Although it's as thin and light as any camera we've seen, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 certainly doesn't skimp on features or performance. This ultracompact touchscreen camera is one of the first Cyber-shot cameras to offer 3D shooting modes, and it has Sony's excellent Intelligent Sweep Panorama and Handheld Twilight modes.
At £379, it's also the most expensive touchscreen point-and-shoot camera we've tested in 2010 (a pool that includes the Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75). But it's the sexiest too and its performance and its versatile shooting modes may well be worth the price.
Hardware and design
The 12-megapixel DSC-TX9 features a 25mm wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens with 4X optical zoom (25mm to 100mm), 1080i HD video recording in AVCHD format at 60 frames per second and the same supersleek profile as Sony's previous T-series Cyber-shots.
The TX9's slender body measures just 3.88 by 2.38 by 0.72 inches. Weighing 5.3 ounces with its battery and an SD/SDHC or Memory Stick card loaded (the TX9 accepts either format in its combination slot), the TX9 is the slimmest and lightest of this year's touchscreen bunch.
A vertically sliding sliver of metal acts as a lens cover, you slide it down on the faceplate to turn the camera on. A large, 3.5-inch-diagonal touchscreen dominates the back and five physical controls, a dedicated power button, a shutter button, a zoom toggle on the corner edge, a playback mode button and a movie button, line the top. It's nice to see that this is not a 100-percent touchscreen camera, the dedicated buttons for switching to movie mode and playback mode are both extremely convenient.
You'll find no line-out ports on the camera itself, instead, Sony includes a multi-output dock that features USB, AV, and HDMI ports for media playback. The camera is also equipped with TransferJet technology, which allows for wireless photo and video transfers between the TX9 and TransferJet-enabled devices. You need a TransferJet-enabled Memory Stick card (sold separately) to use this wireless feature.
Shooting modes and features
The DSC-TX9 offers a full complement of shooting modes, including Intelligent Auto mode, Superior Auto mode, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Movie Mode, Program Auto, Background Defocus, Scene Selection and 3D Shooting.
The Intelligent Auto mode is what most casual shooters will use for the majority of their snapshots: It picks from nine different scene modes to optimise in-camera settings based on the shooting environment. Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode, meanwhile, is a convenient way to take panorama photos, just tap the shutter button once and then move the camera slowly in the direction of the arrow. And the Program Auto mode is the closest you'll get to Manual, as there you can play with the exposure, ISO and white balance.
Perhaps the most intriguing modes are the 3D shooting options. The TX9 has two types of 3D shooting modes: 3D Sweep Panorama works like the Sweep Panorama mode but creates an offset photo that you can view in 3D on a 3D-enabled HDTV with active shutter glasses. The 3D Sweep Multi Angle mode also works similarly to Sweep Panorama (in that you press the shutter button once and move your camera across the scene), but it takes a bunch of different photos from varying angles and compiles them into one 3D photo. You can view the "3D" nature of the photo directly on the DSC-TX9's screen by tilting the camera back and forth to simulate viewing the same shot from different angles. The 3D technology still needs a lot of work, but avid early adopters will love this feature nonetheless.