The Sony DSC-TX20 uses a CMOS Exmor R 16.2-megapixel sensor. However, since this was the same line-up that featured in the previous DSC-TX10, we have to ask – what’s the big deal?
The biggest differences between the two seem to be in software rather than hardware. In common with many recent mid-range digital cameras, Sony is keen to big-up the DSC-TX20’s speed and alternative modes.
Sony claims that the DSC-TX20 can focus-in on a scene in 0.13 seconds in daylight and 0.25 in low light. Without a stopwatch or lightning-speed reflexes to call upon, we couldn’t test this, but focusing was both quick and reliable. And the image stabilisation keeps carelessly-taken zoomed-in shots sharp as long as there's sufficient light. However, the shutter button is a little spongy – lacking the clear distinction between the focus and shutter stages that many photographers will be after.
This “lite” approach to controls is seen throughout the DSC-TX20. The zoom control is handy, sitting on the edge of the camera, but is a dinky little nubbin that is easy to lose grip of in the heat of the moment. There’s also no EVF, and no manual physical controls.
The touch-based interface is friendly-looking
These sort of control compromises tell you a lot of what the camera is about. It’s for keen photographers wanting a camera that can produce water-bound, decent-quality images without the compromises of a waterproof case, or those who want a degree of “lifestyle” flexibility and are willing to trade off the extra control non-waterproof cameras at the same price can provide. Let’s not forget – the Sony DSC-TX20 isn’t cheap.
However, it does offer plenty of modes that improve its out-and-about skills. The panorama option has been boosted since the DSC-TX10’s entry, offering solid panoramas of up to 360 degrees, and there’s a comprehensive selection of fun modes. These include “background blur”, toy mode, a hipstamatic-style mode, tilt-shift, a handful of other “fun modes” and a couple of ultra-accessible auto modes.
There is a macro mode, but our results were unremarkable
There’s plenty of potential for photo hijinx, but equally a few are quite limited. In the colour pop mode, you can only choose between four colours – rather than selecting a colour or area using the capacitive touchscreen – and the DSC-TX20’s macro abilities appear to be a little limited. Getting right up-close with subjects, detail captured was unimpressive compared with some similarly-priced advanced compacts. However, we’ll test this more fully in our review.
The colour isolating mode can provide some very neat results. However, it is limited.
The panorama mode is strong, with seam-free results if your motion is smooth enough
In low-light conditions, performance was decent. Noise increased significantly, but images remained mostly free of chromatic aberration and purple fringing – evidence of the improvements made in small-sensor cameras like this in recent years.
The Sony DSC-TX20 is a largely iterative update to last year’s TX-10 model. Waterproofing hasn’t improved, and neither has the sensor’s specs, but apparently increased focusing speed and mode flexibility make it the better bet. Treading water? Perhaps, but then that’s what this camera is all about.