Editors' note: Several of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V and the Cyber-shot TX66 we reviewed earlier, so readers of the earlier review may experience some deja vu when reading the same sections below.
Sony's T-series cameras have always been showpieces. Ultraslim, ultrasmall point-and-shoots that you whipped out at a party or a night out that made people stop and take notice. Its top-of-the-line 2012 model, the TX200V, still elicits that response, but the "oh, wow, that looks cool," comments are now punctuated with a "but it looks like my smartphone." And looking at it, that response is understandable.
However, the TX200V is more powerful than most -- if not all -- current ultracompact cameras, and a smartphone can't compete with all of its capabilities. At just barely more than half an inch thick, the TX200V features an 18-megapixel Exmor R backside-illuminated sensor, a 5x f3.5-4.8 26-130mm Carl Zeiss lens, and a 3.3-inch 1.2-million-dot-resolution touch-screen OLED display. It's also waterproof to 16 feet as well as dustproof and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Apparently putting all of that into a very small body is a costly undertaking. The suggested retail price for the TX200V is $500, which elicited one response from everyone I told: laughter.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9x2.4x0.7 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.6 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3.3-inch 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 (.MTS), H.264 AAC (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,896x3,672 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (progressive, 28Mbps, AVCHD), 1,440x1,080 at 30fps (MP4)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 220 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes; USB cable connected to computer or wall adapter (included)|
|Storage media||microSDHC, MemoryStick Micro|
|Bundled software||PlayMemories Home (Windows); Music Transfer (Windows, Mac)|
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's 18-megapixel resolution doesn't really bring anything to the table for regular snapshots. 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 having a resolution you might find on a larger digital SLR, the photos do not compare.
That said, at reduced sizes -- 60 or 70 percent or smaller -- photos do look very good up to ISO 800. 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.
If you're looking for accurate colors, you won't get them with the TX200V (reds were an exception). 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 has added simple sliders to its auto modes for brightness, hue, and saturation, so you can tune them to your liking. (For more on this Sony's photo quality, view the sample photo slideshow.)
For its size, the TX200V turns out great full HD video in AVCHD format; good enough to be viewed on a large HDTV. The 1080/60p resolution and strong image stabilization makes for some smooth movement. Shooting fast-moving subjects with a pocket camera typically results in ghosting and judder, but that's not the case here. If you're looking for a single ultracompact device for capturing photos and movie clips (it has a 29-minute continuous recording limit), this is one of the best options available. The optical zoom does work while recording, though you may hear it moving in quiet scenes, and the stereo mic produced good audio.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V|
|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||3.1 inches (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 TX200V to play with, including nine creative modes for those of you who are addicted to filters and effects. (For more on this Sony's shooting capabilities, view the sample photo slideshow.)
For those who like to leave it in auto, there are three options: Easy, Intelligent Auto, and Superior Auto. Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. Intelligent Auto picks from 10 scene types and turns on face detection, dynamic range optimization, and image stabilization. Superior Auto takes Intelligent Auto and adds three multishot modes: Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, and Backlight Correction HDR.
Shooting performance is for the most part very good. True to Sony's claims, the TX200V does focus and shoot quickly, making it easy to catch that one-off shot of your kids or pets. Press the power button and it's ready to shoot in 0.7 second. Shutter lag is low at 0.3 second in good lighting and 0.6 second in dim conditions.
It burst shoots at up to 10 frames per second at full resolution; however, as with past Sony models with this feature, you're stuck waiting for the pictures to get stored on your memory card before you can shoot again. Plus, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so if your subject is moving fast, there's a good chance they won't be in focus for all 10 shots. Regular shot-to-shot times were a bit longer than I expected at 2.1 seconds without flash and 4.8 seconds with flash.
At a glance, there's no reason someone would know that there's a 5x zoom lens inside as well as a GPS receiver and a high-performance image processor and sensor. The front is covered with glass and the back is nothing but an ultrahigh-resolution 3.3-inch OLED touch screen. The only physical controls are a power button, shutter release, and nub of a zoom lever on top. If you frequently forget what your fingerprints look like, buy this camera; pick it up and it'll be covered with them in seconds.
Since the camera is water- and dustproof, its battery, memory card slot (it takes Micro-SDHC and MemoryStick Micro cards), Micro-USB, and Micro-HDMI ports are under one door on the bottom of the camera. Considering the camera's price and how often you'll need to open and close that door, it really deserves a better lock and a more substantial seal; hopefully they're better than they look.
Battery life is decent, but with so many things like high-bit-rate movie capture, high-speed burst shooting, and touch-screen operation, you might want to invest in an extra battery. Turning on the GPS receiver will also cut into your battery life, which makes it all the more remarkable that it can't quickly be turned on and off.
The GPS does work well, though; once it's on it'll start searching for satellites, which happened fast for me, but can take up to several minutes depending on how much open sky is above you. The camera seamlessly adds the information to a photo's EXIF data, so you can use software like Picasa or Google Earth to see where you were when you took your photos. There is also a GPS Log option so you can track and later view the path and images on a map.
I'm not sure there's room in the market for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V. It is a good camera if you need something super powerful that weighs next to nothing and takes up little space. Its sky-high price is tough to swallow and although it's waterproof, the rest of its design is better for looking not touching.
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