What makes a good compact camera great? Why, diminutive dimensions of course! Sony has caught onto this fact, and is set to bring out the shockingly slender Cyber-shot DSC-TX55. It's due out towards the end of September and will cost somewhere in the region of £350. We've gone hands-on with the TX55 ahead of its proper launch, so read on for our first impressions.
The TX55 measures just 12.2mm thick, making it easily slim enough to fit into your pocket or handbag. It feels very light too, so this camera seems set to deliver on the promise of being both compact and portable.
On the front, there's a sliding panel that zips down to reveal the lens. This will keep the fragile glass elements sheltered from house keys and gadgetry while you're carrying the TX55 around in your pocket.
The sensor is of the 16.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS variety. Sony reckons the TX55's autofocus can lock onto a target in 0.1 seconds, which should make it good for taking quick snaps on a night out, giving your mates almost no time to fall about giggling, ruining your perfectly lined-up shot.
On the back, there's a 3.3-inch OLED touchscreen that you'll use to control settings and suchlike. We found it satisfyingly responsive.
The TX55 will be available in three different colours -- red, silver and black. We reckon the red version is really more of a pink. John Lewis will be selling the red version exclusively.
Sony's gone to great lengths to keep the TX55 small, which is generally good news. There's one downside though -- this camera won't accept SD cards, only smaller microSD cards.
While most laptops feature an SD card slot, few have a microSD slot, so you'll have to use an adaptor when it comes to sneaking photos off your snapper and onto your PC. That's not a massive obstacle by any means, but it could prove frustrating.
The TX55 packs some technology that Sony calls 'Clear Image Zoom.' If you asked the techies at Sony HQ, they'd tell you that this feature lets you squeeze image magnification beyond the camera's 5x optical zoom.
Once you exceed the 5x optical zoom, though, you'll be relying on a digital zoom, and the problem with digital zooms is that you end up with a lower pixel count in your final photo, because the camera is basically just cropping the final image to make it appear more zoomed-in.
Sony's workaround is to keep the pixel count up, seemingly by using clever algorithms to fill the zoomed-in image with extra pixels, filling in the gaps and leaving you with 16.2-megapixel still images. We didn't get a chance to test this feature in our hands-on test, although a tingly sensation in our bellies tells us it could produce photos that look a tad naff. Still, we'll hold fire on a firm judgement until our review model turns up.
Elsewhere, the TX55 is packed with assorted features. There's a list of effect settings as long as your arm, including the colourful-sounding 'HDR painting' mode and 'toy camera', which we reckon will simulate trendy tilt-shift effects.
The HDR painting mode produces some pretty cool images. How much fun you'll have with these weird settings in the long term is debatable -- once you've toyed about with them, you'll probably settle on the default auto mode.
The TX55 can shoot video at a 1080i resolution, although this is a feature we haven't tested yet. There's some 3D capability thrown in for good measure -- the camera takes two consecutive photos, and then combines them to create a photo you can view in 3D on compatible TVs. A sweep panorama mode will let you photograph impressive landscapes, or just the inside of your bedroom.
Like every other camera under the sun, the true worth of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX55 will depend on its picture quality. But we're impressed by its small size and dashing good looks, and the list of features jammed inside this compact snapper is not to be sniffed at. Stay tuned for the full review soon.
Edited by Charles Kloet