Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 Review
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 is a slim-line digital compact camera that boasts a number of interesting features such as a 16.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, Tracking Focus, Background Defocus, 1080i Full HD video, Optical Image Stabiliser and 3D Sweep Panorama. On top of that, it's water, freeze, dust and shock proof. In our test, we look to see if these features are as impressive as they sound and what other delights it has hiding under it's brushed metal covering. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 costs around £280 and is available in Blue and Black.
Ease of Use
To look at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 digital compact camera, you'd be mistaken in thinking that it's another run of the mill model. That's partly because of the unassuming fascia and partly due to the lack of buttons on the back of the camera. In reality there's a lot to this little camera. Slide down the front cover and you're greeted by a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar lens. It has a 4x optical zoom and the Stereo Sound microphones are also hidden behind the protective cover. Sliding down the cover will switch the camera on but it can also be powered up using the power button on top of the camera.
There are four buttons that adorn the top plate. As well as the aforementioned power button there's also a raised shutter release button, a small playback button and even smaller video direct record button. Many reviewers have speculated over the reasoning of still including buttons when you have a touch-screen camera. The reasoning is that users still like to know that there's some tangible buttons on the body. Like a safety net. That theory is bolstered by the replication of a playback button on the screen in the bottom right corner. Why include it there if there's a physical button on top of the camera? The zoom switch has been removed from the typical position of sitting around the shutter release button and is situated on the shoulder of the camera. This is to prevent the need for a circular shutter release.
There are lots and lots of features on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 and to go through them all would create a vast article. We'll take a look at some of the more interesting features on the camera. For example, the 16.2 megapixel sensor is an Exmor R CMOS type. CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) is a type of sensor commonly used in digital cameras. There are two popular types; the CMOS and CCD (Charge Coupled Device). The latter is said to provide sharper images while the CMOS is more fuel efficient. Sony's Exmor R sensor has been developed to further the quality of the output from the CMOS. It's been designed to reduce the amount of noise generated on it allowing to be more noise free in low light situations. This down to the way it's designed. The circuitry that normally surrounds each pixel has been moved to the back of the sensor. This allows more light to land on the pixel (with a normal sensor, it's partially blocked due to the circuitry) To look at an Exmor R sensor in a camera, it looks as though it's been fitted backwards so is called a Back Illuminated Sensor. This extra light makes the sensor more responsive in low light and therefore produces lower noise.
If you like taking pictures of people, pets or flowers, you'll desire a blurry background so the subject pops out of the photograph. The Background Defocus mode can be especially useful for this as it takes two pictures – one in focus, one slightly blurred. It cuts out the subject you want to stay sharp and pastes it over the blurry image. It creates an effect that photographers with DSLRs can create very easily because they have larger sensors on the camera to help achieve this. The smaller sensors on a digital compact camera can't do this as easily so need help.
Sony developed the Smile Shutter a few years ago and it's been plagiarised and developed ever since. It's a software program that not only detects a face but can also tell when the face is smiling. Once it sees that happening it automatically takes a picture for you – no need to press the button. You can now adjust the intensity of the smile so if someone is simply smiling a bit, the camera won't take a picture if you've selected Big Beaming Smile mode.
Look on a digital camera these days and you'll be hard pressed to find one without a dedicated video button so you can film at any point without having to go into a pesky menu and choose the correct mode. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 pushes the envelope one step further with Duel REC. It allows you to record video and take a photograph while filming. Interestingly, these are high resolution images and not the same resolution as the video. The resolution we managed to record at was 12 megapixel which looks like the highest you'll get. Still it's a reasonable setting although other settings such as metering and focusing are at the mercy of the video mode.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 is actually a lot tougher than it appears on the surface. Opening the switch locked battery door and HDMI/USB port compartment and you can see rubber seals around the edges. That's because the TX20 is waterproof to 5m (16ft). It's also freeze proof, dust proof and shock proof. However, this doesn't appear to be the crowning glory of the camera. After all, there's no mention of it whatsoever on the box. The only indication is a splash of water behind the photo of the camera which could just be artistic expression. However, it's quite a major feature of the camera. After all, this “slip in the pocket” digital compact camera will be very interesting to the extreme sports crowd that don't want a camera to look like a submarine.
The touch-screen is sensitive enough that it obeys your commands while not being too over zealous. We did find on occasion that while the camera was in our pocket, the cover would slide down and switch the camera on. This leads to the possibility of a damaged lens and/or embarrassing photos of the inside of your pocket.
At first, the menu systems of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 can be a little over whelming. Switch the camera on and the screen bursts into life with lots of information either side of the main viewing screen. The reason behind is simply down to the lack of buttons on the camera. On the left, there's a desktop with your favourite options on. If you don't like the default options, you can change them in the menu. Access to the Main Menu is gained at the top left corner of the screen. To the right is a bit of information with regards to the settings you've already selected such as Resolution, Aspect Ratio, Display, Shooting Mode and an on-screen Playback button. You can change these last three by pressing the icons to enter a menu with the exception of the Display button which simply removes all the information from the screen. To return the information, you have to hold the button down (press on it) for a few seconds.
Pressing the Program Menu button will open up an entire screen of shooting options such as Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program mode, Video, Panorama Options, Background Defocus, Picture Effects, Scenes and 3D Shooting. The latter is compatible with a 3D television. Pressing the ? Button at the top of the screen simply asks for verification of your choice before entering that mode. The options are easy to see and are also attractive with a faint picture in the background of each tile.
Continuous shooting has a Hi-Speed and Lo-Speed. In Hi-Speed mode, the burst rate is fast and short covering 10 shots in under a second. It then takes a further nine seconds to download onto the memory card. The cool part is when you're viewing the pictures in Playback. You get the option to tilt the camera side to side and the camera will scroll through the images as though they're television sequence. It's very clever and fun to use. In Lo-Speed, the camera once again takes 10 pictures but this time over a period of five seconds. It then takes a further 10 seconds to download (15 seconds in total). All images in Hi-Speed or Lo-Speed are taken at full resolution. Perfect for action shots.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
From the switched off position, there are two ways to switch the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 on. Either by dragging the cover down to expose the lens or by using the power button on top if the cover is already down. If it's the latter then the camera will start up, focus and take a picture in 1.6sec which is very impressive. Using the cover was marginally slower at 1.8sec. Still, that's a lot faster than the 2.5sec average of a digital compact camera.
As we mentioned earlier there are two ways to enter the Playback Menu. We found ourselves using the screen more than the button on top though. The Menu button is present in the top left corner but has changed when in Playback mode. Now there's Calendars and Slide-shows, Retouch options and View modes. That's just a part of the first of two pages.
When looking at a picture in Playback, there's lots of information available but we noticed straight away that basic shooting information is absent such as Aperture and Shutter Speed, ISO, White-Balance and Metering. This information can be switched on in the Playback Menu.
In the box, you get a camera, battery and AC adapter. This links up to the USB cable in the box which then charges the battery by plugging it into the camera. There's also a wrist strap and paint pen for using the touch-screen.
All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.
Images taken at the lowest ISO setting are great. They're sharp, balanced, they have great edge definition and most importantly, they're absent that pesky noise. However, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20's back-illuminated sensor does its best work at higher ISO, so we're more interested in seeing those results. However, if you're on holiday and it's bright sunshine, you'll get excellent results.
Looking at the pictures at full magnification, there is a sign of noise starting to be an issue but it seems to be controlled by the noise reduction system which is generally a good one on Sony cameras. There just seems to be a breaking up of quality but viewed at normal size, it isn't an issue. At ISO 800, noise is starting to become a problem and noise reduction is working hard to keep it under control. Fine detail begins to get smoothed out in favour of less noise affecting the picture. The interesting bit comes at ISO 1600. It's fair to say that – although there's noise in the picture – the AMOUNT of noise is far less than other cameras at this setting. There's also a much higher degree of detail in the shot than we're used to seeing at this setting.
Sony have decided to cap the ISO at 3200 on the TX20 which is a sensible approach. A waterproof camera will be used on Skiing holidays where it's ultra bright or beach holidays where it's also ultra bright. A higher ISO shouldn't really ever be used so is redundant.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
We used the standard sharpening tool on Adobe Photoshop CS4 and decided that it adds a little bit too much to the picture. We think that the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20's pictures do need it though, so they would need to be adjusted using the unsharp mask tool.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
We did find minute traces of chroma in a few pictures. If it's present, it can be seen in the extreme edges of the frame in high contrast areas.
Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 doesn't have a brilliant macro mode. It's good for the occasional close up but if you're really into close up photography, then you won't find that this camera will satisfy your needs.
At wide-angle, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 does suffer from a degree of vignetting. This isn't as bad at full zoom but it's still noticeable. Using the flash doesn't correct this at wide-angle but it does at full zoom. We couldn't find any traces of red-eye in any pictures so testing the red-eye reduction feature was a moot point. However, we did get a bright purple line (possibly chroma) which showed up more when red-eye was switched on.
Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)
Forced Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)
Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (100mm)
Forced Flash - Telephoto (100mm)
And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Forced Flash setting or the Red-Eye Correction option caused any red-eye.
|Forced Flash (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
If you're shooting at night, the mode you use will depend on the amount of light available. We always recommend using the auto or program mode of a camera so you're in control of the ISO. Keeping a low setting will extend the shutter speed but will keep noise a lot lower. In the case of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20, it simply hasn't got a long enough shutter speed in auto to get a decent exposure. Our shot was too dark compared to the night scene mode image. However, in the latter, a higher ISO is used for a faster shutter speed and this creates noise. The removal of which can be seen on the night shot.
Night Auto (100% Crop)
Night Scene (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Lens Cover Open
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Images Displayed
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
|Front of the Camera|
|Memory Card Slot|
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 is a fun little camera to use. It's slim and easily pocketable but feels sturdy when in use. The proofing adds to its allure along with the many other features that it possesses. We like the touch-screen feature as it adds an element of fun to the camera. It also brings it in-line with camera phones with the majority of them being touch-screen also.
We did find that the sliding cover would bring itself down while it was in our pocket. That meant that the lens was getting dirty and we got an occasional black photo. The battery was also running down while this was going on. We were surprised to see that the rubber coverings of the fragile areas of the camera such as the battery compartment or the USB port had minimal covering. The seals usually cover the whole door, but these only covered the ports, not the compartment.
We like the pictures that we got from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20. Looking at them from a reasonable distance, the colours are punchy, they're nice and sharp and the exposure is well balanced. Images are sharp enough and we found that although they could benefit from a little sharpening, the standard sharpen tool was too strong. In controlled light and using a tripod, noise isn't much of an issue in the lower settings of ISO.
The price is good for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20. At around £280, that's what we'd expect to pay for a camera that's waterproof, with a touch-screen and back illuminated sensor. The other features and modes simply add to the value.
We can see this camera being used by people who enjoy going on activity holidays such as skiing, or scuba. Ski resorts generally have bright sunshine and that light reflects of the snow. That being the case, there would be a lot of light to drop the ISO to 100 and you could also make use of that blistering burst rate of 10fps. Great for catching someone mid jump. Or fall.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3.5|
Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 from around the web.
Want a really life-proof camera, but not a fan of the clichéd, chunky design aesthetic that says "rugged camera?" Well, they're not all made that way. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20 has a body that's waterproof up to five meters (16 feet), shockproof to 1.5 meters (five feet), dustproof, and freezeproof to -10°C (14°F). In spite of that, it wouldn't be out of place on the catwalk, with clean lines, a selection of bold body colors, and even some interesting textures on a few color choices.
Read the full review »
The Sony Cyber-shot TX20 is an ultra compact waterproof camera from Sony with a 16.2 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, Full HD video recording, and a 3 inch touch screen on the back. It's one of the most stylish waterproof cameras available and is waterproof to 5 metres, and shockproof from 1.5 meters. The TX20 is this years update to the TX10.
Read the full review »
One of Sony’s smartest ideas last year was the Cyber-shot TX10, a waterproof camera that wasn’t intended for the demanding outdoor adventurer, but rather just the klutz in all of us.
Read the full review »
|Clear Image Zoom||8x|
|Digital Zoom||16M Approx.16x / 10M Approx.20x / 5M Approx.28x / VGA Approx.57x / 12M(16:9) Approx.16x / 2M(16:9) Approx.38x|
|Focal Length (f= mm)||f=4.43-17.7mm|
|Focal Length (f=35mm conversion)||f=25-100mm|
|Macro (cm)||iAuto:AF(W:Approx.1cm(0.03') to Infinity, T:Approx.50cm(1.64') to Infinity) / Program Auto:AF(W:Approx.8cm(0.26') to Infinity, T:Approx.50cm(1.64') to Infinity)|
|Filter Diameter (mm)||NO|
|Conversion Lens compatibility||NO|
|Carl Zeiss® lens||YES|
|Sensor Type||Exmor R™ CMOS Sensor|
|Size (Inches)||1/2.3 type(7.77mm)|
|Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels)||Approx. 16.2 Megapixels|
|Soft Skin Mode||YES|
|Backlight correction HDR||YES|
|Picture Effect||HDR Painting, Richtone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy camera, Pop Color, Partial Color, Soft High-key|
|Intelligent Sweep Panorama||YES|
|Underwater Sweep Panorama||YES|
|3D Sweep Panorama||YES|
|Clear RAW NR||NO|
|Auto Focus Area (Multi Point)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Spot)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot)||YES|
|Aperture Auto Mode||iAuto(F3.5-F6.3(W)) / Program Auto(F3.5-F6.3(W))|
|Aperture Priority Mode||NO|
|Aperture Manual Mode||NO|
|Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec)||iAuto(4" - 1/1600) / Program Auto(1" - 1/1600)|
|NR Slow Shutter||NO|
|Hand Shake Alert||NO|
|Exposure Control||± 2.0EV, 1/3EV step|
|White Balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set, Underwater|
|Automatic White Balance||YES|
|Light Metering (Multi Pattern)||YES|
|Light Metering (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Light Metering (Spot)||YES|
|ISO Sensitivity (REI)||ISO125-3200(iAuto), ISO125 - 3200(Superior Auto), ISO125-1600(Program Auto)|
|Scene Selection||Soft Snap / Soft Skin / Anti Motion Blur / Backlight Correction HDR / Night Portrait / Night Scene / High Sensitivity / Handheld Twilight / Beach / Snow / Fireworks / Gourmet / Pet Mode / Landscape|
|Optical SteadyShot capability||YES|
Auto Focus System
|AF Illuminator||Auto / Off|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Synchro / Flash Off|
|Red-Eye Correction||Auto / On / Off|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||NO|
|Distance limitations using Flash (m)||"ISO Auto: Approx.0.08m-3.7m(3 1/4 inches to 12 feet 1 3/4 inches)(W) / Approx.0.5m-2.7m(1 feet 7 3/4 inches to 8 feet 10 3/8 inches)(T), ISO3200: up to Approx.5.2m(17 feet 3/4 inches)(W) / Appro|
|LCD Screen Size (inches)||7.5cm (3.0type)|
|LCD Total Dots Number||921.6|
|LCD Monitor Type||TFT Xtra Fine|
|Auto Bright Monitoring||NO|
|Recording Media||Memory Stick™ Duo / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ / Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (high speed) / Memory Stick PRO HG Duo™ / Memory Stick Micro* / Memory Stick Micro (mark 2)*|
|Recording Media II||SD Memory Card / SDHC Memory Card / SDXC Memory Card / microSD Memory Card* / microSDHC Memory Card*|
|DCF (Design rule for Camera File System)||YES|
|DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)||YES|
|Burst Mode (shots)||Approx. 10 fps|
|Burst Interval (approximately sec)||Approx.1.0 sec.(3 shots)|
|Still Image size (16M 4608 x 3456)||YES|
|Still Image size (18 M 4896×3672)||NO|
|Still Image size (14M 4320 x 3240)||NO|
|Still Image size (13M 4224 x 3168)||NO|
|Still Image size (12M 4000 x 3000)||NO|
|Still Image size (10M 3648 x 2736)||YES|
|Still Image size (9.0M, 3456 x 2592)||NO|
|Still Image size (8.0M, 3264 x 2448)||NO|
|Still Image size (7.2M 3072 x 2304)||NO|
|Still Image size (5.0M, 2592 x 1944)||YES|
|Still Image size (3.1M, 2048 x 1536)||NO|
|Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080)q||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4896X2752)||NO|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4,608 x 2,592)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4,320 x 2,432)||NO|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4000 x 2248)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode, 4000 x 2672)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3648 x 2432)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3456 x 2304)||NO|
|2D Panorama||HR(10,480 x 4,096) / Wide(7,152 x 1,080/4,912 x 1,920) / Standard(4,912 x 1,080/3,424 x 1,920)|
|3D Panorama||Wide(7,152 x 1,080/4,912 x 1,920) / Standard(4,912 x 1,080/3,424 x 1,920) / 2M(1,920 x 1,080) / Sweep Multi Angle:2M(1,920 x 1,080)|
|Moving Image Size (1920x1080 50p Approx.28Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (1920x1080 50i Approx.24Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (1920x1080 50i Approx.17Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (1440x1080 25fps Fine Approx.12Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 50i Fine Approx.9Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 25fps Fine Approx.6Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (640x480 25fps Approx.3Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (320x240 30fps)||NO|
|HD (High Definition) Playback||YES (HDMI® out)|
|Playback Zoom||YES (8x)|
|Cue & Review (MPEG)||YES|
|Index Playback||12 / 28 images|
|Auto Image Rotation||YES|
|Auto grouping and & Best Picture Recognition||YES|
|Battery Remaining Indicator||NO|
|PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol)||NO|
|Print Image Matching||YES|
|Shop Front Mode||YES|
|Start up time (approximately sec)||Approx. 1.0 sec.|
|Menu Language||English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian , Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Croatian, Romanian|
|Multi use Terminal with HD||Multi Type3b(AV/USB/DC IN), Hi-Speed USB(USB2.0), Mini HDMI|
|Multi use Terminal||YES|
|USB 2.0 Hi-Speed||YES|
|Battery System||Lithium N|
|Stamina (battery life) with the supplied battery(s) in normal shooting condition||Approx. 250 / Approx. 125min|
|Battery for Clock||NO|
|Weight (g)||Approx. 118g (4.2oz.)|
|Weight with Accessories (g)||Approx. 133g (4.7oz.)|
|Supplied Software||PlayMemories Home|
|Supplied Accessories||Rechargeable Battery Pack (NP-BN), AC AdaptorAC-UB10/UB10B, Multi USB, Wrist Strap, Paint Pen, Instruction Manual, Power Cord|
|*||Requires adaptor (not supplied)|