Sony DSC-TX10 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Cybershot i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10
Resolution: 16.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(25-100mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 125-3200
Shutter: 2-1/1600
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
(96 x 56 x 18 mm)
Weight: 4.8 oz (135 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $330
Availability: 03/2011
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony DSC-TX10 specifications
16.20
Megapixels
4.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10
Front side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 digital camera Back side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 digital camera Top side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 digital camera Left side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 digital camera Right side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 digital camera

DSC-TX10 Summary

While it's waterproof, rugged, and slick looking enough to slip into a suit, the Sony TX10's touchscreen doesn't work as well as it should, making this otherwise nice little camera harder to recommend.

Pros

Fast shutter lag; Full HD video with stereo audio; iSweep Panorama mode; Low-light modes.

Cons

Inconsistent touchscreen; Touchscreen doesn't work under water; Sluggish interface; Movies are slow to start recording.

Price and availability

Available in five body colors, the Sony TX10 started shipping in March 2011. Suggested retail price is US$330. Colors include silver, black, green, blue, and pink.

Imaging Resource rating

3.5 out of 5.0

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 User Report

by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 07/26/2011

I have to hand it to Sony. When I found out the TX10 was waterproof, I worried about just exactly how I was going to test that pivotal feature. But I didn't have to worry at all.

Sony managed to find a way to make the interface on the TX10 feel as sluggish and breathless as if you were under water even when you are basking in sunshine with sun block on your nose.

Their secret? A very insensitive touchscreen.

At first, I assumed it was me. My finger would tap the screen. Nothing would happen. Tap again. Nothing again.

Who needs this? I thought to myself.

Thinking I was smarter than the TX10, I used its stylus to poke and prod the screen. Same problem. Sometimes the stylus made its point, sometimes it was ignored.

If smartphones had been this dense, I thought, they would never have been called smart. So I am obliged to tell you right up front, the TX10 can be extremely frustrating to use. The images in the gallery may be gorgeous, but the interface left me cold.

Funny thing is, I happen to love touchscreens. Even if, on a camera, they turn a one-handed operation into a two-handed one. But a bad touchscreen spoils the whole experience.

Look and Feel. There's nothing particularly striking about the Sony TX10's design. Well, anymore, that is. The T-Series has always been striking with its exceptionally thin profile and sliding lens cover. The TX10 looks like its predecessors in that regard.

Sony says the buttons and the cover have been designed to shed water, though. I'm a little more than skeptical about the lens cover (it isn't the best design for a submergible) but the buttons sway me.

There are only a few, after all. And none at all on the back panel. Sony relied on the touchscreen to replace the navigator and miscellaneous buttons you usually find on the back panel of a digicam. Which sounds like a pretty bright idea.

Except you can't use the touchscreen under water.

Can you imagine snorkeling 10 feet under water at Hanauma Bay and seeing a live mermaid smiling at you only to have to shoot up to the surface to change the shooting mode from a Scene mode to Intelligent Auto (you know, to impress her)?

Other features were designed with water in mind, however. There are nice salmon-color gaskets on the two doors (one for the USB/HDMI ports and another for the battery/card compartment). And those doors have nice latches to release them (nicer than on any other digicam I've used).

This waterproofing bias may or may not be the reason, but the Sony TX10 has the Worst Wrist Strap Eyelet Ever. I simply could not get the strap through it until I got some 25 lb test fishing line to thread it through. And even then I had to pull nearly 25 lbs worth to get the wrist strap through the eyelet. [Editor's Note: Threading the strap took me less than 30 seconds, but it required determination and finesse.]

While there is no grip to speak of (neither on the front, where the sliding cover makes that impossible, nor on the back, which is occupied by the touchscreen), the TX10 is light enough to require very little effort to hang onto. Still, Sony recommends (and I second) relying on the wrist strap to hang onto the thing, particularly under water. As Sony puts it, "The camera sinks in water."

There is a marine case to use the camera below five meters, though we did not test this.

One mystery that eluded discovery is the location of the monaural speaker. Grills would compromise waterproofing but Playback mode does offer a slide show with music and I could hear something (besides the Sony beep), but the video playback sound is not very loud, even with the volume cranked up.

The stereo microphones are just below the flash, which itself is in the top middle of the front panel, revealed when you slide the lens cover down. The Self-timer/Smile Shutter/AF Illuminator lamp is tucked under the flash, too. And the lens, in the corner, is covered by glass.

There is a good half-inch of the front cover that is never exposed, being hidden by the bottom of the lens cover when closed and the top when open. Maybe the speaker is there.

The tripod socket is on the bottom panel but anything you attach will block access to the latch for the battery/card compartment. The cover hinge is in the corner, near the hinge for the ports cover, in fact.

Controls. The touchscreen can be quite a decoy, I discovered when I hunted around for the Zoom control. There's no Zoom lever around the Shutter button, so I looked for some toggle icon on the LCD. In vain.

I won't say exactly how long it took me to find the zoom control, but even when I found it (on the right corner), I didn't believe it. Sony has pulled this stunt before, a joystick-like zoom control. Didn't like it then. Don't like it on the TX10. But then I'm not a big fan of the limited 4x zoom on the TX10 to begin with.

There are four buttons on the Sony TX10. They are all slightly raised from the top panel but two of them are almost flush. That must be the water-shedding design at work.

The Power button is small and shallow but functional. The Shutter button is prominent, easy to find and use. The Playback button just over the ridge on the top panel is also functional, if shallow. And its cousin, the Movie shutter button (a necessity given the lack of a Mode dial) is tiny but prominent.

All four take some getting used to and qualify as unqualified disasters in digicam user interface design. After dozens of shots, I never felt they were second nature or even natural.

As a control, the LCD leaves (as I said) everything to be desired. If I had bought this particular TX10, I would have returned it the next day as defective. The touchscreen was just too unresponsive.

And if I'd gotten another one just like it, I would have returned that one, too, and shopped for another camera.

Lens. Behind the sliding cover of the TX10, the 4x optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens ranges from 25 to 100mm equivalent in still mode with a 4:3 aspect ratio, 27 to 108mm with a 16:9 aspect ratio for both stills and movies, and 4:3 aspect movies range from 33 to 132mm.

It's constructed of 12 elements in 10 groups including six aspheric elements and one prism. Minimum focusing distance at wide-angle is 0.39 inch (1cm) and at telephoto 1.64 feet (50cm). Maximum aperture varies from f/3.5 to f/4.6 across the zoom range.

Modes. I found the touchscreen so unreliable that switching modes was more than I could bear. I left the TX10 in Program or Intelligent Auto mode for most of my real shooting, tapping into the other modes as required for the review.

I was not at all sold on the shooting modes, though. Program isn't Manual mode, so I think of it as the green easy automatic mode that lets me adjust whatever camera setting I want.

Any other "auto" mode seems like a prison sentence to me, one in which you are prohibited from taking liberties with the automatic camera settings. What fun is that?

Sony tortures me much further with the TX10, providing an Intelligent Auto and a Superior Auto. The first thing that occurred to me is what you probably just thought too. If Superior is so superior, why do you need Intelligent -- or even Program?

As you might have guessed, Superior isn't so superior. Sony should have called it Too-Clever-For-Its-Own-Good Auto. After a few brief experiments when I discovered it liked to take multiple exposures even in daylight, I avoided it.

Sony's iSweep Panorama was quite an innovation a couple of years ago. It's since been surpassed by more than one competitor in terms of ease, but Sony's works very well, and the new High Res mode really impresses. Now the Sony TX10 takes it to new depths, enabling iSweep underwater, which may not get the upper hand, but certainly gives you a reason to hold your breath.

Adding to the modes, Sony now includes Background Defocus mode. Little cameras have a very hard time achieving the blurred backgrounds dSLRs are famous for. So Sony has decided to give the TX10 a little help.

Optical Zoom Range. 25 to 100mm equivalent.

PROGRAM. As with other digicams, this mode sets the aperture and shutter speed automatically (and no, you don't get a vote on the particular combination). Its real attraction is that you can make other adjustments (like White Balance, EV, etc.) not available in other Auto modes. Except that to make them on the TX10, you have to use the touchscreen.

INTELLIGENT AUTO. People don't use the Scene modes in their digicams because, well, it's a pain to associate reality with one of the options. So camera makers decided to let the camera do the associating.

With Intelligent Auto, the TX10 tries to determine if it is looking at a Portrait, Infant, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Backlight Portrait, Backlight, Landscape, Macro, Close Focus, Spotlight or Low Light scene. It displays an icon on the screen if it figures it out.

The real beauty of this mode (for me at least) is that it will automatically enable Macro mode when you get in close. The rest of it, really, doesn't come into play for me.

SUPERIOR AUTO. This mode starts with scene recognition but adds what Sony calls "high-quality image technology." Or what I call post-capture processing delays.

The TX10 takes several shots based on the scene it recognizes, then builds a composite while you wait. The benefits are backlight correction and reduced noise. Hence the "higher quality."

The problem is that delay. It isn't something you can anticipate (or get used to). So this is really a specialty mode.

But wait. Because there's some really good stuff hidden away in here. Like Hand-held Twilight, Anti Motion Blur and Backlight Correction HDR. I've praised all three of these on other Sony models (where you could enable them individually). But they have their quirks (like no moving subjects), so they should be a conscious choice, not an automatic selection like any ordinary Scene mode.

And you'll find them as conscious choices in Scene mode.

ISWEEP PANORAMA. I found it a lot easier to use iSweep Panorama on the TX10 than on some other Sony cameras. The problem was that I never had any idea how far or fast to sweep so most of my panoramas had some gray area where I quit before the panorama did.

On the TX10 there's an elevator that scrolls in the direction of the panorama as you shoot, so you know how much further you have to go.

This isn't as good as just letting you stop and building the panorama from what you did capture, but it's an improvement. It still takes some practice. Friends who tried it just couldn't get it the first few tries.

You do get the "intelligent" version of this mode, which detects people's faces and moving subjects. That worked well.

iSweep Panorama. Bridalveil Fall from the Merced River. 4,912 x 1,080 pixels.

iSweep Panorama HR. And when they say "high" they mean it: this image measures 10,480 x 4,096 pixels, or about 43 megapixels. Watch out for lens flare, though, as demonstrated in this shot.

UNDERWATER ISWEEP PANORAMA. I didn't wait to be submerged to try this variation of iSweep Panorama. And the difference is just the White Balance setting.

BACKGROUND DEFOCUS. It just isn't possible for a little camera (well, a small sensor) with a short lens to capture a sharp face against a blurred background. But we all love the effect. And it obliges some of us to buy dSLRs and, even worse for our credit cards, telephoto lenses.

Sony's Background Defocus mode simulates the effect by taking two images and processing them in the camera. Presumably (Sony isn't talking) one image is blurred and the other sharp and the face recognized in the sharp image is retained with the blurred background.

Sony recommends using Tracking focusing mode to follow the subject more easily. And it also warns that if the background is too close to the subject, this won't work.

I took a test shot in the studio of a small figurine and Background Defocus did indeed blur the background noticeably more than a similar Program shot did. Whether it's worth the trouble of taking two shots (especially of a wiggling subject) is another topic, though.

SCENE. The TX10's selection of Scene modes includes Soft Skin for faces, Soft Snap for portraits or flowers, Anti Motion Blur, Landscape, Backlight Correction HDR, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Hand-held Twilight, High Sensitivity, Gourmet (well, Food), Pet, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater, and Hi-Speed Shutter (uh, Sports).

Full HD movie. Click image to download 17.4MB MTS file, or click here to download 14.1MB MP4 file.

MOVIE. It isn't supposed to be this hard. Press the Movie button to start and stop recording, that's all. But I had trouble. The reason? There's a long delay between the time you press the Movie button and when recording actually starts. So you don't really know if you've activated a capture.

The TX10 can shoot either AVCHD or MP4 movies.

There are three AVC HD quality settings: 1,920 x 1,080 24M (FX), 1,920 x 1,080 17M (FH) and 1,440 x 1,080 9M (HQ) all at 60i (60 fields per second interlaced), or 50i for PAL.

The MP4 quality settings are: 1,440 x 1,080 12M, 1,280 x 720 6M, 640 x 480 (VGA) 3M, all at 30p (30 frames per second progressive), or 25p for PAL.

Optical zoom is supported during video recording, and clips are limited to 29 minutes or less. Sony's "Dual Record" feature allows the TX10 to capture up to 10 still images while recording video, though resolution of stills is limited to 3 megapixels or less, depending on the movie mode.

Menu System. One of the reasons I found the touchscreen unresponsive turned out to be that it was, in fact, not responding. For a couple of heart beats when you turn it on, it just isn't active. Tap all you want.

That doesn't explain why when I swiped in Playback mode, the image would sometimes just not slide along to the next image.

But it does explain why I resorted to the stylus (or paint pen, as Sony calls it). Same problem.

The view is nice, though. Icons are arranged along the left and right sides of the screen. The top left is always the Menu button.

In shooting mode, the icons are also the settings. One of them, for example, reports the aspect ratio and image size. If you want to change it, just tap it and you'll see a screen full of options to tap before returning to live mode.

That's how you change modes, too. Tap the mode icon, which also shows you which mode you're in, and get a screen full of options.

The TX10 includes Sony's In-Camera Guide help system, which comes in very handy given the camera's generous feature set and rather poor documentation.

Playback. Playback runs a few options under the image, leaving the sides freer for arrow buttons. You can't pinch or zoom by touch on this screen, which I found awkward. It's become natural. So if you're going to give me a touchscreen, it ought to pinch and zoom.

Another oddity is the Temporarily Rotated Display in Playback. A wide screen in landscape isn't the best way to display a portrait image. So Sony added a Temporarily Rotated Display button to fill the screen. You rotate the camera to orient it correctly. And tap the icon to restore the normal orientation (for playback on a TV, which you can't rotate, for example).

The touchscreen does lend itself to some unusual editing features.

You can, for example, paint with the stylus or stamp clip art over an image. There's a mini-paint program built into the TX10 just for that. It has a Pen, Eraser, Stamp, a control for the thickness of the pen/eraser/stamp, color, frames. You can Save, Revert, Exit, too. Pretty simple.

So if you can paint, can you retouch? Sure. But not quite as freely. You can crop, correct red-eye and apply unsharp masking. That's it.

Storage & Battery. The Sony TX10 includes about 19MB of internal memory, which can hold about three 16-megapixel images. A 2GB SD memory card, however, will store about 335 of the same size images or 10 minutes of AVCHD FX video. The Sony TX10 also supports Memory sticks: MS Duo, MS PRO Duo, and PRO-HG Duo, as well as SDHC and SDXC.

The Sony TX10 uses a lithium-ion NP-BN1 3.6 volt battery with a capacity of 630 mAh. Tested to CIPA standards, the TX10 is expected to get 250 shots per charge.

Note that no video cable of any kind is supplied. Sony does offer a Multi-use Terminal Cable ($39.99) for composite video output and a combination N Type Battery + Mini HDMI cable ($64.99). You can find a mini HDMI cable at MonoPrice for under $5.

Image Quality. Mixed bag. Often I think the problem was that exposure was just off, mainly underexposing. But there are some pretty strong color shifts. A red rose in the shade just went radioactive.

But I liked what I got when the exposure was on target. I liked it a lot.

The ISO 125 Still Life was a bit blurry around the edges but held highlights well.

The wide-angle target confirmed the soft corners as well as mild barrel distortion while the telephoto target showed almost no measurable distortion.

Water. I'll give Sony credit for designing a waterproof and not merely water-resistant camera. Not to mention shock-proof and dust-proof. But since I was dry docked for the first few days I had the camera, I read the fine print. And it isn't pretty.

The shock-proof and dust-proof features are qualified but reasonable. There is, for example, "no guarantee that the camera will not become scratched or dented." But less reasonably, Sony cautions that the finish may be discolored by sunscreen or suntan oil. Sony's advice is to "quickly wipe it clean."

As for waterproof, well, you've only got an hour at five meters (16 feet); but five meters is a lot deeper than some waterproof cameras can go. And you can't slip the camera into a stream ("pressurized water"). Water temperature is also an issue (no hot springs) although the seals will protect it in water as warm as 104 degrees F.

Actually maintaining the waterproof capability of the TX10 may prove to be more of an issue.

As with any waterproof device (including waterproof housings), any sand or debris stuck in the seals can be fatal. Even a scratch can compromise the tight seal.

To reduce the risk of that sort of thing, Sony recommends cleaning the camera within an hour of exposure to water. Don't take out the memory card (a real temptation) and let the camera sit in "pure water poured into a cleaning bowl for about five minutes. Then gently shake the camera, press each button, slide the zoom lever or the lens cover inside the water, to clean away any salt, sand or other matter lodged around the buttons or the lens cover."

Seeing Red. Sunlit red wasn't bad, but red in the shade was a different story.

Wait, you're not done. Take the camera out, "wipe away water drops" with a soft cloth" (Sony doesn't say "dry") and let it dry in the shade with ventilation.

Think that's a hassle? Sony recommends that "once a year" you take the camera "to your dealer, or to an authorized repair shop, to have the sealing gasket of the battery/memory card cover, or of the multi-connector cover replaced for a fee."

Yeah, not worth the trouble. But most waterproof cameras have these same warnings, so it's not unique to Sony by any means.

Shooting. Around town, the Sony TX10 was a pretty good spy camera, snapping shots of high gas prices, vintage Hartland statuettes in an antique store window.

And the high ISO shot of some blue wooden roses at ISO 1,600 accurately captured the mood.

Outdoors, at the flea market, colors were better and ISO was safe at 125. No complaints about those shots. They might even get you to eat vegetables.

But the roses in the shade that follow them in the gallery are all underexposed in Program mode. Are you noticing a trend?

The trend is that the TX10 did well in sunlight but not so well in shade. It consistently underexposed in shade.

McCovey. Well exposed, but sunlit so no surprise.

I took it to the ballpark one afternoon before a night game. The 16:9 shots of Willie McCovey's statue and the stadium across the cove show the camera at its best.

And it came in very handy during a quick trip to Yosemite where rain and a large snow melt kept finer gear in my bag. The water didn't bother the TX10 whether it was pelting rain or waterfall spray.

And having an iSweep panorama of the floor of the valley was a real treat, too.

I presume (because I can't actually view them) that the 3D images around a rock slide area would also be a real treat. I didn't upload them to the gallery (because you can't see them) but here are some thumbnails and links to the 3D files.

Download the 3D MPO version.

 

Download the 3D MPO version.

 

Although I didn't submerge the TX10, it did get soaking wet. So I was able to observe its water-shedding properties and was required to dry it off. Not a lot of work, really. It took longer to dry myself off.

And it was a real comfort to know as the rain came down and the falls splashed over me that the TX10 was designed to survive this sort of exposure. Most electronic gear is not.

On the other hand, I haven't done much wet photography since I escaped the darkroom.

Underwater. Lots of digital processing in all underwater mode shots, but it still makes a good 8x10-inch print.

Editor's Note: I took the Sony TX10 down to the pool and tried this nice little camera for a few hours with the kids. I can confirm that the touchscreen doesn't work underwater, and it doesn't work well when your fingers are wet. Sometimes it responds, sometimes it doesn't, but as Mike points out, that's true on dry land too. The screen and camera surface do shed water well.

After shooting with it a bit, I handed it to my sons, who are 6 and 7 years old. They had more trouble with the Sony TX10, mostly because they kept accidentally touching the screen and changing modes or settings. They also frequently started recording movies unintentionally. Of course, these are kids, but they're also seasoned waterproof camera testers, as they were quite instrumental in my big Fun in the Sun roundup two years ago, when they were much younger.

Full HD in the pool. Click to download 22.7MB MTS file.

I got one or two decent shots, but most of them were just okay. I also shot some videos, but most of those were not useful. A key problem with the Sony TX10's video mode is that it takes 3-5 seconds for the camera to start recording after you've pressed the Record button. It also takes a very long time to finish copying the video to the memory card after you've stopped recording. It's also very difficult to see the LCD in bright light to tell when recording has started or stopped. I was relieved when I was done trying out the various features, because I could finally stop straining to see the dark screen.

Overall, it's great to have a waterproof, rugged camera, but the Sony TX10 wouldn't be my first choice if watersports was my main purpose for the camera. It's hard to ignore special modes like Underwater iSweep Panorama, though. -Shawn Barnett, Senior Editor

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft at upper left
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Soft, upper left

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10's zoom shows noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, but blurring extends only a small way in toward the main area. At telephoto, the center is a little softer, but the corners are less soft than at wide-angle.


Wide: Low barrel distortion; only slightly noticeable
Tele: Virtually no visible distortion

Geometric Distortion: There is a little barrel distortion at wide-angle (~0.5%), and almost no perceptible distortion (~0.01% barrel) at telephoto. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10's processor does a good job here.


Wide: Moderate
Tele: Low

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, though pixels are not terribly bright, making the effect appear minimal overall. Telephoto shows fewer pixels, with only a hint of redness.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10's Macro mode captures a very soft image with strong blurring in the corners of the frame that extends far in toward center, as well as much stronger chromatic aberration (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 0.93 x 0.70 inches (24 x 18mm). While that's quite small, the sacrifice comes in loss of fine detail from noise suppression. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is rendered practically useless at this range.


 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10's LCD monitor showed about 100% coverage at wide-angle and closer to 101% at telephoto. LCD performance is a little loose at telephoto, showing less of the actual image than what makes the final frame, but results are still good.


 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 Image Quality


Color: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 produced good accuracy in greens, browns, and some pinks and purples, but pushed strong blues and reds. Yellows are a bit muted as well. Hue is also off for yellows, which are strongly pushed toward green. Oranges move toward yellow, and cyan toward blue (the latter presumably for more pleasing skies). Dark skin tones are a little warm, and lighter skin tones show a small nudge toward magenta. Overall, though, results should still be pleasing to most consumers.


Auto WB:
Slightly red
Incandescent WB:
Too yellow
 
Manual WB:
Very good

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, as the Auto setting produced a reddish tint, and the Incandescent resulted in a yellow cast.


Horizontal: 2,200 lines
Vertical: 2,200 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,200 lines per picture height in both directions (though one could almost argue for 2,400). Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,900 lines per picture height.


Wide: Dim
Tele: Quite dark
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows dim results at the rated distance of 12.3 feet, despite the camera increasing ISO to 800. The telephoto test came out actually a bit dark at Sony's rated distance of 8.9 feet, and again, the camera raised ISO to 800.

Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a hint of the ambient light at a shutter speed of 1/30 second, ISO 640. Subject motion blur could be an issue at this shutter speed, but the camera's optical image stabilization should help avoid blur due to camera motion. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


125
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is already a little soft at ISO 125 and 200, though definition in the finer elements is still pretty good. More visible softening begins at ISO 400, and progresses from there. Chroma (color) noise is pretty well controlled at all ISOs, though a visible pattern of luminance noise becomes stronger with each higher setting. Noise suppression efforts also bungle detail definition. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.


Print Quality: With a camera that does as much noise suppression as the Sony TX10, it's important to look at print quality to see whether the noise suppression that seems obvious at 100% onscreen actually matters in printed output.

ISO 125 shots look usable printed at 16x20 inches, but certain elements are a bit soft, especially red areas. Noise suppression is obviously at work in in other areas as well, eliminating detail. Most detail looks considerably better printed at 13x19 inches. Our Indoor portrait shot made in low light reveals trouble with hair in particular, with excessive blurring in the hair that reduces print quality to 8x10 before the blur from noise suppression becomes less pronounced.

ISO 200 shots are usable at 13x19 inches, but look better at 11x14.

ISO 400 shots also look good at 11x14 inches.

ISO 800 images are a little soft for 11x14, but look good at 8x10.

ISO 1,600 images look good at 8x10, except for low-contrast colors, like reds and purples, which appear quite soft. These areas look better printed at 5x7.

ISO 3,200 shots look good at 5x7, but noticeably better at 4x6 inches.

Overall, the Sony TX10 disappoints at first, especially considering its 16-megapixel sensor, but we've seen this before, where excessive noise suppression effectively reduces resolution to smaller print sizes. Beware of blur in the hair, however, and other low-contrast fine detail at most ISO settings indoors.


 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 Performance


Startup Time: The Sony TX10 takes 1.5 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's not bad for its class.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is quite fast, at 0.31 second at wide-angle and 0.27 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.012 second, among the fastest out there.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is a little slow, capturing a frame every 1.9 seconds in single-shot mode. Burst mode however is very fast, rated at up to 10 frames-per-second for 10 frames at full resolution.


Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10's flash recycles in about 5.2 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is about average.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just a hair below the 1/2 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, 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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10's download speeds are fairly fast. We measured 7,122 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The retail version of the Sony TX10 includes:

  • TX10 digicam
  • NP-BN battery
  • USB charger (AC-UB10)
  • USB cable
  • Stylus
  • Wrist Strap
  • CD-ROM

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC or MS PRO Duo memory card. These days, 4GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 8GB should be a minimum. Look for SD Class 4 or MS PRO Duo Mark 2 speed grades or faster for recording HD movies.

 

Sony TX10 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Very nice, slim and smooth design
  • Easily pocketable
  • Waterproof
  • Shockproof
  • Dustproof
  • Freezeproof
  • High-res (921k-dot) 3-inch LCD
  • Wide-angle lens with optical image stabilization
  • Full HD video with optical zoom
  • Stereo recording
  • Dual Rec captures stills during movies
  • 16.2-megapixel Exmor-R sensor
  • Low-light and HDR modes
  • Fast shutter lag
  • Intelligent auto enables Macro mode automatically
  • iSweep Panorama includes High Resolution mode, Underwater mode
  • Fast burst mode and download speeds
  • In-Camera Guide
  • HDMI output
  • Touchscreen is not consistently responsive
  • Touchscreen doesn't work under water
  • Difficult to see the LCD in bright light
  • Slow interface
  • Movie recording takes several seconds to start
  • Noise suppression affects even low ISO images
  • Tends to underexpose in shade
  • Soft corners
  • Video playback's audio is not loud enough
  • Weak flash (not a surprise for its size)
  • Poor documentation split between PDF and HTML formats

 

The Sony Cyber-shot TX10 is a very nicely designed ultra compact, certainly, with the virtue of being impervious to water. It can handle being dropped and dust will not degrade it. On those tests, the TX10 scores high marks.

Exposure in the shade was uniformly insufficient, although sunlit scenes were nicely captured. Color did shift, particularly reds, but it wasn't unpleasant in sunlit shots. Noise suppression is a factor at all ISO settings, unfortunately, but the camera still manages to output good 13x19-inch prints at ISO 125, and even ISO 3,200 produces a good 5x7. Watch hair indoors, though, as it has a tendency to turn into mush, producing at best an 8x10 even from ISO 125 shots.

The main problem with the Sony TX10 is its touchscreen. Several of us tried it and we all had the same maddening experience. It just wasn't consistently responsive. And since that's the only user interface this little box has, it doesn't win a Dave's Pick.

 

Sony DSC-TX10

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