Testing / Performance
We test digital cameras’ ability to reproduce accurate colors by photographing a GretagMacbeth color chart, widely accepted by the imaging industry as the standard for colors. Some manufacturers do better than others when compared using this chart; Canon digital cameras typically perform very well with overall scores hitting double digits. We put this reputation to the test. We uploaded the TX1’s images of the chart into Imatest software. The program identifies the exact color captured by the camera and compares it with the color of the original GretagMacbeth chart. Imatest outputs a modified color chart so the difference can be seen.
The chart below shows the original GretagMacbeth’s colors in the vertical rectangle of each tile. The outer frame of each tile shows the color produced by the Canon PowerShot TX1. The dab of color between those two items shows the ideal color corrected for luminance by the software.
To make it a little easier on the eyes and brain, Imatest also output a graph showing each of the chart’s 24 tiles spread onto the spectrum. The center of the image is unsaturated and becomes more and more saturated towards the edges. The ideal colors from the GretagMacbeth chart show up as squares and the Canon TX1’s colors are circles. The line connecting the two shapes shows just how much error there is between the two colors; ideally, that line wouldn’t be seen at all.
Even though the white balance is very close to spot on, all of the other colors are off. The mean color error came out to 7.77 and colors were oversaturated by 13.6 percent. The overall color score is a lackluster 7.72, which is one of the worst scores we’ve seen from a recent Canon digital camera.
*Generally, the automatic white balance setting on the TX1 is a safe bet. Some cameras can’t seem to get it right, but this one does quite well. The camera doesn’t have a flash preset mode, but the auto mode handled it very well so perhaps it doesn’t need a preset.
*When the automatic and preset white balance modes were compared side to side, almost all of them were quite close. The fluorescent preset was the most inaccurate; the auto mode actually did better under those lighting conditions. The most accurate preset was tungsten, in which the auto mode freaked out.
**Still Life Sequences
***Click on any of the thumbs below to view the high-resolution images.*
The Canon PowerShot TX1 has a modest 7.1-megapixel sensor that we tested by photographing an industry standard resolution chart. We shot the chart at various apertures and focal lengths to make sure we got the absolutely sharpest shot possible. Imatest analyzed the images and output numerical results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). That unit describes how many theoretical alternating black and white lines of equal thickness could fit across the frame.
The sharpest image snapped by the Canon PowerShot TX1 is shown above. It was taken using a focal length of 19.8mm and an aperture of f/4.4; the ISO was set at the lowest 80. The image looks fairly sharp but shows fading in the edges and color fringing throughout; it is especially vibrant on the top edge.
The Canon PowerShot TX1 resolved 1484 lw/ph horizontally with 2.3 percent oversharpening and 1302 lw/ph vertically with 17.7 percent undersharpening. For comparison sake, the 7.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot A570 IS read 1794 lw/ph horizontally and 1656 lw/ph vertically. The TX1 costs a lot more than the A-series cameras, but the A570 sure outperformed it in terms of capturing details. Once again, the TX1 doesn’t live up to expectations with an overall resolution score of 5.56.
Noise - Auto ISO*(1.6)*
The Canon PowerShot TX1 didn’t select the lowest ISO setting when it was set to Auto and put under a bright 3000 lux. Instead, it shot at ISO 200 which had more than enough noise and resulted in a poor 1.6 overall score.
Noise - Manual ISO*(6.25)*
We photographed the GretagMacbeth chart at every manual ISO setting and uploaded the images to Imatest to see how much noise was produced in each one. The results are in the chart below, which shows the 80-1600 manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the percentage of noise in the image on the vertical axis.
By ISO 400, already 2 percent of the image is degraded to noise. It only gets worse from there. It jumps to 3 percent at ISO 800 and more than 4 percent at ISO 1600. In general, users should keep the ISO as low as possible and try not to exceed 400.
We dimmed the studio lights and had a date with the Canon TX1 in 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. These diminishing light levels help us find any limitations the sensor may have and help you see how your dance club photos would turn out.
None of the images are completely grilled, so that’s good news. Here’s the bad news: big chunky noise crawls all over the image the longer the shutter is open. The shutter can open up to 15 seconds, so we tested it from 1-15 seconds. The chart below shows the exposure time on the horizontal axis and the percentage of noise in the image on the vertical axis.
From 1 to 5 seconds, the amount of noise actually decreases – perhaps as the noise reduction system kicks in. From there on, it only goes up.
Despite all that noise, colors remain intact during long exposures and saturation remains fairly true. Noise increases with exposure length, but not too drastically. The images' exposure length and processing time are the same, which suggests the TX1 applies automatic - and fairly consistent - noise reduction.
Dynamic range describes how well a camera can capture a variety of light and dark elements in a single picture and show detail too. To test it, we photographed a backlit Stouffer film chart that shows a row of rectangles from completely transparent to completely black. We tested the chart at each manual ISO setting because there is typically a loss in detail when the ISO is increased.
The chart below shows the number of exposure values captured in a single image on the vertical axis and the manual ISO setting on the horizontal axis.
Beware of the ISO! Each tiny increase in ISO sensitivity comes with a huge decrease in dynamic range. There is a huge drop after ISO 200, so users should be wary of using any setting above that when details are important to capture. Shooting a wedding with a white dress and black tux? Don’t even think about anything above ISO 200. The Canon PowerShot TX1 performed poorly when compared to other point-and-shoot digital cameras with its 4.66 overall dynamic range score.
***Startup to First Shot (7.8)
*The Canon PowerShot TX1 took 2.2 seconds to start up and take its first shot. This is decent for a compact digital camera, but nothing to write home about.
Canon advertises a 2 fps burst mode and the TX1 held true to that spec during testing. We set the camera to the continuous setting and it snapped a picture every half-second until the card was full. The continuous auto focus mode refocuses before each shot and moves at a slower pace, taking a shot every 0.9 seconds. The burst mode’s speed isn’t incredibly impressive but its consistency and ability to fill the memory to capacity is a nice touch indeed.
When the camera had the focus previously locked, the shutter lag was hardly measurable. Starting from scratch though, it took the camera a half-second to focus before snapping a picture. This is no good for portraits: eyes will blink, heads will turn, and children will run wild in a half-second’s time.
The Canon PowerShot TX1’s value rides on its video capabilities. We checked out its footage in the studio and the mean color error came out to 23, more than triple the error of the still images taken in the same lighting. The automatic white balance seemed very unbalanced while shooting video. Saturation jumped to 136.8 percent, but the average amount of noise remained a reasonable 0.8 percent. Oh Canon, we’re not off to a good start here.
*Low Light - 30 lux *
We dimmed the lights to a level where reading could still be achieved with some squinting. The mean color error returned to within normal range at 9.84, but colors were dull and dreary. Saturation drooped to 93.45 percent. Noise was the big issue here: the average amount was 4.04 percent of the image – way too much.
The Canon TX1 touts high-definition video resolution and this is one area where the camera (as video recorder) performed well. Imatest analyzed frames from the TX1's video footage and output results in line widths per picture height (lw/ph) - the same units that the still images were described in. Horizontally, the camera resolved 479 lw/ph but with an incredible 46.6 percent oversharpening. Vertically, it resolved 443 lw/ph with 19.4 percent oversharpening. This is better than the typical digital camera’s movie mode, as it should be, but the camera's strong processing led to some visible artifacts and occasional haloing.
*Video Resolution - High Definition (100% crops)
Video Resolution - Standard Definition (100% crops)
For a camera that is designed to be a hybrid model with its supposedly superior video capabilities, the TX1’s video of moving subjects was extremely disappointing. The difference between the standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) was minimal, the main difference being the size (resolution) of the frame.
In HD, with the larger frame, noise in darker areas was much more apparent and problematic than in SD. In both SD and HD, the TX1 showed some serious processing flaws, particularly in its handling of highlights in the image. For example, when we shot footage of cars driving by outside our office on a sunny day, the sun on the windshield made a bright spot that the camera then stretched into a vertical column extending from the bottom of the frame to the very top. This also washed out entire chunks of the image. However, even more troubling was the TX1's tendency to show a duplicate, ghost-like reproduction of objects in motion. Our colleagues at camcorderinfo.com speculate that the artifact is actually anticipatory information caused by the processor reading information off the sensor too quickly. Unfortunately, the artifacts are quite distracting and overshadow the benefit of the camera's larger video resolution.
Don’t abandon all hope for the Canon TX1. There are some good points to its movie mode: the focus was excellent and the motion itself was smooth, although it was a little better in SD than HD. Those few rays of hope are outweighed by the poor video processing and compression, poor color accuracy in bright light, and an abundance of noise in low light. And don’t forget the sheer madness involved when trying to connect the handful of cables to even view the HD video. Overall, the TX1 isn’t a worthwhile purchase as a video camcorder, though hopefully its pitfalls will help further the development of a true hybrid device
There is no optical viewfinder on the TX1, but a more useful live preview is available on the 1.8-inch LCD monitor. This monitor folds out 180 degrees and rotates 270 degrees. It can also tilt downward while angled; this joint gives it its Vari-Angle name.
The monitor covers 100 percent of the field of view, so what you see is what you get. The info on the screen can be changed with the Disp. button on the back; file info can appear and disappear along with grid and guide lines, which can be activated in the recording menu, that help with framing. In the menu, there is also an option to reverse the display whether the camera is held vertically or horizontally. Holding it horizontally is very awkward and probably won’t happen often though. More info about the screen itself is in the next section.
Viewing images on the screen outdoors is difficult at the default brightness setting, but fine if users enter the setup menu and boost the brightness to the top of the +/- 7 scale. Overall, the 1.8-inch screen makes a decent viewfinder but is a bit small and can be a pain to rotate while shooting video.
At 1.8 inches, the TX1’s screen is on the small side, but there really isn’t much real estate available on the camera for anything larger. Its size affects reading menus more than it does snapping pictures anyway. The screen only has 115,000 pixels, which isn’t great but sufficient.
The TX1’s low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD is on a big sturdy hinge and rotates smoothly to just about any angle. The screen itself has a wide view from side to side, but washes out when viewing it above and below eye level - this is where rotation is a plus though as it lets you view the screen from any angle.
The TX1 has Canon’s new Pure Color technology, which resists glare, scratches, and fingerprints. The anti-glare coating looks almost purple when the screen is off and viewed in moderate light. The surface feels more like soft plastic than glass and thus doesn’t scratch easily. As for fingerprints, I still left a few prints on the screen but they didn’t look as greasy and gross as the ones on the rest of the stainless steel camera body. Overall, it seems to work pretty well.
One big drawback to the LCD screen is that it must be folded out at all times. Canon’s A-series digital cameras allow users to either fold the LCD out or leave it in and view the image on the back. The TX1’s LCD folds out of the left side and can be folded back in with the screen facing out, but then to view it, the camera would have to be flipped horizontally, which puts the LCD on the top of the camera and the shutter release button on the right side; it feels very backwards. The screen also has to be folded out when changing memory cards because the screen blocks the door.
The screen does a nice job of resisting glare and fingerprints, and the rotating hinge allows the screen to be viewed at any angle. However, rotating the screen while shooting video makes for jumpy movies and folding it into the side of the camera isn’t practical.
The TX1 has a built-in flash unit just above the lens at the top of the camera’s vertically oriented front face. According to Canon, the flash can only reach from 1.6-6.6 feet at best when the lens is zoomed wide and 3.3-3.9 feet when zoomed in. It’s almost laughable that a flash wouldn’t be effective more than 3.9 feet when users are zoomed in 10x. Perhaps laugh, but perhaps cry too.
In the macro mode, the flash is effective from 1.1-1.6 feet. The flash is so weak that it doesn’t often overexpose subjects, a common problem with the flash in macro mode. There is no flash exposure compensation like on some other Canon digital cameras, so users may have to supplement the flash with their own lighting.
Canon sells a PowerShot accessory flash unit, which can be purchased for about $100. The HF-DC1 flash extends the reach much farther, but is also about the same size of the camera and will look a bit ridiculous next to it.
By pushing the joystick to the right, users can set the flash mode to On, Off, or Auto. The list may seem skimpy, but that’s only because the other flash options are located in the recording menu where slow sync and red-eye reduction can be turned on and off.
The red-eye reduction should be turned on at all times, but the drawback is that it adds to the actual time it takes to snap a picture. And sometimes it still doesn’t work. This is the worst flash I’ve seen in awhile in terms of red-eye. In about 20 percent of the portraits that I took, red eyes glared back at me. There is a red-eye fix feature in the playback menu and it appears to be effective (and even saves the picture as a separate file), but it’s annoying to have to fix every fifth image.
The flash fired fairly evenly when zoomed out with only a little darkening in the corners of the frame. When zoomed in, the entire bottom edge of the picture was darker. The TX1’s weak flash shouldn’t be relied on to illuminate scenes. And once again, beware the scary red eyes.
This hybrid digital camera has a Canon 10x optical zoom lens that reaches far, but not wide. It measures 6.5-65mm, which is equivalent to 39-390mm in 35mm format. This won’t be good for landscape shots, although there is a panorama stitch mode that can merge multiple images to create wider pictures. The lens has max apertures of f/3.5 in wide and f/5.6 in telephoto; neither is very impressive and won’t let in as much light as other f/2.8 lenses, but is typical of small 10x lenses on the market.
The Canon PowerShot TX1’s lens has a sliding metal door that protects it when the camera is turned off. When powered on, the door snaps open and the lens pops out of the camera about ¾-inch. The lens moves when the paddle-like zoom control is pushed up (telephoto) or down (wide). The lens on the TX1 is placed just above the middle of the back; it didn’t seem high enough – although there really isn’t any space above it either. It is stuck in an awkward place that makes handling a difficult endeavor. The control is sensitive, stopping at nearly 40 focal lengths within the range. Usually, the zoom moves at a decent pace – about 3.5 seconds from one end to the other. The optical zoom is available while recording movies. However, the zoom moves twice as slowly from one end to the other. The control is sensitive to the touch too, so it can slow down even more than that.
If users want a little more than 10x zoom, there is 4x digital zoom available. It can be turned on in the recording menu. The digital zoom can be used with standard 4:3 movies, although it isn’t recommended because it degrades image quality.
Users should be wary of the telephoto end of the zoom range. The flash is only effective from 3.3-3.9 feet when the lens is zoomed in, which is laughable and will rarely be useful. The auto focus is a little slower too, so there’s a greater chance of missing fleeting moments.
The long zoom lens is backed up by an optical image stabilization system that noticeably reduces blur in still images and keeps the picture steady in movies. Read: "Reduces," not "eliminates." Even with image stabilization turned on, blurry pictures still appeared when shutter speeds were too slow or the lighting was too dim. It works well in eliminating the effects of shaking hands but doesn’t do as well with shaking subjects.
The image stabilization mode can be changed in the recording menu. It can be turned off, although it probably shouldn’t ever be turned off unless trying to conserve battery power, which unfortunately may need to be done more often than you’d like. See the battery section for details.) The stabilization can be set to run continuously, from side to side only (Panning), and when the exposure is locked (Shoot Only). The image stabilization works well and is most effective in the movie mode when hands are fumbling with the awkward camera.
The 10x lens has its tradeoffs. It is very compact, which may attract consumers who want a hybrid camera without lugging around an enormous lens like the chunky 12x one on the PowerShot S3 IS or S5 IS. The TX1’s lens doesn’t get a lot of light from the relatively small apertures though, and it doesn’t provide a very wide focal length. It is a very basic long zoom lens and is typical of tiny lenses crammed into tiny cameras.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(7.0)*
The Canon PowerShot TX1 makes a nice shiny metal box but an awkward digital camera. The device is designed to be held vertically, which departs from the traditional horizontal appearance of most compact digital cameras; it more resembles the pistol grip camcorder style. This vertical design is also seen in the Sanyo HD2 and the Sony M2, both hybrid digital camera-camcorders.
The Canon TX1 is boxy with slightly softened edges. The 1.8-inch LCD screen folds out like a wing on the left side and the zoom lens pops out of the front. When turned on and folded out, the TX1 is a bit top-heavy and often tips from its skinny base. This is a common problem that also happens with the Sanyo HD2.
The body is very compact and constructed from stainless steel. It looks similar to Digital Elph cameras but is a little thicker and certainly more awkward when the LCD is folded out. The TX1 isn’t the sexiest digital camera, but it looks good when its folded up.
**Size / Portability ***(7.25)*
The TX1’s boxy stainless steel body resembles the Digital Elph series, but it has the thickness of an A-series model. Still, this camera is very compact compared to camcorders with high definition capabilities. At 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches, the Canon PowerShot TX1 is smaller and more pocketable than its direct competition, the Sanyo HD2.
The camera’s small size is one of its most marketable features. The Canon TX1 can slip into a pocket and dangle from a wrist with the included faux leather strap The wrist strap has a clasp that allows users to tighten it around their wrist, which is a nice feature.
That feature is especially nice because the TX1 has some gravitational issues. Shall we say it’s "big boned"? It weighs 7.8 oounces without the card and battery, which feels heavy for its slim size. Add in the fact that the camera holds awkwardly with the fingers wrapped around front, the thumb navigating the back, and the palm supporting the weight, and the heft becomes quite an issue.
The weight complicates handling and the size complicates the size and placement of control buttons and components. For instance, the flash is mashed just above the lens and the mode dial is randomly placed on the otherwise desolate right side of the camera.
The Canon TX1 doesn’t necessarily need a carrying case because it looks durable (when folded up, of course) and slides into a pocket. It might be a good idea to keep the stainless steel from scratching though. After all, the TX1 is a camera that will be sharing pockets with iPods, Treos, Palm Pilots, Blackberrys, and other gadgets.
The Canon PowerShot TX1 is a nightmare in terms of handling. It is fairly flat and free of handling features. This camera is held differently than the traditional digital camera. The middle and ring fingers grip the front, while the pinky finger offers some support on the bottom. The index finger sits at the top, and since the top is much taller than most digital cameras it has to stretch a bit farther. The thumb sits on the back and splits time between the zoom control in the middle and the surrounding buttons, which are all small and too close together, complicating matters even more. This is designed to be a one-handed camera, but its hefty weight and unevenly distributed base makes it hard to hold it steady. Users will often need their left hand to steady the LCD screen so they can rotate the mode dial or grip the camera while jumbling around with the awfully tiny joystick.
The placement of the controls is a bit awkward. I kept wanting to navigate with the zoom control, which is on a little bump on the back. To truly get around the menus though, I had to stretch my thumb farther than was actually comfortable and manipulate a tiny feeble joystick that only went the correct direction about half the time.
Canon’s A-series of PowerShot digital cameras have folding and rotating LCD screens but they can fold back into the camera and still be viewed. The TX1’s LCD screen must be folded out when the camera is on. It can fold back into the camera with the screen facing out, but it faces out to the left side so it can’t be seen anyway. Thus, the camera can’t be held the traditional horizontal way either. An attempt to hold it that way puts the LCD screen facing up, the shutter release button on the right side, and the zoom lens still poking out front.
One major complaint about the Canon TX1 is that it doesn’t allow videos to be taken for longer than an hour. The truth is, though, that as soon as you handle it, you will want to stick it back in your pocket. No one will want to hold this for anywhere near an hour. It’s too uncomfortable.
**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size ***(3.75)*
The controls are small and crammed. The shutter release on the top of the camera is square-shaped and nicely placed, although it doesn’t move as smoothly as other digital cameras’ shutter buttons. The print button is also atop the camera, and it can be set to perform other functions within the setup menu.
The right side of the camera hosts a dime-sized mode dial that rotates nicely. However, because of the dial’s placement, it takes a significant amount of effort from the thumb to get it moving. Due to its placement, it may even be necessary to steady the LCD screen with the left hand to rotate the dial.
On the left side of the TX1 is a power button that is nicely sized and marked with a green LED. On the back is a flurry of icons around the navigational joystick designating the multiple functions the control can perform when not in the menu.
The joystick control is very small and was probably chosen for this layout because it can fit in a very small space, but it isn’t very comfortable. The knob on it has a sharp edge. It doesn’t make a very good navigational control because it only goes where it was intended about half the time. It only works well when slowly and daintily pushed.
There are Menu and Display buttons on the back as well; they are undersized and almost look like the bolts that are placed beneath them. The zoom control is also on the back; it is placed upon the crest of a small bump. It is shaped like a horizontal paddle that can be pushed up and down to move throughout the 10x optical zoom range. This is a stretch for the thumb to reach, but not as big a stretch as the joystick.
Below the zoom control is the movie button. This can be activated from any mode at any time, which is very handy. The movie button is separate from the shutter release button so that full resolution still images can be snapped while recording a movie. Overall, the controls are on the small side but that’s the tradeoff for buying such a petite camera.
The menu system can be entered with the designated Menu button on the back of the camera, and current Canon users will find the menus very familiar. They are organized into tabs and have gray backgrounds. The text is readable – as long as you have good eyesight. The 1.8-inch-sized LCD screen doesn’t allow much room for menus.
Like other PowerShot digital cameras, the TX1 has a split menu system that features frequently used items in a menu accessible by pushing the Func./Set joystick.
This menu is from the manual mode; when the mode dial is set to the 'SCN' position, the shooting modes reflect the many image presets available. The following is the standard recording menu accessible from the Menu button.
The previous menu is the first of three tabs that appear. It has a camera icon on its tab, while the central tab has an icon of a wrench. The setup menu is as follows.
There is also a menu tab that allows users to customize their cameras with a choice of startup images and all sorts of sounds for operation, shutter, etc. The sounds are like those on other PowerShots: howling wolves, tweeting birds, and descending aliens.
Overall, the menu system is nicely organized and very intuitive. It is composed of text, and is very readable except for the small size of the font. The biggest menu hassle is the finicky joystick that complicates navigation.
Ease of Use*(6.75)*
The Canon TX1 is very easy to use, especially if you’ve previously owned a Canon digital camera. The menus are nearly identical to those found on other Digital Elph models, and the icons and labels around the buttons are also familiar. The exposure modes are mainly automatic too. The biggest pain is the awkward handling, but the TX1 makes picture-taking easy.
The camera’s auto mode is denoted by the red camera icon on the dime-sized mode dial. This automates just about everything, but doesn’t mangle the menu into something idiotic like Panasonic’s Simple mode (think bright colors, hearts, stars to represent features). The Canon PowerShot TX1’s auto mode still allows access to most of the options in the recording menu and several from the function menu: aspect ratio, video resolution, and image size. The Auto and High ISO Auto modes are available by pushing the joystick up, the flash can be set to Auto or Off with a push to the right, the self-timer can be turned on with a push to the bottom, and one to the right will turn on the macro mode. Generally, pictures taken in auto mode look good.
**Movie Mode ***(8.25)*
The Canon TX1’s identity rests upon its movie mode, for it is the only compact digital camera on the market to include high definition resolution. This move is quite a gamble for Canon as previous attempts by other manufacturers at this market niche haven’t gone well.
The reason the TX1’s movie mode is so unique is because it records 720p high definition video. The 1280 x 720-pixel movies are recorded at 30 fps, which makes it better than the Panasonic LX2, which records the same resolution at a choppy 15 fps. The TX1 comes with a 32MB MMCplus card, which is just about enough memory to capture yourself fumbling with the zoom toggle before running out of memory: 6 seconds. An immediate upgrade in media will be required.
The camera records in the Motion JPEG format at data rates of up to 4480KB/second (in the common camcorder parlance, this translates to 35Mbps, or megabits/second). Motion JPEG is a bit of a throwback in a world of high definition video moving quickly towards smarter, faster, more efficient codecs like H.264 AVCHD, co-developed by Panasonic and Sony and employed in several of their products. While the quality should remain high, potentially higher than current AVCHD camcorders, Motion JPEG is an inefficient method, requiring a lot of memory space for little video. This seems somewhat illogical since the TX1 is marketed to general shooters and casual videographers - those who often choose flexibility over image quality. Unfortunately, the TX1 doesn't really live up to the hype in either area; video quality is severely compromised by the processing and compression imposed, and recording space is limited.
Canon claims the TX1 can record HD video for up to 26 minutes on a 4 GB card. Indeed, high definition video will only record for up to 10 seconds on cards that are not "high-speed" (carrying a transfer rate of 20MB/s or faster). The TX1 has other video resolutions that can record up to an hour at a time. 640 x 480-pixel video shoots at 30 fps for up to 56 minutes. The e-mail-friendly 320 x 240-pixel video can shoot at 60 or 30 fps. Some other PowerShot cameras record 320 x 240-pixel video at 60 fps, but they maxed out at a minute. The TX1 has only the limit of the memory card capacity.
The vertically aligned camera is designed like pistol-grip-type camcorders such as the similar Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 (marketed more as a camcorder with great camera abilities – and high def video). The PowerShot TX1 has a 10x optical zoom lens complemented by an optical image stabilization system that keeps the picture steady. The system works very well and is noticeable even on the small 1.8-inch LCD screen. When in the movie mode, it can be turned on or off but it should be kept on, except when you’re really scraping for battery power.
The zoom moves quickly when not recording video, but slows considerably once it starts; it takes about 4 seconds to zoom 10x at its quickest. This keeps users from getting too jumpy with the zoom, but some consumers may not like the lack of speed control. The control is sensitive to the touch, so the harder you push, the faster it zooms.
The zoom lens is available at all times, even with the audio, unlike many other compact digital cameras. The Canon TX1’s audio is exceptional when compared to other digital cameras. For one, it records in stereo whereas most cameras record mono audio. The microphone level can be changed, complemented by a live mic levels display. A wind filter can be turned on and off. Wind filters typically work as high pass filters, killing the low, rumbling sound of wind against a microphone.
The white balance and exposure controls can be changed as long as the mode dial is switched to the manual position. My Colors modes can even be added if you really want a sepia-colored movie. Still images can be snapped while recording video because of the dual release buttons: the shutter release button is on the top and the movie recording button is on the back of the camera. The move isn’t seamless though: there is a snap and a frozen frame for a split second before video feed resumes. The video keeps recording though. Many digital cameras can pull still frames from the video, but this system allows those frames to be in the full 7.1-megapixel resolution rather than the third-of-a-megapixel standard video frames.
On the tiny 1.8-inch LCD screen, all of the video looked the same: 320 x 240, 640 x 480, and 1280 x 720. I could only see the difference when the videos were played back on an HDTV. So if you don’t have an HDTV, there’s no need to buy this digital camera. The smallest resolution looked as poor as its pixel count implies, but the difference between the standard 640 resolution and the 720p resolution was defined by sharper edges and crisper details.
Although the Canon PowerShot TX1 records 1280 x 720 progressive video, footage is output in 1920 x 1080 interlace component video on HDTVs via the jack on the bottom of the camera labeled 'component.' With standard televisions, there is an AV jack too that can be set to NTSC or PAL. Users who watch high definition videos will need to connect all of the cables, as the component cable doesn’t transfer audio.
Videos can be played back in the camera too: normally and in five levels of slow motion. It has VCR functionality with its rewind, fast forward, stop, play, and pause buttons. Files can also be clipped into two and saved as separate videos.
Overall, the high definition resolution is functional, but it has a lot of physical limitations that will scare away those who would have otherwise enjoyed the camera most. The Motion JPEG file format takes up a ton of memory, cards not designated as "high speed" only record 10 seconds at a time, poor handling makes it a pain to hold, and the battery doesn’t last long anyway. Despite all this, if the point of the Canon TX1 is to put high definition video capabilities in your pocket, it is successful. However, the increased resolution comes at the expense of comfort, price, memory space, and worse of all - image quality.
*Click here to read the TX1's video performance test results.
Drive / Burst Mode*(6.0)*
The burst mode is accessed by pushing the camera’s navigational joystick down. Single, Continuous, Continuous AF, and self-timer options are available. The single drive is the default, but the continuous mode snaps the true burst at 2.2 fps. It can do this for about 22 full-resolution shots before it starts stuttering and slowing to a shot about every second or second-and-a-half. The continuous auto focus mode focuses between shots and takes twice as long at 1.1 fps, but it can shoot to the capacity of the memory card. The Canon TX1’s self-timer can be set to delay for 2 or 10 seconds; it can also be customized in the setup menu to delay for 0-30 seconds and then snap a string of 1-10 images.
**Playback Mode ***(7.0)*
The playback mode is accessed with the mode dial, which takes a little longer than access from a button. The last image or video taken is the first to pop up on the tiny LCD screen. The screen can be viewed from many angles but it’s hard to cram friends around it for a look at the images because of the small size of the screen and its attachment to the left side of the camera, which blocks the view from the right.
Images are displayed individually or in index frames of 9 at a time when the wide end of the zoom control is tapped. The telephoto portion of the control magnifies individual pictures from 2-10x and the multi-selector can then scroll around the image.
Pictures can be organized into categories through the playback menu or the button atop the camera. Categories include people, scenery, events, to do, and three customizable categories. Users can jump through loads of pictures by pushing the joystick up; this allows users to jump to categories, dates, folders, movies, and image files by 10 or 100. In this fashion, pictures can be erased by category or by date, as well as one by one or all at once via the playback menu.
There are plenty of editing options available from the playback menu, which is shown below.
Slide shows look good but aren’t anything fancy like the ones on new Nikons and Sonys, which include music. The menu option for categorizing photos would be good for someone who has a large memory card and doesn’t download pictures to their computer often and thus needs some on-board organization. The red-eye correction tool was very useful because there were so many pictures with red-eye in them. This simply turns the red spots in eyes to white spots, so it looks really scary if the spots are big. This also doesn’t work if the memory card is completely full; there must be some free memory to create a new file.
My Colors has a nice palette that allows users to accentuate things in an image such as skin, green grass, blue skies, and red lips. It also allows users to completely change the mood of a photo with vibrant, neutral, or black-and-white settings.
The sound memo is useful for biologists snapping pictures of plants and needing to add a few notes without grabbing a pen and paper. The TX1 records WAVE format files for up to one minute. The sound recorder is an interesting feature, although it seems strangely placed in this menu because it doesn’t have anything to do with playing back images. The sound recorder can record up to the capacity of the memory card and is a free-floating file, while the sound memo feature attaches the audio to a specific image.
Videos can be played back in the camera too, although they look much better on a larger television screen. Videos can be played back with VCR-like controls and can even be played in five levels of slow motion and at various volumes. Files can be cut into two, but that’s as far as video editing goes on the TX1.
Overall, the playback mode’s options and features are above average, but the screen upon which the images and videos are reviewed is too small to gather friends and family around. Images and videos are better reviewed on a television screen or computer monitor.
**Custom Image Presets ***(7.5)*
A 'SCN' position on the mode dial provides users with a host of easy–to-use preset modes. The list appears at the top of the Func./Set menu when the joystick is pushed inward: Portrait, Night Snapshot, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, and Aquarium are available here. Surprisingly, there is no Landscape scene mode, which is a basic offering on other digital cameras. Perhaps it’s the 39mm focal length that prevents a decent landscape mode? Also, there isn’t a "high ISO sensitivity" mode like on many other digital cameras. The Indoor mode is the closest thing users have, but they still have to remember to manually disable the horrid flash.
The scene modes still allow access to exposure compensation and image size, but not options like white balance and color modes. Several other preset modes are available from the shooting mode portion of the function menu in the manual position. Color Accent, Color Swap, Super Macro, and Stitch Assist modes can be found there.
Color Accent and Color Swap let users select colors by pushing the display button, framing a color in a superimposed box (much like setting the custom white balance), and pushing a specified direction with the joystick. Color Accent turns the image to black-and-white except for the selected color. Color Swap changes one color to another. These modes only work well for large blocks of solid color; they don’t do well with highlights and several shades of a single color.
The Super Macro mode works well but the flash is disabled (it isn’t effective when this close to a subject) and it takes the camera longer to focus. Stitch Assist is the closest thing the TX1 has to a landscape mode. It can be set to guide users left to right or right to left so a string of images can be taken without missing anything. The screen shows a tiny sliver of the previous image so users can line it up for the next shot. This is handy, but uploading the images to stitching software (it’s included) can be a pain – certainly more painful than just having a landscape mode.
Overall, the scene mode list is missing a few key items, which is unfortunate for a digital camera that caters to point-and-shooters.
Manual Control Options
The most manual controls are found in the manual mode, although it’s not really manual. It is really more of a 'program' mode than anything else. It doesn’t allow the shutter speeds and apertures to be adjusted individually, but allows changes to the exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, and such. The Canon PowerShot TX1 has the level of control most Digital Elph cameras have.
The Canon PowerShot TX1 is equipped with a Digic III image processor, which has face detection technology hardwired into it. This means when it is activated (through the recording menu) it shows boxes around faces, then automatically focuses and adjusts the exposure for the detected faces. When there is more than one face in a picture, the camera meters from the largest one. The boxes appear and disappear as people turn their faces because the camera can’t recognize jaw bones and ears, but the boxes grow larger and smaller as subjects move toward or away from the camera. The face detection system is automatically activated in the portrait scene mode. Overall, it works quickly and effectively.
The face detection system seems to get all the attention but the standard through-the-lens auto focus system isn’t bad either. The TX1 can focus as close as 0-3.9 inches in the super macro mode, which is pretty incredible for a 10x optical zoom lens, although it will take a second or two for the camera to decide on a focal point. The super macro mode is found in the manual position of the mode dial, whereas the other focus modes are found by pushing the joystick to the left. In the macro mode, the camera can focus from 3.9 inches to 1.6 feet. Normally, the camera can focus from 1.6 feet when the lens is zoomed out and 3.3 feet when zoomed in. When the infinity focus mode is set, the camera focuses only as close as 9.8 feet.
The auto focus mode can be set to single or continuous. Most cameras have these options, and the continuous auto focus mode is sometimes noisy. That is not true with the TX1; it works silently. This option, along with the auto focus assist beam, can be turned on in the recording menu.
The auto focus system works well with faces and in good lighting. It moves slower when the lights are low, subjects have vast solid patches (hopefully you won’t shoot white walls often), are very close, or the lens is zoomed all the way in. For the most part, though, subjects were crisp and focused. But the slow auto focus in those few situations is disappointing for a camera that costs $499.
*Manual Focus (0.0)
*The Canon PowerShot TX1 doesn’t have a manual focus mode. Some camcorder enthusiasts may be disappointed that they can’t manually control focus while shooting high definition videos.
The Canon PowerShot TX1 doesn’t allow manual control over aperture and shutter speed individually, but allows adjustment to exposure compensation which encompasses both of those parameters. The TX1 has a +/- 2 exposure compensation range, adjustable in 1/3 steps. Adjustments to exposure compensation can be previewed via a live view. There isn’t a live histogram provided – probably because there isn’t much space on the tiny LCD screen – but there is a histogram available in the playback mode to help users check the exposure.
The metering mode can be changed when the mode dial is set to the manual position. The typical options are available: Evaluative, Center-weighted Average, and Spot. The Evaluative metering mode syncs with the face detection system when it is activated, and the spot mode is fixed to the center.
The TX1’s ISO sensitivity options are found in the function menu. There is a nice wide range from 80-1600 along with Auto and High ISO Auto choices. This selection can be found on Digital Elphs, but the TX1 has a new ISO feature called Auto ISO Shift that is accessed through the recording menu. When it is activated, the camera automatically bumps up the ISO when it senses any shaking. Thus, the High ISO Auto mode stays within its 800-1600 boundary while the Auto ISO Shift works with the optical image stabilization system to determine when a higher ISO setting is needed. There is a tradeoff between image quality and high ISO sensitivity: to see how the TX1 fares, check out the Testing/Performance section of this review.
**White Balance ***(7.75)*
The white balance modes can also be found in the function menu: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom. The list of presets is decent, but certainly not expansive. Shade or Flash settings could’ve been included. Nevertheless, the TX1 has an all-important Custom mode, which allows users to tell the camera what is white under the current lighting conditions. This can be done easily using the joystick and the on-screen directions.
The TX1 also has a mechanical and electronic shutter that flips at typical speeds of 15-1/2500th of a second. Canon’s specs indicate that the noise reduction system kicks in at shutter speeds from 1.3-15 seconds. These can’t be manually adjusted though.
The 10x optical zoom lens’ maximum apertures aren’t very impressive. The widest is f/3.5, which is about average for cheap long-zoom and very compact lenses. However, there are ultra-zoom cameras out there with wider f/2.8 apertures that let in more light. When the Canon lens is zoomed in, the aperture shrinks to f/5.6. The aperture cannot be manually adjusted on the TX1.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(8.25)*
The Canon PowerShot TX1 has a 1/2.5-inch CCD with 7.1 effective megapixels on it. The following image sizes can be found in the function menu: 3072 x 2304, 3072 x 1728 (widescreen), 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480. There is no 3:2-formatted image size for perfectly cropped 4 x 6-inch prints, but there are guide lines available from the recording menu and display button. Superfine, Fine, and Normal compression options are available, but only if you find them. Users have to push the Menu button while viewing the image sizes in the Func./Set menu to access the compression options. It’s almost like a hidden track on a CD – one that not many people find.
Picture Effects Mode*(8.5)*
Canon has some of the best color modes available on compact digital cameras. The My Colors modes consist of the following: Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, and Custom. All but the Custom option are available in both the recording and playback modes, which is good for indecisive folks. The Custom color option lets users adjust contrast, saturation, sharpness, skin tones, and red, green, and blue channels on +/- 2 scales in full steps. In the manual position, the shooting mode can be changed to Color Swap and Color Accent, which Canon used to group with its My Colors modes. This allows users to center the camera on colors to 'select' them; one color can be accented against an otherwise black-and-white image, or one color can be replaced with another. Color Swap doesn’t work as well as the demos: it has trouble with shadows and highlights in color, and works best with completely flat planes of color. Still, this color mode is unparalleled in any other digital camera’s offerings.
Connectivity / Extras
Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk Version 30.0 comes with the TX1. This CD-ROM comes with ImageBrowser 5.8, PhotoStitch 3.1, and EOS Utility 1.1 for Macintosh and ZoomBrowser EX 5.8, PhotoStitch 3.1, Camera TWAIN Driver 6.7, and EOS Utility 1.1 for Windows. It comes with Apple QuickTime 7 too. I looked at only the Windows applications.
ZoomBrowser offers three different ways to view photos. Users can search images by comments, keywords, shooting date, rating (you can rate your images up to 3 stars), and the date the file was last modified. From the main window, users can delete and rotate. There are also options to edit, export, print, and transfer to the Internet.
The editing features aren’t anything elaborate. There are just as many editing features in the playback mode of the TX1. The red-eye correction feature either automatically or manually fixes problematic red eye. The auto tool didn’t work well on my images, but the manual tool fixed the problem.
There is an automatic adjustment feature that fixes the exposure and works pretty well. Users can also manually adjust this with the color/brightness adjustment feature below it. The sharpness can be adjusted, the image can be trimmed, and text can be added to the image in the editing menu too. Like I said, there’s not much here. Users can view movies in this program but can’t edit them. Still, the ZoomBrowser program has the basics needed to view, organize, and print photos.
Canon’s EOS Utility program has a very simple interface that allows users to monitor on-camera folders, download images from the camera, shoot using a computer, and customize the camera settings. From here, users can do cool things like snap pictures with a mouse click and add sound clips to the camera for operational use (think of your own voice shouting "smile!" when the shutter is released).
The CD-ROM also has PhotoStitch 3.1 on it, which is meant to complement the Stitch Assist mode on the camera. Users load images one by one and then merge then in a step-by-step tutorial-like process. There is a simple Start button but there’s room for manual adjustments too.
Overall, the software offerings with the Canon PowerShot TX1 tend to be better than the average digital camera but still aren’t impressive.
Jacks, ports, plugs*(6.25)*
On the bottom of the camera is a very thin rubber rectangle that patches over the TX1’s three jacks. The cover must be pried open with a fingernail, and there isn’t much of a finger grip. The rubber material is very thin and feels like it could rip at any moment. Two of the jacks are familiar to compact digital camera users; AV and USB jacks are found on almost all models. The TX1 has separate jacks along with a jack labeled 'Component.' This is what connects the camera to HDTVs. Users who want to watch high-definition slide shows and videos have to hook up both the component and A/V cables because the component cable doesn’t transfer audio. This makes for a lot of wires, but smooth pictures and gorgeous video – the kind that make you think that perhaps the $499 price was worth it. There is also a rubber cover on the battery compartment door that opens so the power adaptor can be strung through.
Direct Print Options (7.0)
In the playback menu, the print menu appears as a tab with the other menus. It allows users to select images to print by date, category, and folder. Pictures can also be selected individually, assigned a quantity from 0-99, and added to the print order. The camera has a Print/Share button that transfers images to PictBridge printers, but the button can be set to perform other functions, including exposure compensation, white balance, custom white balance, digital tele converter, disp overlay, disp off, and play sound effect. When paired with Canon Pixma, CP and Selphy compact photo printers, ID Photo Print and Movie Print modes are available.
*The TX1 comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that doesn’t get as much life as it ought to. The NB-4L battery snaps only 160 shots per charge or 240 minutes of playback time. These specs are a bit disturbing as recording video is often more taxing on a camera than snapping still images. Canon’s specs claim that the movie mode maxes out at an hour, but between the massive movie files taking up all the room on the memory card, the awful handling that causes hand cramps, and the weak battery, the TX1 won’t shoot close to that. This is very unfortunate. Comparable digital cameras get way more battery life. Users will have to tote around the included wall-mount battery charger and let the battery rest in it for 90 minutes. The other option is to purchase an extra battery and keep it on hand. Unfortunately the battery is costly so users will have to factor that into the total ($499 camera + $69 one-gigabyte SD card + $59 battery = $627. Ouch).
*The Canon PowerShot TX1 comes with a 32 MB MMCplus card, which won’t last long with this camera. It will record just six seconds of high definition video. The 7.1-megapixel digital camera’s main feature is its HD movie mode. High definition video takes up a lot of memory – and that’s not something that comes with the TX1. The digital camera accepts SD, SDHC, MMC, and MMCplus cards up to 4 GB. This is enough to get 26 minutes of HD video – nowhere near the one hour limit Canon advertises on its movie mode. To get the memory card in the camera, users have to have the LCD screen folded up and away from the camera body because the card compartment’s door slides into it. The TX1 doesn’t have internal memory.
**Other features ***(3.0)*
Sound Recorder – This feature is located in the playback menu, although it seems very oddly placed because it has nothing to do with playback. It simply records stereo audio up to the capacity of the memory card and saves it as a WAVE file rather than attaching it to an image like the sound memo feature.
Canon priced the TX1 at an expensive $499. Sure, it has a lot of cool features – but is it worth it? If you want to shoot high-definition videos, the Canon TX1 is the most compact device out there but its video quality is a far cry from high definition camcorders. The camera seems to be designed for the occasional, spontaneous video-worthy moment, but there are much cheaper point-and-shoot options for that.
Users who are looking for a good hybrid digital camera so they don’t have to purchase a camcorder may be disappointed. It isn’t a great camera. And it isn’t a good camcorder either: the poor compression, inability to properly handle motion, noisy footage, weak battery, poor handling, and massive video files that crowd memory cards are all problematic. By the time users buy the camera and essential memory card and extra battery, the cost goes up to at least $627 (see battery section for equation).
**Canon PowerShot S5 IS – The S5 IS weighs about a pound and measures a chunky 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.1 inches; it won’t fit in a pocket. Though it doesn’t record in high definition, it is still a good pick as a hybrid model. It records standard 640 x 480-pixel video at 30 fps but has similar perks as the TX1, such as stereo audio, a wind diffuser, and selectable audio sampling rates. It has a 12x optical zoom lens with an optical image stabilization system and a wider f/2.7 max aperture that lets in lots of light. If the TX1 makes you feel a little claustrophobic, the Canon S5 may be a better fit. It has a 0.33-inch electronic viewfinder and a 2.5-inch, 207k-pixel LCD screen. The 8-megapixel camera has dual recording buttons like the TX1 for snapping full resolution still images while recording movies. Still imaging is more of a priority on this digital camera too - there is a full range of manual, priority, automatic and scene modes. Unfortunately, like the TX1, the S5’s movie mode is limited by a few factors: it stops recording after an hour or a 4GB SD card is filled and the 4 AA batteries only last 170 shots if alkaline or 450 shots if NiMH. The Canon PowerShot S5 IS retails for $499.
Casio Exilim EX-V7 – This 7.2-megapixel digital camera shoots widescreen videos, has 33 still scene modes, and a 7x optical zoom lens in an inch-thick metal body. It is held like a traditional camera and has a vertically oriented zoom lever on its back. It does not have dual recording buttons like the Canon TX1 nor does it have the high definition designation. Still, its widescreen videos record at 848 x 480 pixels and capture 30 fps. Casio flaunts a H.264 video encoding method that stores up to 1.5x more video in the same amount of space without losing quality, according to the company. The internal 7x optical zoom lens is functional while recording video and so is the stereo audio. There is an optical image stabilization system, video editing, and an option to print slides of movies. The V7 has a list of still imaging specs like a 3 fps burst, 64-800 ISO range, and lots of color effects. The Casio V7 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels. Its flash, which only reaches 7.2 feet, isn’t very effective at all. The V7 comes with a camera cradle, a lithium-ion battery that lasts 240 shots, and a $399 retail price tag.
Kodak EasyShare V610 – This digital camera knocks traditional design rules but not in a pistol grip sort of way. Instead, Kodak fit a 10x internal lens into a 0.9-inch metal body by dividing the zoom between two lenses measuring 38-114mm and 130-380mm. Sure, the total zoom is 38-380mm, but there is a noticeable jump between 114mm and 130mm. This is quite jarring while recording movies. The Kodak V610 records standard 640 x 480 and 320 x 240-pixel movies at 30 fps and can snap 6.1-megapixel pictures – although not at the same time. The videos are recorded as MPEG-4 files, can be divided in the camera, and play back on computers using Quick Time. The V610 only has digital image stabilization that doesn’t work nearly as well as the Canon TX1’s optical stabilization.
With a slew of automatic modes and options, consumers who seek manual control will need to pass by this camera. It offers a meager ISO range up to 800, has only a few white balance settings, and takes way too long to take pictures and process them. The Kodak V610 has 32 MB of internal memory and a slot for SD, SDHC, and MMC media. The V610 also has Bluetooth wireless technology that transfers images at a rate of 3 Mbps. The 2.8-inch, 230k LCD screen on the back gives users a great view along with the simple interface. The camera originally retailed for $449 but can now easily be found for under $350.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 – This 7.2-megapixel digital camera looks more like a traditional camera and has a 10x optically stabilized zoom lens. The lens has a wider 28-280mm angle, so users can fit more people in the front line of group shots. The lens also lets in a little more light than the TX1 with a f/3.3 aperture. The lithium-ion battery lasts longer at 270 shots, but most batteries last longer than the Canon TX1’s. This camera is a little chunkier at 4.2 x 2.37 x 1.47 inches and weighs about a half-pound. It accepts SD media and has 12.7 MB of internal memory too. It has similar automatic still exposure modes and a movie mode that records standard and widescreen videos. The 848 x 480-pixel resolution records at 30 fps, but still isn’t defined as high definition like the TX1. The Panasonic TZ3 has an enormous 3-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD screen. The body comes in three colors: black, silver, and blue. It retails for $349.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 – This hybrid device is marketed as a camcorder with camera abilities, whereas the Canon is touted as a digital camera with a side of high-definition. Announced in January 2007, the HD2 snaps 7-megapixel still images and records high-definition video in MPEG-4 format. The 10x lens is fully functional in the movie mode, although it isn’t as quick as the Canon TX1’s zoom. The Sanyo HD2 has optical image stabilization that will steady video and is necessary considering the camera’s awkward design.
The HD2 has a similar vertical pistol grip design and a larger 2.2-inch LCD screen that folds out from the side. The HD2 is bigger and top-heavy, so it has an even worse tipping problem when the LCD screen is open. It records longer clips up to 3 hours and they can be cut or joined in the playback mode. The Canon TX1 only allows files to be cut. The Sanyo HD2 has stereo audio but subjects have to be very close to the camera for it to be picked up unless there’s an external microphone attached. Like the TX1, the Sanyo digital camera is equipped with separate still and video capture buttons. Some of the still capabilities include ISO up to 1600, 4 presets, and a custom white balance mode. There is a pop-up flash unit at the top too. The Sanyo Xacti HD2 has lots of nice features but they still don’t justify the high $700 price tag.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M2 – Sony announced this hybrid digital camera in January 2006 and hasn’t followed it up since. That should say something about its success. The M2 has a vertical build but doesn’t have a pistol grip design like the Canon TX1. Instead, it is similar in shape to a cell phone. The 5.1-megapixel digital camera has a movie mode with editing features, stereo audio, and functional 3x optical zoom. The M2 includes still and video recording modes along with an interesting mode that records 5 seconds of video, snaps a full-resolution shot, and then records another 3 seconds of video. This is about the equivalent of Canon’s system that allows stills to be snapped while shooting video; the Canon stutters, the Sony stops. A larger 2.5-inch LCD screen is helpful, although it folds to one side and throws off the balance. Sony’s M2 has 57 MB of internal memory, but requires a Memory Stick Duo Pro card to record 30 fps movies. It doesn’t shoot in high definition either - it records only the standard 640 x 480 pixels. The Sony M2 originally retailed for $499 but is hard to find anywhere now.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 – Coming in a host of swanky colors, the Sony T100 is very skinny and offers high-definition output. In true Sony style though, consumers have to purchase an extra HD cable for $40. And if they want to record 30 fps video, an extra Memory Stick Duo Pro card is required. The 8.1-megapixel Sony T100 has an internal 5x optical zoom lens with image stabilization and is fully functional while recording video. Widescreen movies aren’t an option, but the standard 640 x 480-pixel movies are available. The movies themselves aren’t high definition, but the audio is decent, color filters can be applied, and the white balance and exposure can be controlled. The Sony T100 has an equally effective face recognition auto focus system and a larger 3-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels. This Cyber-shot measures 0.9 inches wide and has a more efficient 340-shot lithium-ion battery. Its burst mode snaps away at 2.2 fps. The T100 can play back slide shows with interesting transitions and four soundtracks - these can be played back on an HDTV too. The soundtracks can be changed with the included software. The Sony Cyber-shot T100 sells for $399.
Who It’s For
Point-and-Shooters – These consumers will appreciate the automated modes and the extra perk of shooting high definition video from a camera that fits in a pocket.
Budget Consumers – At $499, these consumers will have to wait until the next high-definition model comes out and the TX1s are marked down.
Gadget Freaks – The first compact digital camera to include high definition video is truly a gadget freak’s dream. A 10x lens in a tiny pistol grip-type body along with face detection and image stabilization also make the TX1 one of the best gadget cameras of 2007.
Manual Control Freaks – The Canon PowerShot TX1 won’t fulfill all your dreams. Search on, manual control freaks.
Pros/ Serious Hobbyists – Professional photographers won’t give the automated TX1 a look. Professional filmmakers won’t look either, despite the high definition video, as the battery doesn’t last long, it records only to an hour, and doesn’t accept cards bigger than 4 GB.
The Canon PowerShot TX1 is a hybrid camcorder/digital camera that secures a unique spot in the digital camera marketplace. It has the ability to snap 7.1-megapixel pictures as well as record high definition video. Hybrids marketed more as camcorders, such as the Panasonic LX2 and Sanyo HD2, are not as appealing as the TX1 for various reasons. The LX2 records video at high def resolution but at a choppy 15 fps frame rate and while the HD2 has high definition video that rivals Canon’s and has a compact body, it costs twice as much as the TX1, which has a $499 price tag.
The TX1’s movie mode has a lot of good features. Users can snap full resolution still images simultaneously, the 10x optical zoom lens is fully functional, the image stabilization system is very effective, the exposure can be adjusted, audio is recorded in stereo, and the video resolution is silky smooth. However, there are as many disappointments as there are good features. The camera is so hard to handle that users won’t want to record lengthy videos: the body is top-heavy, the LCD folds to the left and often tips the camera, the controls are miniscule, and the surface area of the camera body just isn’t much to grab onto. That’s just the handling. Add in the inefficient video codec, motion artifacts, and hefty noise and the TX1's video appeal is severely diminished. If you’re serious about videos, buy a camcorder. The TX1 isn’t going to record your daughter’s hour-long band concert in high definition.
Canon's concept is good - a solid digital camera with awesome high definition video that can record just as well and as long as a camcorder and still snap album-worthy photos – but that’s not what the TX1 is. It’s an average camera coupled with an underdeveloped movie mode, stuck in a body that’s too small. We're glad Canon made the TX1 for its eventual influence and its place in the evolution of hybrid imaging devices, but unfortunately, the TX1 offers far more potential than performance.
**Click thumbnails to view full resolution images.
Specs / Ratings
Meet the tester
Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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