Design and features
The Sony TX10 is to rugged cameras what Scarlett Johansson is to moviemaking — it's all about the looks. Normally, anyone who is remotely interested in aesthetics will steer well clear of tough cameras as they're all as hideous as can be. The TX10, however, turns this preconception on its head with its stylish exterior.
Like the camera that this supersedes, the TX5, the TX10 couples a slide-down front panel with a 3-inch touchscreen at the back. There are only a few (tiny) physical buttons to be found, including the shutter and power button combination at the top, offset by the miniature zoom rocker on the side. A playback button and video record button can be found just beneath these main controls. The front sliding panel is a bit petulant, only wanting to move down when it's pushed from a certain angle. Behind it is a 4x optical zoom Carl Zeiss-branded lens, with a maximum aperture range of f/3.5-4.6, as well as a stereo microphone for 1080i HD video recording.
The touchscreen has plenty of the features that one would expect, including touch-to-focus and a double tap in playback mode to zoom-in on an image. Featuring Sony's Exmor R sensor, this backlit CMOS is the same variety as found on many other Cyber-shot cameras, allowing for quick continuous shooting and good low-light performance. The TX10 can shoot in 4:3 (full 16.2-megapixel resolution) or 16:9 (12-megapixel resolution).
Its rugged credentials are pretty good, though not class-winning when compared with other offerings from Panasonic and Olympus. See our comparison table below for more. Shooting options are plentiful, though accessing them can be a little like trying to find a needle in a haystack given the tiny font size on the screen. Photographers can choose from intelligent automatic, superior automatic, panorama (including both iSweep and underwater modes), program automatic, background defocus, scene modes, movie mode and 3D-shooting for stills, panoramas or multi-angle shots.
The shooting options available on the TX10. (Credit: CBSi)
The TX10 is plagued by an interesting Catch 22: while we praise it for being a sexy and stylish rugged camera, it just doesn't look like it will withstand the wear and tear of a tough lifestyle. Certainly, after a week or so of living in one of the toughest environments we know of (a woman's handbag), it emerged with a few small scratches on the touchscreen. Funnily enough, when dropped onto concrete (from about one metre above the ground) it emerged unscathed. An intriguing dichotomy if ever we saw one.
As with all rugged cameras, there are strict instructions that you need to follow to maintain the waterproof credentials. These can be found in the camera menus and in the manual. Connectivity is provided via mini-HDMI and a proprietary connector for battery charging and interfacing with a computer.
Compared toCompared to
|Olympus Tough TG-810||Panasonic Lumix FT3||Sony Cyber-shot TX10|
|14-megapixel CCD||12.1-megapixel CCD||16.2-megapixel Exmor R|
|3-inch LCD (920,000-dot)||2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot)||3-inch LCD (921,000-dot)|
|Waterproof 10m, shockproof 2m||Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m||Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m|
|5x optical zoom||4.6x optical zoom||4x optical zoom|
|28mm wide-angle||28mm wide-angle||25mm wide-angle|
|GPS tagging||GPS tagging||No GPS tagging|
|HD video (720p)||HD video (1080i)||HD video (1080i)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Sony Cyber-shot TX126.96.36.199
- Olympus Tough TG-8101.520.7
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Sony Cyber-shot TX1010
- Olympus Tough TG-8100.6
Note that the TX10 takes 10 frames per second at a reduced VGA resolution (not the 16.2-megapixel resolution stated on the documentation). Sony rates the battery for the TX10 at 250 shots.
The TX10 produces images that look great straight out of the camera, especially when reviewed on the screen. Like all the other 16-megapixel compacts that we've seen this year, though, at full magnification, pictures do look slightly over-processed. At the wide-end of the lens (25mm) there is quite a lot of barrel distortion, too.
In line with the Exmor R sensor's previous performance on other Sony compacts, low-light photos are great — certainly the best from any rugged compact camera we've seen. Pinks and blues in particular are very punchy, perhaps a bit too oversaturated for some people's liking, but we found them really pleasing.
Automatic white balance under artificial fluorescent lighting is a little blue, not something out of the ordinary on a compact camera, though, as it makes underwater scenes "pop". The flash illuminates the scene a little unevenly, with the most intense spread of light in the centre of the frame, and some drop-off towards the edges. Lens sharpness also has the same issue, dropping off quite dramatically from the centre.
Sony has gone on record to state that there will be no underwater video camera released in 2011, so the TX10 is going to have to do it all. Video is recorded in AVCHD format at 1080i. Quality is decent, with good sound from the stereo microphone. There is a degree of fringing visible on contrasty areas on the video image, though colours are good.
Exposure: 1/30, f/3.5, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/25, f/3.5, ISO 800, flash fired
Exposure: 1/400, f/5, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/500, f/4.5, ISO 125
While it's got plenty of issues, the TX10 is the best rugged camera yet from the 2011 crop. Provided that you don't need extreme waterproofing and can cope with the small buttons, this go-most-places camera should be up to the task.