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.

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.

Bright Light, Low ISO
As with its peers, the DSC-TX30 produces a vivid photo of the Kaanapali Resort in Maui.

ISO 80, 1/640 sec, f/4.5
If you take a closer look, image quality is very lacking.
Again, everything looks very nice when the image is downsized...

ISO 80, 1/800 sec, f/5.6
... but at 100%, even this close-up subject has mottled details. The trees in the background are essentially one giant blob, as well.

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

There's very little fine detail left at ISO 3200, so this sensitivity is best saved for downsizing. As you'll see in our test chart on the following page, it's not a good idea to take the sensitivity any higher than this.

ISO 3200, 1/40 sec, f/3.5

As is the case with all compact cameras, you'd be able to get better results from the TX30 if Raw mode was available, but that's not a feature you'll find in the rugged/waterproof class.

The TX30 outdoor performance is good, with accurate exposure and pleasing skin tones.

The background blurring is good by compact camera standards, though everything behind the subject is mottled.

ISO 80, 1/400 sec, f/5.6
The TX30's flash is very weak. In order to obtain a proper exposure, the camera had to increase the sensitivity to ISO 1600. As you can see, this high sensitivity has done considerable damage to detail.

On a more positive note, there's no redeye to be found.

ISO 1600, 1/40 sec, f/4.5

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.

As with most of the other waterproof cameras we've reviewed, we highly recommend shooting at the wide end of the lens when you're below sea level. This brings in more light - of which you need all that you can get when underwater - and also allows for more flexible cropping options.

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

Our first video is a little wobbly and has a lot of wind noise (despite using the wind filter), but it gives you an idea of how smooth 60i video can be.

1920 x 1080, 60i, 24 Mbps, 32.6 MB, 11 secs  Click here to download original video

Sample Video 2

This second video is another illustration of 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 3

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.