Sony DSC-TX7 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Cybershot i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7
Resolution: 10.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.4"
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(25-100mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 125-3200
Shutter: 2-1/1600
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.7 in.
(98 x 60 x 18 mm)
Weight: 5.2 oz (147 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $350
Availability: 01/2010
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony DSC-TX7 specifications
10.20
Megapixels
4.00x zoom
1/2.4"
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7
Front side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 digital camera Back side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 digital camera Top side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 digital camera Left side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 digital camera Right side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 digital camera
Imaging Resource rating

4.0 out of 5.0

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7
Overview

by Theano Nikitas and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 06/18/2010

The sleek, sub-compact Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 point-and-shoot camera carries over some of the same features of its sibling, the TX1. Both are outfitted with a 10.2 megapixel Exmor R, back-illuminated CMOS sensor that is designed to capture more light and deliver better low-light performance. Optical image stabilization, a number of easy to use point-and-shoot features and a touchscreen interface are a few of the additional features shared by these two cameras.

As the next generation TX model, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 has been updated with several key improvements. The touchscreen LCD is larger (3.5 inches vs. 3.0 inches) and, at 921,000 dots, the Sony TX7's LCD offers about three times the resolution of the TX1's monitor. Although both cameras are equipped with a 4x optical zoom, the TX7's lens--with a focal range of 25-100mm (35mm-equivalent)--reflects the compact camera trend towards wider angle optics, making the Sony TX7 more useful for landscapes and group shots than the TX1's 35-140mm lens.

Sony makes note that the TX7 (along with the DSC-HX5V) is the first compact digital camera to offer 1080i HD video (1,920 x 1,080 or 1,440 x 1,080) at 60 fields per second in AVCHD, a codec that compresses the movie files so that you can capture more or longer clips. Video can also be captured in MP4 at 1,440 x 1,080, 1,280 x 720, and 640 x 480 VGA--at 30fps.

The Sony TX7 is also equipped with Sony's TransferJet technology, which allows wireless transfers between compatible devices when shooting with a TransferJet Memory Stick. TransferJet is almost reminiscent of transferring data via IR from one Palm Pilot to the other since the devices need to be in close proximity to one another (though not necessarily within line-of-sight). It requires an additional outlay of cash, however, for the special Memory Stick and either a Sony TransferJet Station or a VAIO F Series notebook. You can also transfer images from one TransferJet camera to another.

A more practical--and very welcome--change is the Sony TX7's SD/SDHC card compatibility. A single slot now accommodates both SD/SDHC cards and Memory Stick PRO Duo media. Now you can use the more popular and less expensive SD/SDHC cards you may have from other cameras if you switch to a Sony model instead of having to purchase a Memory Stick. The Sony TX7 also comes with 45MB of internal memory for emergencies such as running out of space on your memory card. You can transfer images stored in internal memory to a card but not from a card to the camera's internal storage.

Also new to the Sony Cyber-shot TX7 (as well as the Sony TX5 and HX5V) is the Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode. Like the Sweep Panorama mode in older Sony models, it takes a series of images as the camera is panned either vertically or horizontally and then automatically stitches them into a panorama. What makes it intelligent is the addition of Face Detection and the camera's ability to analyze moving objects in the scene so they aren't chopped up between frames. Another useful addition to the Sony TX7 is Backlight Correction HDR (High Dynamic Range), which automatically grabs two exposures and combines them to provide a more even exposure under tough lighting conditions.

A lot of technology is packed into the stylishly designed Sony TX7, a digital camera that's small enough to take anywhere and everywhere. The Sony Cyber-shot TX7 is available now for US$349.99 (recently reduced from $399.99) in red, dark blue, or silver (we tested a black version, but that will not ship, at least not in the USA).

 

Sony Cyber-shot TX7
User Report

by Theano Nikitas

Having a pocketable camera like the Sony Cyber-shot TX7 body means that you never have to be without a camera regardless of where you go. Whether you're out for a quick morning walk, on your way to pick up the kids at school or attending a family wedding or a friend's party, the Sony TX7 can be right there with you. Portability is only one of the Sony TX7's attributes. It's a great looking camera and has one of the best touchscreen interfaces on the market that even touchscreen naysayers may like. Basic point-and-shoot features provide the Sony TX7's core functionality so snapshooters will be comfortable with the camera. More advanced features such as iSweep Panorama, Backlight Correction HDR, and Hand-held Twilight shooting are equally as easy to use and are designed to help snapshooters get better pictures without having to know a lot about photography. The camera is fun to shoot with, too, which makes it likely that you'll use it more often. The Sony TX7 is a little pricey for a point-and-shoot camera, but if you enjoy shooting with the camera as much as I did, the price becomes less important.

Look and Feel. Measuring a mere 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.7 inches (98 x 60 x 18mm) and weighing about 5.2 ounces (147g) with battery and SD card installed, the Sony TX7 fits nicely into almost any pocket, slides easily into a small handbag, and looks good when dangling around the neck from a lanyard. It's best to stash the camera in a small pouch if you plan to carry it around in a purse where your keys or other objects may damage the LCD or body.

Sleek in both design and finish, the Sony TX7 takes a little ingenuity to hold and operate. There are no surfaces to grip so you'll need to practice your thumb/forefinger "pinch" to hold onto the camera. Your right forefinger will be in position to operate the tiny zoom lever at the edge of the top right surface. Definitely use the bundled wrist strap or a lanyard to keep the camera from slipping out of your hands.

A sliding lens cover adds to the camera's stylish design but the combination of a slick surface and the stiffness of the sliding mechanism makes opening the cover a little difficult. The good news is that it won't slide open accidentally and run the battery down while sitting unused. I found it's best to either push the top edge of the cover down with my right thumb or place my right forefinger on the etched Sony name to achieve enough leverage to slide the cover open.

Not surprisingly, there's no optical viewfinder and that's okay. The Sony TX7 is equipped with a gorgeous, high resolution 3.5-inch LCD. Occupying virtually all of the camera's rear surface, the 921,000 dot monitor is viewable under most conditions although you might have to tilt it when shooting under bright sunlight to get the best view. It's really a pleasure composing and reviewing/sharing images on a screen this beautiful. Be sure to keep a microfiber cloth nearby to clean up the inevitable fingerprints and smudges on the LCD and camera body.

Controls. With its touchscreen operation, external controls are kept to a minimum. The Sony TX7 can be turned On/Off with the small power button and the sliding lens cover. The Playback button also powers on the camera (but doesn't shut it down) and allows you to view images without the hassle of opening the lens cover. If you use the Power On/Off button you'll be prompted to open the lens cover in order to shoot.

A button to the right of the Playback control switches between Still and Movie capture modes. Both the Playback and Still/Movie mode buttons are flush with the Sony TX7's top surface so they're almost impossible to find by touch so you may have to tilt the camera to see them. The only other shooting controls are the nicely-sized and well-placed shutter button and, to the right of that, the miniscule zoom lever.

Surprisingly, the Sony TX7 is equipped with a metal tripod socket, giving it a slight advantage over other cameras for those who plan to use a tripod to capture still or video images.

There's also a Multi-connector along the bottom edge for use with the bundled Multi-output Stand or optional octopus cable. Since the camera has no other output ports, you need the stand to connect directly to a TV (AV cables are included; an HDMI cable is optional). The stand also connects the Sony TX7 to your computer or a PictBridge printer with the bundled USB cable. The camera comes with a separate, plug-in-the-wall battery charger but you can pick up an optional AC adapter if you want to charge the Sony TX7 while it's connected to the stand.

Touchscreen interfaces are one of those love-it-or-hate-it features but the Sony TX7's touchscreen is one of the best I've used. It's responsive, particularly when tapped with the tip of a fingernail instead of the finger's pad. A Paint Pen is supplied with the camera and works well with the touchscreen--assuming you don't mind carrying it around and taking the chance that you'll lose it. I rarely had to tap an icon more than once for the screen to make the requested action.

There are a handful of touchscreen secrets that you can discover by accident or by reading the electronic manual. One useful option is to drag from the left to the right of the screen to open the menu. You can also hide the icons by touching the left side of the LCD and drag your finger to the left. Although not unique to the Sony TX7, you can select the image's focus point by touching the appropriate point on the screen.

You can also customize the screen by dragging and dropping the icons of your most used controls onto the screen. There's limited space on the LCD, so you can't add controls. You can either remove a control or substitute one for another. For example, I went into the Menu system, pressed the Customize icon and moved the Flash control onto the LCD panel in place of the Self-Timer.

Moveable controls include White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Flash, ISO, Smile Shutter, Easy Mode, Movie Mode, Resolution/Aspect Ratio, Burst Shooting, Auto Macro, Focus Mode, Metering Mode, Face Detection, and Display Settings. The latter offers the option of viewing or not viewing the controls on the LCD.

Other icons that appear on the LCD include: Battery Gauge, number of shots remaining, resolution/aspect ratio, Mode, Playback arrow and Menu icon.

Lens. Wide-angle lenses are becoming more common on compact cameras and the Sony TX7 is no exception with its 25-100mm, 4x optical zoom. The wide-angle setting is great for landscapes, cityscapes and group photos. The moderate telephoto range is useful if your subject isn't too far away, and is actually quite good for portraits.

The zoom can be used in movie mode as well but focal length changes depending on the aspect ratio selected. At 16:9, the zoom goes to 28-112mm; in 4:3, you'll get 34-136mm. Fortunately, the zoom is very quiet and moves at a single speed, so it's pretty smooth and doesn't seem to interfere with the audio recording.

An automatic Macro mode delivers results that are pretty sharp in the center but the sharpness falls off quickly as you move out toward the edges. For really close shots, select the Close-up mode (which is a separate mode); images can be captured from an impressive close-up distance of 0.40 inch to 7.86 inches.

Modes. Like almost all touchscreen digital cameras, the Sony TX7 does not have a physical Mode Dial. To change modes, just touch the Mode icon in the lower right corner of the LCD, which opens up a menu of options. Most of the shooting modes are pretty standard for point-and-shoot cameras: iAuto, Program AE, Movie Mode, and Scene Selection. There's also an Easy Mode for even simpler shooting. There are fewer choices (image size, flash, self-timer) than other modes and the on-screen text is larger. However, Sony takes the TX7 a step up with a few additions that utilize technology that you may not find on competing models. These features include iSweep Panorama, Anti-Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, and Backlight Correction HDR modes.

For the basics, selecting iAuto (Intelligent Auto) turns over control to the camera. The Sony TX7 then chooses the best Scene setting for the shooting conditions and subject. Program AE automatically chooses exposure settings, but the user can adjust certain parameters such as ISO, White Balance, and Exposure Compensation, to name just a few.

Scene Selection offers a dozen choices including the standard Landscape, Pet, Fireworks, Beach, and Snow. The Gourmet setting is perfect for keeping up with the trend of posting pictures of what you're eating on Facebook, Twitter, and foodie blogs. There are also High (ISO) Sensitivity, Soft Snap, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, High Speed Shutter, and Underwater scene modes. Sony offers a Marine Pack underwater housing for the TX7 that can be taken to a depth of 132 feet.

The Sony TX7 gets more interesting with its special shooting modes, particularly the iSweep Panorama. By setting the camera to this mode and panning it horizontally or vertically across a scene, the Sony TX7 captures up to 100 images and automatically stitches them into a single panorama image. Sony has improved this function by making it "intelligent" (that's the “i” in iSweep) to use Face Detection and adjust individual frames so it doesn't awkwardly crop a moving subject.

Anti-Motion Blur takes a half-dozen high ISO shots almost instantaneously at higher shutter speeds than a single exposure would call for, and combines them to reduce noise while keeping motion blur to a minimum. Hand-held Twilight does basically the same thing, but selects a slower shutter speed and lower ISO to minimize noise.

Backlight Correction HDR (High Dynamic Range) captures two images at different exposures and puts them together to expand the range of highlight and shadow detail. The end result is a more evenly exposed image.

Movies. As mentioned earlier, in Movie Mode the Sony TX7 offers 1080i HD video (1,920 x 1,080 or 1,440 x 1,080) at 60 fields per second in AVCHD format; or 1,440 x 1,080, 1,280 x 720, and 640 x 480 VGA, at 30fps in MP4 format. The camera will automatically choose a Scene mode or you can select the Underwater option if you're diving or snorkeling with the camera housed in Sony's Marine Pack. Other selectable parameters in Movie Mode include White Balance and Metering (either Multi or Center Metering; Spot metering is only available for still images). You can also turn the LCD icons on or off. A bonus for this compact camera is that it records the audio track in stereo.

AVCHD Videos
1920 x 1080, 60i (22.7MB)
1440 x 1080, 60i (13.5MB)
MPEG-4 Videos
1440 x 1080, 30p (18.2MB)
1280 x 720, 30p (6.9MB)
640 x 480, 30p (3.1MB)
The Sony TX7 has pretty decent video quality for a pocket digital camera, as evidenced by Charlotte the ISO-standard Australian Shepherd. (Note that some older computers will have trouble playing the HD videos.)

It's also worth noting that while stills benefit from geometric distortion correction in the Sony TX7, videos are not so blessed, with noticeable barrel distortion at wide-angle. See our test results below.

Menus. I think touchscreen menus are generally confusing and, if not confusing, then certainly not particularly intuitive. The TX7's menu system is better than most--including Sony's earlier touchscreen menu designs. Basic changes, such as switching modes, adjusting ISO and White Balance and other core settings are clear-cut easy. Touch the icon on the LCD and the menu for that function opens. Select the setting of your choice, "X" out the menu and the camera is good to go.

Where things get a little less intuitive, at least for this reviewer, is drilling down into the menus. When the main Menu is open, there's a mysterious Shooting Settings icon (it looks like a miniature suitcase to me) that is likely to be overlooked. Don't ignore it, though. That's where you' can change the movie format (but not other movie settings -- more about that in a minute) and turn a number of options on or off, including the AF Illuminator, Grid Line, Digital Zoom, Auto Orientation, the helpful Scene Recognition Guide, Red Eye Reduction, Beep Alert and more. Set-up options include LCD Brightness, Language and Power Save, to name just a few. A Memory Card Tools section covers formatting, creating, folders, copying images, etc.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the menu system is trying to set up to shoot movies. The menus are scattered so it takes multiple steps to set or change movie options. Switching to Movie Mode is easy--just press the Mode icon on the LCD and choose Movie Mode. My instinct is to choose recording format (AVCHD or MP4) first, but that adds an extra step. Once you're in Movie Mode it's easier to press Menu, choose the specific settings you want such as White Balance and Metering Mode and then press the Shooting Settings icon to select AVCHD or MP4. Then, "X" out the Shooting Settings menu and you return to the main LCD. Ready to record? Not yet. You now have to press another icon on the LCD to get into the Movie Image Size menu to select the quality. I'm exhausted just describing it and wish that Sony would consolidate all the Movie settings under a single menu. These little quirks, along with the touch methods of customizing/operating the LCD, are good reasons to read through the TX7's manual.

The Playback menu will be familiar to most snapshooters with digital camera experience. Operation is simple and convenient, once the touchscreen interface has been mastered. If you have an iPhone, you'll be right at home when scrolling through images. A single swipe across the screen switches between views. For example, swipe upward and all of your images are displayed in the index view.

In addition to multiple views (single, index, calendar), the TX7 offers a few retouching options such as Redeye removal and Unsharp Mask. A Paint feature lets you draw and put stamps on an image, add a border, etc. You can also create slideshows with and without music.

Storage and battery. Finally, photographers can now use SD/SDHC cards with Sony digital cameras. The single slot also accommodates Sony's Memory Stick Duo/PRO Duo, so the TX7 offers the best of both worlds. Too bad this news didn't come sooner. A cab driver in Las Vegas during CES complained about not being able to use his old SD cards in his new Sony digicam. It wasn't until after he purchased the new camera and got home that he realized that he needed to buy a "really expensive" Memory Stick. He said that he hoped a Sony employee would get in his cab during the tradeshow so he could speak his mind. If he knew that only a month later Sony would announce cameras with SD/SDHC compatibility, he probably would have postponed his purchase (and kept his blood pressure at a reasonable level). Being able to use either memory card type is a very welcome change.

The camera's 45MB internal memory holds about nine high-resolution images. Movie recording requires a memory card, however. Sony recommends Memory Stick PRO Duo with Mark2 logo or PRO-HG and Class 4 or higher SD/SDHC cards for capturing movies. Images can be copied from internal memory to a memory card, which is convenient if you use the card and a card reader to transfer your photos to a computer. However, you can't transfer images from a card to the internal memory. If you run out of space on your card, you have to remove it to access internal memory.

Powered by a tiny rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Sony TX7 can capture about 230 shots with a single charge, according to Sony. That's a little below average and may limit the camera's usability if you shoot a lot of video and/or use the in-camera editing, slideshow and other playback options on a frequent basis. Even reviewing and sharing images--which you will be tempted to do on the Sony TX7's superb LCD--will consume some of the battery power so you might want to pick up an extra, especially if you're going on vacation.

Handy. The Sony TX7 proved nice to have along no matter where I found myself.

Shooting. I really had fun shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot TX7. I kept it in a little pouch in my bag or backpack when I wasn't taking pictures. Rather than the bundled wrist strap, I attached a lanyard to the camera and wore it around my neck for quick grab-n-snap photos. It's such a slick looking camera that I didn't mind showing it off like a piece of jewelry. On a practical level, by using a lanyard I was less likely to accidentally change a setting with the camera dangling from my neck. Whenever I've used a wrist strap on a touchscreen model (including the TX7) and gripped the camera in the palm of my hand to carry it, I would inadvertently change the screen or a setting. Let's face it, an accidental movie of the palm of my hand--or the floor--is a waste of battery life and storage space. Only Warhol could get anyone to watch something so mundane and call it art.

It took a while to find a comfortable, and efficient, method of opening the lens cover, but once I started pushing it down from the panel's top edge and pushing it up from the bottom edge, getting the camera ready to shoot was easy. In fact, opening the lens cover was the slowest part of shooting with the Sony TX7. Once it was powered up, this little camera was pretty fast. There was little shutter lag--0.33 second at wide-angle and 0.36 second at telephoto. Prefocus and, bam!--shutter lag dropped to a mind-boggling 0.007 second. Given the right conditions (bright light and contrast), the Sony TX7's autofocus was quite good as well. Under low light/low contrast conditions it slowed a bit, not surprisingly.

Shot-to-shot time wasn't bad at 1.77 seconds but throw the Sony TX7 into Burst mode and you'll get about 10 frames per second. Sure, the burst maxes out after 10 frames and the camera is "only" 10 megapixels, but that's pretty impressive speed from a pocket camera. Frankly, I'm more than happy with cameras that aren't involved in the megapixel race, so 10 megapixels for the TX7 is fine with me, as is 12 megapixels for the Nikon D3S digital SLR.

One of the more fun outings with the Sony TX7 was to Universal Studios in California, with special performances just for our group. A video of the soundstage--with members of the audience creating the sounds with the supplied props in sync (sort of) with a movie projected on a screen--turned out much better than expected. Despite the fact that the room was very dark, the little Sony TX7 recorded individual people and the movie screen. Sound, while a little tinny, was clearly audible.

Frank. When he calmed down, Frankenstein's monster made a decent portrait subject (next time maybe a little powder for that shiny complexion).

Out on the streets of Universal, some people were busy having caricatures drawn while others of us were having fun watching the live Frankentstein and Mummy characters interact with the rest of the group. I initially shied away from Frankenstein since he had a habit of chasing people, but once he slowed down I tried to get a few shots. Despite some streetlights, it was really dark. The Sony TX7's miniscule flash wasn't up to the task of lighting up the old monster so I bravely closed the gap between us to a couple of feet and grabbed another shot. This time he was well-lit, despite some minor hotspots. There was no redeye, although a distant shot--in which the actor was very underexposed--gave Frank bright red eyes. At ISO 125, the actor's mask was nicely focused and pretty sharp. I noticed no noise in his black t-shirt or dark suit jacket nor in the solid black background. The flash is effective when you're close to the subject but don't count on the TX7 for lighting up a room when you're at a party since the flash maxes out at 12.5 feet at wide-angle; 10.2 feet at telephoto.

The TX7 also came in handy during the final snowstorm of the season. It's not waterproof like its TX5 sibling (and neither am I), so I waited until the streets were cleared and the sun came out before I took the Sony TX7 outdoors. It was fun to shoot snow scenes with the TX7's Intelligent Sweep Panorama function. This mode captures up to 100 images and automatically stitches them into a panorama that's up to 258 degrees wide, either vertically or horizontally. The Standard option produces an image that measures 4,912 x 1,080 pixels (horizontal) or 3,424 x 1,920 pixels (vertical). You can go even wider with the Wide option, which delivers images that measure 7,152 x 1,080 pixels (horizontal) or 4,912 x 1,920 pixels (horizontal).

Intelligent Sweep Panorama. Even with intelligence, the subject was too close and too repetitive for the Sony TX7's sweep panorama function to properly assemble the images into one panorama.
Better subject. Scenic subjects are easier for the program to stitch, as you can see with this seamless rendering.

Sweep Panorama is really easy to use, once you figure out the speed with which you have to pan. If you're moving too slowly, for example, you'll get a message that the camera can't capture the image. There weren't any people around to test out the Intelligent Sweep Panorama's Face Detection once the weather got warmer and spring temperatures brought out the flowers. A long, narrow expanse of blooming Phlox seemed like a good subject for a Spring iSweep Panorama shot. Wrong. Because the flowers are uniform in size, shape and grouped by color, and because I was so close, the camera had a hard time meshing the images together. Some parts of the panorama looked great but others were misaligned and I could actually see the individual frames. All the other non-Phlox panoramas I shot were perfectly aligned and one shot with a moving car in the background looked natural and not split between frames, indicating that given the right circumstances, the intelligent part of the Sweep was pretty smart.

I also tried out the Sony TX7's Backlight Correction HDR mode. It works fairly well to balance out exposure, bringing out shadow detail in the foreground while balancing the background highlights. Some of my "before" images bumped up the Auto ISO so high that the photos were very soft. When the special mode was activated, the Auto ISO dropped to a more manageable level and images looked sharper. Other HDR test shots in brighter light kept a lower ISO, were sharper and showed a less pronounced, but still visible, difference between before and after images.

Program mode
1/80 second, f/4, ISO 3,200
Handheld Twilight mode
1/15 second, f/4, ISO 400

Handheld Twilight mode is similar, taking six images and merging them into one for a low-noise low-light shot. Normally you'd just raise the sensitivity to get a handholdable shutter speed, but the results of that strategy can be seen at right: heavy noise and softness from noise suppression. Sony's strategy with Handheld Twilight keeps the ISO low, fires off six slow shutter speed shots, and merges them into one, eliminating most motion blur in the combination process. Both of these shots were taken handheld from a truck with the engine running.

Optical image stabilization is a hidden feature on the Sony TX7. I say it's hidden because there's no way to turn it on or off, but the "Optical SteadyShot" label on the camera as well as the website specifications indicate that the Sony TX7 is image stabilized. More to the point, I was able to get some good (not blurry) images handholding the camera at 1/60 second. That's quite a feat considering that I'm not very good at handholding cameras at less than 1/100 second, particularly skinny, sub-compact cameras like the TX7 with no place to get a real solid grip. The shutter release has a soft touch, which might also contribute to my good fortune shooting at slower-than-average (for me) shutter speeds.

Fashion Week. Though the Sony TX7 wasn't suited to the action of runway photography, it handled these models with their mannequin-like poses just fine.

The Sony TX7 also accompanied me to New York Fashion Week. In addition to photographing some cityscapes I grabbed some shots of a fashion presentation. The Sony TX7, as fast as it is, is more appropriate for being carried on the runway as an accessory than it is for photographing models on the catwalk. A presentation, where the models stand around showing off a designer's looks, was a better setting for the camera. Like my encounter with Frankenstein, the camera's tiny flash meant that I had to get fairly close to the models to shoot. Of course, they were less threatening than Frankenstein and the lighting was better. Even without the flash I actually managed to get a couple of decent shots at 1/30th of a second shutter speed thanks to Sony's SteadyShot image stabilization.

It's hard to criticize image quality of a camera that you like so much, but our printed test results (see below) were disappointing compared to other cameras on the market, including most of Sony's models. Given the camera's lens flare and, perhaps, lower resolution, it's best to keep print sizes at 11 x 14 or smaller. On the other hand, if you need to push the ISO to 3,200, you can probably pull some decent snapshot-sized prints.

On a more positive note, the Sony TX7 did a good job rendering accurate colors, and exposures were generally accurate as well. Not surprisingly, images shot under incandescent lighting were warm, even when using the Incandescent White Balance preset; Manual White Balance works better. Low light performance wasn't bad although fine details are often lost, even at ISO 125, due to noise reduction. Still, I'm going to be really sad when I send the TX7 back to Sony. The camera is really very cool and has a lot going for it in terms of design, features, and functionality.

 

Sony TX7 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Quite soft upper left
Tele: Soft at center
Tele: Softest lower left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7's zoom shows noticeable softening in the corners of the frame, though it does not extend very far into the image area. At full telephoto, corners are just slightly softer than the center of the frame, which is not as crisp as you'd expect. These images were shot with a second sample of the Sony TX7, as the first version we received was noticeably softer in many of our photos.


Wide: A half-pixel of pincushion; not noticeable
Tele: Virtually no distortion

Geometric Distortion: The Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 produced essentially no distortion at wide-angle or telephoto, though there was maybe a half-pixel of pincushion at wide-angle. Definitely a result of the camera's processing.

Still image at 25mm with obvious correction applied 2 second video at wide-angle showing that no correction is applied to video

While the Sony TX7 benefits from distortion correction in still images, videos are still subject to the geometric distortion found in the lens, as can be seen here in these two samples.


Wide:
Very bright
Tele:
Moderate

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, with only a few bright red pixels (our previous sample was noticeably worse). This effect extends fairly far into the image area, and, depending on the subject, will be noticeable. Telephoto, however, exhibits less visible distortion.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7's Macro mode captures a fairly sharp image at the very center of the frame, though softness and chromatic aberration are strong in the corners and edges. Minimum coverage area is 1.21 x 0.91 inches (31 x 23mm). The camera's flash throttles down fairly well for this close range, but is still a bit dim and uneven.


 

Sony TX7 Image Quality


Color: Though the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 oversaturates strong red and blue tones (as many consumer digital cameras are wont to do to appeal to consumers' taste for very vivid color), it keeps the bright yellows and greens well in check. Pink and purple tones are also fairly accurate. There are a couple of noticeable hue shifts, however, such as cyan toward blue and orange toward yellow. Darker skin tones are warmer and more yellow, while lighter skin tones are just about right (very slightly red). Overall, pretty good results.


125
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Almost right off the bat, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7's noise suppression efforts are noticeable, as fine details are already soft at ISO 125. By ISO 400, details are quite indistinct. While chroma (color) noise pixels remain under control, luminance noise becomes a problem at ISO 1,600 and 3,200. At both settings, the noise pattern gives the effect of looking through a window screen. See the Printed section below for more on how this affects printed images. Again, please note: These images were shot with a second sample of the Sony TX7, as the first version we received was noticeably softer in many of our photos.


Wide: Bright
Tele: Bright
AE, Auto Flash
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows bright results at the wide-angle specified distance of 12.5 feet, though ISO is at 800. The telephoto test also came out bright at its rated distance of 10.2 feet, though ISO was increased to 640. Still, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7's flash should perform well under normal conditions, provided you stay well within the rated distances.

Auto flash produced a slightly dim image of our indoor portrait scene, retaining some of the ambient light by using a slower shutter speed of 1/30 second, and raising ISO to 200. The Sony TX7's image stabilization should handle the slower shutter speed, but subject movement could be problematic at this shutter speed.


Auto WB:
Warm
Incandescent WB:
Too warm
 
Manual WB:
Close, a hint cool

Incandescent: The Manual white balance setting handles our household incandescent lighting best overall, though it appears slightly cool and a hint magenta. However, Auto and Incandescent results are too warm.


Printed: Our second sample of the Sony TX7 did better than our first, but still looks a bit soft for printing at 13x19 inches. We prefer the 11x14-inch print at ISO 125.

ISO 200 also looks good at 11x14 inches, with only a little softness here and there.

ISO 400 shots look better printed at 8x10 inches.

ISO 800 shots also look okay at 8x10. Close inspection reveals darkening shadows and blobs of noise, but it's not bad at all at arm's length.

ISO 1,600 shots make a fine 5x7, though with some darkening of darker colors, like red, blue, and green.

ISO 3,200 images are even a little darker, but still usable at 4x6 inches.

Overall, our second sample did much better than the first, but not quite as good as the Sony TX5. If you expect your camera to perform like the 12-megapixel cameras from the last two years, the Sony TX7 is probably not for you; but if you don't think you'll do much image enlarging or cropping, the Sony TX7 more than fits the bill.


 

Sony TX7 Performance


Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.33 second at wide-angle and 0.36 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.007 second, which is excellent.


Cycle time: Cycle time is also relatively fast, capturing a frame every 1.77 seconds in single-shot mode, and every 0.10-second for an excellent burst rate of 10 frames-per-second.


Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7's flash recycles in about 6 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is about average.


 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • Sony Cyber-shot TX7 body
  • Lithium-ion Battery Pack NP-BN1
  • Battery Charger BC-CSN
  • Wrist Strap
  • CD-ROM with Picture Motion Browser for Windows, PMB Portable for Mac, Music Transfer and Cyber-shot Handbook
  • USB Interface Cable
  • AV cable
  • Multi-Output Stand UC-TG
  • Paint Pen

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity SD/SDHC or Memory Stick PRO Duo card. A minimum of 2GB is recommended; 4GB or higher if you're going to shoot video
  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Marine Pack MPK-THJ
  • HDMI cable

 

Sony TX7 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Attractive, sleek design and sturdy build
  • Slender, pocketable size
  • High resolution (921k dots), 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD
  • Responsive touchscreen operation
  • Customizable icon array on LCD
  • Full HD video with stereo audio
  • Optical zoom during movies
  • iSweep Panorama
  • Handheld Twilight mode
  • Anti-Motion Blur mode
  • Backlight Correction HDR mode
  • Basic point-and-shoot simplicity
  • Wide-angle 4x optical zoom
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Good performance
  • 10 fps burst mode at full resolution
  • Fast shutter lag
  • Dual SD/MS Duo media support
  • Supports TransferJet
  • Slightly awkward lens cover operation
  • Corner softness at wide-angle
  • Softness/flare at full telephoto
  • Small, weak flash (not uncommon in subcompacts)
  • Lack of fine details due to noise suppression even at lowest ISO of 125
  • Moderate chromatic aberration
  • No geometric distortion correction for videos
  • Slightly below average battery life
  • Few manual controls
  • Movie settings are spread across multiple menus
  • Maximum sized printed results are smaller than average, even at the lowest ISO

 

With the Cyber-shot TX7, Sony has delivered an incredibly stylish, finely designed sub-compact camera that's a pleasure to shoot with. One of the best and most responsive touchscreens ever released and practical uses of cool technology, such as iSweep Panorama, make the Sony TX7 equally appealing for function and form. Yes, it's pricey and its sensor doesn't offer as many megapixels as others on the market, but a few low light features make up for that, especially Handheld Twilight mode.

The Sony TX7's tiny size, gorgeous 3.5-inch high-resolution screen and practical features are only a few of the reasons you'll find yourself taking more pictures, which means you'll get your money's worth out of the camera.

Print quality was disappointing considering how much we really love all other aspects of the camera, but if you don't mind keeping your prints to 11x14 inches or less, then you'll be okay. If large prints of low-light subjects are more your thing, you'll have to look elsewhere, but you're not likely to find a camera that delivers form, function and speed in such an attractive little package. Thanks to the second sample we received from Sony, we can safely declare the Sony TX7 a Dave's Pick.

 

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