The TX10 uses a traditional soapbar design, with a sliding aluminium cover. While this cover does protect the lens encasement and accidental exposures, it doesn’t prevent the camera from being accidentally turned on, meaning it’s perfectly possible to walk around with the camera switched on but unable to shoot.
In the hand the TX10 does feel especially light and slight, especially given its tough compact credentials. It’s certainly the least tough-feeling “tough compact” we’ve handled, although on the other hand it’s perhaps also the most stylish, far removed from the exposed bolts and industrialised styling of rival tough compacts.
The TX10’s lightweight, smooth aluminium casing and lack of a proper finger grip don’t make it a particularly ergonomic camera though. In fact, it’s the kind of camera that can all too easily slip from your fingers, which makes its tough outer casing all the more important. Anti-shock credentials aside, we’d recommend using it with a wrist-strap at all times.
Being a touchscreen camera, physical buttons are few and far between. The On/Off, Playback and one-touch Movie Record buttons are all small and recessed into the camera, but easy enough to find. Although the elongated shutter button does respond to a half-press to find focus, we found it to be extremely sensitive and eager to fire the shutter as well. At 3in and 921k-dots, the rear monitor of the TX10 is right up there with the very best of them when it comes to clarity and sharpness. While it can be difficult to see in bright sunlight, used in the shade it’s a great monitor to work with.
Zoom controls are located on the shoulder of the camera in the form of a spring-loaded stick and we found it offers very good control over the zoom. Our only real criticism is that the 4x optical zoom is a bit limited; the self-enclosed lens housing physically limits how far the zoom can extend, which compromises its overall telephoto capabilities. You can, of course, employ the digital zoom, but this degrades image quality, even when only used a fraction over the 4x optical limit.
We’ve no problems to report with the touchscreen controls or general menu navigation, with the 3in screen proving responsive to measured presses and finger jabs. Menus are similarly easy to navigate, with a handy ‘?’ button that can be called on for further info on the camera’s various shooting modes and functions.
The camera even allows you some degree of customisation over what quick-access icons appear on the main screen while shooting, so if there are settings you regularly change from shot to shot you can save time by putting them directly on the main shooting screen.
The TX10 is pretty quick to switch on and AF performance also impresses. The camera has a total of nine AF points and used in anything but Program mode will default to multi-area autofocus. Program mode allows you to choose either Central AF or Spot AF point, which allows for more flexible focusing using the focus-recompose technique.
It’s also possible to select a point of focus using the touchscreen, although getting the camera to focus on the exact point you want it too can be a bit hit and miss (with the exception of faces). While the camera appears to offer automatic tracking of moving subjects we found it to be somewhat unreliable. Autofocus speed is near instant in good light, less so in darker conditions. In really poor light or near darkness the camera automatically deploys an orange AF assist beam to help it find focus.
Processing times between individual images varies. Used in either Program or Intelligent Auto mode the TX10 takes a little under a second to process images. However, when using something like the multi-exposure Superior Auto mode or Background Defocus, the camera will take considerably longer to process images.