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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1

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With the Cyber-shot DSC-TX1, Sony packed a lot of fun into a little camera. Without getting into all the technology, the ultracompact shines in low-light conditions, can shoot 10 frames per second at full resolution, and creates panorama shots with near-zero effort. That it can do these things at its petite dimensions is fairly amazing and is really what makes up most of its tidy sum. However, view its photos at full size or heavily cropped and you'll easily notice shortcomings like noise/artifacts, lack of fine detail, and a general overprocessed appearance. Its photos are best suited for prints of 8x10 inches or smaller, viewing on a TV, and Web use. So, if your eye isn't that critical, its features and design definitely make it worth considering.

sony-cyber-shot-dsc-tx1-digital-camera-compact-10-2-mpix-4-x-optical-zoom-carl-zeiss.jpg
7.8

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1

The Good

Well designed; several fun, useful features; improved touch-screen interface.

The Bad

Mixed photo quality.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 is a first-rate ultracompact party companion that excels at snapshots, but those expecting superb photo quality for its price should pass on it.

Key specifications Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
Price (MSRP) $379.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.7x2.3x0.6 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.4-inch Exmor R CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD (touch screen), 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f3.5-4.6, 35-140mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 250 shots
Storage type Memory Stick Pro Duo

The TX1 looks the part of a nightlife camera. Available in four colors--blue, gray, silver, and pink--it is eye-catching for its size alone. Add in its near-total lack of physical controls, the slide-down brushed-metal lens cover, and the 3-inch touch-screen LCD, and you're bound to get looks and questions. The slim body doesn't give you much room to rest your fingers and with the internal lens positioned high on the front left side, it's easy to accidentally get your digits in shots and touch the lens.

The only physical controls are the power and shutter buttons, a small zoom rocker, and a small Playback mode button at the top of the display. The camera can also be powered on or off by lowering or raising the lens cover. Everything else is handled through the LCD.

The touch-screen display is fairly responsive to fingers, but it works better with the included stylus likely because you can be more precise with it. It clips onto the wrist strap and lets you quickly poke around menus and view and edit photos. Because it has a wide-screen LCD, there are gutters on the left and right sides when using the camera's full resolution. If you want to use the full screen to frame shots, you'll need to shoot in a wide-screen aspect ratio, which drops photos to a 7-megapixel resolution.

Sony, thankfully, reworked its touch-screen interface making settings faster to find. Tap the Menu icon in the upper left corner and a panel of available shooting options slides out as well as a Toolbox icon to take you to a secondary menu for general settings. Back out to the main screen for framing shots and down the left side is a row of four customizable shooting function icons (changing them is a simple drag-and-drop procedure). On the right side of the screen are shooting mode and playback icons. And if you don't want to see anything but what's in the lens, a simple tap and swipe on the left side hides everything else.

What's also nice is the camera's capability to warn you about adjusting certain settings. For example, if you set the TX1 to spot meter light you won't be able to turn on Face Detection. The TX1 tells you onscreen that Face Detection is not available because of Spot metering being selected. Cameras from other vendors generally make you guess what needs to be shut off in order to turn on a blacked-out option.

Still, touch screens aren't for everyone, and if you don't like them before using the TX1, it's doubtful this one will change your mind. It's also not nearly as responsive as, say, the iPhone or other touch-based devices.

A multiuse port on the bottom of the camera works with the included cable for connecting to a computer, display, or TV by USB or AV output. The battery cannot be charged in the camera, so Sony includes an external wall charger. Also, if you want to use the TX1 to playback video or photos at resolutions up to 1080i, you'll have to buy an additional cable.

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="center">Auto, 125, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
ISO sensitivity (full resolution)
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent 1, 2, and 3, Flash, Underwater 1 and 2, Custom
Recording modes Program Auto, Scene Recognition Auto, Easy, Sweep Panorama, Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, SCN, Movie
Focus modes 9-point, Spot AF, Center-weighted AF, Macro AF, Touch AF
Metering Multipattern, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects None
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 10 photos

Sony keeps shooting options geared toward snapshooters on the TX1. Though you won't find full control over aperture or shutter speed, you do get something for just about every point-and-shoot user. Pop open the Shooting Mode menu and you'll find a Movie mode capable of 720p HD-quality video with use of the optical zoom; Program Auto with access to ISO, exposure, white balance, focus, and metering; Sony's Intelligent Auto; the Sweep Panorama setting that lets you shoot horizontal or vertical panoramas with one press of the shutter release; Anti Motion Blur and Hand-Held Twilight; and SCN with 12 scene situations including Pet and High-speed Shutter. An Easy mode can be found under the main shooting options menu, which takes away all but a couple basic shooting options.

If you're looking for reasons to buy this camera over another model, it's the Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, and Sweep Panorama modes. The first two use the camera's capability to quickly capture six images and combine them into one photo with less blur and better detail than you would otherwise get with just one shot. The results are impressive as long as you don't look too closely at the images at full size. They are quite usable at 8x10 inches or smaller, though. The Sweep Panorama function is a perfect fit for the TX1 as it's definitely something you'll want to use at a party, special event, or sightseeing.

If you tend to leave it in Auto mode, Sony's Intelligent Auto turned in reliable results as it picks from eight scene types (branded iSCN) and turns on face detection and image stabilization. Sony's iSCN can be set to Auto or Advanced, the difference being that in difficult lighting the camera will automatically take two shots with different settings so you have a better chance of getting a good photo. There are three levels of high-speed full-resolution shooting, too, which all live up to Sony's performance claims. However, once the photos are shot you have to wait for them to be stored to the memory card--roughly 2 to 3 seconds for each photo taken.

Shooting performance is above-average with the exception of low-light shutter lag. The wake-to-first-shot time is 1.8 seconds. The shot-to-shot time is rather quick at 1.2 seconds; add 1 second to that time if you're using the flash. Shutter lag in bright conditions is a very good 0.4 second; however, dim lighting extends the lag out to 0.8 second. The camera has no continuous shooting mode, but its high-speed burst mode is capable of snapping off 9.9 frames per second at full resolution.

Like Sony's WX1 that shares the same sensor technology, the TX1's photo quality has its highs and lows. The TX1's results are fairly typical point-and-shoot; good up to ISO 200, but at higher sensitivities noise reduction mucks up fine details, which is noticeable when pictures are viewed at 100 percent or when heavily cropped.

The TX1's consistent color performance across sensitivities up to ISO 1,600 keeps them usable for 8x10 prints and smaller. Photos at ISO 3,200 look washed out and details are absent. There's some color noise/artifacts at all sensitivities above ISO 125, but at ISO 400 subjects show yellow splotches, too. If you're going to make poster-size prints and stare at them from a foot away, you're probably going to be disappointed with what you see. Also, if your subject isn't moving, I suggest using the Hand-held Twilight mode for the best results in low-light conditions.

For a 35-140mm-equivalent lens, the TX1 displays a fair amount of barrel distortion at its widest position and pincushioning when fully zoomed out. Purple fringing in its images was below average to average; it was present, but in the high-contrast situations you would expect to see it.

The TX1 produces some excellent, vibrant colors with good exposure. The only hang-up is that highlights blow out. The camera's dynamic range feature boosts shadow detail, but doesn't seem to do anything to help keep the other end in check.

Its video quality is very good, and while the mic does a good job, it is mono like the majority of compact cameras available. Again, you do get use of the optical zoom and since the lens is internal, you can barely hear it operating if at all.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 is a considerably expensive ultracompact camera, and if your priority is photo quality, it's not a price worth paying. Conversely, for those in the market for an ultracompact to take everywhere and get shots that would normally be missed by the competition, it's probably money well spent.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
1.8
2.2
1.2
0.8
0.4
Samsung DualView TL225
1.5
2.6
2
0.7
0.5
Nikon Coolpix S70
2
2.7
2.1
1
0.6
Canon PowerShot SD980 IS
1.6
4.5
3.1
0.8
0.5

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
9.9

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

sony-cyber-shot-dsc-tx1-digital-camera-compact-10-2-mpix-4-x-optical-zoom-carl-zeiss.jpg
7.8

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 7