Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 Overview
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 digital camera replaces the company's previous TX7 model, and is based around a 1/2.3"-type 12.2 effective megapixel backside illuminated Sony Exmor R CMOS image sensor with RGB color filter array, coupled to a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar-branded 4x optical zoom lens. The Sony TX9's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 25mm wide angle to a moderate 100mm telephoto (or 27 - 108mm in 16:9 aspect ratio mode). The aperture varies from F3.5 to F6.3 at wide angle; at telephoto the maximum aperture is F4.6, and the minimum aperture isn't stated. Autofocusing is possible to just one centimeter at wide angle, or 50 centimeters at telephoto. The camera can capture 4:3 aspect ratio images at up to 4,000 x 3,000 pixel resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio images at up to 4,000 x 2,248 pixels, or 60 fields-per-second video at 1080i (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution or below with Dolby Digital stereo audio, using AVC HD compression.
On the rear panel of the Sony Cyber-shot TX9 is a 3.5-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio TFT Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD panel with 100% coverage, a resolution of 921,600 dots, and a touch panel that allows for control of some camera functions through the LCD itself. This display serves as the only method of framing and reviewing images, given that the Sony TX9 doesn't feature an optical viewfinder. The Sony DSC-TX9 has a 9-point autofocus system, and does include a face detection system, capable of detecting up to eight faces in a scene and differentiating between children and adults. This capability is used to provide a Smile Shutter function that automatically triggers the shutter when your subject is smiling, as well as both anti-blink and blink-warning features.
The TX9 offers three methods for determining exposures - multi-pattern, center-weighted or spot metering. Shutter speeds from 2 to 1/1,600 second are possible under automatic control, and sensitivities ranging from ISO 125 to 3,200 equivalents are on offer, with the entire range available under automatic control. 2.0EV of exposure compensation is available, in 1/3 EV steps. The DSC-TX9 also offers Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, useful for combatting blur caused by camera shake without adversely affecting image quality.
Eleven white balance settings are available, including auto and nine presets, two of them for underwater photography, plus a manual white balance setting. As well as Intelligent Auto and Program modes, the TX9 offers a selection of 21 scene modes, several of them new -- Superior Auto, High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Hi-Speed Shutter, Underwater, Gourmet, Pet, Soft Skin, Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Backlight Correction HDR, Background Defocus, 3D Sweep Panorama, and Sweep Multi Angle -- which together offer a modicum of control over the look of images. There's also an intelligent scene mode which can automatically select from a subset of nine scene modes - Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight Tripod, Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Portrait and Close Focus - as appropriate.
The TX9's Intelligent Sweep Panorama function works similarly to the older Sweep Panorama, in that a series of photographs are captured and stitched automatically by sweeping the lens across the scene, but analyzes frame content when capturing and stitching images, avoiding chopping up larger moving subjects. The function allows automatic creation of 281-, 194-, 193-, or 135-degree panoramas in-camera. In addition, the TX9 also includes Sony's latest 3D Sweep Panorama function, which uses 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. The result can be viewed on the latest 3D-capable Sony Bravia displays. 3D Sweep panoramas can cover the same field of view as Intelligent Sweep panoramas, as well as an additional 76-degree option. The Sweep Multi Angle function is only available at 16:9 size, and allows viewing the image with a 3D effect on the camera's 2D LCD display, by changing the display perspective as the camera is rocked from side to side. (The same clever user interface trick is used to cycle backwards or forwards through a group of high-speed burst images).
The Backlight Correction HDR mode is something we've seen in certain of Sony's previous Alpha digital SLRs and Cyber-shot compacts. The camera captures several images with varying exposure, and then automatically combines them into a single image with increased dynamic range. The new Superior Auto function automatically detects the scene type, and then captures anywhere from one to six shots. (Twilight tripod shots record only one frame, while backlight and backlight portrait shots capture two frames -- all other scene types capture six frames.) The result for multi-frame shots is automatically combined in-camera, with the aim of either correcting backlit shots, or reducing noise levels. Sony is claiming that its 6-shot Superior Auto photos can rival the signal / noise ratio of single-shot DSLR images, although of course the DSLR could still have an advantage by using a similar multi-shot technique plus processing on a computer (or in-camera, if the DSLR offers this ability). Because of its multi-shot methodology, Superior Auto shooting is only suited to relatively static scenes. For moving subjects, Intelligent Auto is still available.
Another new option is Background Defocus, which works by shooting two images with varied focus, the second shot being intentionally somewhat defocused. The two images are compared, and a depth map created by considering areas of significantly differing sharpness in the two frames to be the main subject. This map is then used to blur the background areas, to create an image with a shallow depth-of-field effect reminiscent of those from DSLRs. The Natural Flash function aims to reduce the warm color cast that can appear in the background of flash photos, while Soft Skin mode works in concert with the face detection feature to soften only facial skin tones.Tracking focus, as the name would suggest, allows moving subjects to be tracked around the frame.
The Sony TX9 includes a four-mode flash strobe with red-eye reduction capability. Flash range is stated as 0.08 to 3.8 meters at wide angle, or 0.5 to 3.1 meters at telephoto, when using automatic ISO sensitivity. A two- or ten-second self timer allows the photographer to get in the picture themselves, or to avoid camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button when shooting on a tripod. Images and movies can be recorded on Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Duo, PRO Duo (Mark 2 only), PRO Duo High Speed, or PRO-HG Duo cards, as well as the more common Secure Digital, SDHC, or SDXC cards. 32MB of internal memory is also available, useful for capturing a handful of the most important photos should you forget to bring a flash card along on a day trip. The Sony TX9 includes HDMI high definition and NTSC standard definition video output connectivity, as well as USB 2.0 High Speed data connectivity. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-BN1 Infolithium battery pack.
The Sony TX9 digital camera ships in the US market from September 2010, priced at around US$400.