Performance (speed)

In terms of responsiveness, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX30 is definitely a strong performer. Whether you slide open the lens cover or press the power button on the top of the camera, the TX30 will be ready to shoot in one second. Focus speeds are extremely quick, regardless of the lighting situation. In good light, the camera locks focus in about a third of a second, at both wide-angle and telephoto. Taking the camera into a dimly lit room will slow it down, but not by much - it'll still lock focus in under a second.

Shot-to-shot delays are also very brief. You'll be able to take another photo in well under a second with the flash off. The TX30 isn't quite as impressive when using the flash, which will slow down that recycle time by three or four seconds.

There are a pair of continuous shooting modes on the TX30, aptly named 'low' and 'high' speed. In low speed mode, the camera took ten photos at 2.1 fps. The high speed most, as you might guess, is a lot faster, taking ten shots at 10 fps.

The TX30 is powered by a 2.3Wh lithium-ion battery known as the NP-BN (the NP-BN1 is also compatible). This relatively anemic battery leads to a below average battery life rating of 250 shots per charge. The battery is charged internally, which some folks may not be fans of (since charging a spare is impossible). It takes just under two hours to charge the battery using this method. An external charger, BC-TRN2, is available from Sony.

Image Quality

In what has become a common refrain throughout our reviews of compact waterproof cameras, image quality on the TX30 is not great. It looks okay downsized or printed at relatively small sizes, but if viewed at 100%, it's a mess. Fine details are over-processed to the point where they start to resemble a watercolor painting instead of a photograph. On a more positive note, the TX30 has eye-pleasing color and doesn't have as much of a problem with highlight clipping as some of its competitors. We didn't find chromatic aberrations to be a major issue, either.

Bright Light, Low ISO
This feet-in-the-sand photo looks pretty good when downsized.

ISO 80, 1/640 sec, f/5.6
If you look closer, though, you'll find over-processed, smudged details. Even people don't look real.

Just to repeat what we said earlier, while these photos look pretty lousy at 100%, they'll be fine for what most of their target audience will be doing with them. In other words, sharing them on Facebook or Flickr, or perhaps making small to mid-size prints.

Low Light, High ISO
While the TX30's low ISO photos don't look great, the camera holds up surprisingly well at middle sensitivities. This ISO 800 photo retains more than enough detail for the most common uses of compact cameras (listed right above this table).

ISO 800, 1/13 sec, f/3.5

While we doubt that this will effect 99% of TX30 buyers, it's worth pointing out that you cannot use manual white balance at ISO 6400 and above.

We had mixed results with underwater photos on the DSC-TX30. In deeper water, photos suffered from the blue/green cast found on nearly all its peers. However, it shallow water, the color cast was gone, leading to some very nice-looking photos.

This photo was taken in deeper water, and thus has the blue/green cast that's all too common on underwater compacts.

ISO 125, 1/160 sec, f/6.0
In this shot, the water was much shallower, which eliminated the worst of the color cast, and let to some impressive images.

If you're not pleased with the color cast in some of those underwater photos, you'll need to use your favorite photo editor to try to remove it. Sony's PlayMemories Home, the bundled Windows-only software, does not have a color tone adjustment tool.

Video Quality

As mentioned on the previous page, the DSC-TX30 can record video at 1080/60i with stereo sound. For ease of viewing we've put the samples below on Vimeo, which has deinterlaced them. If you're software does not deinterlace video, then you'll probably notice the horizontal lines that appear on moving subjects.

Sample Video 1

This video illustrates just how smooth motion can be with at 60 fields per second. Colors are vibrant, and there aren't any strange artifacts, either.

1920 x 1080, 60i, 24 Mbps, 109.5 MB, 38 secs  Click here to download original video

Sample Video 2

Our underwater sample video is short on fish, but hopefully it will still give you an idea as to what movies will look like in these situations. Since the water is deep here, the green/blue color cast is quite visible.

1920 x 1080, 60i, 24 Mbps, 59 MB, 20 secs  Click here to download original video

The TX30's video quality can be quite good, though you'll probably want to deinterlace before viewing. Sony's included PlayMemories Home software can do just that, and it also lets you edit the AVCHD video.

Final Thoughts

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30 is a camera with an ultra-thin body and a great feature set. However, its designers forgot that this waterproof camera might actually go underwater. That's because the camera's touchscreen display just doesn't work when the camera gets wet.

If you're not planning on swimming with the DSC-TX30, then here are some reasons why it may be appealing. As mentioned above, it's the thinnest rugged camera on the market, by far. It has wide selection of point-and-shoot features, including the top-notch Superior Auto mode, useful HDR function, and one of the best 'sweep panorama' features on the market. We liked how quickly the camera focused in various lighting conditions, and quickly you can take another shot.

That said, the Cyber-shot TX30's photo quality isn't great. Fine details are smudged and low contrast subjects are mottled. The otherwise-nice OLED display isn't easy to see outdoors. The lens is easy to block with your fingers, and there's little room for your fingers on the back of the camera. The built-in flash is very weak, and battery life is above average.

While the DSC-TX30 has a slick design and feature set, it's large number of flaws keep it well back from the front of the rugged pack.

Click here to read the full conclusion from our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30 review