Sony has been the leader in producing thin, stylish cameras with folded optics since it introduced the Cyber-shot DSC-T1 back in 2003. The Cyber-shot DSC-TX7, announced in January 2010, is currently Sony's top of the line camera in this category by virtue of its good looks, performance, features and high price.
There's no doubt about it, the TX7 is a beautiful camera - small, sleek and only 18mm (0.7-inches) thick. Its brushed metal front panel incorporates a sliding lens cover. Slide it down to turn the camera on, slide it up to protect the lens and turn the camera off. As the lens is located in the upper right corner, I found myself occasionally blocking it with my left hand, which I use to steady the camera when taking pictures. The rear of the TX7 sports an outstanding 3.5-inch, 920,000 dot LCD touch screen, which is used for all menu functions. The camera's slim body and smooth surface allow it to fit easily into a pocket or purse.
While the TX7's 10.2 megapixel resolution and 4x optical zoom seem rather ordinary, keep in mind that the lens has a very wide angle of view, 25mm, which extends to a useful 100mm (35mm equivalent). The heart of the camera, though, is its 1/2.4-inch EXMOR R CMOS sensor, which is designed for superior low light performance. The sensor also enables the TX7 to have some interesting features. One is the ability to shoot movies in full HD, 1920 x 1080, at 60 frames per second, using the new AVCHD recording format. Another is a very fast continuous shooting mode of up to 10 frames per second. Perhaps the most interesting feature is a "sweep" panorama mode which allows you to make wide screen panorama images simply by sweeping the camera from side to side.
I've had a chance to play with the TX7 for a few days and I'm enjoying the experience. Having never used a touch screen, I was somewhat intimidated at first, but the menus are very clear and the screen reacts quickly to the touch. I did have to be careful not to inadvertently press any virtual buttons when trying to focus the camera, but I'm sure I'll get better with practice.
Although I have yet to try out the HD movie mode, high speed continuous shooting or sweep panorama mode, I have taken quite a few photos. As you can see, the camera produces very pleasing colors, especially at the macro level. Focusing seems to be consistently reliable and produces sharp images. I'll know more about the TX7 in a few days but so far I'm impressed.