18.2-megapixels, Full HD video, a 5x optical zoom, 1.2 million-pixel capacitive touchscreen and dozens upon dozens of shooting features and technologies in a camera the size of a stack of business cards? This has to be a joke, right? Nope, it's the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 ($350), Sony's thinnest Cyber-shot to date. I spent quite a bit of quality time with the little digital wafer and was impressed with what I found. But is the TX66 enough of an upgrade from last year's TX55? How does the TX66 stack up against the rest of the touchscreen digital camera herd? Find out in my full review.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 Design
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is so small that I lost it several times during this review. Rivaling a Sharpie Marker for thickness, Sony touts the TX66 as the thinnest Cyber-shot camera to date. The rest of its dimensions are also Munchkin-like, for the TX66 has the length and width of a stack of standard business cards. It's smaller than the iPhone by a landslide. As a result, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 doesn't even have a full-size tripod mount and has to rely on an adapter. The camera also records to MicroSD cards and has a puny 630mAh battery pack. Needless to say, battery life was not one of the TX66's strengths.
But it's the camera's 3.3-inch 1,229,000-pixel Xtra Fine OLED capacitive touchscreen display that steals the show. The picture is crisp and vivid, and Sony's menu system is quite extensive. The sensitivity and performance of the capacitive touchscreen was better than the competition, as Sony has really taken command of this market. I was able to swipe and drag on images in Playback mode, and the refined zooming action on images was smoother than any other Playback mode I've seen to date. Sony even included a stylus for more fine-tuned control.
As far as the rest of the Cyber-shot DSC-TX66, the camera has a physical Shutter button, On/Off switch and rigid Zoom toggle that I wasn't a big fan of. But the ability to swipe down the TX66's brushed aluminum facade in order to power the camera on was a nice touch carried down from Cyber-shot heritage. Ultra slim Cyber-shots are always huge hits with the ladies.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 Features
While the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is rather minimal on the outside, the camera is packed to the brim with all sorts of eccentric shooting features on the inside. For example, the TX66 has two different Auto modes. Intelligent Auto acts like most Auto modes, selecting from 36 predefined Scene modes and applying the best one. Then there's Superior Auto mode, which captures a series of images in different settings and combines the image together to bring the best of all worlds. I found both Auto modes to work relatively the same, though the Superior Auto mode exhibited less motion blur.
Then there was a regular Program Auto mode, which offered ISO adjustment (the TX66 could reach an impressive 12,800 level), White Balance and Exposure Compensation. The Continuous burst mode was not very impressive, but the TX66's autofocus was blazing fast. The Face Recognition was insane, prioritizing foreground and background faces. The 5x optical zoom was unbelievably smooth as well. Furthermore, the camera had comprehensive guides that explained what every single feature on the camera was capable of. For a super Auto soccermom cam, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 was a great performer.
But that's not all, folks. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 also had an extensive Panorama Sweep mode that could capture 180, 360 and high resolution panoramic images. While the technology worked well, I was not crazy about Sony's system. In order to capture a full panoramic shot, I had to sweep the camera very quickly, or else the full image would not fully capture, and a black portion would show up at the end of my beautiful shot.
The Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 had several Scene modes, including Backlight Correction, Night Scene, and Background Defocus. There was also 3D shooting and various Picture Effects like HDR Painting, Toy Camera and Illustration. A few Scenes and Picture Effects could be used in Movie mode, but for the most part Auto was the best bet for recording videos.
While the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is packed with all kinds of exciting technology, you're best bet is to leave the camera in one of the Auto modes because they perform so well. The response in low light is beyond impressive, as the TX66 will select high ISO and Scene combinations to blend one image together without even having to use the flash. As an advanced photographer, even I was fascinated with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 and had a great time shooting with it.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 Image Quality
For some reason, Sony thought that last year's Cyber-shot DSC-TX55 didn't have enough pixels, so this year Sony boosted the megapixel count to a staggering 18.2 on the new TX66. I'll tell you right now, there's absolutely no need for a megapixel count this high on a camera of this caliber since most TX66 owners will be posting images to Facebook. The file sizes will be larger than normal, so most people will be fine shooting at smaller resolutions with this camera.
While I was impressed by the Auto modes, I attained mixed results. The image blending technology tended to increase the noise of the images, especially in low light. This was most noticeable at full resolution. In fact, nearly all images were noisy at full resolution. Colors and detail in bright light at low ISO levels were great. In low light, you'll have to rely on the flash, as the Night modes will require a tripod or super high ISO level that will lead to more noise. Overall still image quality was good, but not anything that would transcend the realms of online uploading. Your best bet is to size images down for maximum quality.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 also records 1080 60i AVCHD videos up to 24Mbps. While the quality was good in bright light, low light was not as strong. Also, the lack of a true 60P made motion a bit inferior, as videos outputted at 30P. Overall, image quality on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 was decent, but it wasn't the best I've seen in this price range.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 Still Image Samples
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 HD Video Samples
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 Conculsion
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is a winner for a couple of reasons. First off, this is one of the smallest digital cameras one can buy. It's stylish, fires on by sliding the swanky faceplate and is smaller than an iPhone. Then there's the awesome high resolution touchscreen OLED display. The TX66 even ships with a stylus for Pete's sake. But I think the real star of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is the camera's technology. There are so many advanced technologies at play within this camera it's not funny.
Although the image quality was not up to snuff compared to neighboring cameras in this price range, that's okay. The 18.2-megapixel count is huge, and images look at lot better when they're sized down. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 is going to be a very popular model indeed.
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