Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 Review
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 is the latest addition to Sony's extensive range of slim, compact and stylish pocket cameras. The 10 megapixel TX7 has an Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS image sensor which promises to greatly improve low-light performance, resulting in cleaner images with less noise. Featuring a metal body, sliding front plate and folded lens optics, the super-slim Sony TX7 offers a 25-100mm equivalent 4x zoom lens, 3.5 inch touch-sensitive rear screen, SteadyShot optical image stabilisation, face and smile detection technology, ISO 3200 and intelligent scene recognition. The Sony TX7 also boasts continuous burst shooting at up to 10 frames per second at full resolution, clever Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode for extra-wide landscapes, and 1920x1280 pixel 1080i HD movie recording with stereo sound and a HDMI output. Compatible with both SD(HC) and Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards, the Sony TX7 camera is available in silver, blue and red for around £380 / $299.
Ease of Use
The ideal point and shoot camera is surely one that is as unobtrusive as possible, whilst still coming packed with the latest technological must haves. Could the credit-card sized Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 with 25mm equivalent wide angle lens, which goes up against the likes of Fuji's Z800EXR, be that camera? At first glance the glossy, metal build compact with easy-to-use slide open and shoot lens cover/faceplate appears remarkably similar to the equally slender DSC-TX5 that we reviewed late spring/ early summer. But, chiefly, whereas that model reflected the seasons in being waterproof, this one isn't.
Powering up from cold in just over a second, in common with its sibling the TX7 is a model almost entirely operated by a widescreen ratio touch screen at its rear, here a welcome 3.5-inches to the TX5's 3-inches. The touch screen controls are clearly labelled and easily navigated. So for once this feature doesn't feel like a triumph of form over function. Everything is pretty much where it usually is, so you don't have to waste time hunting around, as on Sony's NEX hybrid cameras.
The LCD surface coating doesn't hide fingerprints well unfortunately, so you'll be constantly wiping it free of smears, or attaching the plastic stylus Sony provides in the box to the wrist strap that also comes with it. More positively, Sony suggests the monitor's 'TruBlack' screen technology minimises reflections and boosts contrast for a richly detailed view, even when outdoors in bright daylight. We were using the camera in a sunny environment and didn't have to resort to cupping a hand around the screen, so in that respect the hype rings, um, true. In terms of low light performance, selectable light sensitivity settings stretch from ISO80 at the bottom end to ISO3200 at the highest, matching that we'd expect for its class.
In terms of portability for anyone looking for an able photographic companion for that short city break meanwhile, the camera weighs 133g and sports overall dimensions of 97.8x59.5x17.5mm. As we'd expect from Sony, the build quality is high and the camera feels solid despite its diminutive size. It's available in dark blue, silver or red, which on our review sample appeared more cough sweet purple.
The TX7 boasts a reasonable feature set for its price tag in the region of £300. At the heart of the camera resides a 1/2.4-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor (Sony's flagship chip) offering what we'd describe as a 'sensible' pixel count of 10.2 megapixels (same as the TX5). Also worth shining a spotlight on is AVCHD format video capability at Full HD 1920x1080 pixels and a frame rate of 50fps, a maximum (stills) continuous shooting speed of 10fps, while Sony's intelligent Sweep Panorama function that produces an elongated image if the user spins around on the spot 'sweeping' the camera in an arc, and as also seen on the TX5, again makes an appearance. It's fun if inessential and works rather well if you time the speed of your own movement just right, which takes a couple of goes. Shots are saved to either SD media Sony's own Memory Stick Pro Duo or 45MB internal capacity.
The lack of physical controls lends this Cyber-shot an attractively contemporary, minimalist appearance overall, though, unlike the TX5, this model finds room for a stereo microphone at the front. We also get the lens with internally folded 4x optical zoom mechanism over at the top right hand side of the body where it again falls prey to fingertips straying into the frame when shooting handheld. Next to this is a similar set up to the TX5; a lozenge shaped integral flash is incorporated next to an AF assist/self timer lamp. All these features are hidden by the lens cover when it has been slid shut and the camera is inactive. Expectedly there's nothing approaching a grip at all on the camera, which can make it difficult to hold rock steady. As a result we ended up with our fair share of soft images in lower lighting conditions, but perhaps a lower percentage than we might otherwise had got if it weren't for the Sony's built-in anti shake in the form of optical image stabilization.
The top plate of the TX7 is where what few physical controls there are reside. We get a stubby (and so rather fiddly) zoom control lever over at the far right, adjacent to a lozenge shaped shutter release button and next to this again, an on/off button inset into the metalwork to prevent accidental activation. Although opening or shutting the faceplate/lens cover also powers the camera up or down, this separate control is useful should one wish to quickly review images without otherwise exposing the lens.
A half press of the shutter release button and the camera determines focus and exposure in the blink of an eye. Take a shot at maximum 10.2 megapixel resolution and with barely perceptible shutter lag a shot is committed to memory in two seconds, the screen briefly freezing with a display of the captured image whilst it is written to memory. Switch to playback mode to review what you've just shot and left and right directional arrows appear at the bottom right hand corner of the screen for tabbing through previous images too.
Set back from the uppermost controls, where top plate meets back plate, are dedicated controls for playback, and a shared button for alternating between stills and video capture. This seems slightly superfluous as a red camcorder-style record button features on screen, a virtual press of which kick starts recording whatever alternative shooting mode might have been previously selected. Whilst the wider screen is a boon for watching video playbacks, in regular 4:3 stills capture mode, black bands crop the image either side. These disappear once you've hit the red video record button however. It has to be noted that older PCs and Macs will struggle with replaying the AVCHD format video files the TX7 records in, if they'll be able to access them at all, so fortunately there's the option to drill into the set up menu and swap to MPEG-4 format at 25fps if required.
In terms of stills photography meanwhile there is a choice of seven different record modes. The default snapshot setting is of course Intelligent Auto - being Sony's scene and subject recognising 'smart' mode - which is mostly reliable for those who do just want to point and shoot, plus there is also a program auto setting for those who want to get hands on to a greater extent. In this mode menu functions that were previously inaccessible in 'iA' mode suddenly become so.
Among the other offered mode icons on screen we have the intelligent Sweep Panorama mode fast becoming a standard feature of Sony Cyber-shots and NEX models, an Anti Motion Blur setting, a useful Handheld Twilight mode, an equally handy and reliable Backlight Correction HDR mode for shooting against the sun whilst maintaining both shadow detail and highlights - which in practice delivers a rather washed out looking shot - plus, finally, a Scene Selection mode. Press this for access to 12 pre-optimised settings for photographing pets, fireworks, underwater scenes and even the food on your plate courtesy of the gourmet mode also found on the TX5.
When shooting stills there's the further option to adjust the point of focus simply by tapping a portion of the LCD screen - again, a feature introduced with the TX5 - thus providing the ability to bias attention to something or someone who might not be traditionally dead centre of the frame.
The above shooting modes aside, also presented within the black bands either side of the screen are a means of kick starting movie recording with that red virtual record button - along with a means of controlling the flash (merely off or on in intelligent Auto mode) and altering self timer settings (10 seconds, two seconds or off, along with a couple of self portrait options). Continuous or burst shooting can further be selected here, with a choice of 'Hi', Mid, or 'Lo' speed options, the camera's maximum being a respectable 10 frames per second as mentioned at the outset of our review and which it rattles through machine-gun like, the resultant shots slowly appearing as a collected series of thumbnails on its rear screen for review.
Further on-screen icons in capture mode include a virtual playback button to go with the physical button also provided, plus a self-explanatory virtual 'menu' button. Additional on-screen info squashed into the screen's top right hand corner gives an indication of battery life, the number of shots remaining, image ratio and resolution.
Tap the 'menu' icon top left and even more options are presented to the user. It's here we're offered the chance to switch to 'easy' mode or select 'smile shutter' mode, adjust image size and ratio - with the ability to shoot stills in 16:9 format rather than 4:3, albeit with a resolution drop to 7MP at best - plus select macro mode, adjust exposure compensation (+/- 2EV), and metering modes, switch on face detection and turn display settings on or off.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Top left of this icon-led menu screen - and only found once you've accessed menu itself - is a small toolbox icon; its placing meaning that it is easy to overlook. Tap this inquisitively however and four further sub folders are presented. In decreasing order of importance, the top one, denoted by camera and spanner icon, is a Shooting Settings folder, just below which is a second 'Main Settings' folder, then a 'Memory Card Tool' folder, and lastly Clock Settings (date and time etc) weirdly get a folder all to themselves.
Going back to the Shooting Settings, it's here if shooting in Program Auto mode that the user can summon up the AF illuminator (or turn it off), as well as the compositional aid of on-screen grid lines, digital zoom, red eye reduction when using flash, plus blink alert to warn if a subject might have closed their eyes at the crucial point you fired the shutter. LCD brightness can further be adjusted. All the essentials you'd expect are here in fact, including the ability to alternate between capturing video in AVCHD or MPEG4 format.
In playback mode we have the further ability to view/search images by date via an on-screen calendars - or view them collectively as a series of thumbnails, the tapping of any one of which displays it full size on the screen. There's additionally the ability of course to view all images on the back screen in the form of a slideshow accompanied by a selection of different musical styles, or hook the camera up to your TV to do the same.
A press of 'menu' alternatively when in playback mode and, along with the menu options offered in capture mode we have the ability to paint or draw cutesy hearts onto images - the kind of thing beloved of Japanese youngsters - with a virtual eraser button also presented to wipe clean any such doodles. Limited retouching can also be carried out in camera - in the form of red eye correction, trimming or unsharp masking to add some saving grace definition to slightly soft shots and avoid having to do the same in Photoshop. And all this with the press or swipe of a fingertip.
If there's an obvious Achilles' heel on the TX7, apart from the lack of grip and lens positioning encouraging fingertips into the frame, it's that battery life is unimpressive, equivalent to some 115 minutes or 230 images according to Sony, but in practice amounting to around 130 shots. As operation is reliant on the screen and the larger LCD size also tempts you to review captured images frequently, the TX7 evidently sucks up power quite quickly.
And yet, as we found with the TX5, once you've surveyed all the options and got used to the touch screen operation the TX7 is easy and fun to use. There are more options here than provided on regular point and shoot cameras so that users won't get bored easily. But, at the end of the day it's image quality that counts more than a collection of features and functionality, so how does the TX7 measure up? Read on to find out.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.
As we were shooting a lot of our test samples on sunny days, the TX7's backlit correction function was kicking in more often that usual; lending images an overall slightly washed out feel. Otherwise colours are well saturated and a reasonable amount of detail is delivered even at maximum telephoto setting if there's sufficient light around and the camera is held good and steady. Although at a pinch there's ever so slight softening of the edges at maximum wide angle setting, most users of the TX7 would be perfectly happy with results straight out of the camera.
In terms of what this diminutive Cyber-shot offers to make it stand out from the crowd, once again the Sweep Panorama feature is fun for anyone wanting extra wide landscapes (wider than the 25mm lens will already allow that is), though the resultant images are somewhat soft when downloaded and viewed on a desktop. Results worked best for us when there were no moving people or objects in the frame - otherwise it's possible to end up with half a car or a third of a person.
Still, it does prompt the user to take a wider range of photographs than they might otherwise and get an overall view of a scene that's closer to what the human eye captures than a camera lens could normally provide.
In terms of low light photography, with an adjustable ISO range stretching from a higher than usual starting point of ISO 125 though to ISO 3200, there is theoretically the ability for the camera to cope with a wide range of lighting conditions. Whilst the additional auto ISO setting works well, surprisingly good results are to be had up to and including ISO 1600, what visible noise there is at this setting comparable with performance at ISO 800 from rival point and shoots, as we found in our review of the TX5. So if you need to push things a bit in low light - despite the fact that there's a lack of anything approaching a decent grip on the camera - the TX7's Exmor R CMOS sensor does seem to live up to its manufacturer's hype.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Sony CyberShot DSC-TX7. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 125 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft and ideally benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-TX7 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-TX7 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Sony CyberShot DSC-TX7 are Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash, with a Red-eye Reduction option in the Main menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
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)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-TX7's maximum shutter speed is 2 seconds, which is not good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/18th second at ISO 800.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
Sweep Panorama Mode
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and now even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.
This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 camera, which were all taken using the 12 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 / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Movie Displayed
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
The main negatives with regard to the Sony Cyber-shot TX7 are a short-ish battery life, a screen that quickly becomes smeared with fingerprints, a lens location that means it's all too easy for digits to drift into shot, occasional camera shake, and, er, that's about it.
The positives are a reliably consistent snapper that will slide easily and unobtrusively out of, and into, any pocket or handbag and look good whilst doing it. This means that it's yet another contender for your travel camera of choice in an already over-crowded marketplace. While to our mind Fuji's similarly slide-open-and-shoot Z800EXR model offers slightly better value, the Sony nevertheless feels fairly priced if you go by current street prices given the metal construction and a feature set more expansive than the average point and shoot model.
At the end of the day though this is 'just' a snapshot model however, with limited control over how you shoot, but, if that doesn't bother you and getting decent results with the minimum personal input does, then the TX7 looks like another solid option from Sony, even if it does appear to be more of the same with an ever so subtle tweak from the seemingly infinite Cyber-shot 'T' series.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4|
Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 from around the web.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 is a slim 10.2 Megapixel compact with a 4x optical zoom lens and a wide 3.5in touch-screen LCD. Announced in February 2010 alongside the Cyber-shot HX5, both models feature the same Sony Exmor R CMOS sensor which claims superior low light performance. It also allows both the TX7 and HX5 to shoot Full HD video along with very fast bursts, the latter exploited in a variety of innovative modes including one which self-assembles Panoramas and another which stacks multiple images for better results in dim conditions.
Read the full review »
The sleek, sub-compact Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 point-and-shoot camera carries over some of the same features of its sibling, the TX1. Both are outfitted with a 10.2 megapixel Exmor R, back-illuminated CMOS sensor that is designed to capture more light and deliver better low-light performance. Optical image stabilization, a number of easy to use point-and-shoot features and a touchscreen interface are a few of the additional features shared by these two cameras.
Read the full review »
|Precision Digital Zoom||Approx.8x(Total)|
|Smart Zoom||up to 22x (with VGA)|
|Focal Length (f= mm)||4.43-17.7|
|Focal Length (f=35mm conversion)||25-100|
|Macro (cm)||iAuto(W:Approx.1cm(0.39'') to Infinity, T:Approx.50cm(1.64') to Infinity) / Program Auto(W:Approx.8cm(0.26') to Infinity, T:Approx.50cm(1.64') to Infinity)|
|Filter Diameter (mm)||NO|
|Conversion Lens compatibility||NO|
|Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Lens||YES|
|CCD Type||Exmor R CMOS sensor|
|Size (Inches)||1/2.4 type(7.59mm)|
|Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels)||Approx. 10.2|
|Auto Focus Method (Single)||NO|
|Auto Focus Method (Monitoring)||NO|
|Auto Focus Method (Intelligent)||NO|
|Auto Focus Method (Continuous)||NO|
|Auto Focus Area (Multi Point)||9 points (Under Face Undetected)|
|Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Spot)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot)||YES(Touch)|
|Focus Preset (m)||NO|
|Aperture Auto Mode||YES|
|Aperture Priority Mode||NO|
|Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec)||iAuto(2" - 1/1.600) / Program Auto(1" - 1/1.600)|
|NR Slow Shutter||YES|
|Hand Shake Alert||YES|
|Exposure Control||+/- 2.0EV, 1/ 3 EV step|
|White Balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set|
|Light Metering (Multi Pattern)||YES|
|Light Metering (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Light Metering (Spot)||YES|
|ISO Sensitivity (REI)||Auto / 125 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200|
|Scene Selection||9 modes (Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Twilight using a tripod / Backlight / Backlight Porttait / Landscape / Macro / Portrait / Close Focus)|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Distance limitations using Flash (m)||ISO Auto: Approx.0.08-Approx.3.8m(Approx.0.26'-Approx.12.47')(W) / Approx.0.5-Approx.3.1m(Approx.1.64'-Approx.10.17')(T), ISO3200: up to Approx.8.0m(Approx26.25')(W) / Approx.6.3m(Approx20.67')(T)|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|Super SteadyShot capability||NO|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|LCD Screen Size (inches)||8.8cm / 3.5"|
|LCD Total Dots Number||921.600|
|LCD Monitor Type||TFT|
|Auto Bright Monitoring||YES|
|Recording Media||Memory Stick™ Duo(still only), Memory Stick PRO Duo™(Mark2 only for movie). Memory Stick PRO Duo™ High Speed (Still only and no Speed Advantage), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ (No Speed Advantage),|
|Recording Media-II||SD Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), SDHC/SDXC Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), Internal memory (45MB)|
|Memory Stick™ Pro Interface||Parallel|
|DCF (Design rule for Camera File System)||YES|
|DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)||YES|
|Burst Mode (shots)||Approx.10 fps(10 shots)|
|Burst Interval (approximately sec)||0.1 sec.(10 shots)|
|Still Image size (14 Mega 4320 x 3240)||NO|
|Still Image size (13 Mega 4224 x 3168)||NO|
|Still Image size (12 Mega 4000 x 3000)||NO|
|Still Image size (10 Mega 3648 x 2736)||YES|
|Still Image size (9.0 Mega, 3456 x 2592)||NO|
|Still Image size (8.0 Mega, 3264 x 2448)||NO|
|Still Image size (7.2 Mega 3072 x 2304)||NO|
|Still Image size (5.0 Mega, 2592 x 1944)||YES|
|Still Image size (3.1 Mega, 2048 x 1536)||NO|
|Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 3648 x 2056)||YES|
|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|
|Panorama||7.152 x 1.080(258deg) / 4.912 x 1.080(177deg) / 4.912 x 1.920(177deg) / 3.424 x 1.920(123deg)|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Fine Approx.9Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (320x240 30fps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1920 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.17Mbps(Averagebit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1440 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.9Mbps(Averagebit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1440 x 1080 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.12Mbps(Averagebit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1280 x 720 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.6Mbps(Averagebit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 640 x 480 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.3Mbps(Averagebit-rate))||YES|
|Battery Remaining Indicator||YES|
|Exposure Warning Indicator||YES|
|Disk / Memory Stick remaining indicator||YES|
|PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol)||YES|
|Print Image Matching||YES|
|Shop Front Mode||YES|
|Start up time (approximately sec)||1.4|
|Menu Language||English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian|
|Multi use Terminal with HD||YES|
|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||230 shots, 115min (CIPA standard with LCD screen on)|
|Battery for Clock||Manganese-Lithium (MS614SE)|
|Weight (g)||Approx. 133g (4.7oz.)|
|Weight with Accessories (g)||Approx. 149g (5.3oz.)|
|SuppliedSoftware||Picture Motion Browser Ver.5.0(Windows only)|
|Supplied Accessories||Rechargeable Battery Pack(NP-BN1), Battery Charger, A / V Cable, USB Cable, Power Cord, Wrist Strap, Paint Pen, CD-ROM, Multi-output stand|