The Sony Cyber-shot TX7 is an ultra-compact point and shoot camera that is packed full of powerful features. To find out if the stellar feature list and spec sheet makes for a worthwhile camera, check out the review below.
Sony TX7 Key Features
- 10.2MP Exmor R CMOS Sensor
- 3.5″ Touchscreen LCD
- 4x Optical Zoom
- 1080i Full HD Video in AVCHD Format
- ISO 125-3200
- Optical SteadyShot
- iSweep Panorama Mode
- 10 fps Burst Mode
Sony TX7 Handling, Ergonomics and Control
The Sony TX7 is small. It’s definitely a pocket camera. And, it’s not the kind of pocket camera that fits tight in your pocket and makes it awkward to walk around. It’s a “which pocket did I put my camera in?” kind of small.
There’s a sliding panel that covers the lens when not in use. The panel also covers the AF illuminator, which aids with focusing in low light, along with the built-in flash and stereo microphones. And, when you slide the panel down, the TX7 powers on automatically.
Buttons for the TX7 are few. You get an On/Off button, shutter release, zoom rocker, a quick preview button and a button for switching quickly between photos and video.
The main interface with camera settings is through the rear 3.5″ LCD panel. The 921,000 dot resolution screen is very pretty. Better yet, the touchscreen interface is awesome. Some touchscreens have hiccups and poor response; however, Sony nails it with the TX7 for a totally seamless interface.
In the below video you can get a little idea of how well the touchscreen interface works and how you navigate around some of the shooting modes in the Sony TX7.
Let me note that I misspoke regarding the High ISO mode. The TX7’s max ISO setting is ISO 3200, which is available in all shooting modes. What the High ISO mode appears to do is give you a higher ISO setting in favor of a faster shutter speed.
One thing that annoys me about the TX7’s design is how dust and lint accumulates around the edges of the front panel. If you carry the camera in a pocket, every time you open the front cover, you’ll be wiping away a line of dust from the top edge of the camera. That said, this quirk never interfered with shooting.
Other than the minor dust issue, I don’t really have any bad marks for the TX7’s design. It even comes with a wrist strap attached, which saved it from more than one drop by yours truly.
Shooting With the Sony TX7
Just last month, I talked about how much I enjoyed shooting with the Canon S90. Well, it didn’t stay on the top of my list for too long, because I like shooting with the Sony TX7 even more.
While the touchscreen interface is great and all, the image quality and available shooting modes make the TX7 a phenomenal carry-around camera. I wore out the Backlight Correction HDR mode while gathering shots of all the cameras and other photo gear at PMA earlier this month. Other modes like the Handheld Twilight and iSweep Panorama make the TX7 a blast to carry.
The close up macro focusing on the TX7 lets you put the camera practically up against your subject to snap a shot.
With the powerful low-light capabilities in the TX7, I found myself using flash a lot less than other point and shoot cameras. However, when necessary the TX7’s flash performance was admirable. Sony has been doing a great job with balancing the flash output and ambient light on their point and shoot cameras that I’ve used over the past couple of release cycles. The TX7 continues this trend with a pretty smart use of its flash.
While the camera can do a lot for you in Intelligent Auto mode, you would be doing yourself an injustice not to explore other modes of the camera. For run of the mill shooting, I kept the camera in P mode; however, once you go low light, the Anti-Motion Blur or Hand-held Twilight can really help you out. By blending multiple exposures together, these modes help you get shots that most other point and shoot cameras would miss.
Check out the below example of Hand-held Twilight. The top image was shot in P mode, while the bottom image was captured with Hand-held Twilight mode.
It wouldn’t be a Sony point and shoot review here without commenting on the iSweep Panorama mode. This is for everyone that’s ever wanted to take a bunch of photos and stitch them together in Photoshop, but never will. It’s just plain fun, and it’s so easy to use. Just hold the camera up, press the shutter and pan it from one side to the other.
Click here for full size version of panoramic shot.
Another great feature is the touch-to-focus ability on the LCD. If you’ve framed up the scene the way you want it, you can touch the person or part in your scene that you want in focus and the TX7 takes care of it. And, no matter where your chosen focus point is at, the auto focus speed is almost instantaneous, which is followed up by a very quick shutter response to capture the moment you intended to capture.
I also think the video from the TX7 looks great. I actually found myself using the TX7’s video capture more than my Flip video camera – and I’m very fond of my Flip camera. The TX7 will capture 1080i HD video in AVCHD format and will also capture 1080, 720 and 480 resolutions in MP4 format.
While the AVCHD video is stunning and there’s a clear difference from the MP4 format, I generally found myself using the MP4 format due to the hassle of working with AVCHD. Sony’s included software isn’t quite user-friendly (and that’s putting it nicely) for working with AVCHD and iMovie doesn’t support this format natively. As a result, I’m afraid that many TX7 owners will also sacrifice the quality of the AVCHD format for the convenience of using the familiar, well-supported MP4 video capture.
Speaking of the Sony software . . . if the TX7 has any major faults, it’s the poor software and documentation in the box. I have to dock Sony a several kudos for not including a user manual in the box. While there is a quick-start manual, it doesn’t come close to providing answers that more curious enthusiasts will ask. The full manual is included on a CD in the box, which must be installed. And, since I couldn’t get the program to install the manual on my Vista computer, I had to dig through the file tree on the CD to find the PDF version of the manual. One of the main points for having a manual is to be able to refer to it while you are shooting and learning your camera; however, you can’t put a PDF in your camera bag.
Even if you manage to get the manual on your computer, the software documentation for working with photos, and particularly videos, is very poor. The help menus in the programs themselves are not much more helpful either. While it’s likely that you will get by without needing additional editing software for the JPEG image files given the widespread availability of image editing programs that are either included with your operating system or available for free download, the poor video file handling is a rather embarrassing point for the TX7.
I’m not even going to try to explain the voodoo that I worked on the Sony PMB software program to get the AVCHD file exported to YouTube, and I’m not sure I could repeat the process anyway. That said, I’ve embedded a short video shot with the TX7 in AVCHD format. Obviously, there has been some file conversion performed at the point of export and upload.
Sony TX7 Image Quality
As noted above, I was very pleased with the images produced by the Sony TX7. Sony does a good job with its in-camera processing, which makes for sharp and low-noise images throughout the ISO range.
Obviously, the 10MP sensor is a lower resolution than many other point and shoot cameras touting 14MP sensors these days. Rather than criticize this point though, I applaud it. The Exmor R CMOS technology that Sony is throwing into its upper-end point and shoot cameras lately is stellar. This very sensitive image sensor allows for solid performance throughout the ISO range. While you will encounter a lot of noise at the upper-end of the ISO range, the TX7 packs quite a punch for a compact point and shoot.
I’ve made several images available for download via the links below. Feel free to download these images for personal inspection by right-clicking and choosing “Save link as…”
So, at these low resolutions, I think that it’s safe to assume family album shots are going to work at 4×6 sizes no matter what the ISO is set at on the camera.
Finally, I’ve included a couple of images that show the power of the Backlight Correction HDR mode. The normal exposure is on the left and the Backlight Correction HDR exposure is on the right.
Note the differences in the trees and grass in particular, as well as the shadowy area under and behind the chair. There is also more detail in the clouds in the top right corner in the HDR version.
Sony TX7 Accessories
Sony NP-BN1 Battery – The Sony TX7 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.
Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the Sony TX7, which worked well so long as you aren’t shooting AVCHD video. If you’re shooting AVCHD with the TX7, you’ll need to step up to at least a Class 6 card in order to handle the data rate transfer. SanDisk Extreme III and Lexar Professional 133x cards are both Class 6 SDHC cards. The TX7 is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.
Note that the TX7 will also accept Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick format cards; however, I find these to be more expensive for the same quality of product as you get out of SD cards. As a result, I personally stick with SD cards due to the price and universal compatibility.
Sony TX7 Conclusions
As I said earlier, the Sony TX7 has become my new favorite point and shoot camera, pushing the S90 off its throne. I feel like I can take the TX7 on any casual outing and trust it to perform as well as just about any other point and shoot. And, while it won’t replace my DSLRs, I’m happy to have a pocketable compact alternative when the occasion fits.
The intuitive and effective touchscreen interface is almost magical on the TX7. The powerful and creative shooting modes provide a versatility not commonly found in such a small camera. Sony has put all the pieces together in the right place to make the TX7 an outstanding compact camera.
Aside from my quibbles about the included software and documentation, the TX7 easily earns a highly recommended mark.
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