Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX55 Overview
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX55 digital camera is based around a 16.2 effective megapixel, backside-illuminated Sony Exmor R CMOS image sensor, coupled to a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar-branded, prism-folded 5x optical zoom lens. Actual focal lengths range from 4.7 to 23.5mm, yielding a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 26 to 130mm. The maximum aperture varies from F3.5 at wide angle to F4.8 at telephoto, and helpfully, the DSC-TX55 offers Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, useful for combatting blur caused by camera shake.
Compared to the preceding TX100V model, the TX55 has a much slimmer body, at just 12.2mm excluding the sliding lens barrier. To give an idea of just how thin that is, Sony describes the TX55 body as being somewhere between the thickness of an AA battery (13.5 to 14.5mm, as defined in ANSI standard C18.1M), and that of a pencil (typically around 7mm), although it's a little closer to that of the battery than the pencil. According to the company, the Sony TX55 is the world's thinnest camera with an optical anti-shake function.
On the rear panel of the Sony Cyber-shot TX55 is a 3.3-inch XtraFine Organic LED panel. This display serves as the only method of framing and reviewing images, given that the Sony TX55 doesn't feature an optical viewfinder. Courtesy of a touch panel overlay, it also allows for control of some camera functions through the LCD itself. A new high-speed linear contrast detection autofocus system allows the DSC-TX55 to achieve a focus lock in just 0.1 seconds, according to Sony.
New for the Sony Cyber-shot TX55 is a Clear Image digital zoom function that's based around what Sony terms as "By Pixel Super Resolution" technology. In essence, this is a smarter version of the traditional digital zoom which compares images to a built-in database of unspecified size, and then uses pattern matching techniques to make better assumptions during interpolation of the zoomed image area. Using the function, Sony allows up to a 2x digital zoom, rather than the more typical 1.4-1.5x. When grabbing still frames during video capture, where Sony ordinarily allows up to a three megapixel image to be saved without digital zoom, the Clear Image digital zoom function will allow up to a 12 megapixel capture to be interpolated.
Where the preceding TX100V model offered video capture at up to high-def 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) resolution, the TX55 now offers 1,080i (aka Full HD; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) interlaced video capture at a rate of 60 fields per second. Image stabilization during video capture now offers an Active mode, but it's not the same technique used in other cameras with Active Optical SteadyShot. Instead of increasing the correction range available in the lens, the TX55's Active mode instead combines both true optical and software digital stabilization techniques simultaneously to provide a greater level of correction while retaining the same stabilization mechanism (and hence, not increasing lens assembly size).
Another feature new to the Cyber-shot line is Picture Effects, as seen in Sony's recent NEX and SLT interchangeable lens camera designs. The Sony TX55 provides picture effects including HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy Camera, Pop Color, Partial Color, and Soft High-key. Each effect can be previewed on-screen before capturing an image. A Superior Auto mode automatically detects the scene type, and can not only select settings appropriate to the scene being photographed, but can also enable multi-shot image capture modes automatically. There's also an Intelligent Sweep Panorama HR (High Resolution) function in which a series of photographs are captured and stitched automatically by sweeping the lens across the scene, with frame content analyzed when capturing and stitching images, avoiding chopping up larger moving subjects. The maximum output size in Intelligent Sweep Panorama HR mode is 42.9 megapixels. The TX55 also includes Sony's 3D Still Image and 3D Sweep Panorama functions, which use some clever mathematics to recreate a 3D image from a single lens, saving the result as a multi-picture object file that contains two separate JPEG images, one for each eye.
Images and movies can be recorded on MicroSD or MicroSDHC cards, or on Sony's own proprietary Memory Stick Micro (Mark 2) cards, which use the same controller type as in Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo cards, and are said by Sony to be the fastest micro memory cards. Information on battery type, connectivity, and internal memory--if any--wasn't available at press time.
The Sony TX55 digital camera ships in the US market from September 2011, priced at around US$350. We understand that four body colors will be available -- silver, black, purple, and red.