Finding a great compact camera is nearly impossible thanks to the overwhelming variety and our incessant need for a very personalized, specific device. It must be at the right price, the right weight, the right level of sophistication, the right speed, etc. Did Sony figure it out with the Cybershot DSC-TX9?
The Cybershot DSC-TX9 (TX9 from here on out) is a tiny 12.2 megapixel camera with 4x optical zoom, a crisp Carl-Zeiss lens, support for both SD and Sony’s Pro-Duo memory cards, and a 3” LCD touchscreen display. It has a uniform build design, a tight metal frame, and a slide-down lens cover which turns the camera on and off. The TX9 can record 720p video in stereo sound, and includes a several picture modes for many situations, and the whole thing is built to work for beginners and professional photographers.
Let’s take a look at the camera’s design.
If you walk into any camera store today, most feel too light and very plastic. They lack sturdiness, that weight we associate with strength. The TX9 is very different. It’s a brilliantly built and designed camera – strong and sturdy for any environment; simple to use for first-time photographers or hardened professionals; and convenient for everyone.
The slide-down cover is great for quick shots. There is no better way to take an instant snapshot of a moment than just sliding down the cover and shooting away. The TX9 takes pictures within 2.5 seconds of sliding the cover in good lighting, and 4 seconds for poor lighting. That’s fast compared to most smartphones and point and shoot cameras, which get the shot in 5-10 seconds. That speed is also under any condition, compared to faster-rated point and shoot cameras, because of how easy it is to activate the camera. Just slide the cover down and shoot. In my testing, I never once missed a shot because I couldn’t activate the camera fast enough.
With a small camera like the TX9, dropping and breaking it is often the greatest fear. That’s why the surrounding metal frame is excellent protection, and should be a requirement for all cameras. We at Gadget Review don’t officially do drop tests on products (testing the product’s build strength by dropping it on various surfaces to see what the breaking point is), but during testing accidents happen. I dropped the TX9 a few times, and the frame always took the brunt of the fall. Besides for one slight paint scratch, it’s still in excellent condition. The metal frame and front metal slider protects the camera excellently.
The TX9 has several main buttons, including the shutter control, a power button, a play media button to view stored pictures and videos, and a picture/camcorder button, which switches stills and video. A corner zoom switch feels odd at first, users will quickly adjust to the placement of the switch. It isn’t well suited for portrait shots.
What’s excellent about the TX9’s size is that it doesn’t change when using zoom. Most point and shoot cameras have lenses which literally come out of the camera, but the TX9’s lens focuses entirely inside the camera, without the lens popping out of the frame. That way the lens is nearly impossible to damage when shooting.
The underbelly of the TX9 houses the SD or Pro Duo media card and battery through a flimsy plastic flap. Beside it is a docking station port and tripod mount. The TX9 does not connect directly and requires a docking station. That docking station is included with the camera, though unfortunately there is no way to connect the TX9 to a PC without the dock, which is very inconvenient. Users can either rely on memory card readers or carry the dock around with them on trips. The specific dimensions on the TX9 are 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.7 inches.
Camera Functions and Quality
Sony’s TX9 comes with eight shooting modes: Intelligent Auto Adjustment, an auto mode with facial recognition and controls exposure; Superior Auto Adjustment, which automatically sharpens pictures by reducing blur and noise; iSweep Panorama creates a panorama shot through a composite of five shots by panning the camera from left to right; Program mode uses automatic exposure settings with adjustable white balance and ISO settings; Defocus Background (self-explanatory); Scene Selection offers specific shooting modes based on the environment in the picture. Finally, a 3D shooting mode takes 2D shots and uses the built-in software to make them 3D. With the 3D Sweep Panorama feature on the Sony Cyber-Shot TX9, you can finally take shots of large, beautiful landscapes and scenery in one take. The dynamic range optimization feature and image stabilization work with the camera’s Exmor R CMOS sensor to give your photos a crisp and clear quality, which is especially helpful in low light settings. Note that the CMOS sensor has a sensor size of 1/2.3 inches. The 3.5 inch LCD display is also great for checking out how your shots turn out.
Of these eight modes, only photography aficionados will use more than two modes regularly. Both Intelligent Auto Adjustment and Superior Auto Adjustment modes are powerful, but there isn’t a noticeable difference between the two for most people. The Superior Auto mode in particular combines previous Cyber-Shot model multi-shot features into one reliable auto mode so you don’t have to mess with manually adjusting aperture or shutter speed. The panorama shot requires a supremely steady hand or tripod to not have wavy images. You may need some practice before getting just the right shot in the Sweep Panorama mode. Defocus Background is a neat idea, but often the background is already out of focus, and defocusing backgrounds can be done with many picture editing applications. Scene selection is good for prepared shooting. 3D shooting, however, is almost completely useless because not only can those images not be viewed in 3D properly (the TX9 screen does not support 3D), most computer monitors don’t support 3D either.
Picture quality is excellent. In steady hands pictures are DSLR quality. Colors are accurate and pop, and in strong lighting there is rarely motion blur or inaccuracies. See the pictures below.
Even at full resolution, the TX9 is very clear and crisp. Zooming in beyond the 12MP range will of course pixelate the image, but details aren’t lost except at extremes. All of the pictures seen here have no edited except for cropping (click to see full-size image).
For night shooting, picture quality plummeted because of the slow 3.5-4.6 lens. See below for some good non-flash shots.
Quality of pictures at night is still tremendous, though motion blur is easier to produce. Flash will often eliminate motion blur, but exchange it for washed out colors and too-bright faces and objects.
Video is likewise very good, both during the day and night. The TX9 supports up to 1080p video, and as a camcorder it really is excellent. The stereo microphones accurately record to the right and left channels, and the picture quality is what we except from mid-range standalone video cameras. For anyone who likes shooting video as much as stills, the TX9 is a great option, so long as users don’t mind recording in Sony’s proprietary .MTS format. Don’t worry, YouTube supports .MTS file uploads. Once again, the background defocus feature is appreciated during photo and video recording, but it doesn’t seem that groundbreaking of a feature. Also, note that the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX9 accepts Memory Stick Duo/Memory Stick PRO Duo/Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC forms of media storage.
As an everyday camera, the TX9 is pretty great in nearly every way. The sleek design is equally comfortable in the hand and the pocket. The simple button scheme is perfect for any user, and the resistive touchscreen is accurate and tactile. Picture quality is excellent, though low-light shooting lags due to a slow lens. Solid as a rock and twice as powerful, the TX9 is a great, long-lasting point and shoot camera for stills and video. The wide array of shooting modes alone will make it relevant for years to come.
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