Hands-down one of the coolest-looking cameras available, the TX200V has a supermodel exterior and plenty of solid features. We just wish it weren’t so expensive for a pocket point-and-shoot, but oftentimes beauty doesn’t come cheap.
Features and Design
Simply put, the TX200V is drop-dead beautiful. Looking more like a small smartphone than a strictly digital imaging device, the camera’s glass panel design evokes something akin to luxury goods. You have to look long and hard for keys, toggles, and dials because there are only three: an on/off button, shutter, and a tiny nub on the top right-hand corner that controls zoom. You have to hold the camera at an angle to even see the flash, AF Assist lamp, and the lens opening on the front.
Like all Sony T-series cameras, the TX200V has an internal, non-extending optical zoom so it doesn’t protrude from the camera when you power up. In this case it’s a 5x (26-130mm) Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar glass with optical image stabilization to help eliminate blurry images.
Beyond the zoom control, you make all your camera adjustments by tapping on the icons on the 3.3-inch OLED touchscreen on the back. The 1,230K dot OLED display is also a beauty with deep blacks and strong contrast. This combination touchscreen/UI is one of finest we’ve ever used (more details in the Performance section). Sony should incorporate this technology into its high-end mirrorless Compact System Cameras such as the NEX-6. It’ll add to the price but the payoff would be well worth it.
Besides its good looks, the TX200V is waterproof to 16 feet, so you can take it into the pool or shoot in the rain without fear. It’s also dustproof, but definitely note this is not a “rugged” digicam that can take a drop onto concrete or be stepped upon. Another nice plus is its built-in GPS and compass, making it a cool companion for travelers.
On the bottom of the camera is the battery/card compartment. The battery is rated a so-so 220 shots so having a handy spare or access to USB charging would be a nice plus. One negative is that the TX200V uses Memory Stick Micro or microSDHC cards. These are not our favorite types of media since they’re smaller than a postage stamp and thinner than a potato chip. It is one a tradeoff for keeping the body so compact. In this compartment are also micro HDMI and micro USB connections. The TX200V measures 3.87 x 2.37 x .65 (WHD, in inches) and weighs 4.6 ounces with the battery; you can easily carry it with you everywhere, all the time.
What’s In The Box
This very small camera comes in an equally small carton. In it are the camera, wrist strap, and battery. You charge it in-camera using the AC adapter or via USB (cable and adapter supplied). There’s also a printed “getting started” manual and PlayMemories Home software for handling files. You also get a cleaning cloth to wipe fingerprints off the glass surfaces and a Paint Pen stylus that you can use to “draw” on captured images and add other cutesy touches like hearts and sunbursts. Our review sample came in silver, but the camera is available in three colors – silver, red and violet (all have the same dark-gray glass panel and only the frame has any color).
Performance and Use
The TX200V has an 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor measuring 1/ 2.3 inches (0.43 inches diagonal). You really couldn’t expect a larger one in this form factor so the camera has some inherent limitations; noise at higher ISOs is a given (12,800 is the maximum setting). Still, the CMOS chip delivers 10 frames per second (fps) in Hi Continuous mode for 10 frames and AVCHD Progressive video (1080/60p). There’s no RAW file support and you can only shoot JPEGs (4896×3672 pixels), but you can take 3D images (MPO file format).
Let’s discuss the touchscreen interface for a bit. When you power up you’ll see your main view screen flanked by two rows of icons. Although the overall display measures 3.3 inches this main area is 2.6 (on the diagonal). All of the icons are live, so just tap them to access the options for each. The red-dot movie icon is here as are your shooting modes, to name just a few. If this view is too cluttered, just hit Display Off and only the movie icon remains. Hit Display On and all your adjustments are back in view. It’s also possible to customize the icons by dragging them to the left column; we swapped out ISO for the self-timer for use in Program mode. A series of onscreen instructions makes these chores as light as possible.
Since the TX200V is so small, you’ll need a four-finger praying-mantis handhold – and make sure your left forefinger is placed safely atop the corner to avoid inadvertent portraits of your fingertips. Since there’s no lens to hold onto or built-in grip, you really need to clamp your fingers in position.
You shouldn’t expect ultra-fast AF with a camera of this type but there was little grabbing in day-to-day shooting thanks to the 9-point focusing system. This camera is more for “a shot at a time” rather than action, especially since the top shutter speed is 1/1600th of second versus 1/4000 for an interchangeable lens camera. The touchscreen lets you pick a focus point in the frame and it will keep zeroing in on that spot even if you move the camera. It doesn’t have touch shutter but we didn’t miss it.
We put the TX200V through a good workout when it came time to test it. The camera was set to maximum resolution, starting off in Superior Auto and then on to Scene and Program modes. In Superior Auto you can only adjust ISO – forget aperture and shutter speed. When finished, everything was reviewed on a 27-inch Dell XPS One and a 50-inch HDTV; prints were made, as well.
Although we approached the TX200V with a bit of skepticism – that’s what happens when you primarily review CSCs and DSLRs – we were pleasantly surprised by the results. We knew off-the-bat noise would be an issue at higher ISOs. The range here is 64-12,800 but at 800 things started to go badly; 1,600 is about the highest we’d use for a small image. There’s a lot of built-in noise reduction and this smears detail in low-light/high-ISO situations. Again, this is expected for a small chip point-and-shoot. Outdoors is where you want to be with the TX200V or indoors using the fill-flash.
As you can see in the sample photos, results bordered on terrific. Shots of trees and bushes with red berries had the accuracy you want – colors were realistic with a nice overall tone. When we visited the beach at Asbury Park, N.J., the classic Wonder Bar sign with the Asbury mascot had colors that matched real life, exactly the results people look for. The same held true for iconic buildings and a work-in-progress boardwalk.
Videos were also very good with fine accuracy, although they were a tad noisier than the stills. We had no issues with rolling shutter or moiré patterns. Conveniently you can use the zoom while grabbing clips. The problem we encountered was with wind noise as the breezes by the beach sounded like the revving engines of a 767. Using wind noise reduction didn’t help.
To test the camera’s waterproof capability, we put it in a deep sink while attempting some shots. There is an Underwater scene mode for these types of shots. The camera was able to handle the dip in the pool. We also took it out during a heavy snowfall and found no issues even though the camera doesn’t have the classic cold-proof rating of rugged digicams.
The touchscreen is quite useful in Playback as you can swipe forward/back through your images. Tapping on the photo enlarges it but you can’t pinch to expand/contract. When you’re in Playback, you can add Picture Effects such as Watercolor and Illustration by tapping the Menu icon. You can also paint on the images with the stylus, or even add a frame. These “fun” features are very simple to play with and the onscreen guide makes it a total breeze to use. Since all functions require going through the touchscreen, you’ll be happy to know we had no issues using it in bright sunshine (you can crank up Panel Brightness if necessary).
This is a very good go-everywhere camera for its intended audience: people who want a slick point-and-shoot that takes good photos and superior videos. With its limited adjustments, this is not for photo geeks. That said, we really like the touchscreen and user interface. It’s a fine little digicam when given enough light, but please don’t spend anywhere near list (reputable online sites have it for less than $375).
- Beautiful, clean design
- High-quality stills/videos under ample light
- Excellent touchscreen/UI
- Few manual adjustments
- Uses “micro” media cards
- *Noisy at higher ISOs