Sony DSC-TX7 CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Zoom with Optical Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.5 inch Touch Screen LCD (Blue) 10.2MP

Sony DSC-TX7 10.2MP CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Zoom with Optical Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.5 inch Touch Screen LCD (Blue)

Sony DSC-TX7 10.2MP CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Zoom with Optical Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.5 inch Touch Screen LCD (Blue) Rating:
List Price: $399.99
Sale Price: $199.54
Availability: unspecified

Product Description

The sleek and stylish DSC-TX7 offers a large 3.5” touch screen to easily take and review photos. An advanced “Exmor R” CMOS sensor provides stunning low-light images and sweeping panoramic views with iSweep Panorama mode. Plus, enjoy 1920x1080 Full HD video recording and playback.

Details

  • 3.5-inch touch screen for easy focus selection and photo viewing
  • 10.2-megapixel "Exmor R" CMOS sensor for stunning low-light performance
  • iSweep Panorama Mode captures stunning panoramic images
  • Fast capture with 10fps at full 10.2 MP resolution; 1080i AVCHD Movie records high-quality HD movies
  • Accepts Memory Stick Duo/Memory Stick PRO Duo/Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo (not included) as well as SDHC cards.

Sony DSC-TX7 10.2MP CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Zoom with Optical Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.5 inch Touch Screen LCD (Blue) out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 953 user reviews
Sony Sony DSC-TX7 10.2MP CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Zoom with Optical Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.5 inch Touch Screen LCD (Blue) The sleek and stylish DSC-TX7 offers a large 3.5” touch screen to easily take and review photos. An advanced “Exmor R” CMOS sensor provides stunning low-light images and sweeping panoramic views with iSweep Panorama mode. Plus, enjoy 1920x1080 Full HD video recording and playback. $399.99 http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41BST169dTL._SL160_.jpg
http://www.newborn-portraits.com/sony-dsc-tx7-cmos-digital-camera-with-4x-zoom-with-optical-steady-shot-image-stabilization-and-3-5-inch-touch-screen-lcd-blue-10-2mp.html
    

10 Responses to “Sony DSC-TX7 CMOS Digital Camera with 4x Zoom with Optical Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.5 inch Touch Screen LCD (Blue) 10.2MP”

  1. Jason Levitt Says:

    Rating

    I am actually a Canon fan, but the TX7 is a small compact that takes good stills *and* video, as well as having a bunch of special features (panorama, HDR, etc). Canon currently has no feature match for the TX7 in a P&S style camera this small.

    I think other reviews have done a great job of running down the pros and cons, but I have to say that, besides the slew of interesting features in such a small package, the thing that got me interested was that this is the first Sony camera that takes regular SDHC cards (it also can use the proprietary Sony Memory Sticks).

    Summary:

    Pros:

    – Great camera features in a small package!

    – May be the best low-light performer for its size

    – AVCHD *and* MP4 video formats (your choice)

    – SDHC *and* Sony Memory stick compatible (your choice)

    Cons:

    – Short-ish battery life and longer-than-average recharge time

    – Poor lens cover design

    – No audio leveling of any kind (not even a distortion light)

    – Only one physical connection port and it’s proprietary

    As others have mentioned, the slide-down lens cover is the biggest ergonomic gaffe, though it’s probably not going to be a dealbreaker for most folks (just adding a couple of little metal ridges to the cover would have significantly improved it). It’s easy to run your thumb over the lens when pushing the cover down. People with large hands may also find the tiny buttons and skinniness of the camera a bit daunting.

    The “blue” camera, by the way, is actually “dark blue” and is so dark that it looks like it’s black – my friend and I could barely see any blue in it. (Is there also a “blue” as well as a “dark blue”? The photo on Amazon looks like a considerably lighter shade of blue than my camera).

    The video capability has been heavily touted, but I haven’t read much about the accompanying audio. Unfortunately, the camera provides no way to control the volume levels at all. You get whatever comes in the stereo mic on the front of the camera (Sure, it’s just a tiny P&S, but if you’re going to put high quality video formats into the camera, why not basic audio level control too?). There’s not even a distortion light.

    I tried recording a very loud band, and, of course, it did distort, but, overall, it definitely handled audio better than my Canon TX-1.

    By the way Mac users, MP4 videos files show up in iphoto9, but AVCHD files do not. However, the SDHC card mounts as a disk on your desktop, so you can simply drag the AVCHD files to your hard drive when USB connected. There is also Sony’s PMB software, but I didn’t feel like installing it. There is the option of using TransferJet, but I don’t feel like paying for the expensive TransferJet card and I don’t have any TransferJet-compliant devices anyway.

    Speaking of USB, one thing that bugged me is that the only I/O port on the camera is a proprietary Sony port. Sony supplies a little dock with the camera and your standard cables (HDMI, USB, etc) plug into the dock. Some may like that, but I prefer just plugging a USB cable directly into the camera. Fortunately, you can buy a USB cable that has USB on one end and the Sony proprietary connector on the other (I’ve seen a 6ft long one for $15 or so, but is there a short one?). The dock has a DC-in port but you have to buy an AC adapter for that. The manual says that the AC adapter does not charge the battery (I assume it just maintains the battery level at its current level).

    The slide-down lens cover is a bad enough design (in an all too-important place) to give 1/2 or 1/3 of a star off. The lack of audio control is also problematical (at these prices, anyway). Battery life isn’t that great, especially when shooting video. The proprietary connector port is a nuisance. I’m going to have to give this 4 stars though it does have a very nice feature set in a very small package.

  2. Yuvraj Waswani Says:

    Rating

    well – i am a regular consumer and perhaps own a ton of electronics that my wife hates me for (wires all over our little appartment :-) ….

    i got to say…this camera is so terrific that it inspired me to pull open my keyboard and do something which I have never done before – write a product review…perhaps my first ever on net..though i research a lot and benefit from all the reviews people take time to write..hmmm..feel a bit selfish right this moment..he he

    Ok let me take that back…i am not writing any extensive review or jot down all the pros and cons and comparisons etc…others have already done a pretty good job there..just what i like the most..

    Bottom line observation – this camera is the first ever compact digital P&S camera i have come across in its times that ACTUALLY brings amazing pictures to life in Low light conditions with its “HandHeld Twilight” mode…its amazing how Sony has made huge progress over others in capturing and rendering clear NO-FLASH pictures achieved not just by focusing over the lens and aperture hardware but also employing software algorithms which combine multiple snaps into a single picture and eliminate noise/darkness from the pics..[disclaimer - i have no technical in-depth knowledge of how their technology works..just found a whole lot of videos on youtube saying the same thing..]

    The hardware ability of this camera to take multiple pictures in a short time frame and then using microprocessor/software/hardwired algorithms to give out variety of image patterns has been utilized to add all the bells and whistles this camera exhibits.

    Panoramic mode is great..Burst mode is great..Drawing and painting pics right inside the camera is great..but the single feature that separates camera in THIS category is its ability to take clear No-Flash pics in low light..because guess what..on an average..i concluded that many of our pics are taken indoors and thats why it matters so much..

    Also worth mentioning is that this camera records HD video better than my present camcorder (2.5 years old though…) Videos are very sharp, non-shaky and I recommend downloading the K-Lite Full codec pack that includes codecs to play the video format generated by this camera right inside windows media player.

    Also if you want to see a smooth video without any frames getting skipped, get a Class 6 or higher speed card..because camera needs to write a large amount of data per second to the card while recording continuous stream…

    Cons – relatively short battery life…I can live with small details or flaws like this one that any critic could point out in any product under the sun, as long as it does what its supposed to do best – take good pictures..

    A dozen Good pics you wanna print each and frame them is worth more than perhaps several hundred snaps you could take with some camera with better battery life and stuff ‘em as usual in your hard drive along with thousand others..right?

  3. Happy Camper Says:

    Rating

    this is my first ever review submitted… sony DSC-TX7..just received from amazon yesterday.. downloaded the enclose software.. inserted battery and sd card (a new feature that wasn’t available in their earlier models, which was a selling point for me since I have tons of sd cards)and took for a spin this morning.. shot a couple of videos and various pictures using sweep panaromic and iauto mode…both are fantastic…can’t say enough about ease of operation and quality of both still shots and videos.. read reviews before buying the camera and was really concerned about being able to download avchd videos to my older vista program pc computer and whether they would play on the computer.. so downloaded various avchd converter programs and players off the internet in preparation for importing and playing avchd videos on my existing computer…I did this because I had read that the software supplied by sony with the camera was not that great.. as it turns out, my concern was unfounded, the software is great, easy to use, and does all that a beginner point and shoot photographer would need, won’t be needing any of the other software after all (good thing I did not buy any extra software before hand)… also the sound on the videos are so much better than my older canon powershot 100IS, and an even older kodak easyshare DX7590 both of which still works fine, which I’ll still be taking along the canon as a backup for those shots needing a 10 power zoom…but definitly will be using the sony for the majority of my picture and lots of video taking on our european trip this summer… plus the sony can zoom while in video mode, a definite plus..I shot a video of our koi pond and running water, you can actually hear the water fall and bubbler running just like you were standing right there…even heard some birds chirping somewhere nearby in the garden…fantastic… only one minor fault with the camera is its battery life..seems kind of short..so probably should have maybe two extra batteries if planning on a long 7 hour tour with a fair amount of videos to be taken….still would give the camera a five star rating even with this minor inconvenience

  4. Patrick J. Finn Says:

    Rating

    This camera has delivered what it has promised, great hand held low light shots, clear hd video and 10fps bursts. The battery dies quickly when shooting video. When shooting video in low light the frame rate got choppy, but I only have a class 4 sdhc card, so I’m going to try a class 6 and see if that helps. The video is perfect in sunlight. When taking burst shots it takes a while for them all to process, but again, probably has something to do with card speed.

    The slide down lens cover is a plus for me, as I have broken two telescoping lenses, one from it accidentally getting turned on in my pocket.

    I’ve owned a few Sony video cameras, but only Canon still cameras. My opinion of Sony stuff was that they would pack every bell and whistle they could manage, whether it made sense or not, but I have used pretty much every setting on this camera in the two weeks I’ve had it and been happy with the results.

  5. J. Santiago Says:

    Rating

    I bought the camera for my Wife for her birthday, with high hopes. See my Wife is really bad with cameras. She damages them, then they become mine. Every camera I have bought her had issues in low-light, motion blur, her moving, ghost images…etc. I lost a lot of good memories of her and my kids, due to these issues and really need this camera to come through. It need to be a real Point & Shoot, good quality in low light, no problems with the shaking hand [she don't like to pay attention well shooting pictures... LOL]and NO GHOST in the shots.

    Let me tell you this is the best point & shoot camera I have ever seen! Low light, no problems, Moving again no issues. Pictures look great every time! Had this camera for 2 months now and have not had one bad picture yet! The Sweep Panorama program is WOW for lack of a better word! the video WOW! WOW! WOW! try watching your son play football in FULL 1080P HD on a 54 LCD! It will bring tears to your eyes! I can’t say enough about this camera, but this Sony hit it out of the ball park with this camera!

    You really need to get this camera to enjoy everything about it

    I hope this helps you make your decision to buy and have fun with it, because it will work EVERY TIME! :)

    In Love with Sony again!

  6. W. Otto Says:

    Rating

    The DSC-TX7 was introduced this week (Jan 2010). Overall I am very pleased with it. I can finally take indoor pictures with an acceptable success rate, which has not been possible with older point and shoot cameras except in flash mode. In bright light conditions, or with flash, the camera performs comparably to other point and shoot cameras. Overall, pictures are sharp.

    Pros

    Excellent low light performance

    Very good video performance

    Nearly 1 megapixel LCD with touch screen

    Excellent lens which does not protrude from camera body

    Excellent in-camera panorama function

    Can use either SDHC memory or Memory Stick to 32GB

    Very slim and lightweight design

    Light to aide focusing in low light

    Cons

    Relatively short battery life and slow charger

    Lack of audio notes recording and audio record volume control

    Lack of histogram function on pictures

    Sliding cover can be difficult to operate under some conditions

    It is a very slim camera but the performance beats all the other similarly sized cameras I have tried.

    The Cybershot Handbook manual is very cryptic about several things, but the camera performs well. Although the manual is very unclear about this, you can save money on media by getting the SDHC class 4 memory rather than the Sony proprietary memory stick. The camera will use either type. The maximum memory card capacity is 32 GB, enough even for HD movies.

    At first the CMOS sensor seems to give very good performance compared to the CCD competition, and the camera excels in low light conditions. Upon closer examination, you will find that Sony has put that fast processor to work doing aggressive noise reduction. In addition to this, the camera has a twilight handheld mode which snaps 6 different frames, and picks the best parts of each frame to synthesize a single final frame. So long as things do not move rapidly, and your lighting conditions do not vary (such as with fluorescent or sodium lights which tend to stobe) things work well. Combined with optical stabilization and the CMOS sensor, this makes possible shots that would be hopelessly blurred in the other cameras I have tried.

    Another advertised trick is the backlight correction HDR or high dynamic range function. In this mode, the camera takes two exposures, with different exposure times, and combines the bright parts of the picture from one frame and the dim parts of the picture from the other frame. This is supposed to allow details in the shadow and details in the highlights to both be visible. In practice, this extends the dynamic range only slightly over that of other cameras. Flash can not be used, and pictures inside a darkened room with a sunlit view through the window are only partly compensated. I found the results to be less exciting than advertised. I think Sony needs to work on this particular mode.

    The touch screen interface only takes a few minutes to get used to, and using the camera is a joy. In general the pictures are very good, but do not compete with the pictures from a full size DSLR.

    TransferJet only works if you use TransferJet enabled Memory sticks.

    The panorama function is guided by the camera; all you have to do is tilt the camera from side to side. It takes the frames and stitches them automatically. I tried it inside my home office. It managed to stitch together a nice panorama when I thought it would be seriously messed up. Instead it worked fine, even in relatively low light.

    Here are the test photos: [...]. You will notice that the tiny Sony compares very favorably to the much larger Fujifilm S7000. Please see the comments below for additional information.

    WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IMPROVED

    All the things I listed under cons plus:

    I would like the manual to be better written and contain detail such as, what are all those options in the P mode that are available? It seems Sony wants you to play with the camera until you find what you want.

    There is not much control over the exposure except to take a shot, and if you don’t like it you can adjust the exposure up or down. This is an awkward and time consuming process. You have to trust the camera to get it right, and there is no histogram to guide you in any event.

    The zoom function relies on a tiny switch that seems out of place given that almost all other functions are available on the touch screen.

    The automatic white balance function produced slightly-yellowish pictures under some incandescent lighting conditions.

    That nifty sliding panel on the front is attractive and a neat idea, but it can be a little difficult under some conditions to slide open or shut. If there were some grooves to give you a better grip it would help. Surely someone could have designed some attractive grooves.

    I am not sure what the point of the little docking station is. A simple USB connector would have been just as effective and saved us all $20. Or the money could have been used to supply a much needed carrying case.

  7. Ermaho2 Says:

    Rating

    In the past several months, I’ve tried almost all the hot new cameras and none of them were satisfactory. The Sony HG5 had ridiculous placement of mic, flash etc. The Canon 210 took great stills but abysmal HD video; plus the LCD screen wasn’t crisp and bright; it was also not user friendly. But, at last, I feel like I’ve hit the mother lode. I started taking pics and vids the moment I got it out of the box. I haven’t looked at the manual yet. The touch screen is big, self explanatory and wonderful to use. The auto mode is the best I’ve come across, going from macro to landscape to twilight etc in the blink of an eye. Pictures are accurate, sharp, have depth and the colors are bright and natural. As far as the video, the 1080 60i looks as good as my Canon 1080P video camera. However, the steady shot could be steadier. The zoom is smooth and never distorts. It’s a great feeling to know I don’t have to lug two cameras around with me, one for still one for video. It’s pointless to go into full detail of all the goodies packed into this camera, too many to mention. My only disappontment is the battery life. Make sure you get at least one extra battery. It’s also advisable to shoot with a class 10 memory card.

    The TX7 feels great in the hands and the few external buttons are well placed. It’s not only a great camera, it’s a fun camera to use.

    Sony has hit a home run with this camera.

  8. Photo-Am Says:

    Rating

    I’ve got my Sony DSC-TX7 from Amazon just a few days ago. First impression – it’s very small and thin. Feels very solid and a dark blue color looks pretty good. A wrist strap has been already attached at the factory; otherwise it can easily slip out of your hands. It is pretty good for a party – you can put it into your pocket and do whatever you want, even dance, and this camera will not bother you with its presence.

    PROS:

    - Very attractive stylish and solid design, especially in dark-blue color

    - Ultra-slim body fits any small pocket

    - Dust-free optics since the lens is not retractable

    - Big high-resolution 920K colorful display looks like a small TV

    - Pretty short startup time, no shutter lag, up to 10 frames per sec in burst mode

    - Accepts SD/SDHC memory cards as well as Sony’s proprietary memory-stick cards

    - Wide 25mm (equiv.) lens – good for indoors and parties

    - High-precision auto focus and effective image stabilization

    - Sophisticated noise reduction algorithm greatly improves high-ISO pictures quality

    - Advanced Hand-held Twilight mode for low-light pictures

    - Special Backlight Correction HDR mode for high-contrast scenes

    - Wide auto-stitch panorama mode

    - High-quality front-side stereo microphones

    - Smooth and silent zoom, auto focus, and optical image stabilization

    - Very nice Full High-Definition 1080 60i video

    - Unusually good video quality and high sensitivity in VGA mode

    - Intuitive well-thought-out menu with the easy to use touch-screen

    CONS:

    - New “Exmor R” sensor seems much faster but more noisy than CCD ones

    - Aggressive noise reduction is prone to obliterate small picture details

    - Relatively short battery life and slow charger

    BUILD: The build quality is very good and I generally like its construction. The only issue is the shifting of the lens cover to turn camera on and off – that mechanism is pretty tight but the lens cover does not have any kind of prominence you could grasp to move that resisting shield up and down.

    STARTUP: The startup time is pretty short – about 1 sec. The time of recording of a single picture into the memory card might vary from 1 to 2 sec without flash and about 2 sec with flash. In the burst mode you can take 10 shots for just 1 sec but then you should wait for about 10 sec while they’re being writing to the memory. The menu provides a friendly interface to manage those groups of shots.

    DISPLAY: TX7 has a big 3.5″ bright high-resolution display with 920K pixels and a wide angle of view which is easily visible even in a direct sunlight. With its vivid colors and clarity it looks like a small TV with a 16:9 wide-screen.

    MENU: Most of the camera’s functionality is accessible via that touch-screen display. TX7 has a very intuitive menu which is visually divided into 3 parts – narrow left and right vertical bars and a big central area. On the top of the right bar you can see the remaining battery charge indicator, available number of pictures, current shooting format and resolution. In the lower part there are the two buttons: Shooting Mode and Playback. If you touch the mode button a list of the available modes will appear in the central part: Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, iSweep Panorama, Movie, Anti Motion Blur, Hand-held Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR, and Scenes.

    The left navigation bar has a “Menu” button on the top with 4 predefined icons below. It you touch that “Menu” button the central area will display icons of the parameters which in conjunction with the left-bar ones represent all the available shooting attributes for the currently selected shooting mode.

    The most interesting is that if you touch the gearwheel icon on the top, then you can drag with your finger any of 4 icons from the left bar toward the center of the central screen area and drop it there. And then you can touch any other available icon from the central area and the similar way move it to the empty slot on the left bar. By doing this you can customize that quick-access menu separately for each shooting mode the way you need (make sure you touch firmly and drag slowly). And the same way you can choose those quick-access icons for the playback mode as well.

    ADVANCED FEATURES: TX7 has a number of advanced modes which could be helpful in the difficult light conditions.

    THH: “Twilight Hand-Held” mode can help either to improve a low-light picture quality when the using of flash is prohibited, or to get a picture in so challenging light conditions where otherwise you could not get one at all. In that mode the camera automatically sets the lowest possible ISO and shutter speed, takes 6 consecutive shots within about 1 sec and then combines them into one picture with much less noise. It can be very useful for shooting landscapes in the dusk, the indoors interiors, or museum pieces. If you’re going to take pictures of people in that mode then it might be better to tell them “freeze!” instead of “cheers!” :-)

    AMB: “Anti Motion Blur” is another low-light mode which also takes a number of consecutive shots and then composes their superposition. Unlike the THH-mode this one sets high ISO and fast shutter speed to catch the subjects which might be slightly moving like pets or kids. For example, if for the certain indoors conditions in THH mode a camera can set ISO-200 and the shutter speed 1/30, then in AMB it might set ISO-3200 and 1/200. BTW in a number of cases I noticed the pictures in THH mode were a kind of underexposed and oversaturated with some red or blue tint, so I had to apply some exposure compensation when shooting – about +1.0 – +1.3 and also to do some post-work to adjust the white-balance. Actually both modes use a noise reduction mechanism based on the data averaging. The cornerstone of that mechanism is the fact that the useful data is constant – does not change from one consecutive shot to another, while the noise is fluctuating. So that algorithm when doing the pictures superposition amplifies the constant aspects and reduces the random ones.

    The processing task in THH-mode is relatively simple: the algorithm should recognize the displacement of each consecutive shot caused by unstable hands and then compensate it while doing the pictures superposition. However in AMB-mode in addition to that shaking hands instability the camera should also identify the subjects which are moving by themselves (like kids or pets). For the static areas the AMB-algorithm can apply as the same averaging noise reduction as in THH-mode, but for the moving subjects the AMB-algorithm should try to identify their trajectory and overlay them separately to reduce their noise. If the AMB-algorithm can not dynamically align them then it takes an image of that moving subject from one of the consecutive shots and just presents it without any noise reduction (the worst-case-scenario). That might happen if the subject is moving too much or if its shape is changing, for example – a jumping dog. I did some testing and found – the less subject moves the better AMB-algorithm can perform its job and so the less noise is visible on the final picture.

    HDR: “Backlight Correction HDR” – One more useful mode. It is not only about backlight conditions but it also might be very helpful in any case when your picture consists of the fragments with very different brightness. Camera does the two shots in a quick succession, each of which is optimized for the lightest and the darkest areas and then combines both of them into one shot. That mode is only effective when there is a huge difference in the areas’ luminance. The good news is that even in the earlier models (like my old DSC-T100) and even for the regular shots Sony has been doing a pretty good job of extending the dynamic range. I did not know that until about two years ago I purchased an advanced Kodak’s P&S camera and found that on the same subjects where the Kodak’s camera completely washed out some most illuminated areas, the Sony’s T100 happened to handle them pretty well! The same is true for TX7 as well.

    PANORAMA: Another interesting feature is the iSweep Panorama mode. You can shoot either a horizontal or vertical panorama, and there are the two modes: standard and wide. A standard horizontal panorama can cover up to 180 degrees (or less), while with the wide one you could shoot almost the entire circle. Just remember: you should take your horizontal panorama within 10 sec. A standard vertical panorama covers about 130 degrees and the wide one – about 180 degrees, and you should complete it within about 8 sec. Be aware that zoom does not work in that mode and the recording is done at the most wide angle (25 mm equivalent focal length). The resulting horizontal panorama is not of a high quality – it has just 1080 pixels of the vertical resolution. If your subject does not fit the frame or if you want the better resolution you can do this trick: 1) switch to the vertical up-to-down panorama, 2) choose the wide one, 3) turn you camera 90 degree counter-clockwise and shoot your panorama from left-to-right within 8 sec. In this case you will have 1920 pixels vertically. One more hint: Before starting panorama point your camera to any object which is at the average distance and half press the shutter button to catch the right focus. Then holding the button half pressed, turn to the most left position, press the button all the way down and start shooting. It is important because if in your starting direction there is any object which is much closer than most of the objects in you panorama then you would catch a wrong focus and most of the panorama would be out-of-focus.

    LENS: The TX7 model, unlike many other recent Sony P&S cameras, was lucky enough to get a genuine Carl Zeiss zoom lens. Its mechanics is just great – it performs zooming, auto-focusing, and the optical image stabilization in absolute silence. However if you start zooming while shooting video and then quickly release that tiny zoom lever you will get a kind of “clatz-z” short noise on the recording footage. If you try to release that lever very smoothly you will get gentler “click-h” replica.

    The optical image stabilization of the Carl Zeiss lens in conjunction with the digital one provided by Sony works pretty well and allows to shoot pictures at a very low shutter speed around 1/8 – 1/10 sec so you can use lesser ISO and therefore get better picture quality in the low light condition. Auto focus works well in both daylight and low light situations, especially if in your settings the AF Illuminator is ON.

    Just be aware the auto focus and image stabilization works all the time your camera is on. It might be convenient from one prospective, but on the other hand is sucks the battery much faster. On my Panasonic ZR1 and ZS3 I can choose a mode when the auto focus is activated only when the shutter button is half pressed and the image stabilization is turned on when you’re actually making a shot. It would be nice if Sony provided the similar functionality which would greatly prolong the battery life. Meanwhile open the lens cover only when you’re really going to make a shot and close it right after that.

    ZOOM: The lens has a very convenient for the party (and any indoors) shooting zoom range starting with just 25 mm (of the 35-mm equivalent). It allows to make good framing in pretty small compartments. The quality of the pictures taken at 25 mm are pretty good, however if you apply the full zoom – up to 100 mm (35-mm equivalent) you might experience some quality decrease. Generally when you zoom-in you expect to see the bigger size of the shooting object and to get more visible details. Most of the times when I took a picture of a certain subject first at wide 25 mm focal length and then stretched to the full 100 mm it did not show much more details. The image was bigger, as expected, but more fuzzy with less contrast and saturation. When I was physically walking 4 times closer to the subject and making a shot with the initial 25 mm (equivalent) – the picture was sharp with good contrast and saturation. So if you want to get nice sharp shots – take pictures without much zooming.

    From my prospective the biggest Sony’s achievement and at the same time a source of the picture quality problems in TX7 is the noise reduction mechanism implemented by Sony in this camera.

    SENSOR: Actually the root cause is the “Exmor R” sensor: regardless of all that hype around its low-light performance my own experience with the two Sony cameras – WX1 before and TX7 now shows that sensor is actually at least as the same or even more noisy than its CCD predecessors. May be in theory it should have some advantage, but in the real implementation they either could not make it working properly or may be some other unpredictable problems of that design came to the scene and not only eliminated the anticipated positive effect but also spoiled the entire performance.

    On many pictures taken with my old Sony DSC-T100 at its lowest ISO-100 I could not admit any noticeable noise. On some pictures taken by TX7 at its lowest ISO-125 some areas, which I guess the processing algorithm did not recognize, show pretty much noise. But that is a relatively rare case because most of the pictures are entirely processed by the Sony’s noise reduction mechanism. IMHO the problem is – they’re over-processed and even those which were taken at the low ISO.

    NOISE REDUCTION: That algorithm generally works very well for the evenly-painted surfaces. One of my indoor pictures (without flash) displays a man surrounded with the light-painted walls and also a part of the glossy-black door is visible as well. The picture was taken at the relatively high ISO-320, but that black door shines without a single pixel of noise and the bright walls look very good also. The man’s clothes look also clean without any noise and the only problem is his face – it looks like having a thick layer of make-up on it. The picture was taken from the distance just about 3 feet but you can not see the man’s eyelashes, and even his eyebrows have become partly obliterated by the aggressive noise reduction.

    It seems that noise reduction algorithm recognizes the 3 types of picture areas: relatively even panes, sharp edges or transitions, and the parts with a complex structure which can not be divided into the first two categories. It strongly removes the noise from those flat panes pretending they do not have any significant details which are worth to keep, it probably makes some sharpening to the edges, and I guess does nothing to the complex structures because it does not know what would be better to do with them. That assumption comes from the observation of some portrait-like photos taken in iAuto mode with the flash, where a mid-aged person has a plastic-even face with a few scars. The thing is that algorithm put heavy make-up everywhere on the man’s face and therefore hid the sensor noise altogether with the most man’s wrinkles, but it “recognized” a couple of most visible wrinkles as “edges” and therefore not only showed them but even made more sharp and contrast what made them looking like scars. The pictures taken with Panasonic ZS3 looked much more natural and showed the real skin texture as well as all the small and big wrinkles the way they were.

    It seems that noise reduction algorithm is mostly effective for the indoors and in particular for party shooting because most of the interior objects are of either big or medium size with relatively even panes and sharp edges. And the most interesting on such shots is catching of what people were doing instead of their portraits.

    Sometimes I go to the park and take some shots there. On the pictures taken in the late autumn with my old Sony T100 I can recognize every branch on the numerous trees across a small pond. Of course they’re not sharp, but at least I can see the distinct trees with distinct branches. On the similar pictures taken by TX7 many areas with those distant trees look like the picture was rubbed out and the average color was spread across those areas, however some odd tree branches can strike out of those indistinct areas. It seems that happens only on the low-contrast areas, however if there is a bright sky behind the numerous branches of trees in your shot then the picture looks sharp and clear. And by the way, if you are taking pictures of somebody against such a background then your attention will be mostly attracted to that person(s) and you will hardly admit some minor imperfections in the back.

    MOVIE MODE: The most interesting and I believe the best feature in this tiny package is the full-frame High Definition 1080 60i AVCHD movie mode. Shortly – it’s really good! Actually there are the 3 available movie modes: 1080 AVCHD, 720 MP4, and VGA 640×480 MP4.

    In all the P&S cameras I have now and had before the VGA mode was nothing to write home about. In WX1 it was a complete trash and even in Olympus E-P2 it was not much better. In the EP2′s review I wrote its HD video clips in low-light look like a Wide-VGA, not HD. But with TX7 it’s quite opposite: I’ve never seen so good VGA mode before! It actually looks more like a low-level 4:3 HD than a regular VGA. It’s pretty clear and sharp, not much noise even in low-light environment. I guess it better fits for indoor shooting because it seems the noise reduction mechanism wipes out the small details. And one more thing – it’s got a mono-sound.

    The intermediate 720 MP4 mode seems good in case if you are not able to view the AVCHD files. Its quality is slightly lower than the 1080′s one so I wouldn’t recommend it if your computer allows handling the full HD clips.

    And the full 1080 60i (interlaced) mode with AVCHD codec is just great. Note: sometimes you can see “60i” and the other times – “50i”. The latter one is for PAL standard in Europe, while the “60i” one is for NTSC in the US. The quality is very good: really high resolution, sharp and clear. Both the auto focus and image stabilization work pretty well and no audible sound give them away. The Carl Zeiss lens zoom works absolutely silently so no disturbing sounds being recorded onto the footage.

    SOUND: What I like very much about TX7 as a high-quality camcorder – it has stereo microphones which point to the subject in front of the camera, which means they mostly catch the person’s voice instead of collecting the noise from surroundings. On many other P&S cameras the microphones are pointed to the ceiling. The microphones have a wide frequency range, which is good enough even for the music recording. They have a pretty good sensitivity and a remarkably low noise.

    ADVISE: If you’re shooting a movie clip of a person in front of the camera, make sure there is no any visible subject behind that person which is brighter or has much more contrast. In the movie mode you can not set the focus to the center or any other point you choose – the camera selects the focusing area on its own, and if there is something more bright or contrast behind the person you’re taking picture of, then camera might focus on that subject behind and the person might be out of focus.

    UPDATE: A series of photos taken indoors at low light with flash on the other day showed very different result than described above. Instead of “thick layer of make-up” it was quite opposite – all the small details on the face of a woman (in her mid-forties) as well as her eyes looked very sharp and contrast. I had to reduce both sharpness and contrast in Photoshop to make it more natural, but finally it looked much better than the above mentioned one with the man’s face under a heavy “make-up”. The major difference was ISO: in the first case the camera in “iAuto” mode set automatically ISO=320 (on some other similar photos even 400) while this time I set manually in “P”rogram mode the minimum ISO=125 and used flash. The pictures were slightly darker, but the skin texture was not missed and the overall result after some post-processing looked much better. So the rule number one of having nice pictures with TX7 is to keep ISO at its minimum whenever it’s possible.

    In my Panasonic cameras (ZS3 & ZR1) the light sensitivity in both HD and VGA-video mode is about the same, but it turned out in TX7 in the VGA mode it’s approximately twice higher than in HD and roughly 3 times more than the video-sensitivity of the Panasonic cameras. It’s definitely a big plus for the low-light shooting. If you’re shooting a full-HD video (1080) in AVCHD mode and it gets underexposed and noisy because of lack of light then try to switch to VGA mode – you might loose some details but the clip might look remarkably better because of much less visible noise.

    I also did some testing for how long time you can shoot high-quality HD video with the fully charged battery. The TX7′s battery indicator has 4 segments. When the battery is full all four segments are turned on. I was recording a sequence of 5-min video clips with 1 min breaks in between them and noticed when the battery segments turned off:

    – 1st segments turned off after about 12 min of recording

    – 2nd – after about 22 min

    – 3rd – after about 32 min

    – 4th – after about 41 min and the battery indicator became crossed and started blinking.

    After that I could record for about 1.5 min more until the camera closed the file and the entire display became black with a big crossed blinking battery icon in the middle. So it seems with a fully charged battery you can record your clips for about 40 minutes. It’s not that bad since my former Sony HDR-SR7 camcorder provided about 80-90 min of HD recording. The size of each 5-min clip is about 630MB what comes to 2.1MB per second and taking into account that 1 byte has 8 bits that will be close to 17 MBit/sec as stated in the manual for this mode.

    So this Sony DSC-TX7 camera seems mostly suitable for shooting the indoor still pictures and is very good as a HD video camcorder.

  9. Sky Blue Says:

    Rating

    I am an amateur photographer and have used many fine cameras including Leica M7, Konica Hexar, Contax G2, Canon EOS 3, EOS 5D, among others. They were all incredible cameras but over the time there is one thing I realized: the best camera is the one that could capture the moment. In other words, you must have it when the moment comes and it must function to catch the millisecond. All the aforementioned fantastic cameras failed to meet the challenge. They were either too big for me to have it on the scene or too complicated to capture the moment (uhhh… I was focusing…). On the opposite side of the pole, most compact cameras had problems of their own: (i) slow operation (you have to turn it on and after 2 seconds it starts to work — more like an electronic appliance than a camera) and (ii) (if any bit faster and simpler than that) unacceptable picture quality. Clearly, there was a sore need for a solution. But most cameras were a compromise between the two poles rather than a clear solution.

    Enter TX7. This one works wonder. Incredible size: it is even smaller than the previous cybershot I had — W170. It is a tad bit thicker than an Iphone, but far shorter in legnth and you can carry the two easily together in a pocket. Its controls work like Iphone as well: you can shift pictures with your fingers when viewing. Its response time is almost the same as heavy DSLRs, which used to be a much more important reason than photo quality to dismiss a compact camera over a DSLR. What I disliked most in many compact cameras was the lens coming out when you turn the camera on, and this small camera is utterly devoid of the vice.

    Now about the photo and video quality. Two things to comment on: fantastic low-light performance and absolutely terrific video performance. Intelligent mode takes care of most photo needs intelligently, including automatic exposure correction for facing sunlight. If the situation calls for a shake-proof photo, there is a special setting for such (the processing time will be a bit longer, but not a problem if you don’t shoot multiple in sequence.) These two features get rid of number one reason amateur photos fail — no exposure compensation and shaken photos. In addition, the quality of low-light photos (ie high ISO) is significantly better than most compact cameras, including Sony’s own W170.

    As for the video, leave your camcorder home. I went to Boracay with both this one and my trusted SONY HDR-CX12 camcorder, and guess what? To my disbelief, I found out when I returned home there was not a single motion captured with my camcorder. Both my photo needs and camcorder needs have been completely taken care of by this little TX7. (This is exact opposite of what happened when I went to Europe last fall: I noticed my CX12 camcorder did all the work including photo taking whereas as my EOS 5D stayed in my trunk back in hotel room. Size and weight are crucial considerations for trips. The only other camera I would consider carrying from time to time in the future would be a film camera such as Leica M7, since they offer something a digital experience cannot. I see a very little reason to carry a DSLR and a camcorder — now they have been relegated to strictly home shooting.) At home, when I blew up my videos taken with TX7 on my 120 inch projection screen, I could not really find any quality problem. When something that small and light does a task just as well, why carry the big one?

    All in all, Sony has a winner with this one. I will not hesitate to recommend this one and if I were in Japan I would even consider buying Sony shares. A company making this kind of product can’t go wrong.

  10. John R. St John Says:

    Rating

    This is interesting. My first TX7 produced significant flare in backlit scenes. Flare creates milky areas or streaks in the image, and is caused by stray light bouncing around inside the lens. Very difficult, if not impossible, to correct in editing.

    I didn’t know if this was something inherent in the lens design or whether I just got a defective camera. So I bought a second TX7 and ran side-by-side comparisons. The first continued to show flaring, the second did not. So when you read a review that says “This camera takes awful pictures!” there may be nothing wrong with the camera design–the person probably just got a bad one, like I did. (BTW, the return of the first TX7 couldn’t have been easier. Amazon sent a UPS truck to pick it up at my home, free of charge. No wonder it’s a successful company.)

    PROS:

    Excellent resolution

    For a compact, good performance at higher ISO’s

    Slim design fits easily into your pocket

    Innovative low-light functions

    Touchscreen is quick and intuitive

    Wide angle on the zoom is truly wide angle, and distortion-free to boot

    Overall feeling of quality

    CONS:

    Disappointing HDR

    No auto exposure bracketing

    Telephoto isn’t much of a telephoto

    Low battery life

    Purple fringing at high magnifications

    I also got an HX5V, so I could compare the two. See my separate review on that camera.

    Anyway, I’ve been doing photography for four decades, and during that time the technological strides have been profound. In 1970, when I got my first SLR, a camera like the TX7 would have been pure science fiction–in fact, it would have seemed more science fiction-y than colonies on Mars. But despite these advances there are still two major challenges in photography: dynamic range and low-light performance. That’s why I was interested in the two Sonys, since they attempt to address these problems.

    The HDR Mode on the TX7 tries to increase the dynamic range of an image by taking two shots in succession, one slightly underexposed and the other slightly overexposed, and then integrates the two to get the best of both worlds. A good idea, but the results are merely OK. Sony doesn’t say, but my tests show that the range is just -1EV/+1EV. That’s not enough. If you’ve done research on this, or if you have an HDR program like Photomatix, you know that you need -2EV/+2EV to get a really good range. I’m surprised Sony stopped so short here, since expanding the range would have been easy. In fact, you can manually adjust the exposure by 2EV either way in Program Mode.

    But if you do this, you’ll have to have a tripod, because you’ll have to change the exposure each time. There’s no auto exposure bracketing, where one touch of the shutter takes three successive shots at your preset exposure range. This is surprising, almost shocking, since AEB doesn’t add to the cost. If this were a middle-of-the-road compact selling for $150 the omission would be understandable, but the TX7 is supposed to be a top-of-the-line, full-featured, as-good-as-it-gets compact (it’s certainly priced that way). It makes you wonder just what the people at Sony were thinking when they designed this camera–it’s hard to believe someone didn’t bring this up.

    Sony makes up for this, though, with very good low-light performance. First, Sony has traded lower MPs (10 vs. the 12 or 14 in most compacts) for better quality at higher ISOs, an excellent trade. The TX7 beats every other compact except the Canon S90 at higher ISOs, and the Canon achieves this through a larger sensor and hence a larger camera. You can see this for yourself by visiting [...] and comparing the full-size images of various cameras (as of this writing there are no samples for the TX7, but those for the TX5 would be identical).

    You will also see that there is no better compact than the TX7 on lens resolution. This is quite surprising since the TX7′s lens is so small. The suberb resolution by itself makes the price of this camera worthwhile.

    However, I did notice some purple fringing at the juncture of certain bright and dark parts of the image, which is due to the lens design. But this is noticeable only at very high magnifications.

    The second way Sony addresses the low-light problem is to offer two different low-light shooting modes: Twilight Mode and Anti-Blur Mode. Both take a series of six shots and then merge them into a single image–in other words, you get six times the amount of light that you’d get with a straight shot. The Twilight Mode uses slower shutter speeds and lower ISOs, while Anti-Blur does the opposite. Also, the white balance on the Twilight Mode is distinctly warm, no doubt to compensate for the bluish light in twilight or early morning scenes.

    What if you want to use the Twilight Mode indoors under incandescent lighting so you can get the lower ISO? You’d want to do this if you didn’t need the higher shutter speed that Anti-Blur gives. To avoid an overly-warm image simply switch the white balance from auto to incandescent and you’ll be fine.

    Which leads me to the touchscreen, which has turned out to be my favorite feature on the TX7. Changing the white balance, and doing anything else, is quick and easy with the touchscreen. I’ve seen some reviews which say that you have to use the supplied stylus, but I’ve never had to. Plus, the text and icons are very readable and even elegant in appearance.

    In fact, the overall build of the camera is quite good. You might even say luxurious. This is an expensive camera for a compact, but it looks and feels expensive.

    The panorama feature is interesting, but a bit gimmicky. You can do panoramas yourself in Photoshop or other editors in those few occasions when you need a panorama, which in my experience isn’t very often. Plus, when you take your own pictures for subsequent integration into a panorama each shot is separately (and hence correctly) exposed. Not so with the Panorama Mode on the TX7. When you press the shutter the exposure is set for the entire panorama, so if you begin in an area that is a lot lighter or darker than the rest of the scene your integrated shot won’t be properly exposed. However, you can adjust for this by using the AE lock.

    I’m not a Scene Mode fan, but if you are this camera’s for you. There’s even a Gourmet Mode (for taking pictures of food), a Beach Mode, and a Pet Mode. OK, say you’re spending a day at the beach and you want to take a particularly cute shot of your dog eyeing a hamburger. What to do? Beach Mode? Pet Mode? Gourmet Mode? You could make a case for any of them. While you’re dithering over this the moment has passed. Just take the damn picture!

    The TX7 has a Burst Mode, for taking up to 10 shots in rapid succession. How rapid this is depends on the three choices the TX7 gives to you. At first I thought that this was a bit over-the-top, but in actual use I’ve liked having the three different rates. It’s hard to explain, but in some action scenes it’s better to have one over the other. Be careful with this feature, though. It’s easy to load up lots and lots of images that are a pain to go through.

    The camera has a limited zoom range, but it’s a good one: an effective 25mm through 100mm. Yes, 100mm isn’t much of a telephoto, but remember that you can always crop. You can’t make a photo any wider than the widest zoom range on the camera, and as far as I know there’s no compact which gets any wider than 25mm. Moreover, there’s no distortion at this focal length. My previous compact, a Canon SD700IS purchased in 2007, goes out to only 35mm and has pronounced barrel distortion at that setting. This is another huge plus for the TX7.

    Most reviews mention the short battery life, and that’s indeed true. Of course, that’s the price you pay for a tiny camera like this.

    What Sony should have done is to enable recharging through the dock. As you probably know, there is no direct cable from the TX7 to your computer. Instead, Sony provides a dock. You set the camera in the dock, and then transfer the pictures. Some reviewers have complained about having this separate item, but I found it slightly more convenient than inserting a cable. As I said, though, it would be great if the camera could be recharged through the dock. My first compact, a Fuji I got in 2002, did this, so I don’t see why Sony does not.

    One last thing: I purchased what is described as the “blue” model. This is a joke. The camera is jet black. There’s not even the slightest hint of blue.

    Overall, the TX7 is a great camera. It’s small size, especially the slim profile, means you can easily slip into your pocket, even your shirt pocket. If in the next generation Sony expands the HDR, provides for AEB, and allows charging through the dock it will have close to a perfect little camera.

    This is interesting. My first TX7 produced significant flare in backlit scenes. Flare creates milky areas or streaks in the image, and is caused by stray light bouncing around inside the lens. Very difficult, if not impossible, to correct in editing.

    I didn’t know if this was something inherent in the lens design or whether I just got a defective camera. So I bought a second TX7 and ran side-by-side comparisons. The first continued to show flaring, the second did not. So when you read a review that says “This camera takes awful pictures!” there may be nothing wrong with the camera design–the person probably just got a bad one, like I did. (BTW, the return of the first TX7 couldn’t have been easier. Amazon sent a UPS truck to pick it up at my home, free of charge. No wonder it’s a successful company.)

    PROS:

    Excellent resolution

    For a compact, good performance at higher ISO’s

    Slim design fits easily into your pocket

    Innovative low-light functions

    Touchscreen is quick and intuitive

    Wide angle on the zoom is truly wide angle, and distortion-free to boot

    Overall feeling of quality

    CONS:

    Disappointing HDR

    No auto exposure bracketing

    Telephoto isn’t much of a telephoto

    Low battery life

    Purple fringing at high magnifications

    I also got an HX5V, so I could compare the two. See my separate review on that camera.

    Anyway, I’ve been doing photography for four decades, and during that time the technological strides have been profound. In 1970, when I got my first SLR, a camera like the TX7 would have been pure science fiction–in fact, it would have seemed more science fiction-y than colonies on Mars. But despite these advances there are still two major challenges in photography: dynamic range and low-light performance. That’s why I was interested in the two Sonys, since they attempt to address these problems.

    The HDR Mode on the TX7 tries to increase the dynamic range of an image by taking two shots in succession, one slightly underexposed and the other slightly overexposed, and then integrates the two to get the best of both worlds. A good idea, but the results are merely OK. Sony doesn’t say, but my tests show that the range is just -1EV/+1EV. That’s not enough. If you’ve done research on this, or if you have an HDR program like Photomatix, you know that you need -2EV/+2EV to get a really good range. I’m surprised Sony stopped so short here, since expanding the range would have been easy. In fact, you can manually adjust the exposure by 2EV either way in Program Mode.

    But if you do this, you’ll have to have a tripod, because you’ll have to change the exposure each time. There’s no auto exposure bracketing, where one touch of the shutter takes three successive shots at your preset exposure range. This is surprising, almost shocking, since AEB doesn’t add to the cost. If this were a middle-of-the-road compact selling for $150 the omission would be understandable, but the TX7 is supposed to be a top-of-the-line, full-featured, as-good-as-it-gets compact (it’s certainly priced that way). It makes you wonder just what the people at Sony were thinking when they designed this camera–it’s hard to believe someone didn’t bring this up.

    Sony makes up for this, though, with very good low-light performance. First, Sony has traded lower MPs (10 vs. the 12 or 14 in most compacts) for better quality at higher ISOs, an excellent trade. The TX7 beats every other compact except the Canon S90 at higher ISOs, and the Canon achieves this through a larger sensor and hence a larger camera. You can see this for yourself by visiting [...] and comparing the full-size images of various cameras (as of this writing there are no samples for the TX7, but those for the TX5 would be identical).

    You will also see that there is no better compact than the TX7 on lens resolution. This is quite surprising since the TX7′s lens is so small. The suberb resolution by itself makes the price of this camera worthwhile.

    However, I did notice some purple fringing at the juncture of certain bright and dark parts of the image, which is due to the lens design. But this is noticeable only at very high magnifications.

    The second way Sony addresses the low-light problem is to offer two different low-light shooting modes: Twilight Mode and Anti-Blur Mode. Both take a series of six shots and then merge them into a single image–in other words, you get six times the amount of light that you’d get with a straight shot. The Twilight Mode uses slower shutter speeds and lower ISOs, while Anti-Blur does the opposite. Also, the white balance on the Twilight Mode is distinctly warm, no doubt to compensate for the bluish light in twilight or early morning scenes.

    What if you want to use the Twilight Mode indoors under incandescent lighting so you can get the lower ISO? You’d want to do this if you didn’t need the higher shutter speed that Anti-Blur gives. To avoid an overly-warm image simply switch the white balance from auto to incandescent and you’ll be fine.

    Which leads me to the touchscreen, which has turned out to be my favorite feature on the TX7. Changing the white balance, and doing anything else, is quick and easy with the touchscreen. I’ve seen some reviews which say that you have to use the supplied stylus, but I’ve never had to. Plus, the text and icons are very readable and even elegant in appearance.

    In fact, the overall build of the camera is quite good. You might even say luxurious. This is an expensive camera for a compact, but it looks and feels expensive.

    The panorama feature is interesting, but a bit gimmicky. You can do panoramas yourself in Photoshop or other editors in those few occasions when you need a panorama, which in my experience isn’t very often. Plus, when you take your own pictures for subsequent integration into a panorama each shot is separately (and hence correctly) exposed. Not so with the Panorama Mode on the TX7. When you press the shutter the exposure is set for the entire panorama, so if you begin in an area that is a lot lighter or darker than the rest of the scene your integrated shot won’t be properly exposed. However, you can adjust for this by using the AE lock.

    I’m not a Scene Mode fan, but if you are this camera’s for you. There’s even a Gourmet Mode (for taking pictures of food), a Beach Mode, and a Pet Mode. OK, say you’re spending a day at the beach and you want to take a particularly cute shot of your dog eyeing a hamburger. What to do? Beach Mode? Pet Mode? Gourmet Mode? You could make a case for any of them. While you’re dithering over this the moment has passed. Just take the damn picture!

    The TX7 has a Burst Mode, for taking up to 10 shots in rapid succession. How rapid this is depends on the three choices the TX7 gives to you. At first I thought that this was a bit over-the-top, but in actual use I’ve liked having the three different rates. It’s hard to explain, but in some action scenes it’s better to have one over the other. Be careful with this feature, though. It’s easy to load up lots and lots of images that are a pain to go through.

    The camera has a limited zoom range, but it’s a good one: an effective 25mm through 100mm. Yes, 100mm isn’t much of a telephoto, but remember that you can always crop. You can’t make a photo any wider than the widest zoom range on the camera, and as far as I know there’s no compact which gets any wider than 25mm. Moreover, there’s no distortion at this focal length. My previous compact, a Canon SD700IS purchased in 2007, goes out to only 35mm and has pronounced barrel distortion at that setting. This is another huge plus for the TX7.

    Most reviews mention the short battery life, and that’s indeed true. Of course, that’s the price you pay for a tiny camera like this.

    What Sony should have done is to enable recharging through the dock. As you probably know, there is no direct cable from the TX7 to your computer. Instead, Sony provides a dock. You set the camera in the dock, and then transfer the pictures. Some reviewers have complained about having this separate item, but I found it slightly more convenient than inserting a cable. As I said, though, it would be great if the camera could be recharged through the dock. My first compact, a Fuji I got in 2002, did this, so I don’t see why Sony does not.

    One last thing: I purchased what is described as the “blue” model. This is a joke. The camera is jet black. There’s not even the slightest hint of blue.

    Overall, the TX7 is a great camera. It’s small size, especially the slim profile, means you can easily slip into your pocket, even your shirt pocket. If in the next generation Sony expands the HDR, provides for AEB, and allows charging through the dock it will have close to a perfect little camera.

    This is interesting. My first TX7 produced significant flare in backlit scenes. Flare creates milky areas or streaks in the image, and is caused by stray light bouncing around inside the lens. Very difficult, if not impossible, to correct in editing.

    I didn’t know if this was something inherent in the lens design or whether I just got a defective camera. So I bought a second TX7 and ran side-by-side comparisons. The first continued to show flaring, the second did not. So when you read a review that says “This camera takes awful pictures!” there may be nothing wrong with the camera design–the person probably just got a bad one, like I did. (BTW, the return of the first TX7 couldn’t have been easier. Amazon sent a UPS truck to pick it up at my home, free of charge. No wonder it’s a successful company.)

    PROS:

    Excellent resolution

    For a compact, good performance at higher ISO’s

    Slim design fits easily into your pocket

    Innovative low-light functions

    Touchscreen is quick and intuitive

    Wide angle on the zoom is truly wide angle, and distortion-free to boot

    Overall feeling of quality

    CONS:

    Disappointing HDR

    No auto exposure bracketing

    Telephoto isn’t much of a telephoto

    Low battery life

    Purple fringing at high magnifications

    I also got an HX5V, so I could compare the two. See my separate review on that camera.

    Anyway, I’ve been doing photography for four decades, and during that time the technological strides have been profound. In 1970, when I got my first SLR, a camera like the TX7 would have been pure science fiction–in fact, it would have seemed more science fiction-y than colonies on Mars. But despite these advances there are still two major challenges in photography: dynamic range and low-light performance. That’s why I was interested in the two Sonys, since they attempt to address these problems.

    The HDR Mode on the TX7 tries to increase the dynamic range of an image by taking two shots in succession, one slightly underexposed and the other slightly overexposed, and then integrates the two to get the best of both worlds. A good idea, but the results are merely OK. Sony doesn’t say, but my tests show that the range is just -1EV/+1EV. That’s not enough. If you’ve done research on this, or if you have an HDR program like Photomatix, you know that you need -2EV/+2EV to get a really good range. I’m surprised Sony stopped so short here, since expanding the range would have been easy. In fact, you can manually adjust the exposure by 2EV either way in Program Mode.

    But if you do this, you’ll have to have a tripod, because you’ll have to change the exposure each time. There’s no auto exposure bracketing, where one touch of the shutter takes three successive shots at your preset exposure range. This is surprising, almost shocking, since AEB doesn’t add to the cost. If this were a middle-of-the-road compact selling for $150 the omission would be understandable, but the TX7 is supposed to be a top-of-the-line, full-featured, as-good-as-it-gets compact (it’s certainly priced that way). It makes you wonder just what the people at Sony were thinking when they designed this camera–it’s hard to believe someone didn’t bring this up.

    Sony makes up for this, though, with very good low-light performance. First, Sony has traded lower MPs (10 vs. the 12 or 14 in most compacts) for better quality at higher ISOs, an excellent trade. The TX7 beats every other compact except the Canon S90 at higher ISOs, and the Canon achieves this through a larger sensor and hence a larger camera. You can see this for yourself by visiting [...] and comparing the full-size images of various cameras (as of this writing there are no samples for the TX7, but those for the TX5 would be identical).

    You will also see that there is no better compact than the TX7 on lens resolution. This is quite surprising since the TX7′s lens is so small. The suberb resolution by itself makes the price of this camera worthwhile.

    However, I did notice some purple fringing at the juncture of certain bright and dark parts of the image, which is due to the lens design. But this is noticeable only at very high magnifications.

    The second way Sony addresses the low-light problem is to offer two different low-light shooting modes: Twilight Mode and Anti-Blur Mode. Both take a series of six shots and then merge them into a single image–in other words, you get six times the amount of light that you’d get with a straight shot. The Twilight Mode uses slower shutter speeds and lower ISOs, while Anti-Blur does the opposite. Also, the white balance on the Twilight Mode is distinctly warm, no doubt to compensate for the bluish light in twilight or early morning scenes.

    What if you want to use the Twilight Mode indoors under incandescent lighting so you can get the lower ISO? You’d want to do this if you didn’t need the higher shutter speed that Anti-Blur gives. To avoid an overly-warm image simply switch the white balance from auto to incandescent and you’ll be fine.

    Which leads me to the touchscreen, which has turned out to be my favorite feature on the TX7. Changing the white balance, and doing anything else, is quick and easy with the touchscreen. I’ve seen some reviews which say that you have to use the supplied stylus, but I’ve never had to. Plus, the text and icons are very readable and even elegant in appearance.

    In fact, the overall build of the camera is quite good. You might even say luxurious. This is an expensive camera for a compact, but it looks and feels expensive.

    The panorama feature is interesting, but a bit gimmicky. You can do panoramas yourself in Photoshop or other editors in those few occasions when you need a panorama, which in my experience isn’t very often. Plus, when you take your own pictures for subsequent integration into a panorama each shot is separately (and hence correctly) exposed. Not so with the Panorama Mode on the TX7. When you press the shutter the exposure is set for the entire panorama, so if you begin in an area that is a lot lighter or darker than the rest of the scene your integrated shot won’t be properly exposed. However, you can adjust for this by using the AE lock.

    I’m not a Scene Mode fan, but if you are this camera’s for you. There’s even a Gourmet Mode (for taking pictures of food), a Beach Mode, and a Pet Mode. OK, say you’re spending a day at the beach and you want to take a particularly cute shot of your dog eyeing a hamburger. What to do? Beach Mode? Pet Mode? Gourmet Mode? You could make a case for any of them. While you’re dithering over this the moment has passed. Just take the damn picture!

    The TX7 has a Burst Mode, for taking up to 10 shots in rapid succession. How rapid this is depends on the three choices the TX7 gives to you. At first I thought that this was a bit over-the-top, but in actual use I’ve liked having the three different rates. It’s hard to explain, but in some action scenes it’s better to have one over the other. Be careful with this feature, though. It’s easy to load up lots and lots of images that are a pain to go through.

    The camera has a limited zoom range, but it’s a good one: an effective 25mm through 100mm. Yes, 100mm isn’t much of a telephoto, but remember that you can always crop. You can’t make a photo any wider than the widest zoom range on the camera, and as far as I know there’s no compact which gets any wider than 25mm. Moreover, there’s no distortion at this focal length. My previous compact, a Canon SD700IS purchased in 2007, goes out to only 35mm and has pronounced barrel distortion at that setting. This is another huge plus for the TX7.

    Most reviews mention the short battery life, and that’s indeed true. Of course, that’s the price you pay for a tiny camera like this.

    What Sony should have done is to enable recharging through the dock. As you probably know, there is no direct cable from the TX7 to your computer. Instead, Sony provides a dock. You set the camera in the dock, and then transfer the pictures. Some reviewers have complained about having this separate item, but I found it slightly more convenient than inserting a cable. As I said, though, it would be great if the camera could be recharged through the dock. My first compact, a Fuji I got in 2002, did this, so I don’t see why Sony does not.

    One last thing: I purchased what is described as the “blue” model. This is a joke. The camera is jet black. There’s not even the slightest hint of blue.

    Overall, the TX7 is a great camera. It’s small size, especially the slim profile, means you can easily slip into your pocket, even your shirt pocket. If in the next generation Sony expands the HDR, provides for AEB, and allows charging through the dock it will have close to a perfect little camera.

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