Giveaway: Sony Cyber-shot Digital Camera TX1 Review
By: Nate Nelson (Contributing Writer)
NOTE: March 12, 2010: The contest is now closed. Thank you to all who followed and commented on the review. After the random drawing, we would like to congratulate Anne C. of Harrisburg, PA (who commented and followed us on Twitter and Facebook) for winning the Cybershot TX1. Anne, your super cool new Cybershot will be mailed to you immediately. To those who didn’t win, don’t fret. Every review is a giveaway! So if you’re following us, you’ll be the first to know. Our deepest thanks once again to our loyal followers.
NOTE March 4, 2010: The TX1 is one of the sexiest things I’ve seen in a while. I remember how excited I got when these came in. If you want to win your very own $350 Sony Cybershot TX1, all you have to do is enter your hot little email in our subsciption box on the top right hand side of this page. Be sure to go back into your email and verify, then come back here and spit a hot rant down below as to “what you like about this camera.” It’s that simple. We will be picking one very lucky winner on March 12, 2010. It pays to subscribe to our e-newsletter because we give away a lot of stuff here at MRT, where almost every smokin review is a hot giveaway! ~Jenna Gonzalez (Editor In Chief)
I am excited to offer this review of the Sony Cyber-shot Digital Camera TX1 – a sleek, advanced little point-and-shoot with full on touchscreen and a list of fancy features. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel it is important to make a distinction between being an expert and being an enthusiast.
I mention this because I would not want anyone to read this for an expert analysis of the camera. In other words, I will not be discussing things like “white balance” (unless the subject happens to be: “What on earth is white balance?”). I know those things are important, especially to skilled practitioners, but this review is about “Real Tech for Real People,” just like the MyRealityTech banner reads.Like many of you, I’m just another average guy looking for a camera that works well for me.
With that out of the way, on with this enthusiast’s review:
So-called “unboxing videos” are popular not because of the information or insight they provide, but because they remind us of a very exciting moment in the life of a gadget owner. It is that instant where you crack the seal on a new bit of technology and gaze for the first time at your new toy.
Lifting the lid on the Sony DSC-TX1 was a sublime experience in that respect. On top were the manuals written in several different languages, an installation CD for computer software, and another few miscellaneous warranty cards and ignored papers. I set these aside without paying them much attention, as my business was below the next flap.
In the bottom compartment I found the Sony DSC-TX1 waiting. The battery was already charged and installed so I could begin shooting right away. [NOTE: This is not how the DSC-TX1 comes normally, but was done by the kindness of our own Ms. Jenna Gonzalez, who sent me the review unit.] In the box was the charger, a power cord, a wrist strap with attached stylus for the touch screen, and a USB/AV multi-connector cable.
I figured out the basic navigation after a minute or two of puzzling (who needs instruction manuals?). I held the camera at arm’s length to take a self-portrait, and managed to half-blind myself with the red-eye wink and the flash. Not the most auspicious start, but I did not care. I was playing with a new electronic toy and I was more concerned with having fun with it!
The Sony DSC-TX1 is the size and shape of a digital point-and-shoot camera. That is the most sensible way to describe it, at any rate. There may be fractions of difference in size and weight from the majority of similar cameras on the market, but the DSC-TX1 is within the standard dimensions. It is small enough to tuck comfortably into a pocket, in other words.
The camera settings are accessed through a touch screen on the back, so the entire rear panel is a three-inch screen covered in hardened glass for better durability. The DSC-TX1 comes in four different color schemes: blue, pink, gray, and silver. The model Jenna sent was the gadget-standard silver (She likes silver things,) although I would consider a different color if I were purchasing it.
The list of features for the camera is large, to the point of being intimidating. Among the highlights: a back-illuminated “Exmor-R” sensor, which allows the camera to take great pictures in low light. A Sweep Panorama Mode that automatically stitches together landscape sized photos taken with an arm sweep. The ability to take up to 10 pictures per second at full 10.2 megapixel resolution. On top of it all is the powerful iAuto mode, which senses proper settings for images and takes the thinking out of picture taking.
Sliding the front cover down activates the camera by turning on the power and opening the shutter. There is an on/off button by the shutter trigger, which will also power up the camera, but is less entertaining (important to some people). On the other side of the trigger is a rocker button, which operates a Carl Zeiss lens with a 4x optical zoom. Is that good? I certainly thought so.
The automatic recognition features of the Sony DSC-TX1 first jump out. The camera’s iAuto mode transitions seamlessly, so moving from low light, to macro, to natural light, to bright fluorescent lights does not require navigating the menu to find the best setting. More advanced photographers who want to choose their own settings can turn off the iAuto mode, but casual users will appreciate it. For me at least, sometimes it’s more fun being less “automatic.”
Menu options for the Sony DSC-TX1 can be accessed with the touch screen, which responds to either fingers or the stylus connected to the wrist strap. Navigating the menu was not as intuitive as with other point-and-shoot cameras, and I eventually had to resort to the instruction manual to figure out a few of the details. However, I got the eventual hang of it once I got more acquainted to it.
Taking a picture with most new digital cameras happens in two stages: push the shutter trigger halfway until the camera focuses, then push the button all the way in and hope that you hold it still long enough for multiple red-eye flashes. Although I appreciate the technology that eliminates red-eye, and I am always glad that my subjects do not end up looking like minions of Satan in the finished product, I also end up taking a few blurry pictures of headless people as I get used to the sequence of flashes.
Now for the iAuto feature: I gotta say the Sony DSC-TX1 gave me even more problems than usual with that because of the iAuto feature. Sometimes the camera would have a second or two worth of red-eye flashes, sometimes it would take pictures right away, and sometimes it would not take at all, but try to focus some more. More experience with the DSC-TX1 would help, but it was sometimes frustrating without a good understanding of the system. Like I said before, the more experienced photographers may want to turn this feature off.
I took several dozen pictures as I went along, using the default programming. After a while I noticed the image size, which was using the eye-goggling 10 megapixel setting. Although most memory cards have sufficient space for hundreds of these monstrous photos, they are not email (or even computer storage) friendly and I felt a bit foolish for not changing it at the beginning. The lesson learned was to check image sizes first, unless you plan on major enlargements. Megapixels are an indication of size, and not quality, which comes from the lenses and the sensors.
A final item of note is the Smile Shutter technology, which is really just a novelty when compared to the complex algorithms and sophisticated image processes that are the foundation of the Sony DSC-TX1. However, most people’s eyes will glaze over when you mention the BIONZ image processor or the optical SteadyShot image stabilization. But show them that the camera automatically takes a picture of you when it sees you smile, and you have a captive audience.
It is very simple: when activated, Smile Shutter technology snaps a picture every time the camera recognizes a smile. I have no idea how it works, although I would guess it is related to the face recognition and motion recognition programming. It should not be so amazing to me (after all, we are talking about an image captured through a physical lens that is instantaneously translated into row after row of 1s and 0s stored on a microscopic silicon sheet in specific patterns, which can then be viewed and sent around the world in an instant, which is pretty amazing when you think about it), but it is. The Smile Shutter is also a fantastic party trick and a great icebreaker, although I have learned through experimentation that it does not work on dogs, as exhibited here with my baby Sasha. Then again, I’ve come to the conclusion that no software would ever be able to handle how cute she is!
Likes and Dislikes
What I liked:
- iAuto mode is great for casual photographers
- Twilight/low light setting takes amazing pictures with very little light
- Many high-end features including face recognition and Smile Shutter
- The camera is undeniably sleek & sexy. Easily one of the best looking, higher-end point & shoot cameras out today.
What I disliked:
- Menu navigation can be unintuitive
- Rapid setting switching in iAuto mode can be problematic
- Cost may be prohibitive for some ($349.99 MSRP)
The Sony DSC-TX1 is available through their website for $349, which is a bit more than I would consider for a point-and-shoot. It is a high-end camera, though with image technology, one would expect to find in more expensive single lens reflex models. Aside from the standard Sony sexiness that will certainly appeal tp the fashion-conscious crowd, the iMode and Twilight features are the highlights of the DSC-TX1, which make it a great option for travelers and casual photographers who want to upgrade their current models. So what do you think?
Make sure to follow me on twitter @nathanmcduck for more updates on this and future giveaways!