Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX100V: Performance

July 11, 2011 by Howard Creech Reads (8,883)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 6
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Expandability
    • 0
    • Total Score:
    • 6.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The Sony Cyber-shot TX100V is fashionable, with a unique industro-chic look. What I liked most about this snazzy little digicam is its built-for-convenience design. Close the sliding lens cover and the TX100V becomes a small very flat package that was meant to be slipped into the back pocket of a pair of Levi’s and taken absolutely anywhere and everywhere – all the time.

Everyone likes to have a camera with them, just in case something neat happens. The problem is that most cameras are a pain to carry around; they’re either weighing you down, in danger of being dropped, or (worse) easily forgotten. The folks at Sony had a flash of pure genius when designing the TX series and the TX100V handily capitalizes on that packaging genius. This is the best “pocketable” camera design I have ever seen and I’ve been involved in photography for more than forty years.

Once you open the sliding lens cover and bump the nifty looking little TX100V into camera mode things aren’t quite as cool. The problem, again, is that the TX100V’s touch screen LCD just isn’t precise enough. There’s a lot of difference between what constitutes exceptional performance for a phone touch screen and what constitutes exceptional performance for a camera touch screen, and when you’re trying to record life’s Kodak moments there’s a much lower margin for error.

Here’s a note to Sony’s engineers and designers – shutter buttons (and the video stop/start button is a shutter button) should be dedicated hard-wired controls – never ever virtual controls. The “decisive moment” is what photography is all about. Overall performance was pretty good and in the final analysis the TX100V is an adequate general purpose point-and-shoot digicam capable of producing excellent images.

Shooting Performance
There are many things to consider when buying a new digital camera, however the two most important criteria when appraising digital camera performance are timing/speed and image quality. Image quality should, of course, be the primary decision making factor, however timing/speed is just as important. Image quality is about how the captured image “looks,” image timing is about whether or not you actually got the picture you wanted to get.

Overall, the TX100V does a pretty good job – providing an acceptable level of usability and producing consistently decent images. The TX100V also makes a creditable showing in the performance department. The TX100V matches the best shutter lag timing in DCR’s comparison chart, and comes in close to the top in continuous shooting rates, but hovers near the bottom in our AF acquisition comparison.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Nikon Coolpix S9100 0.01
Sony Cyber-shot TX100 0.01
Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS 0.02
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS 0.03

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Nikon Coolpix S9100 0.18
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS 0.21
Sony Cyber-shot TX100 0.32
Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS 0.36

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Nikon Coolpix S9100 5 15.0
Sony Cyber-shot TX100 10 11.4
Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS 3 3.8
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS 12 0.8

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The TX100V features Sony’s Steady Shot optical image stabilization system which works by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom to compensate for camera movement during exposure. IS allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to 3 EV slower than would have been possible without IS and still get sharply focused (mostly) blur free images. The TX100V’s optical image stabilization system is always on and cannot be turned off.

The TX100V draws its juice from a proprietary Sony Lithium-ion NP-BN1 3.6V (630mAh) rechargeable battery. I couldn’t find any battery life information, but I used the TX100V pretty heavily for two weeks and had to charge the battery three times during the course of my test. I would call battery life about average or maybe a shade below average.

The TX100V’s built-in multi-mode flash almost seems like an afterthought – it is tiny and provides only a minimal selection of external lighting options including Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Slow Syncro and Flash Off. Maximum flash range (according to Sony) is just shy of 17 feet, which seems pretty optimistic to me since the flash is so small.

The TX100V saves images to SD, SDHC, SDXC, and Sony’s Memory Stick PRO Duo memory media and it also permits users to geo-tag their images and videos.

Sony Cyber-shot TX100

Lens Performance
The TX100V’s 4x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom is surprisingly good, especially considering its periscope style build (which is why it doesn’t protrude from the camera body) but corners are a bit soft. The Tessar lens formula is over a hundred years old and I wonder what Carl Zeiss would think about his iconic optical design being so differently configured.

The TX100V’s true wide-angle to short telephoto f/3.5-6.3 25mm to 100mm (equivalent) zoom doesn’t extend when the camera is powered up because the lens is housed inside the camera body. The f/3.5 maximum aperture is a bit slow for shooting indoors, but should be more than adequate for shooting outdoors – at least in decent light. The TX100V’s pint-sized form factor and hard wired shutter button make this camera almost ideal for candid/street shooters.

Center sharpness is pretty good overall, but at the wide-angle end of the zoom corners are slightly soft. I didn’t notice any vignetting (dark corners) and both barrel distortion (straight lines bowing out from the center) and pincushion distortion (straight lines bowing in toward the center) seem well corrected. Contrast is balanced and colors are hue accurate. Chromatic aberration is remarkably well-controlled, but some very minor color fringing is present, especially in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds. Zooming is smooth, silent, and fairly quick.

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