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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 Overview

Posted: 02/27/2012

Sony's Cyber-shot TX66 digital camera puts forth a very attractive design, but it doesn't compromise on specifications to achieve that look. With clean lines and a sliding barrier that protects the lens when switched off, the TX66 is a camera that the style-conscious will feel right at home with, but it still packs in more pixels than many SLRs, albeit from a much smaller sensor.

Effective resolution from the TX66's imager is 18.2 megapixels, and the sensor size is 1/2.3-inch, for a diagonal of 7.76mm. It's a backside-illuminated image sensor, so light gathering should be better than that of a standard CMOS chip. That's because more of the surface area can be devoted to light-gathering, as the circuitry has been moved below the active layer of the sensor. Indeed, Sony has opted for a wide ISO range of 80 to 12,800 equivalents, although we don't yet know if that's at full resolution for the whole range.

In front of that high-res sensor sits a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded, prism-folded 5x optical zoom lens. The prism allows the lens to be mounted sideways in the camera, to achieve its slim, pocket-friendly form factor. (As a side effect, it also means that there's no delay to wait for the lens to extend, and keeps the delicate moving parts safe from accidental knocks.) 35mm-equivalent focal lengths range from 26-130mm for still images at the native aspect ratio, and maximum aperture ranges from f/3.5 to f/4.8 across the zoom range. Sony describes the TX66's autofocus system as "lightning-fast", claiming a focus time of just 0.13 seconds in daylight, and 0.25 seconds in low ambient light of around 3 EV.

On the rear panel of the Sony TX66 is a large 3.3-inch Organic LED display, with an unusually high resolution of 1,229,760 dots. That equates to an 854 x 480 pixel array, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green, and blue dots. Compared to standard LCD panels, Organic LED displays typically have lower power consumption, wider viewing angles, higher contrast ratios, and deeper blacks. The screen also doubles as an input device, courtesy of a touch panel overlay. As you'd expect given the form factor of the TX66, there's no optical or electronic viewfinder.

As well as still images, the TX66 can also record high-definition video at up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution. For movie capture, ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 1,000 equivalents, and can be expanded to ISO 2,000 equivalent. At the maximum resolution, videos are saved with AVCHD compression. A 1,440 x 1,080 pixel mode can be saved either with AVCHD or MPEG-4 compression, and plays back at 16:9 aspect ratio, but with reduced resolution on the x-axis. There are also high-def 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) and standard-def VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution options, both of which are saved as MPEG-4 video. The AVCHD video all has a rate of 60 interlaced frames per second, while the MPEG-4 video is at 30 frames-per-second. A built-in microphone provides for stereo audio.

Two different stabilization systems are available for video: either the standard Optical SteadyShot used for still imaging, or a more powerful Active SteadyShot mode that combines optical and digital stabilization, with a resulting increase in the focal length crop. (Translation: wide-angle video is harder to achieve with this enabled, but you can manage an even greater maximum telephoto.) Interestingly, the Sony TX66 can also save 13 megapixel still images during movie capture, without interrupting the video feed. This is achieved using Sony's "By Pixel Super Resolution" technology, a variant of digital zoom that uses both interpolation and pattern-matching to resample the low-res video frame to a much higher resolution.

The Sony TX66 includes both USB 2.0 High Speed data and Mini HDMI high-def video connectivity. Images and movies are stored in a not-so-generous 19MB of built-in memory, or on MicroSD / MicroSDHC and Memory Stick Micro cards. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-BN or NP-BN1 lithium ion rechargeable battery pack, with the former in the product bundle. The HX10V is rated as good for 250 shots on a charge, although it isn't stated with which pack type this figure was determined.

Available from March 2012, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is priced at around US$350. Body colors for this model include silver, gold, red, white, purple, and pink.