Sony DSC-TX1 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.4"
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(35-140mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 125-3200
Shutter: 2-1/1250
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.6 in.
(94 x 58 x 17 mm)
Weight: 5.0 oz (142 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $380
Availability: 09/2009
Manufacturer: Sony
10.10
Megapixels
4.00x zoom
1/2.4"
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
Front side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 digital camera Back side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 digital camera Top side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 digital camera Left side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 digital camera Right side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 digital camera

Imaging Resource rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 Overview

Overview by Mike Tomkins
Review by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 10/06/09

Along with the company's WX1 model, the DSC-TX1 is one of the first two Sony Cyber-shot digital still cameras to feature a back-illuminated 'Exmor R' CMOS image sensor. Sony's Exmor R sensors have previously featured in camcorder models announced in Spring 2009 at the Photo Marketing Association tradeshow, and we're excited to see them now making their debut in a still camera. Most current imagers used in digital cameras are front-illuminated, meaning that light must pass through a metal wiring layer before arriving at the photodiodes. A significant portion of the light is blocked by this wiring layer, and hence the ability of the sensor to gather light is reduced. By contrast, back-illuminated sensors place the wiring layer below the photodiodes, enabling more light to be collected. This improvement, says Sony, means a 200% increase in the sensitivity of its Exmor R chips over a traditional front-illuminated CMOS sensor.

In other areas, the Sony DSC-TX1 brings features previously seen in the company's popular HX1 model into a more compact body. Aimed at the fashion-conscious photographer, the Cyber-shot TX1 has a 0.7-inch thick body, and offers a sensor resolution of ten megapixels. The imager sits behind a prism-folded Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded 4x optical zoom lens which offers focal lengths ranging from a fairly ordinary 35mm wide angle to a 140mm telephoto. Maximum aperture varies from f/3.5 to f/4.6 across the zoom range. The lens has optical image stabilization, which along with the improved sensitivity should help with preventing blur from camera shake. For framing and reviewing images, the Sony TX1 offers a 230,000 dot 3.0-inch Clear Photo Plus LCD which is touch-sensitive, there being no optical viewfinder on this camera. The touch panel helps keep the number of controls on the Sony TX1 down to a bare minimum, with almost all interaction instead taking place directly on the display.

The Sony TX1 features Sony's Bionz image processor, and offers sensitivities ranging from a minimum of ISO 80 to a maximum of ISO 3,200 equivalent at full resolution. Burst shooting is possible at ten frames per second, and Sony has included a high-speed mechanical shutter that prevents the image distortion which can occur in cameras using an electronic shutter with high-speed burst shooting. The TX1 doesn't offer shutter/aperture-priority or manual modes, but does provide a good range of scene modes that offer some control over the look of images. An Intelligent Scene Recognition mode is also available, which can automatically select from a subset of nine common scene modes. Images are metered with multi-pattern, center-weighted or spot metering, and the Sony TX1 includes a nine-point contrast detection autofocus mode, and face detection capability. As well as using the location of detected faces when calculating exposure and focusing variables, the TX1 can trigger the shutter automatically when your subject is smiling.

More unusually, the Sony Cybershot TX1 includes the ability to stack multiple images shot at high sensitivity into a single exposure with reduced noise. It's a feature we've seen in the company's previous DSC-HX1 model, but has been refined in the TX1 and is now able to detect and take account of subjects which have moved between shots, ensuring your subject remains sharp and clear in the foreground. The TX1 also includes Sony's Sweep Panorama function which automatically assembles panoramas from as many as 100 separate photos captured automatically, while you simply sweep your camera across the scene at the camera's direction.

The Sony Cybershot DSC-TX1 started shipping in the US from September 2009, with four body colors available - silver, gray, pink or blue. The suggested retail price for the Sony TX1 is set at US$380.

 

Sony DSC-TX1 User Report

by Mike Pasini

Talk about breeding. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 has it: The 10-megapixel sensor with more sensitivity from Sony's camcorder line. The touch screen interface Sony has perfected. A widescreen 3.0-inch LCD. A 4x zoom with optical image stabilization. And that svelte ultracompact package with the sliding lens cover that puts Power buttons to shame.

And that's just the hardware. Inside the Sony TX1 is some real intelligence.

Starting with Scene recognition, which can quickly tell if you're shooting Macro or Landscape, for example. But the Sony TX1's Bionz processor does some heavy lifting. Not only does it include Sony's excellent Dynamic Range Optimization, but it can handle snazzy new features like Sweep Panorama and Handheld Twilight mode. Those are two very useful items we wish we found on every digicam, frankly. The Sony TX1 can also capture full resolution images at up to 10 frames per second using a mechanical shutter to reduce distortion. And its Anti-Motion Blur mode captures six images at high shutter speeds for compositing into one detailed and sharp image. And, yes, movies are 720p HD.

Good looks and brains aren't the whole story. The Sony TX1 is well behaved, too. You can take it anywhere and it will make you proud. We took a little longer with this review because the camera has some intriguing features and, well, we really like it. Something we don't say about many digital cameras.

Look and Feel. One of the first things we do with a digital cameras here for review is dig the wrist strap out of the box and thread it through the eyelet on the body. This often takes two days. Eyelets are getting to be as small as the eye of needle and as long as a commercial interruption. We often resort to attaching a fishing wire leader to thread the stiffer wrist strap leader through the eyelet.

But not with the Sony TX1. The eyelet is a generous yet attractive slot you'll have no trouble with even blindfolded.

And while you're back there snugging it up, you may notice for the first time that there are really no buttons. A couple of ridges on the right side of the LCD provide a small but sufficient grip for your thumb (which points up instead of across to get a grip).

That large LCD covering the back panel is another argument for using that strap. Not only does it leave little room for error when you grip the Sony TX1, but it's also a touch screen. All the buttons you're looking for will be found on the screen display itself. That makes using the Sony TX1 a two-handed operation, but you'll hardly notice.

The only other feature of note is the one everyone will see and compliment. That's the big front sliding lens cover that turns the Sony TX1 on. It's exceptionally attractive, with just two words emblazoned on it so they read right when the camera is hanging from your wrist: Sony at the bottom and Cyber-shot on top. Elegant.

The word "Cyber-shot" functions as your front grip when you slide the cover down to get to work. Very nice.

There is a bit of a bulge behind the word "Sony" and a small gap on the review unit between the thing body and the lens cover. Hips, in other words, that protect the Sony TX1's lens behind the bulge. It's so slight, you might not notice.

Controls. The 230,000-pixel Clear Photo Plus LCD is the big button on the little TX1, but it does have four actual buttons. Very small ones, half of which are redundant, but still useful.

On the beveled top edge of the back panel a Playback button powers up the camera without exposing the lens. But it won't turn the Sony TX1 off.

For that, you have to resort to the Power button on top, a very tiny thing with a small green LED in it. If you turn the camera on with it, you'll be reprimanded to slide the lens cover down.

And that's really the best way to power up the Sony TX1. It becomes second nature in seconds and is far more reliable than hunting for either of those two small buttons.

The two buttons that are not redundant on the Sony TX1 are the Shutter button and Zoom control. The Shutter button is slightly raised but very thin and I occasionally had trouble finding its sweet spot. Not enough to complain about, but this isn't an uncommon drawback on any stylish ultracompact. Try before you buy.

The Sony TX1's zoom control has almost no travel but it functions more like a zoom influencer than a precise control. You nudge it left to zoom out and right to zoom in. Stop nudging when you like what you see. It's responsive, we have to say, and not the problem it might at first appear.

I should point out that the Sony TX1's touchscreen itself functions as a whole array of buttons, in a sense. In Record mode, for example, you can tap on the scene to set focus. Swiping a finger across the screen in Record mode brings up the Menu display. And in Playback, tapping on the screen magnifies that point. You can also swipe the currently displayed image to go to the next or previous one. It isn't quite an iPhone interface, but it's single finger gesture aware, which is surprisingly useful.

Lens. The Sony TX1's 4x optical zoom lens is a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar with 12 elements in 10 groups (including four aspheric elements and one prism). The 35mm equivalent focal lengths range from 35mm to 140mm with a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at wide-angle and f/4.5 at telephoto.

As with any folding lens, there are optical compromises in sharpness and distortion. The Sony TX1's lens shows corner softness at both wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths that extends significantly into the frame, which was noticeable particularly on macro shots. Barrel distortion measured slightly higher than average, and pincushion at telephoto was very high. The Sony TX1 did well on chromatic aberration throughout its focal length range.

The Sony TX1 does include Sony's SteadyShot optical image stabilization, which is particularly helpful in low-light situations.

Modes. There are seven Record modes on the Sony TX1. Those include Intelligent Auto, Sweep Panorama, Movie Mode, Program Auto, Anti Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight, and Scene Selection.

Modes can be selected by tapping the Mode icon just above the Record/Playback icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Intelligent Auto can recognize nine scenes, lighting conditions, and faces within 1/30 second. The nine scenes include Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, and Close Focus. It functions in one of two modes, Auto or Advanced. In Auto it takes one optimized shot. In Advanced, it takes a second optimized shot in low light or back light using slightly different settings, giving you a choice.

Program offers more settings but not independent control of the aperture or shutter. From Program, the Sony TX1's Menu icon provides access to Easy Mode, Smile Shutter (which consistently presumed the scowl behind our beard was a big wide smile), Flash settings, Image Size (offering 10M, 5M, 3M and VGA at 4:3, 8M at 3:2, and 7M or 2M at 16:9), Burst (Hi, Mid, Lo), Macro (Auto or Close Focus On), Focus (Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF), Metering Mode, Face Detection (Touch activated, Auto, Child Priority, Adult Priority), DRO, Red Eye Reduction, SteadyShot, and Shooting Display Settings. The main screen additionally provides icons for ISO (125, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200), EV, Self-Timer, and White Balance.

Scene Selection offers High Sensitivity, Soft Snap, Landscape, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater, and Hi-Speed Shutter.

I'll discuss Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, and Sweep Panorama separately below. They're interesting enough to merit their own reviews.

Click to view movie. MPEG4 player required.

HD Quality Movie. A 5.2MB file lasting 5 seconds. Optical zoom available from any starting focal length. (Click to download .MP4 file.)

The Sony TX1's Movie mode captures both High Definition and Standard Definition video. You select between them by choosing one of three image sizes: 1,280 x 720 Fine, 1,280 x 720 Standard, and VGA (640 x 480) all at 30 frames per second. Audio is recorded monaurally. The full 4x optical zoom is available and can be engaged from any focal length.

In the Sony TX1's Playback mode, the Menu icon accesses Easy Mode, Paint, Retouch (Trimming, Red Eye Correction, Unsharp Masking), Display Burst Group, View Mode (Date or Folder), Protect, DPOF, Print, Rotate, Volume Settings, Playback Display Settings, Exposure Data, Image Index Settings, and Select Folder.

Paint mode provides a pencil, an eraser, and a stamp (with dozens of stamps) to paint over your image. You can change the size of the pencil or eraser, as well as the color of the paint (or should I say lead). This could be fun if you were waiting for a bus. (NB: The image distortion in the adjacent screen shot is from the video capture of the LCD screen.)

Sony is famous for its presentation quality slide shows and the Sony TX1 doesn't disappoint, offering the several styles with music to match.

Handheld Twilight. Why Sony felt obliged to tag this mode with the word Twilight is beyond me. Think of it as a metaphor, I kept telling myself. It's really a handheld low light mode. For those times when your subject is not moving and you don't want to use the Sony TX1's flash.

The gallery shots have a lot of these shots but the Exif header doesn't distinguish them from the comparison shots. Here's the only clue: look for 1/8 second shutter speeds for the HHT shots. The Sony TX1 fires off six shots in about a second.

On the face of it, you wouldn't think you could get a steady hand-held shot at 1/8 second. Nor would you expect to hold the camera still for the duration of the six shots.

You also wouldn't expect to see a pretty noise-free image at such a long exposure in poor light, particularly since most of the image would be dark and the ISO cranked up to between 1,600 and 2,500.

But surprise: The Sony TX1 evaluates those six images, comparing them to each other to build a composite image in which noise is minimized and detail maintained. These shots are not quite as sharp as a high ISO shot, say, but they're not blurry.

So at very little inconvenience to you (no moving subjects and freeze for a second, please), the Sony TX1 constructs an image you could not have shot any other way.

In the gallery shots we have two sequences comparing HHT with more staid approaches to low light shooting.

The simplest comparison is a night shot of a building beside a streetlight. The HHT shot is the first one, a 1/8 second capture at ISO 1,600 and f/3.5 (wide open). The Sony TX1's Program mode shot at 1/4 second and ISO 2,000 looks overexposed by comparison (and is in fact less accurate a rendering).

The more complex series is the doll shot, always taken in very dim light. The first shot was Program mode, a straight 1/13 second at ISO 1,600 and wide open. The second is the 1/8 HHT shot. Both of these shots have a bit more color to them than the second pair, captured at ISO 3,200 as Program with ISO 3,200 and High-Sensitivity Scene mode. In the second pair only the shutter speed is different.

Of the four, I prefer the first, plain Program shot for its color and detail. While the HHT shot has good color, it isn't as sharp. And the two ISO 3,200 shots just don't have the color.

But the real pleasure of shooting in the Sony TX1's HHT mode are those shots you can't otherwise get. The very last gallery shot of a French bistro is a good example. The color is accurate, the shadows have good density and the transparent window treatment comes across quite well, as does the neon sign on top.

Anti Motion Blur. Somewhat similar to HHT is the Anti Motion Blur mode. Again the Sony TX1 captures six images but this time at a high shutter speed to freeze motion. This maintains detail while eliminating subject motion blur.

We didn't have a suitable subject to tests this but the second to last image in the gallery of the blue building was taken with AMB. You'll note the ISO is substantially lower than HHT mode.

Sweep Panoramas. We really enjoyed taking sweep panoramas on the Sony HX1 and couldn't wait to try it on the TX1. It's the most fun you can have shooting a pano. Just press the shutter, sweep the camera in a half circle and watch the Sony TX1 process the individual shots it fired off into a panorama.

The HX1 displays the final shot more dramatically, allowing you to pan through it. But you can somewhat simulate that in Playback mode on the Sony TX1 by magnifying the pano to fill the depth of the screen and sweeping your finger across the image to pan it.

We have a sample in the gallery, which shows the final image is quite a bit reduced from the maximum image size possible at just 4,912 x 1,080, probably to fit on an HDTV.

Menu System. The Sony TX1 has the nicest menu system I've seen on a Sony digicam and among the best I've ever seen. It took very little time to get oriented and it was very easy to find what I was looking for. That's saying a lot considering how many options the Sony TX1 has.

It's a hierarchical menu system that starts at the Record or Playback level, which you can switch instantly using an icon that is always available in the bottom right corner of the Sony TX1's screen.

Options in either mode line the left and right of the screen. In Record mode, which is more complex than Playback, an additional Mode icon resides just above the Record/Playback icon. That determines what other options are available on the screen.

If you don't see what you want on either side of the screen, you simply have to press the Menu button in the top left corner or swipe your finger across the screen. Options that don't fit on the Menu screen are easily accessible by flicking your finger over the icon area or using the scroll bar.

In any mode, tapping the Question Mark button switches the system into Help mode. When you press a button with Help mode activated, the screen displays an explanation of the function rather than enabling it.

If you've tried touch screens before only to find them balky or insensitive or crude, you'll be quite pleasantly delighted with the Sony TX1. Short of multi-finger gestures, Sony got it very right.

Storage & Battery. The Sony TX1 includes 11MB of internal memory, good for about two high resolution images in an emergency. But main storage is on Memory Stick Duo media including PRO Duo, High Speed, and PRO HG-Duo cards.

Our gallery images ranged from 2.2MB to 4.3MB but the big storage hog would be video. Our five-second 720p video required 5.2MB.

The Sony TX1 is powered by a proprietary NP-DB1 InfoLithium lithium-ion battery packing 3.6 volts and 2.4 watt hours. Sony rates it for about 125 minutes or 250 shots. I found it sufficient for my outings, recharging after a couple of days.

Sony also lists a $39.99 AC adapter compatible with the camera although there is no DC port on the camera.

Shooting. So UPS dropped the camera off at the end of the day. Twilight, right? Right. We had a lamp or two on in the living room but it was really too dark to take photos.

With any other camera, anyway.

I turned the Sony TX1 on by sliding the lens cover down, slipped into Handheld Twilight mode and took aim. Nothing was safe from me. When the light had completely failed, I handed the Sony TX1 to Joyce. She couldn't believe it. She was taking pictures in the dark.

Now when have you ever been able to do that?

The Sony TX1 really opens up the dark side of the moon to photography. The very first shot of the place setting at ISO 1,600 captures a range of dim light that gradually dissipates into darkness in the foreground but the Dynamic Range Optimization of the Bionz processor holds detail in the shadows. You can see the forks. You can see the detail of the bright knife blade as well, and the color is quite accurate.

The shot of the orchid was taken in darkness and the Sony TX1 has added some color. Just before taking the shot, the autofocus assist lamp illuminated the whole flower. It wasn't just a spot but a very bright orange light. That's the only drawback to shooting in the dark. You have to focus. And to focus you need light.

As interesting as Handheld Twilight was, the real question every camera has to answer is how it does in sunlight. I found some sun in Palo Alto where I parked near a Tesla sunning itself outside the Fish Market.

I was a little disappointed with the shots taken in the interior of the restaurant (the sideboard is quite blurred and too bright, the salt and pepper shakers too dark, the chair nearly burned out) but the Tesla looks great. And later, the Porsche really shined, particularly its wheels, which the Sony TX1 captured without being fooled by the spectral highlights. I don't think chrome ever looked quite that good.

The Dahlia shots came out well, too, with wonderful detail close up. The Sony TX1 automatically shifts into Macro mode when necessary, so I didn't have to fiddle with a thing. There's some delicate tonal shifts there and it managed them very well.

Because the Sony TX1 is so compact and so slim, it was easy to take with me wherever I was going. The sliding lens cover always had the camera ready to shoot by the time I looked at the LCD. The touch screen was a pleasure to use, even something of a relief from the buttons being pressed into service on the backs of most digicams these days. And having a 4x zoom with three aspect ratios to chose from made it a lot of fun with no frustration to compose images.

I don't think I ever made any adjustments other than ISO, either. Never touched the EV setting even, relying on the Sony TX1's DRO to handle the problem. Which is saying a lot.

In short, my shooting experience with the Sony TX1 was unusually pleasant and rewarding.

 

Sony DSC-TX1 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft, lower right
Tele: Sharper at center
Tele: Softest lower left corner

Sharpness: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1's wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings both show fairly soft corners, with blurring extending fairly far into the frame. In both zoom positions, blurring is strongest in the lower corners. Corner softness like this unfortunately is often the price you pay with ultra-compact cameras like the Sony TX1: The "folded" optical path and tiny dimensions make for difficult trade-offs in lens design. For a camera with similar sensor technology but fewer optical trade-offs (albeit in not nearly as compact a body), check out the Sony WX1.


Wide: Slightly higher than average barrel distortion
Tele: Significant pincushion distortion

Geometric Distortion: As is often the case with sub-compact cameras, the Sony TX1's barrel and pincushion distortion are both a bit higher than average. Barrel distortion is slightly higher than average at 0.9%, while pincushion is noticeably higher than that of most consumer digicams at telephoto, at 0.4%.


Wide: Narrow, but bright
Tele: Also low, less bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings is actually quite low in terms of the width of the fringe around contrasting objects, though at wide-angle, the red fringes were quite bright. The overall effect was much less noticeable at telephoto lens settings. CA is another frequent consequence of the lens designs needed to fit into subcompact cameras, so the amount of it seen here isn't unusual. Keep in mind too, that we're looking at 1:1 crops from a 10-megapixel image here: The areas shown at right would be only a third of an inch across on a 8x10 inch print.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1's Macro mode captures a sharp image at the center of the frame, with good detail. As is often the case with super-macro modes in digicams, though, blurring in the corners is fairly strong. Minimum coverage area is 1.38 x 1.03 inches (35 x 26mm). The flash exposure is very uneven up close, with strong highlights. Plan on using external lighting for your very closest macro shots with the Sony TX1, but the flash should do fine for subjects at distances of 4-5 inches.


 

Sony DSC-TX1 Image Quality


Color: The Sony TX1's overall color is good, though bright reds and blues are a little oversaturated (fairly common among consumer digital cameras). Yellows are actually a slightly muted, while greens are pretty much spot on. Cyan hues are shifted towards blue, a near-universal color shift among digital cameras that we believe is done to improve the rendering of sky colors. Colors from yellow through orange are shifted a bit in the yellow/green direction, but the shifts are fairly uniform, so colors in that range look well-balanced with respect to each other. Dark skintones are a little more saturated, with a warmer tint, while lighter tones are pushed a bit toward reddish-pink. Quite good results overall, though; the Sony TX1 produces natural, believable color, with the slight boost in reds and blues that most consumers seem to prefer.


125
200
400
400
800
1,600

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is good at ISO 125, though as early as ISO 200, noise suppression begins to visibly interfere with fine detail in areas of subtle contrast. Chroma (color) noise pixels are moderate at ISO 400, and noise suppression is affecting detail more strongly. Starting at ISO 800, noise suppression effects become very strong, and luminance (brightness) noise more noticeable.

The remarks in this section are based on on-screen viewing of the camera's images at 1:1 size, as seen at right. This sort of analysis helps us understand in detail what's going on with a camera's images as ISO is increased and noise reduction plays a larger role. Printed results can be quite different than what you see on-screen, though: See the Printed Results section below to learn what print sizes are obtainable from the Sony TX1's images at various ISO settings.


Wide: Just right at 9.8 ft
Tele: Fairly bright at 7.9 ft
Flash: Our manufacturer specification testing shows that the Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 produces a fairly bright exposure at its rated distance of 9.8 feet, but raises the ISO rating to 500 to do so. At telephoto, the camera again had to increase the ISO, this time to 800, to get bright results at the rated distance of 7.9 feet. Because of the image noise introduced at these elevated ISO settings, you'll want to stay closer to your subjects when using flash.

Auto WB: Warm but within an acceptable range
Incandescent WB: Warm and rather yellow
 
Manual WB: Slightly cool, but most accurate of the three

Incandescent: Both the Auto and Incandescent white balance settings produced warmer color balances, although the results with Auto were within what we'd consider an acceptable range. The Manual option produced slightly cool-looking but more technically accurate color under our household incandescent lighting. Some users will prefer the warmth of the Auto setting, though, as being more representative of the original lighting.


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Low Light: The Sony TX1's unique EXMOR-R sensor is roughly twice as sensitive as conventional ones of similar resolution and pixel size, reducing image noise at higher ISO settings.

The table at right shows an exposure series, shot at a one foot-candle light level, roughly the amount of light provided by typical city street-lighting at night. The Sony TX1's metering system underexposed this subject a little, but noise levels are indeed quite good for a subcompact digicam.


Normal ISO 1,600, 1/25s: In normal shooting mode, the Sony TX1's noise levels are somewhat better than the competition's, but are by no means up to SLR standards. (Keep in mind that this is a 1;1 crop from a 10-megapixel image, though.)
Handheld Twilight mode, ISO 500, 1/8 sec: Composed from 6 frames shot in rapid succession, then micro-aligned and summed together in the camera, this shot is much cleaner, but shows essentially no blur from camera shake. Pretty amazing for a digicam!
Anti-Motion Blur, ISO 3,200, 1/40s, subject in motion: Anti motion blur mode cranks the ISO up very high, but once again "stacks" images to reduce noise. Moving subjects are taken from a single frame, though, rendering them sharply, but with more image noise. This woman was moving pretty briskly through the door, but the camera captured a sharp (if noisy) image of her nonetheless.
Anti-Motion Blur, ISO 3,200, 1/40s, stationary subject: Another crop from the same image shown at right, this time with a stationary subject. Notice how low the image noise is, compared to the image of the woman at left. This is how the bulk of the scene looks in the rest of the photograph.
Handheld Twilight & Anti Motion Blur modes: The Sony TX1 also sports two special low-light shooting modes that really take handheld shooting under dim lighting to a new level.

The Sony TX1's "Handheld Twilight" mode captures sharp handheld images under low lighting by snapping six short (and therefore dim) exposures in rapid succession. It then micro-aligns and combines them into a single bright image. Combined with the TX1's Super SteadyShot image stabilization system, the result is sharp handheld images with unusually low noise levels, easily capable of making good-looking 8x10 inch prints.

A second special low light mode called Anti Motion Blur uses higher ISO settings and even faster shutter speeds, detecting moving objects and then taking their images from only a single frame of the six-shot sequence. This makes images of moving subjects more noisy than their surroundings, but renders them much more sharply than would otherwise be the case.

The crops at right show some examples cropped from shots of a typical urban night scene, captured in normal, Handheld Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur modes. Click on any of the thumbnails to go to the full-size image. The results are pretty unprecedented among consumer cameras, pushing the Sony TX1's capability as a handheld low-light shooter into a realm normally reserved for SLRs. (Keep in mind that the crops here are from 10-megapixel images, displayed 1:1 onscreen. Printed at a normal 8x10-inch enlargement size, the images are remarkably sharp and usable.)


Printed Results: Taking its very slim, pocketable profile into account, the Sony TX1's images print quite well. ISO 125 shots have good detail over most of the image when printed up to 13x19 inches; however, corners at this size are a bit too soft. ISO 200 shots look better at 11x14, where the corners also look better, suitable for wall display, if not close scrutiny. ISO 400 shots lose some detail at 11x14, but still stand up to wall display. ISO 800 shots look surprisingly good at 8x10, with good color and detail, and only some noise in the shadows. ISO 1,600 shots start to lose saturation, and blacks start to lean toward gray, and detail softens too much at 8x10, but that detail comes back at 5x7. ISO 3,200 shots are surprisingly good at 4x6, with good saturation for that light level. Overall a very good performance from the Sony TX1, with all ISO settings turning in usable results at normal print sizes.

The Sony TX1's Handheld Twilight and Anti-Motion Blur modes also printed quite usable 8x10-inch prints, with the Handheld Twilight at ISO 500 image (above) looking quite good at 11x14.


 

Sony DSC-TX1 Performance


Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, but not category-leading, at 0.54 second at wide-angle and 0.63 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.008 second, blazingly fast.


Cycle time: Cycle time is also relatively fast, capturing a frame every 1.4 seconds in single-shot mode. The Sony TX1 offers three Continuous modes, with a High setting capturing frames every 0.10-second for 10 frames. Mid speed slows to 0.20-second intervals, and Low captures at about 0.5-second intervals. All times are for 10 frames, and the 10 frame/second speed of the High setting is very fast indeed, matched or exceeded by only a few cameras on the market. (The vast majority of consumer cameras slog along at 2 frames/second or less.)


Flash Recycle: The Cyber-shot DSC-TX1's flash recycles in a relatively quick 4 seconds after a full-power discharge. That's a pretty fast recycle time for a digicam, but as we saw above, its output is pretty weak, requiring the camera to crank up the ISO pretty high to get any kind of reasonable range.


 

Sony DSC-TX1 Conclusion

Oh, the Sony TX1 is a Dave's Pick all right, let's get that out of the way right now. It has the technical wonders required to earn one, starting with the new Exmor R sensor's increased light sensitivity, the responsive widescreen, touch-sensitive LCD, and some innovative shooting modes. Those include 10 frame-per-second shooting at full resolution, Anti-Motion Blur, and Handheld Twilight modes, Sweep Panorama, and HD Movie mode, and a quick intelligent Auto mode.

And the Sony TX1 has the looks, too, with that handsome T-Series styling we've admired in the past -- not just for its dazzle, but for its functionality too. I had no qualms about the Sony TX1's image quality either, although the usual caveats about soft corners and folded optics still apply. The 10-megapixel images the Sony TX1 captured were color-accurate and sharply detailed, a pleasure to view. Our printed results tell the rest of the tale, with usable image quality at all settings, not to mention some very impressive results from the Handheld Twilight and Anti-Motion Blur modes.

I'm certainly going to miss it, but I'm happy to make the Sony TX1 a Dave's Pick.

 

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