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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 Ken McMahon, April 2010

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 verdict

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 is a slim compact with an integral 4x optical zoom lens that features Sony's SteadyShot image stabilization. The TX7's 3.5 inch 16:9 wide-screen LCD panel is touch-sensitive and, with the exception of a few physical controls, used to access all of the camera's features as well as for manual focusing.

The TX7 features one of Sony's Exmor R CMOS sensors with 10.1 Megapixel resolution. Along with still images up to a maximum of 3648x2736 pixels, it can shoot Full HD 1080i video and its optical zoom, which is silent in operation, can be used during filming.

Though it lacks full manual exposure control, the TX7 does allow you set the ISO and has a raft of unique features that will appeal to more ambitious photographers. It's one of the few compacts to support high speed continuous shooting with a burst mode capable of 10 frames per second, albeit only for a brief burst of ten frames. It further exploits this capability with low-light modes which produce sharper or lower noise composite images by stacking a number of photos captured in quick succession; clever stuff, but Canon's not stood still with its latest touch-screen model either, so let's see how they compare.



Compared to Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS


The Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS will be a key rival for the Sony TX7, as both cameras are new models featuring touch-screen operation. Indeed the screens on both models are the same size and shape, although the TX7's display has the edge in resolution with 920k dots to the Canon's 460k. That said, we preferred the user interface on the IXUS 210 / SD3500 IS which transfers better to screen-based operation, feeling more direct and immediate than the TX7's linear, icon-based approach; this is entirely personal though.

The Canon also has the edge on the TX7 in several other key areas, including price. Let's look at the numbers: the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS has a 5x optical zoom with a bit more reach than the Cyber-shot TX7 at the tele end. It has a higher resolution sensor with an impressive 14.1 Megapixels making the Cyber-shot TX7's 10.1 Megapixels look a little paltry by comparison. If you like to make big prints, the IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS will take you just about to A3 size.

Then there's image quality. In our outdoor real-life resolution test the IXUS 210 / SD3500 IS outperformed the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 producing a cleaner, sharper punchier shot with more detail in all areas of the frame. Sony makes much of the low-light performance of its Exmor R sensor and in our high ISO noise tests the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 certainly performed well at lower ISO settings, producing cleaner images with less noise than IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS. At 400 ISO and above though, the TX7's performance becomes fairly average with noticeable smearing eliminating fine details.

But it's never a one-sided coin, and in the TX7's favour are higher resolution 1080i movies with the ability to zoom while filming, impressively quick 10fps continuous shooting (albeit for only ten frames in a burst), and a number of unique modes which further exploit this speed, stacking images for lower noise or assembling a great-looking panorama with a sweep of the camera. If you think you'll exploit these features, the Sony will be your better bet.

But if you'd find a longer zoom and superior image quality more to your liking, not to mention a body and user interface which we personally preferred for handling and operation, then the Canon has the edge - and as mentioned above, it's also a little cheaper. See our Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS review for more details.

Also consider: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 - The sister camera to the TX7 shares the same 1080i movies, fast burst shooting and innovative shooting modes, but trades the slim body and touch-screen for a chunkier shape which packs-in a 10x zoom and GPS receiver. The screen's lower resolution, but it's a trade many will be happy to make. See our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 review for more details.


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 final verdict

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 is a slim compact with a large touch-screen display and a number of unique features. The optical zoom may have an average 4x total range, but starts at a very useful and very wide 25mm equivalent, and can also be adjusted while you film videos. Speaking of movies, the TX7 also boasts nothing less than Full HD 1080i capabilities, when most rivals are still satisfied with 720p.

In terms of the truly unique features, the 10fps continuous shooting at the full resolution goes way beyond what rival models offer, and allows you to capture fast action sequences. Sure you can only grab ten frames before the camera takes a comfortable pause to record them to the card, but for that brief second, it's up there with top DSLRs. This speed is also exploited in the additional shooting modes, cleverly stacking images for lower noise or automatically assembling a great-looking panorama with a simple sweep of the camera. These are all aspects where Sony's innovation triumphs.

But ultimately the key selling point of the TX7 is its touch-screen, and we're pleased to report it works pretty well. With touch-screen focusing, the phrase 'point and shoot' was never more appropriate, and the absence of the usual physical controls is no hindrance. You can do everything you'd normally do on a conventional compact just as easily on the TX7, if not more so.

There however are two areas of the TX7 that could benefit from improvement. We never felt comfortable with the handling of the camera. Its design makes it awkward to hold, and the combination of a slim body and screen which occupies just about the entire rear surface means there's very little to hold on to. Single-handed operation is inadvisable and the tiny zoom rocker difficult to operate while holding the camera steady. Secondly, the overall image quality was a little disappointing. Sony still has some way to go in squeezing the best possible performance out of its Exmor R processor, although again the unique shooting modes give it an edge over conventional compacts in a number of situations.

Despite its shortcomings the Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 is a capable, exciting camera and one that marks the coming of age for touch-screen compacts. While previous experiments with touch-screens have often left us wondering whether they were worth the effort, the TX7 feels like a natural and desirable progression from physical buttons. If you want a touch-screen model with some unique features, the TX7 comes Recommended, but be sure to compare it closely against Canon's IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS.

Good points
Large, wide, detailed and responsive touch-screen.
Very fast continuous shooting at 10fps.
Full HD 1080i movies with optical zooming.
Innovative and effective auto modes.

Bad points
Body design is hard to hold comfortably.
Aggressive NR delivers soft image quality.
Lacks long telephoto, but does have 25mm wide.
Proprietary connectivity.


(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


18 / 20
14 / 20
14 / 20
18 / 20
17 / 20


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