As I've made abundantly clear in the past, I'm not a big fan of touch screen interfaces on digital cameras. In my opinion they're little more than a gimmick and don't offer any real advantage over conventional buttons and D-pads. The rest of the world seems to disagree with me however, and to be fair the touch-screen interface of the TX1 isn't too bad. The on-screen button areas are fairly large, the plain icons and help text make it easy to understand, and it does offer a couple of useful features, such as touch-selection of the focus point, or painting tools that can be used to edit images in playback mode.
The menus can be customised by dragging icons from the main menu onto the sidebar menu, which is a nice idea. The screen responds well enough to a finger touch as long as you press firmly, but there is also a small stylus supplied for more precise control. Unfortunately the touch interface is a bit slow, with a noticeable delay between touching a control area and the camera responding. It's not unbearable, but compared to the slick controls of some of its rivals at this price point it does feel a bit clunky at times.
As you might expect from such an expensive camera, the TX1 does include a number of advanced features, including a couple that I haven't seen before. One is the Sweep Panorama mode. Many camera have a panorama stitching mode, offering an on-screen guide to help when taking a series of photos that can then be combined into a wide panorama using an image editing program. The TX1's Sweep Panorama mode does the stitching for you on the fly; simply press the shutter button and pan the camera across the scene in the direction indicated by an on-screen arrow. The camera captures a series of images which are combined almost instantly into an ultra-wide panoramic view.
Another clever new feature is the Hand-held Twilight mode (oh the temptation to make a terrible pun about sparkly vampires...). In this mode, and in the Anti Motion Blur mode, the camera takes six full-resolution shots in approximately 1.5 seconds and then combines them into one image, incurring less image noise than the same shot taken in High ISO mode. Of course this will only work with stationary subjects, but it can compensate automatically for camera movement and under the right circumstances it does work surprisingly well. I'm rather surprised that this hasn't been combined with an in-camera HDR mode, since this is available on some of Sony's DSLRs.
Other more conventional features are equally impressive. The video recording mode can shoot in 1280 x 720 pixel resolution at 30fps with surprisingly clear mono audio, and unusually the optical zoom lens can be used while recording. The zoom motor is completely silent and cannot be heard on the soundtrack.