A pocketable, ultra-slim, point-and-shoot digicam that is waterproof to three metres.Sony joins the list of waterproof camera manufacturers with a new model, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX5, which withstands immersion to up three metres but retains the slim and stylish appearance of the previous TX-series models. Featuring a 4x optical zoom lens and 10.2-megapixel resolution, the TX5 comes in four fashionable colours: black, silver, pink and red. (The pink is pale and the red is rather magenta-biased.) . . [more]
Sony joins the list of waterproof camera manufacturers with a new model, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX5, which withstands immersion to up three metres but retains the slim and stylish appearance of the previous TX-series models. Featuring a 4x optical zoom lens and 10.2-megapixel resolution, the TX5 comes in four fashionable colours: black, silver, pink and red. (The pink is pale and the red is rather magenta-biased.)
As well as being able to withstand immersion in water for up to 60 minutes, the TX5 is also dust-resistant and capable of operating at temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius. Its shock-proof design can withstand drops of up to 1.5 metres, the normal height at which cameras are held when in use. Consequently, the TX5 claims to be suitable for activities like skiing, swimming, snorkelling and bushwalking.
The Cyber-shot DSC-TX5is designed to be waterproof for up to 60 minutes in up to three metres of water. (Source: Sony.)
Like other models in the current TX-series, the TX5 comes with a 3-inch touch-screen monitor that is used for both framing shots and checking camera settings. It is also supplied with a wrist strap that attaches to a loop on the side panel.
Build and Ergonomics
At first glance, the TX5 is a smart-looking little camera that's small enough to be genuinely shirt-pocketable. Its body is made mainly of plastic with a metal front plate that slides down to reveal the lens and flash tube and switches the camera on. It feels reasonably solidly-built but there are a few features that detract from the overall quality impression and compromise functionality.
For anyone who buys this camera for underwater shooting, we feel the most serious problem lies with the design of the slide-down front panel. Because this panel sits close to the camera body, it traps water underneath it when the camera is immersed. The only way to remove the water is to slide the panel up and down, wiping the residual droplets off as you go.
It took more than 20 up/down wiping cycles to reduce the droplets to smears of water with the review camera and a further 10 to make the smears likely to evaporate within a minute or two if given a chance. But the covering panel prevents this so smears of water remained on the front panel for more than an hour after the rest of the camera had been dried off.
The tripod mount is plastic and, therefore, easier to cross-thread than a metal socket. The LCD monitor gets finger-marked very easily - and the marks are difficult to remove. The cover to the battery/card compartment in the base of the camera is tricky to open. (This can be good when you consider its waterproofing qualities but bad when you need to change battery or card in a hurry.) The camera is also much too easy to turn on unintentionally when you pull it out of a pocket or pouch.
As in other Sony TX-series models, the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens is packed into the camera body using folded optics. SteadyShot optical image stabilisation is included. The zoom range is quite long for its size and the lens is reasonably fast for its design. Apertures are set automatically and the camera will step from f/3.5 to f/6.3 at the wide position (which covers an angle of view equivalent to 25mm in 35mm format) and f/4.6 to f/6.3 when zoomed right in for an angle of view equivalent to 100mm in 35mm format.
The location of the lens (close to the top corner of the front panel) makes it very easy to include a fingertip in shots unless you hold the camera with the fingertips of your left hand well back on the top panel - or use the camera one-handed. Having the flash so close to the lens also makes red-eye in flash shots likely. Underwater, it can cause the light to bounce back from suspended particles, creating an undesirable ‘snowstorm' effect (illustrated in the Sample Images section below).
Front view of the Sony Cyber-shot TX5 powered up ready for use. (Source: Sony.)
The entire rear panel is covered by a 3-inch Clear Photo Plus LCD screen that has a relatively low resolution of only 230,000 dots. Overlaid on the screen is a touch panel that provides the main user interface with the camera. Aside from the tiny on/off and shutter release buttons and the zoom rocker on the top panel, the only additional button control is the Play button just above the monitor between the back and top panels (and it's tiny and difficult to see in dim lighting).
Rear view of the Cyber-shot TX5. (Source: Sony.)
Top view of the Cyber-shot TX5 showing the tiny button and rocker controls. (Source: Sony.)
Pushing down the front panel reveals the lens, AF-Assist light and narrow flash tube and switches the camera on. Below the flash is a pinhole microphone, which records audio monaurally. You can also switch the camera on by pressing the Play button - but only in play mode. However, you can't switch off by pressing it a second time; instead you must use the power button on the top panel. This button glows green when the camera is drawing power from the battery.
Despite being small, the zoom rocker is reasonably easy to control and provides above-average precision for focal length adjustment. This is probably because it's slow compared with the zoom controls on many other digicams.
The battery and memory card compartment is accessed via the bottom panel. The single card slot can accept either Memory Stick Duo or SD format cards, the latter including SD and SDHC (but not SDXC). The compartment cover fits closely into the camera body and has a thin o-ring seal to prevent water from entering.
If you wish to use the camera underwater we recommend purchasing the STP-FSA floating strap, which is designed to prevent the camera from sinking to the bottom if it's dropped. (The wrist strap fits too loosely on an average-sized wrist to provide a high degree of security.)
The touch screen interface is very easy to operate, particularly for anybody familiar with touch screen devices. It's quite responsive for point-and-press photography and the layout of the icons is straightforward, as befits a point-and-shoot camera. However, if you want to take control of the small number of adjustments provided by the camera, a bit of toggling is required and your shooting rate is slowed.
When the camera is powered-up, a couple of messages may be displayed on the monitor. One reminds you to 'Check that there is no foreign objects inside the battery cover and close cover tightly'. The other informs you the camera is ‘Preparing Image Database File'.
This message pops up when you insert a card from which you've transferred image files to a PC without using the supplied Picture Motion Browser software. It's annoying and time-consuming and unfortunately, you can't get around it as the camera must also create an Image Database File each time a card is formatted.
The camera powers-up with a bar of icons along each side of the image display, as shown below. You can make them disappear briefly by touching the top right corner of the screen. Touching the left side of the screen displays the Menu screen, which contains the available shooting modes and adjustments.
The display seen when the TX5 is powered-up.
The first page lets you set up the Easy (full auto) mode, select the Smile Shutter, image size (but not quality), macro, exposure compensation, white balance, focus and metering modes and Face Detection settings. You can customise the icons that display below the Menu icon by touching an icon and dragging it into position on the screen. Once this is done, simply touching an icon opens the relevant sub-menu.
The main menu screen.
The ISO sub-menu.
Tapping the shooting mode icon on the right side of the main screen opens a sub-menu containing settings for Intelligent Auto Adjustment, Program Auto, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Movie, Anti-Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR and Scene modes. Dragging your finger across the screen moves from one ‘page' in the menu to the next.
The Setting menu screen.
Touching the setting (‘toolbox') sub-menu, opens a new screen containing settings for shooting ‘tools' like the AF-Assist light, grid overlay, digital zoom, auto-rotate, scene recognition guide, red-eye reduction and blink alert settings. You can also find language, beep, LCD brightness, video and USB connection settings and similar adjustments in this sub-menu. The Memory Card Tool sub-menu covers formatting, copying, folder selection and file numbering.
But that's not all; you can direct autofocusing by touching the area on the screen that you want to appear sharp. Touch focusing is available both above and under water. In Movie mode, touching the screen switches instantly to 720p HD movie shooting mode, regardless of your current camera settings. In Playback mode, flick a fingertip to scroll though your images or select one of the playback functions.
The TX5's multiple-exposure modes are the same as in the Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V, which we have also reviewed. They include Anti Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR and ‘Intelligent' Sweep Panorama (which includes face and motion detection). The Face Detection system includes the same Child Priority and Adult Priority settings and the Anti-blink and Smile Shutter Technology are applied automatically in the Easy mode as well as the Portrait setting in the Scene Selection sub-menu. The remaining Scene pre-sets are essentially unchanged from the HX5V, except for the addition of an Underwater mode. The new camera boasts a top burst speed of 10 frames/second.
Sensor and Image Processing
The sensor in the TX5 is one of Sony's new back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS chips. It has10.6 million photosites with an effective resolution of 10.2 megapixels. It has the same specifications as the sensor in the HX5V. Coupled to the sensor is a BIONZ processor, which underpins the high-speed and multiple-shot capabilities of the camera.
Like the HX5V, for still image capture the TX5 is a JPEG-only camera. It offers two aspect ratio settings with three image sizes at 4:3 aspect and two at 16:9. Compression ratios are not adjustable. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
3548 x 2736
2592 x 1944
640 x 480
3648 x 2056
1920 x 1080
H: 4912 x 1080
V: 3424 x 1920
H: 7152 x 1080
V: 4912 x 1920
High-definition movies shot with the HX5V are recorded in MPEG-4 format at 30 frames/second with progressive scanning plus AAC audio in MP4 format. The maximum clip length of 29 minutes appears to apply to all movie formats.
Average bit rate
Recording time on 4GB card
1280 x 720
1280 x 720
81 minutes 50 seconds
640 x 480
163 minutes 40 seconds
Playback and Software
The TX5 provides the standard Sony suite of playback functions for still images and video clips. These include the standard single and index playback, plus date, event and folder views. Individual shots can be displayed with or without shooting data and histogram overlaid.
You can zoom in on selected areas in shots by touching the area you wish to enlarge. Up to 8x magnification is supported in this mode and arrows on the screen allow you to scan around the image. You can play bursts of images in groups or view them separately in playback and also rotate, delete, protect and DPOF tag selected shots.
Individual shots can also be trimmed - but not resized - with the Retouch sub-menu, which also contains settings for red-eye correction and sharpening via unsharp masking. The TX5 also supports continuous playback of slideshows - with or without background music. f you access the Paint function you can draw on images with the stylus or add ‘stamps' and frames and save it separately.
The supplied Picture Motion Browser (PMB) software handles automatic uploading of still pictures and video clips and will save them in date-marked albums. You can use it to copy selected files for uploading to social websites but editing facilities are limited. Sony has produced an excellent - and very informative - user manual for theTX5 - but it's only provided in PDF format on the bundled CD.
Not surprisingly, in many respects the review camera turned in a similar performance to the HX5V we reviewed. Most of the multiple-capture shooting modes worked well, although the iSweep Panorama mode failed on a number of occasions and, even when it worked correctly, often cut panoramas short, leaving about a third of the width of the image black. This was easily trimmed off but didn't deliver the results we expected.
The high-speed burst mode had fewer problems focusing than we found in the HX5V. In our shots of a child jumping on a trampoline, the majority of frames were sharp. Autofocusing was also slightly faster and more accurate in the TX5, although we still recorded a number of instances of blurring in low-light shots taken in the Easy, iAuto and P shooting modes.
Exposure metering was more evenly distributed between highlights and shadows but the review camera delivered better outdoor exposures when exposure compensation was set to -0.3EV in contrasty lighting. The lens was also quite flare-prone and barrel distortion could be seen in shots taken at wider angles of view.
Imatest showed resolution to be slightly below expectations but generally acceptable across the camera's zoom range. Slight edge softening was evident across the entire focal length range. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Resolution remained relatively high up to ISO 800 before falling slightly at ISO 1600 and much further at ISO 3200. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Colour saturation was very slightly elevated in our Imatest tests, which also showed some colour shifts in red and cyan and, to a lesser extend in skin hues. However, the overall reproduction of skin hues was natural looking. Lateral chromatic aberration remained low across the lens's focal length range.
Auto white balance performance was similar to the HX5V. The review camera failed to totally remove the colour cast of incandescent lighting but came close to producing neutral colours with fluorescent lighting. Both sets of pre-sets tended towards over-correction but manual measurements delivered neutral colours under both lighting types.
The flash required an ISO setting of 400 or higher before it could illuminate subjects more than two metres from the camera. Flash exposures were quite even from ISO 400 to ISO 3200 and noise was much less visible in high ISO shots.
Low light performance was good for both still shots and video clips. However, the point-and-shoot control system in this camera made it impossible to test the camera for long exposure performance. Low-light shots at ISO 200 were adequately sharp and noise-free but by ISO 800, image softening was apparent in shots taken with both flash and ambient lighting and noise was noticeable at ISO 3200.
Video quality was good at the highest resolution setting - but not quite as crisp and sharp as clips from the HX5V. This is to be expected as the latter camera can record 1080p clips, while the TX5 is restricted to 720p. Soundtracks were adequately clear but the camera is quite vulnerable to wind noise - and no wind cut filter is provided.
When no message was displayed on start-up, the review camera took just over a second to power-up. Preparing the Image Database File delays start-up by approximately five seconds. We measured an average shot-to-shot time of 1.4 seconds without flash and 8.6 seconds with. Capture lag averaged 0.25 seconds but disappeared with pre-focusing. It took 2.9 seconds, on average, to process each high-resolution JPEG file.
Burst mode performance depended on the setting used. The High setting performed to specifications, recording 10 frames in one second. The Mid setting captured 10 frames in 1.6 seconds, which is slightly faster than specified, while the Low setting recorded 10 frames in 4.1 seconds, which is slightly slower. It took between13.4 and 13.5 seconds to process each burst.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for a slim and pocketable waterproof digicam.
- You would like to record 720p HD video clips and don't mind monaural soundtracks.
- You want high burst capacity at high resolution.
- You would enjoy the multi-shot modes this camera provided.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You require PASM shooting modes.
- You want to shoot at depths below three metres.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 125 1/200 second at f/4.5.
4:3 aspect ratio; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/800 second at f/4.5.
4:3 aspect ratio; 17.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/800 second at f/5.6.
4:3 aspect ratio; 2.1x digital zoom; 17.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/9.
16:9 aspect ratio; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 125 1/640 second at f/4.5.
16:9 aspect ratio; 17.7mm focal length, ISO 125 1/400 second at f/5.6.
16:9 aspect ratio; 2.1x digital zoom; 17.7mm focal length, ISO 125 1/400 second at f/5.6.
ISO 200, 1/6 second exposure at f/3.5; 7.8mm focal length.
ISO 800, 1/25 second exposure at f/3.5; 7.8mm focal length.
ISO 3200, 1/100 second exposure at f/3.5; 7.8mm focal length.
Flash exposure; ISO 200, 1/30 second at f/4.6; 17.7mm focal length.
Flash exposure; ISO 800, 1/30 second at f/4.6; 17.7mm focal length.
Flash exposure; ISO 3200, 1/50 second at f/4.6; 17.7mm focal length
Skin tones; 17.7mm focal length, ISO 200, 12/50 second at f/4.5.
Backlighting with Backlight Correction HDR function engaged; 17.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/9.
Backlighting without Backlight Correction HDR function engaged; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/640 second at f/4.5.
One frame from a high-speed burst mode sequence; 16.8mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/200 second at f/4.5.
17.7mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/4.6
High-speed shutter mode. 16:9 aspect ratio; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/4.5.
iSweep Panorama shot; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/4.5.
Underwater scene mode. Underwater shot showing back-scatter from flash; 4.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/30 second at f/3.5.
Still frame from high-resolution video clip.
Still frame from VGA video clip.
Image sensor: 5.92 x 4.57 mm Exmor R CMOS sensor with 10.6 million photosites (10.2 megapixels effective)
Lens: Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 4.43-17.7mm f/3.5-4.6 zoom lens (25-100mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 4x optical, up to 8x digital
Image formats: Stills - JPEG; Movies - MPEG4
Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 aspect: 3648 x 2736, 2592 x 1944, 640 x 480; 16:9 aspect: 3648 x 2056, 1920 x 1080; Panorama: 7152 x 1080 (258deg), 4912 x 1080 (177deg), 4912 x 1920 (177deg), 3424 x 1920 (123deg); Movies - 1280 x 720 @ 29.97 fps, 640 x 480 @ 25 fps
Shutter speed range: 1/1600 second to 2 seconds
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus Portrait 1/2 modes
Image Stabilisation: Optical SteadyShot
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
Focus system/range: Contrast-based AF: range 8 cm to infinity; macro 1-20 cm
Exposure metering/control: Multi-pattern, centre-weighted, spot metering
Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, Easy Shooting, Program Auto, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Handheld Twilight, Anti-Motion Blur, Scene Selection (Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Soft Snap, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, High Sensitivity, Hi-Speed Shutter, Underwater, Gourmet, Pet)
ISO range: Auto, ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One PushSet
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Synchro; range 0.08-2.9 metres
Sequence shooting: Max. 10 fps
Storage Media: Memory Stick Duo/SD/SDHC cards
LCD monitor: 3-inch Clear Photo Plus LCD touch screen with 230,000 dots
Power supply: rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 250 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 94.0 x 56.9 x 17.7 mm
Weight: Approx. 128 grams (without battery and card)
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.0
- Ease of use: 8.5
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Image quality: Stills 8.0; Video 8.0
- OVERALL: 8.3