Design and features
Sharing a similar aesthetic to Sony's other slimline TX-series cameras, the TX9 features a sliding front metal panel that covers a 4x optical zoom lens. It moves internally, so no parts protrude from the camera itself when the lens is zooming. At the wide-end it's 25mm, but otherwise it's unremarkable — opening to f/3.5-4.6 maximum aperture at the wide and telephoto extremes.
At the top of the device is a slim shutter and power button and the tiniest zoom rocker you could imagine. Other top panel evidence gives away that this camera has HD video recording at 1080i in AVCHD (or MPEG-4). A 12.1-megapixel sensor with Sony's Exmor R technology means, at least in theory, it should give good low-light shots and speedy performance.
Elsewhere, swivel the camera around and a glorious 3.5-inch touchscreen panel greets you, with a 921,000-dot resolution. It's rivalled only by Samsung's touchscreens in terms of girth, on cameras like the ST5500 with 3.7 inches of screen time.
Tap to focus is a feature we're seeing more and more of on touchscreen cameras, and the TX9 definitely has this, but there is no touchscreen shutter release — you still need to press the physical button to take the image.
Shooting modes are accessible via the green mode command at the top left corner of the screen, and brings up an interface with the following selections: intelligent auto, superior auto, iSweep panorama, movie mode, program, background defocus, scene selection and 3D shooting. Superior auto takes up to six shots in quick succession to reduce noise and increase dynamic range. In our tests, the difference between standard automatic mode and superior auto were hardly noticeable.
In the box comes a dock that provides HDMI out, USB connectivity, DC input and a stereo AV-out port. The TX9 also is compatible with the party dock, as we reviewed in conjunction with the TX1.
All things 3D
As 3D imaging slowly permeates the camera market, Sony is one of the first to move with its 3D sweep panorama technology that we also saw in the company's interchangeable lens camera, the NEX-5.
The TX9 has two main 3D shooting modes; 3D sweep panorama, which constructs images by panning the camera across a set axis. The other is sweep multi-axis mode, which takes 15 photos across the frame at variable angles and when you tilt the camera in playback mode it simulates the effect of a 3D image. And when we say simulate, it really is nothing like a 3D experience. It works best when used on images with strong foreground and background elements, but for most examples (as you can see below) it doesn't really look that effective.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- Shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Sony Cyber-shot TX91.720.3
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Sony Cyber-shot TX910
Editor's note: in continuous shooting mode, using the high interval, the TX9 takes 10 frames at one time before pausing to process them. As we review similar cameras to the TX9, comparative performance metrics will be added to this review.
Sony rates the battery life at 230 shots or 115 minutes of video recording using the supplied Lithium-ion battery.
Images taken on the twilight setting appear very good at a reduced resolution, with little colour shift. As with other Sony cameras we tested, images at low ISO levels also appear slightly over-processed. But, this camera impresses on colours, with particularly punchy hues in the blue and green channels without being unnatural.
Even though some images suffer from over-processing, the lens is able to resolve a lot of detail and we must award points for it being able to maintain sharpness and detail rather than producing smeary results at high ISO levels.
The flash does create some uneven illumination over subjects and there's a slight degree of chromatic aberration present. Barrel distortion at the wide end is particularly noticeable.
While you can use the optical zoom during filming, you can't record AVCHD clips on an SD card that has not been formatted with this camera (you can still record MPEG-4 clips, though). This isn't documented anywhere — instead, if you try and record AVCHD with an SD or SDHC card that was used in another camera or device it will just give you the message "Recording is unavailable in this movie format" on the camera screen. The overall quality is good, but not exceptional, as is common on cameras of this type and size.
Click each image below for JPEGs straight from the TX9. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/80, f/3.5, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/13, f/4, ISO 1600
Exposure: 1/60, f/3.5, ISO 125
The Sony TX9 is a stylish touchscreen camera that mostly delivers on its image quality promise. Larger fingers will need to mind its tiny form factor, though.