Sony Cybershot TX7 mini-review (and low light performance)

Rudy (Mandy and Elliot's cat) @ ISO 3200 using optical zoom on camera
I never thought I'd end up with Sony point & shoot, but I did. While I like the idea of compact cameras that allow complete manual override, in practice, I really use compact cameras as point & shoots, relying on my larger cameras for (real) work.

I'm now using a Sony Cybershot TX7, which I purchased to replace my lost Panasonic DMC-LX3. So far, I'm really enjoying it, and have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images I'm getting out of it, especially in low light.

100% crop, 1/30s @ f/4.5, ISO 3200

The TX7 is pretty much an auto-everything camera. It doesn't have manual modes, but I'm finding that it does just fine in its plethora of auto modes. I thought I'd miss the f2.0 lens of the Panny LX3, but the Sony's anti-blur mode makes up for its slow f3.5 (max) lens by taking a bunch of photos in rapid succession and keeping the sharpest one (a la Nikon Coolpix's "Best Shot Selector" mode from 1999). It features a 25mm (equivalent) lens, which is fantastically wide (like the 24mm-equiv of my old LX3). It will also shoot 10 full-resolution frames in 1 second, and will auto-stitch panoramas if you sweep the camera from one side to another.

The TX7 is also tiny, and definitely fits in pretty much any pocket. There is no lens cap to lose. The form factor is right, and I don't have to think about whether I have an appropriate pocket when I'm running out the door. I just grab it and go.

**Why not the waterproof TX5?**

I purchased the TX7 over the TX5 because the TX7 features 1080/60i AVCHD video @ ~17Mbps versus the weak 720p @ 6Mbps in the TX5. 1080i AVCHD @ 17Mbps is pretty damned good for a point & shoot. I wish the TX7 shot H.264 MP4 at the same resolution and bitrate (to avoid the awkward Final Cut Pro log & transfer step), but it doesn't.

Maybe the successor to the Canon S90 will have it all. I really like the idea of the S90, but in practice, I think the TX7 is better.

My wish list for a compact camera includes the picture quality of the S90 combined with the advanced software features, wide lens, and video resolution of the TX7. Oh, a big sensor, pre-roll and RAW video would be nice, too. ;)