Sony's TX series point-and-shoots have been around long enough now to accumulate a pretty sizable fan base. Last year's TX9 was very popular with consumers and its successor, the Sony Cybershot DSC TX100V, is now available. Lots of folks liked the TX9's Industro-chic look, ultra-slim profile, sliding front cover, and non-protruding 4x zoom lens. At first glance the TX100V doesn't look much different than its predecessor, but under the hood there have been a lot of changes.
The TX100V is the world's first ultra-compact digicam to offer 16 megapixel resolution (via its 1:2.33 Exmor R CMOS image sensor) and it features a new 3.5-inch touchscreen OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) monitor that completely dominates the back of the camera. OLED screens are known for outstanding blacks, high contrast, and accurate color reproduction. If all that isn't enough, the TX100V's LCD resolution is an amazing 1229k dots making this screen far sharper than those offered by the competition - very important when checking overall sharpness in macro shots and for assessing critical focus in other photographic genres.
The TX100V also permits users to geo-tag images and videos. I often point out that the video modes of point-and-shoots can't compete with a full featured camcorder, but I certainly can't say that about the TX100V which generates 1080 HD video at 60 fps in the AVCHD format at a 28 Mbps compression rate. Not all consumer camcorders offer comparable video capabilities, and you can't slip any of those bad-boys in the back pocket of your Levi's. The TX100V also features a 3D shooting mode and a Background Defocus mode for "old school" style portraits.
The TX100V's 4x (25-100mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom is surprisingly good, especially considering it is a periscope style zoom (which is why it doesn't protrude from the camera body) but corners are a bit soft. The Tessar lens is over a hundred years old and I wonder what Carl Zeiss would think about his most famous optical formula being so differently configured.
The TX100V (which is available in red, silver or black) measures 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.72 inches and tips the scale at a featherweight 5.2 ounces (with battery and memory card) which is both smaller and lighter than most smartphones. In fact, with the front cover closed, the TX100V actually looks more like a smartphone than a digital camera. Users slide the front panel (which also acts as the lens cover) down to power the camera up and then slide the front cover back to its closed position to power the camera down.
I've only had the camera for a week, but so far I'm impressed with the image quality. I should confess that I'm not partial to touchscreen LCDs and the TX100V's is no exception so far. The TX100's screen is not very responsive and often requires multiple taps to get the function you want to come up.
With some cameras, that isn't a problem because they have (in addition to the touchscreen) redundant traditional controls - not the TX100. The only traditional control on the TX100 (aside from the shutter button) is a tiny on/off button. I even persuaded a young friend who loves touchscreen devices to audition the TX100's. She also needed to make multiple taps to enable every function - just like I did. I'll get into the menu in the full review - suffice it to say that I found it as unresponsive and difficult to use as the screen.
Finally, the TX100's huge super-shiny LCD screen is subject to above average glare and reflections in outdoor shooting and is also the most incredible fingerprint magnet (there isn't any place on the back of the camera to rest your thumbs without touching the screen) I've ever seen.
The TX100V won't be for everybody - with an MSRP of almost $400, it costs about four times what Canon's cheapest digicam sells for and more than twice as much as an average point-and-shoot. The feature rich TX100V was obviously designed for folks who are seeking a high-end camera, but it allows essentially no user input into the exposure process - so it clearly wasn't designed for traditional photography enthusiasts. We'll cover the Sony TX100V in more detail in our upcoming full review.