Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V Review
by Mike Pasini, with Mike Tomkins and Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 11/26/2012
It wasn't designed by Frank Gehry, but the shiny facade of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V does stop you in your tracks. This is no ordinary digital camera. At least it doesn't look like one with its thick glass face (which reflects your own in self portrait), the bright wide-screen Organic LED monitor, and the rubberized frame that binds them both together in a dustproof, waterproof, and compact package.
The Sony TX200V doesn't act like an ordinary digicam, either. The usual shooting modes found on most cameras are replaced by an array of trick shots the Sony TX200V creates thanks to its 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and Bionz processor.
The waterproof, dustproof, freezeproof design -- you can safely submerge the Sony TX200V to 16 feet (5m) -- extends to the controls, which have been mostly replaced by touch-screen icons on the Organic LED monitor.
Look and Feel. Whether you find the polished glass front attractive or not is a matter of taste. I like it; I like glass and shiny things. I was worried about putting it face down to transfer images via USB cable, but I needn't have been. I never scratched the glass in my time with the Sony TX200V, either on my desk or in my pocket without a case.
A substantial wrist strap is included, onto which you can hook the rather large touch-screen stylus (also included). The touch-screen works reasonably well with just a fingertip, but does need a reasonably firm press. It seems quite a bit more sensitive -- not to mention more accurate -- with the stylus, so it's definitely worth using. Note that it is a capacitive screen though, much like you'd find on a smartphone, not a resistive screen -- it's just not terribly sensitive for a capacitive screen.
Unfortunately, given that the TX200V is pretty capable for a waterproof camera, it's touch-screen is the precise opposite. Dip the camera beneath the surface even partially, and the touch-screen stops functioning entirely. (Once most of the screen is submerged, the camera recognizes this and hides the soft buttons, yielding a less-cluttered display.) If you're in a menu before submerging the camera, you won't be able to make a selection, but you can dismiss the menu with a half-press of the shutter button. That's good, because I did find that the camera occasionally reacted as if the screen had been touched when first submerged, bringing up a menu all by itself. All the same modes and options available above the surface can be used underwater, so long as they're preselected before you take the plunge, although few of them will be appropriate down below. There are a couple of dedicated underwater modes, though.
Most of the Sony TX200V's body is smooth, thanks to the glass panels front and rear, so there's no grip to speak of. The frame itself has a nice rubbery feel, though. And given the touch-screen, you'll want to hold the camera by the frame, much as you would when shooting with a smartphone.
The only physical controls are on the top deck of the Sony TX200V, along with the two-hole stereo microphone. There's only one compartment door, as well. Less controls and access doors means less places for water to leak into the weather-sealed body, so that's a good thing.
I wasn't a huge fan of that compartment door, though. It has a sliding, spring-loaded lock, and the door hinge is spring-loaded too. Initially I thought that the latch would stay open when I pulled it back, but no -- it springs straight back. You have to slide the latch with a thumbnail and hold it, then let the door spring open at the same time, before you release the latch.
You might think it would be better without a spring on the lock and just one on the door. But that would make it more likely you wouldn't completely seal the Sony TX200V's hatch. It's easy enough once you realize how it works, though.
You can get the Sony TX200V in red, silver, or violet. I had the red model, which is really more of a muted magenta.
Controls. I found the physical controls on the Sony TX200V rather troublesome. The Power button is both tiny and recessed, which together make it hard to press without first looking at the camera. Occasionally, I'd have to try a second time to switch the camera on or off.
The Sony TX200V's Shutter button is long enough but not very wide. It's also quite spongy. It's so thin that I often failed to trip the shutter because, although my finger was on top of the button, it was slightly towards one edge, pushing against the top panel as much as the button.
On the corner of the top panel the Zoom control is a tiny knob with very little range, and a quite uncomfortable position. It's a shame, because I frequently wanted to use the fairly generous 5x optical zoom, but never really developed a knack for using it without shaking the camera or having to adjust my grip. That was particularly troublesome when shooting movies.
Together, those are the only physical controls on the Sony TX200V. Everything else is handled by the touch-screen.
That touch-screen is based around a 3.3-inch, wide-aspect Organic LED panel with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. It's very sharp, and pretty bright, too. You can change the brightness, but I nonetheless had some trouble using it in direct sunlight, always having to shade the screen to see it. It doesn't help that since it's a touch-screen, it's usually covered in fingerprint smudges.
Unfortunately, I could not reliably evaluate exposure with it. The colors were quite different from what I saw later on my monitor, and the contrast was always a bit stronger on the screen. Nor is there a histogram, even in Playback mode. Often, I didn't even think of using exposure compensation when it would have been appropriate, because I just couldn't tell from the screen whether the exposure was right or not.
The screen is also cluttered with a jumble of icons and soft buttons that make up the Sony TX200V's user interface. The controls are a bit larger than the indicators, but otherwise there's not a lot of distinction between them. And the icons themselves are too cryptic.
On the plus side, you can disable most of the overlays by pressing and holding the Display soft button. That button makes a nice example of the quirky user interface, though: tap on it, the Sony TX200V beeps, and the display doesn't change at all. Tap again, and again, getting progressively more confused as to why nothing is happening, and eventually you'll accidentally long-tap and manage to hide the overlay. Once you've already managed it successfully, a message will pop up telling you to long-press -- but if you don't accidentally long-tap you can press the button dozens of times with no effect, trying to disable the overlays. It would be much more logical to display that message immediately after the first short tap of the button.
And unfortunately the screen is always active; unlike some other touch-screens on cameras with more physical controls, it can't be disabled without switching the camera off. So if you walk around with the Sony TX200V on (maybe to sync with the GPS system), it's really easy -- inevitable, I'd say -- to accidentally bump the touch-screen. My pinky wrapping around the camera to hold it securely often touched the bottom right corner of the screen, putting the camera into Playback mode unintentionally.
And then there's the Movie shutter button. Again, it's a soft control on the touch-screen -- but this time it's located at the left of the screen, near the vertical center. If you're right-handed, it's a rather uncomfortable location, and almost impossible to press while using a steady, two-handed grip, without shaking the camera. Of course, you can switch the Sony TX200V to Movie mode and use the physical shutter button, but many users -- having already seen a button labeled Movie in still-image mode -- will never think to do so.
Lens. Sony somehow managed to fit a generous 5x optical zoom lens into the Sony TX200V. It's Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded, and the zoom ranges from a 35mm equivalent of 26-130mm for stills or 28-140mm for 16:9 movies. (With a 4:3 aspect ratio, it's a bit more telephoto, ranging from 35-175mm.)
With 12 elements in 10 groups, including six aspheric elements, the lens also includes a prism that folds the light path so the lens elements can be distributed vertically inside the Sony TX200V. This reduces thickness and removes the need for a retractable lens. It can focus from 3.1 inches (8cm) to infinity in Auto mode, and down to 1.2 inches (3cm) in Intelligent Auto.
As well as the 5x optical zoom, the Cyber-shot TX200V also has what Sony calls Clear Image zoom. This, like any digital zoom, simply crops the center of the image and then interpolates (read: guesses) the missing data necessary to scale it back up to the original image size. The difference is that Sony has included pattern-matching functionality that tries to make those guesses more intelligent. There's lots of resolution for the pattern-matching algorithms play with, and it's only an extra 2x digital zoom on top of the 5x optical, but I still wasn't terribly impressed with the results.
Maximum apertures are f/3.5 at wide angle and f/4.8 at telephoto, which isn't very fast. To make up for that, ISO sensitivity ranges from 64 to 12,800, and there's also optical SteadyShot image stabilization, letting you choose to trade off noise levels or shutter speeds to get a usable exposure.
Modes. The Sony TX200V has quite a few shooting modes, but most of them aren't conventional. It's something of a trick shot camera, in fact.
Yes, there's Program, Scene and Movie modes. But there are also some unusual modes like Superior Auto, Background Defocus, Picture Effect and 3D Shooting. Sony uses these to differentiate itself from its rivals, and they can be rather clever, but they're also sometimes confusing. I would be in the Sony TX200V's Program mode and want to switch to monochrome, for example. So I'd hit the Menu button and hunt around without finding that option. That's because I needed to exit Program mode and use Picture Effect mode, instead. It's not as intuitive as it could be.
INTELLIGENT AUTO. In a word or three, fully automatic exposure with scene recognition.
SUPERIOR AUTO. This is similar to Intelligent Auto, but also uses multiple exposure if the Sony TX200V decides it's necessary. Not for moving subjects.
PROGRAM AUTO. Old faithful. The Sony TX200V sets aperture and shutter speed and you get to play with more options.
PANORAMA. Two options here, both of them based on Sony's sweep panorama technology: Intelligent Sweep Panorama, and Underwater Intelligent Sweep Panorama. There's also a 3D pano function, but it's found under the 3D Shooting mode, rather than Panorama.
BACKGROUND DEFOCUS. Multiple exposures are used to blur the background. Works best with a camera-to-subject distance of about 12 inches (30cm).
PICTURE EFFECT. A set of special effects that include HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy camera, Pop Color, Partial Color, Soft High-key, Watercolor, and Illustration. Some, such as Rich-tone Monochrome, use multiple exposures. (And strangely, there's no way to shoot a single-frame exposure in black and white.) The effects are much as you'd expect to find in a consumer camera; the selection is better than some, not as generous as others.
SCENE SELECTION. Scene modes include Soft Skin, Soft Snap, Anti-Motion blur, Landscape, Backlight Correction HDR, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, High Sensitivity, Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater, and Hi-speed Shutter. I'm a big fan of Hand-held Twilight for still subjects in low light.
3D SHOOTING. Several variants are available: 3D Still Image, 3D Sweep Panorama, and Sweep Multi Angle. You have to have a 3D-capable TV to see the results of the first two, but Sweep Multi Angle can also be previewed on-camera. To do so you tap a button in Playback mode, then rock the Sony TX200V from side to side slightly. As you rock, the perspective changes slightly to match. Even at the relatively low screen resolution, artifacts and distortions are clearly visible in nearby subjects, though, and distant subjects yield little if any 3D effect.
MOVIE. The dedicated Movie mode uses the physical shutter button to start and stop movies, making it a much better option than the clumsy Movie soft button in Still image modes. You can opt either for AVCHD or MPEG-4 compression, but you'll have to visit the menu system to switch between the two.
AVCHD options include 28M (PS) at a 60p frame rate, 24M (FX) at 60i, 17M (FH) at 60i, and 9M (HQ) at 60i. All AVCHD videos except 9M (HQ) are shot at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels; the lower-res option uses 1,440 x 1,080.
MPEG-4 options are all shot at 30 fps, and include 12M at 1,440 x 1,080, 6M at 1,280 x 720, or 3M at 640 x 480.
In some markets, the 60p / 60i framerates are replaced with 50p / 50i respectively, and 30p is replaced by 25p.
By default, movies are shot with Intelligent Auto exposure, but you can also opt to specify a Scene mode. Choices include Soft Snap, Landscape, Night Scene, High Sensitivity, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, and Underwater. The Sony TX200V can track a selected subject or the prioritized face, as well.
The 5x optical zoom is available during capture. There's a stereo microphone with a wind noise reduction filter function available, but just a monochrome speaker.
And you can capture stills while recording video, using the same awkwardly-located soft button that serves as a Movie shutter button in still image modes (so you're bound to shake the camera when you press it). A special option sets the size of the Sony TX200V's still capture: either 13 or three megapixels.
Additional Functions. In addition to its selection of exposure modes, the Sony TX200V offers a few more shooting options:
EASY MODE. Accessed from the Menu button when in a recording mode. It simplifies the options, hiding most of them, and employs a larger font.
PHOTO CREATIVITY. In Intelligent or Superior Auto, a camera icon with stardust appears in the left column to enable a set of onscreen controls for tone, color, and "vividness." You select what you want to manipulated from an icon at the bottom of the screen and then use a curved slider on the right to adjust the value. You can also choose from several Picture Effects on the Sony TX200V: Toy Camera, Pop Color, Soft High-key, and Partial Color (Red, Green, Blue, or Yellow).
Menu System. The touch-screen display of the Sony TX200V somewhat dictates the manner in which its menu system must function, necessitating things like a fairly limited number of options on-screen at any one time, and large tabs to select menu groups.
Recognizing that it's not terribly quick to page through a menu like this, Sony has grouped what it feels to be the most important options as a grid of large buttons presented when you first hit the Menu button, before you see the actual menu system.
You can customize the selection of buttons on the Sony TX200V, but many of the functions you might want aren't available to add to this simplified menu. That's unfortunate, because the available choices made aren't always the most sensible. For example, with the GPS disabled, you're shown buttons to see position information or record a track log -- neither of which is usable -- but it's not immediately clear how to enable the GPS receiver.
Doing so, and accessing many other options besides, requires that you first press a rather small button rather obtusely marked with a briefcase symbol, which takes you into the real menu system. (A text label or the more usual spanner symbol would probably have been a better choice.)
Once you're in the Sony TX200V's Menu system, it's not too hard to navigate, and you can scroll through it reasonably quickly by dragging on the screen, but some of the option names are obtuse. If you didn't already know the function of "Eco Mode" or "LUN Setting," for example, you might not have a clue as to their function. Some options are also bizarrely abbreviated even though there was plenty of room available to fit full words, as well, such as "Dlt. GPS Log Data," which spans barely half the width of the options column.
On the plus side, though, there's a pretty obvious Help icon (a question mark in a speech bubble) that you can tap whenever you don't understand an option. The options shown on the screen then flash, suggesting that you tap on one, and you're given a reasonably friendly description of what the option does.
The help system is a great strength of the Sony TX200V's user interface, but otherwise I'm not really a fan of the design. It's far too clumsy, feels unintuitive, and was probably my least favorite feature of the camera.
GPS. Using the free Global Positioning System to provide location coordinates for your camera position is a very handy feature if you're traveling. The Sony TX200V manages to include a GPS radio in its compact package and, once enabled, the feature works as expected.
As with any GPS system, it takes minutes to sync if it hasn't obtained a fix recently, and drains power. But the Sony TX200V seemed to go through the battery a lot quicker than other systems we've tried.
To manage that -- and to allow you to use the camera legally when in the air -- there is an Airplane Mode function. But it will interrupt log recording, if you've enabled that feature.
If you don't enable Airplane mode, the Sony TX200V's GPS radio keeps a tab on your location, regardless of the camera's current mode or even whether it is powered on. That's what you want if you've enabled logging, but of course, it will drain power -- and that's true even when the camera is switched off.
When GPS recording is active, you can start or end a log. Position data is automatically written to flash every so often, marking your location whether you shot an image or not.
With the appropriate software (like the free online GPS Visualizer, which I used to map my log at left), you can display the log data as a trail on a map.
When you display a selection of GPS images on a map, you don't quite get this display of your journey. It's more of a pin map, with markers where you took a shot. The log display actually shows the route you took between shots, which is more informative.
While GPS sounds like a great feature, it takes so long to sync with the satellites the first time that you can miss a shot if you wait for it.
To speed things up, the Sony TX200V can use a GPS Assist Data file that helps the camera fix your location more quickly. (The file contains ephemeris data that would otherwise have to be slowly and directly downloaded from a visible GPS satellite.)
This file must be uploaded to the camera using Sony's PlayMemories Home software, so if you don't want to -- or can't -- install the software, then you're stuck with the slow initial fix whenever you've not used the camera for some time. (And Mac users, take note: PlayMemories Home is not compatible with anything other than Windows machines, so you'll need to buy a second OS and use Boot Camp just to be able to use GPS Assist.)
GPS Fields. Here's an example of the GPS-related fields captured by the Sony TX200V:
GPSVersionID: 184.108.40.206 GPSLatitudeRef: North GPSLatitude: 37 degrees 44' 44.97" GPSLongitudeRef: West GPSLongitude: 122 degrees 27' 28.58" GPSAltitudeRef: Above Sea Level GPSAltitude: 169.5 m GPSTimeStamp: 20:20:40 GPSStatus: Measurement Active GPSMeasureMode: 3-Dimensional Measurement GPSDOP: 2.33 GPSSpeedRef: km/h GPSSpeed: 3.492 GPSTrackRef: True North GPSTrack: 161.86 GPSImgDirectionRef: Magnetic North GPSImgDirection: 213.5 GPSMapDatum: WGS-84 GPSDateStamp: 2012:05:25 GPSDifferential: No Correction plus GPSAltitude: 169.5 m Above Sea Level GPSDateTime: 2012:05:25 20:20:40Z GPSLatitude: 37 degrees 44' 44.97" N GPSLongitude: 122 degrees 27' 28.58" W GPSPosition: 37 degrees 44' 44.97" N, 122 degrees 27' 28.58" W
Note that the number of satellites (GPSSatellites) is not included. That's a shame, as it can be helpful in determining the accuracy of a fix. (The fewer satellites the Sony TX200V can see, the less accuracy will be possible.) The heading (GPSImgDirection), which is often omitted, is included.
While Playback doesn't display this information, a Position Information button on the Menu screen shows you the satellite locations and your GPS coordinates.
Privacy. Finally, just a warning that if you post your photos publicly, you may not want to reveal location data. Turn off GPS when you don't want location data written to the Exif header. (When you first set up the camera, Sony cleverly defaults to disabling GPS, and asks if you'd like it enabled.)
Lightroom 4 users can also block this information on export. That's a feature I wish we'd see everywhere. In the meantime you can use Phil Harvey's free ExifTool to erase GPS data from the Exif header.
Connectivity. The Sony TX200V has just two ports, both located behind the waterproof door that covers the battery and flash card slots. There's a Type-D Micro HDMI high-definition video output, and a Micro USB data port that also serves double duty as the charging terminal. There's no standard-def video output on the Sony TX200V.
Storage & Battery. The TX200V includes about 105 MB of internal memory, which the camera warns can't be used to record a movie. (It's a matter of it not being fast enough to do so, rather than there being insufficient capacity.) You can get about 17 full-resolution stills in, though, which might be enough to save the day if you leave your flash card at home by mistake. You can copy images from the internal memory to a flash card, if you don't want to hook the camera up to your PC to access them.
The Sony TX200V's choice of flash cards is relatively unusual for a dedicated camera: the very small Memory Stick Micro or Micro (Mark 2), and microSD/microSDHC types. Sony recommends Class 4 or faster for Micro SD, and Mark 2 for MS Micro, if you plan to capture movies.
The cards only go in one way; the printed manual clearly illustrates the correct orientation. A 2GB card can store about 295 full-resolution stills and record nine minutes of Full HD video at the highest quality.
If you have an SD slot in your computer or card reader, you can get an SD card adapter to pop the Micro card into. Alternatively, you can buy a separate Micro SD or Memory Stick Micro compatible card reader. (Some will handle both formats.) Otherwise, you'll be cabling the camera to your computer with the USB cable. But that, at least, doesn't drain the battery.
If you're going to use the GPS function, you'll need a second battery; I found a two hour trip with GPS on enough to almost completely deplete the battery, which is quicker than any other GPS camera I've tested.
It's worth noting that as taxing as CIPA standards are in zoom usage and flash deployment, they don't require that GPS tracking be enabled for testing. So the CIPA numbers, in this case, are optimistic unless you don't plan to use the feature. Sony calculates 220 still images on a full charge, which is about average these days. For movie recording, expect around 55 minutes.
The battery charges via USB in-camera, with an included charger and the same cable used for data transfer. If you want to charge a second battery at the same time you're out shooting with the camera, you'll need to pick up an optional, external charger, available for around US$50.
Shooting with the Sony TX200V
By Mike Pasini
My first impression of the Sony TX200V was colored by the user interface. It was a sunny day, and the screen was hard to read to begin with. But even when I shaded it, what I saw wasn't very easy to figure out. I also found my taps and swipes not being promptly responded to by the little camera. Things weren't off to a great start.
I did, however, like the images I captured, both in shade and full sun. Color was a bit saturated, but not as much as most cameras these days. And Macro is always fun in the garden, too. Particularly when it's selected for you by Intelligent Auto, with no need to fuss around in menus.
There's a shot of some green leaves in the gallery that shows off the best and worst of the Sony TX200V's captures. Viewed full-screen, the image shows veining on the backlit leaves and subtle tone changes on the leaves reflecting light. It's what attracted me to the scene in the first place.
But if you click through to the high resolution image, you see the effects of noise processing even near base ISO, with mottled flat areas. At normal print sizes, it's not really an issue, though, until the sensitivity ramps up higher.
There are quite a few special modes on the Sony TX200V, and while I almost always test a camera in Program mode so I can try other features, I did spend most of my time with the TX200V in other modes.
On the obligatory trip up Twin Peaks for the zoom series shots, I reminded myself I had an 18 megapixel imager in my hand, so I took some shots to show fine detail -- like a rocky hillside. There is detail in that shot but it's diminished by the Bionz's noise processing, I suspect. It also gets rather soft towards the corners.
Of course, these shots don't look bad at all viewed full-screen; only when rather unrealistically pixel-peeping. It's just the full resolution image that reveals what's going on. So on the whole, I was pleased with the images.
Except for the 4x digitally zoomed images, anyway, like the last in the zoom series. (That's as opposed to Sony's 2x Clear Image zoom.) It was almost like I had used the Sony TX200V's watercolor effect. The straight lines on the skyscrapers were all wavy on a day that was not hot.
When I tried Background Defocus on a trail sign, I misread the OLED to be recommending a 10-yard distance from the main subject. It's really 30cm. And the effect was not successful. But it's exactly the kind of shot you would want to use it on.
Miniature did a lot better, returning exactly the kind of results I was expecting. I couldn't tell what Watercolor was doing until I reviewed the file on a monitor, but that too was a success.
Less so was the Rich-Tone Monochrome (which insists on multiple exposures) and HDR Painting. Rich-Tone seems to be much flatter than a normal shot converted to black and white. There's no pure white nor pure black. You can, of course, set your own clipping points in your image editing software to get there but it seems like there should be a high contrast option, too.
I did get the camera wet on a rainy day, and in the sink, too. What surprised me was how quickly the body dried. There are not many places for water to hide on the camera, between its sleek front glass panel and big OLED on the back. A few taps with a towel and it was bone dry.
The compact form factor meant I was able to take the Sony TX200V with me everywhere. Even when I planned to shoot with another camera, I managed to find a free pocket for the TX200V.
But I found it difficult enough to use that it often stayed in the pocket anyway.
It really took me a long time to get a sense of where options were hidden behind the Mode button, Menu button, and Setup button to at least hunt around for the option I wanted.
And even when I found it, it didn't necessarily work as I might have expected. When I enabled GPS logging, for example, the option didn't change to indicate that if pressed again, it would now disable it. So it seemed as if it would merely show the status of the logging information. Not so; another press and it was disabled.
In general, GPS worked well on the Sony TX200V. But initially, I had no clue how to acquire the GPS Assist file, nor how to install it because the camera comes with only a slim Instruction Manual. This tells you little, and if you want to fully understand the camera you'll need instead to refer to the online help -- not great if you'll be away from an internet connection. With that said, when I could access it the online guide was pretty helpful, with a search that made it quick to find what I was looking for.
The lack of documentation really hurts a camera as complex as the Sony TX200V, though. You aren't likely to grasp the different between Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto and Program Auto just by looking at them. I'd far prefer a proper, printed manual, or at least a PDF that could be printed at home.
Though the interface quirks were real, in time I could get used to them. Overall, image quality is about on par with other slim pocket cameras, and actual printed output exceeds what the cameras in our 2012 Waterproof Shootout were able to achieve. When you add all the camera's capabilities to its relative image quality, it's easier to overlook a few interface quirks.
Sony TX200V Lens Quality
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V features a 5x optical zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent of 26-130mm.
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft at upper left
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Strong blurring, upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's zoom shows strong blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, though blurring doesn't extend very far into the image area. At telephoto, performance is about the same, though blurring extends a little further into the frame. Remember, though, this effect is amplified by the Sony TX200V's 18.2-megapixel sensor, so click on the crops above to get a better look at the full-size images.
Wide: Very high barrel distortion; quite noticeable
Tele: A small amount of barrel distortion, though barely visible
Geometric Distortion: There is quite a bit of barrel distortion at wide-angle at just under 1.2%, which is higher than average. At telephoto, just a small amount of barrel distortion is present (about 0.2%). Distortion will be quite noticeable in some wide-angle shots, particularly in architectural shots.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderately low
in terms of pixel count, though pixels are a little bright. Telephoto, however,
shows less noticeable distortion, with faint red pixels suggested.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's Macro mode captures sharp details at the center of the frame, though chromatic aberration and blurring in the corners are strong and intrusive (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 1.78 x 1.34 inches (45 x 34mm), which is about average. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens, resulting in an uneven exposure with strong shadows and bright hot spots. Plan on using external lighting when shooting this close with the DSC-TX200V.
Sony TX200V Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: OLED Monitor
Tele: OLED Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's OLED monitor showed just over 99% coverage at wide-angle and just under 100% at telephoto. This is very good, especially considering the amount of distortion at the wide end.
Sony TX200V Image Quality
Color: Mean saturation is conservative, with bright yellows and aqua muted quite a bit. Strong reds, blues, and purples are oversaturated a bit, though not as strongly as we often see. Hue is off for many colors, most notably yellow, orange and cyan, though greens are almost dead on accurate. Dark skintones are boosted slightly toward a warmer cast, while lighter skintones are muted a bit and nudged toward pink. Overall, the Sony TX200V's default settings are less saturated than most cameras, while hue accuracy is a touch below average.
Good, though slightly red
Much too warm
Incandescent: The Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's Auto and Manual white balance settings both handled our incandescent lighting
much better than the Incandescent setting, which came out too warm. Auto produced
better results than average, though with a slight reddish tint, while Manual was closest to accurate.
Horizontal: 2,400 lines
Vertical: 2,300 lines
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,400 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 2,300 lines vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,900 lines per picture height.
Wide: Slightly dim
Slow Sync Flash
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) showed slightly dim results at the rated wide-angle distance of 10.2 feet, despite an ISO boost to 500. The telephoto test came out bright, though, at the rated distance of 7.7 feet; however, ISO was boosted even higher to 800.
Normal flash mode produced dark results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining little ambient light at 1/40 second and ISO 200. Increasing flash exposure compensation didn't help, so you'll want to increase ISO in similar situations, or let the camera choose. Switching to Slow-Sync mode produced brighter results, though at a much slower shutter speed of 1/6 second, at ISO 200. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is good and sharp up to about ISO 200, with some visible softening starting at ISO 400. Chroma (color) noise remains mostly in check, and luminance noise, while initially high, only moderately increases. Most of the trouble comes from noise suppression efforts, which blurs fine detail. From ISO 3,200 on up, details are quite splotchy. See Printed section below for more on how this affects printed images.
ISO 64 and 100 images have sufficient detail for printing at 16 x 20 inches. On close inspection, there are noticeable artifacts in the shadows and around edges, which kept us from printing at 20 x 30.
ISO 200 images are usable at 13 x 19, but really look better at 11 x 14, thanks to the increased blurring in the shadows and the artifacts as well.
ISO 400 shots look pretty good at 11 x 14. Artifacts are gone thanks to some softening in the shadows, but it's not objectionable.
ISO 800 shots look a bit too much like watercolor images at 8 x 10, but 5 x 7-inch prints are just fine.
ISO 1,600 prints look good at 5 x 7. Detail is lost in some solid colors, but it's not too bad.
ISO 3,200 prints are good at 4 x 6.
ISO 6,400 shots are usable at 4 x 6.
ISO 12,800 prints look too much like watercolor paintings.
Overall, the Sony TX200V does fairly well for a small 18.2-megapixel sensor. It doesn't do quite as well as its bigger brother, the HX200V, but produces a usable print at all but one ISO setting. The presence of noise artifacts at the lowest ISO setting is a little disappointing.
Sony TX200V Performance
Startup Time: The Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V takes about 1.1 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's pretty quick.
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very fast, at 0.141 second at wide angle and 0.308 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.013 second, also quite fast.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is pretty good, capturing a frame every 1.66 seconds in single-shot mode. Sony says the TX200V can capture up to ten full-resolution shots in one second (10 fps), which is very fast, however we did not test burst mode in the lab.
Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's flash recycles in about 6 seconds after a full-power discharge, about average.
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just below the 1/2 foot-candle light level without AF assist, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF-assist lamp enabled.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's download speeds are extremely fast. We measured 11,037 KBytes/sec.
Battery Life: The Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V's battery life has a CIPA rating of 220 shots per charge, which is about average for its class.
In the Box
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V ships with the following items in the box:
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V digital camera
- Rechargeable battery pack NP-BN
- AC adaptor AC-UB10 (in the US market; will differ elsewhere)
- Micro USB cable
- Stylus (or Paint Pen, as Sony calls it)
- Wrist strap
- Cleaning cloth
- Instruction manual
- Warranty card
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Protective case
- Large capacity, high-speed microSDHC or Memory Stick Micro (Mark 2) memory card. 8GB or more makes sense if you plan on shooting lots of HD video. Speed Class 4 or faster cards are recommended to record HD video.
Sony TX200V Conclusion
With the Cyber-shot TX200V, Sony has managed an impressive feat of miniaturization: a camera that slips in your pocket, shoots high-res pictures, boasts image stabilization and GPS for geotagging, and can accompany you pretty-much anywhere -- even underwater.
Not just that, it manages to do so in a body that's stylish and attractive, with smooth glass panels front and rear. In between is a slim, colored accent whose smooth surface is marred by the bare minimum of physical controls. The Sony TX200V is a fingerprint-magnet, sure, but give it a quick polish and you've got a camera that wouldn't look out of place carried down the runway by the latest model of the moment.
Unfortunately, that body is also the Sony TX200V's biggest undoing. It's a case of form before function: uncomfortable in the hand, with the few physical controls poorly sized and positioned, especially the zoom rocker. And that lack of physical controls means a total reliance on the touch-screen, making its clumsily-designed user interface a hard pill to swallow.
Of course, part of the problem is the steep learning curve that user interface presents to the new Sony TX200V owner. With time, doubtless, you'll get used to it. You'll learn what those cryptic icons represent, and which of them are actually buttons. You'll finally remember where the monochrome mode is hidden, and why the GPS doesn't seem to want to do anything.
Thankfully, the interface is not quite a dealbreaker if you're set on owning a feature-packed go-anywhere camera that doesn't look like a feature-packed, go-anywhere camera. Although there are some image quality and interface quirks that are expected in a camera so small, the Sony TX200V still impressed us. Its fast autofocus, ability to shoot brief bursts of images at ten frames per second, and its relative image quality place it on top of the pack for waterproof cameras, and it even does well against other pocket models. Though interface quirks almost kept it from earning a Dave's Pick, we still think there's enough to recommend the Sony TX200V.