as 2011's DSC-TX55, so if you have that already, you probably don't need to dump it for the TX66. The 5x f3.5-4.8 26-130mm lens and 3.3-inch OLED touch screen are carried over, but Sony bumped up the resolution from 16 to 18 megapixels. That extra resolution won't help your regular snapshots much; with the exception of close-up shots, you probably won't like what you see when you view photos at full size.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.8 inches by 2.3 inches by 0.5 inch|
|Weight (with battery and media)||3.8 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3.3-inch touch-screen OLED, 1,229K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.5-4.8, 26-130mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/AVCHD, H.264 AAC (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,896x3,672 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (interlaced, 24Mbps, AVCHD), 1,440x1,080 at 30fps (MP4)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 250 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes; proprietary USB cable connected to computer or wall adapter (included)|
|Storage media||microSDHC, MemoryStick Micro|
|Bundled software||Picture Motion Browser (Windows), Picture Motion Browser Portable (Windows, Mac)|
If you view photos at 100 percent you'll see noise, and subjects look soft and painterly, especially once you get above ISO 200. Despite its having a resolution you might find on a larger digital SLR, the photos do not compare.
That said, at reduced sizes, photos do look very good even at higher ISO settings. If most of your shots end up on Facebook or get turned into photobooks or 8.5x11 prints or smaller, you'll probably be pretty happy with what this tiny camera turns out. (For a closer look at the TX66's image quality, see the sample photo slideshow.)
If you're looking for accurate colors, you won't get them with the TX66. However, they are bright and vivid, which, frankly, is what most people want from a point-and-shoot. If you don't fall into that category, Sony's added simple sliders for brightness, hue, and saturation, so you can tune them to your liking. What's better is that they're available in the auto modes, which is unusual but definitely welcomed.
Movies captured by the TX66 are very good. The 60i frame rate and image stabilization make for some smooth movement, too. You might see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects, though, and things look a little oversharpened on occasion. The TX66 won't replace a full-fledged HD camcorder, but if you'd like a single device for capturing good photos and videos, this is a decent choice. The optical zoom does work while recording and can barely be heard when you're using it. The stereo mic on top is a nice extra, though you'll have to be careful not to cover the left side of it when holding the camera.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, White Fluorescent Lighting, Natural White Fluorescent, Day White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Manual|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, Scene, iSweep Panorama, Background Defocus, Picture Effect, 3D Shooting, Movie|
|Focus modes||Multi Point AF, Center Weighted AF, Spot AF, Tracking AF, Face Tracking AF, Touch AF|
|Macro||0.1 inch (Wide); 2 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Color effects||Brightness, color, and vividness controls|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||10 shots|
Sony continues to do an excellent job of getting the most from its speedy Exmor R sensors and high-performance Bionz image processors to give snapshooters better results. There are plenty of shooting options on the TX66 to play with, including nine creative modes for those of you who are addicted to filters and effects.