Sep 22

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We first spotted Sony’s TX-5 at PMA in Anaheim. Sony’s durable, ruggedized, slim, T-series shooter quickly became a favorite in the point-n-shoot crowd. Cameras that shoot underwater, in sand, mud, snow and can be dropped 3+ feet isn’t new. Sony didn’t pioneer this category, but they made it look sexy.

Just by looking at it, the TX-5 doesn’t stand out from the slim-line T-series. Everything about it says it’s just like it’s sisters and brothers (TX-7 and others). You get a sliding lens cover (which also acts as a power on/off), large 3.5″ touchscreen (along with touchscreen focus), a bevy of in camera options and Sony’s own iSweep Panorama.

Most of the options are pretty standard (white balance, ISO controls, etc) and are what you’d expect in a capable, easy to use point-n-shoot camera. Menu layouts are equally simple, but can get a little too layered and sometimes you have to drive down a few options to get what you really want.

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Other than the few exceptions, the menu is a simple touch interface. You can get at shooting modes, ISO’s, and bunch of other settings from the main screen/viewfinder. Changes are usually require a total of one or two taps/swipes. You can save up to 3 customized shooting modes for later use. I save these for settings and options that I most frequently use.

Once you get past the small bump of a learning curve, you’ll be using all the options like a pro. The full auto mode is more than enough if you want to just get going.

Along with all the Sony bells and whistles, a few annoying Sony issues came along for the ride. The worst being the auto white balance. For the novice shooters out there, this is the feature that compensates for the light source and prevents you from shooting people with blue skin.

Most of the time the auto white balance does a good job. But, not all the time. You’ll find you need to tweak the settings manually to adjust for the light source. It is simple as Sony provides icons and text that clearly tell you what kind of a light source to compensate for (tungsten bulbs, florescent, sun, etc.). But even those semi-auto settings don’t always work and I find Sony’s point-n-shoot cameras to be the most error-prone.

The good news is that Sony does include the option to set your own white balance. Take a test shot in the lighting environment you’re in. Once the test image is displayed, tap the area on the image that should be white and that white balance setting is saved. The camera then compensates for every shot you take where you have the “manual” white balance set.

While it’s a nice effort, sometimes even this doesn’t work well as you’ll get reversed yellows and reds (and even that annoying purple-blue haze) in certain images.

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The iSweep Panorama feature makes up for the white balance short comings. Yeah, it might not make sense, but the on-board stitching is just sooo darn cool and easy to use that you’ll never shoot panoramas in any other way….EVER.

Just turn iSweep on, hit the shutter, and sweep in the direction of the arrow (user selectable in all four directions). Stop moving and TX-5’s on board stitching takes over.

That’s it. When you transfer the image over, you get a ready to go (no funky edged) panorama shot that’s to die for. And you can go full 360.

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Camera hardware is equally nice and you’ll never know by looking at it, but TX-5 can handle 1.5 meter falls, an hour in 10 ft of water, sand/dust resistant, and withstand cold up to -10 C/14 F. Taking pictures underwater even includes an on-board underwater filter. You’ll find accurate skin tones being reproduced from indoor and outdoor pools. Beach performance rocks.

The only issue I have here is with battery life. It’s not as stellar as Sony’s wider bodied cameras, but lasted about 200 shots for me. Although it is listed as being able to shoot more on a single charge.

Say what you want about Sony’s cameras being overpriced and overall under-performers. I find Sony’s TX-5 to be more than capable but definitely priced at the high end at around $330. Colors in day-light are bright and well saturated with excellent contrast. Most surprising to me were the really sharp blacks and color hues in every test shot that I took.

Fast shutter and start-up times (not to mention its ruggedness) make this a perfect camera for taking shots of the kids in all situations. The rest of the features include 4x optical zoom and did I mention the lightning fast 10.2 MP CMOS sensor? Also included is HD out (1080i with optional cables) and HD 720p video capture.

Considering the entire package, it’s worth the $300+. I expect Sony’s TX-5 will last longer than your average point-n-shoot, so you’ll get your money’s worth in the long run. Even so, it’s a more than capable stand-alone point-n-shoot camera that easily compares with the likes of Nikon in this price range.

(Editor’s Note: We ended up buying this camera after we reviewed it. We plan to add it to our growing stable of cameras as we head out to events and shows.)

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