Judged against other ‘ruggedised’ compacts using a similarly small, folded-lens design the TX10 delivers better than average image quality. It’s not perfect by any means, but compared to many rival tough compacts the TX10 tends to produce images with more punch, along with a pleasing degree of vibrancy, better edge sharpness and good levels of detail.
Colours are well-reproduced although we did find that the various shooting modes produce slightly different levels of saturation, contrast and sharpness, with the Superior Auto mode tending to produce more saturated images with greater contrast levels than images shot using the Program and Intelligent Auto modes. Images shot in the Superior Auto shooting mode also tend to be a bit softer than their Program/Intelligent Auto counterparts, not doubt due to the fact that the mode blends multiple exposures together.
Metering tends to be fairly accurate when the camera is used in multi-segment evaluative mode. We did occasionally find it tended to overexpose, requiring us to dial in a small amount (-0.3EV) of exposure compensation to retain more in the way of highlight detail.
As with most modern compacts we didn’t experience any problems with the TX10’s Auto White Balance mode. There is scope to change settings manually if you wish, but we found the AWB setting to be consistently accurate.
While viewing full resolution images at A4 size and below shows good detail, further magnification to 100% and above does reveal the effects of processing and compression, with fine detail taking on that familiar ‘painted over’ texture that is so common in compact cameras. We’d advise against using the digital zoom unless you have to as even the smallest excursions away from optical zoom territory into digital zoom (4.5x for example) can result in a noticeable loss of detail.
Low-light performance at higher sensitivities isn’t all that bad, all things considered, with ISO 1600 able to produce usable images. Above this and things really do begin to break down though.
The Sony TX10 offers just about the best overall image quality we’ve yet seen in a toughened camera with a folded-lens design. While some processing and compression flaws do become apparent at 100% and above, at lower sizes images deliver plenty of punch. Add to this Sony’s Sweep Panorama technology, which remains the benchmark for ultra-wideangle fun, along with excellent movie recording abilities and the TX10 just about justifies its premium price tag. The lack of finger-grip and shiny aluminium finish do make it a bit slippery to hold though, so be sure to use it with a wrist strap attached - otherwise you may well end up testing the camera’s shockproof qualities sooner rather than later.