Canon PowerShot TX1 Concise Review
The TX1 is the nearest Canon has ever got to a true 'hybrid' stills/video camera. In fact the styling and control layout make it seem like shooting movie clips is the TX1's primary function. This extends from the separate and prominent movie record button to the fact that the entire camera is designed to be used in landscape (as opposed to portrait) orientation.
And the TX1 has movie capabilities to match its styling, offering HDTV-quality (720p) movies at 1280 x 720 pixels / 30 fps with stereo sound (there are also 4:3 and lower resolution options). You can zoom whilst filming and even take a full resolution still shot in the middle of a clip (though doing so does cause the movie to pause briefly).
Like all Canon models the TX1 records movies in AVI format using Motion JPEG, and this is a rather contentious decision for a camera so firmly positioned as an alternative to a dedicated camcorder. Why? Because M-JPEG is a massively inefficient way of storing video (as the name suggests, it's little more than a series of stills taken in rapid succession). At the highest quality setting (1280 x 720 pixels, 30 fps) you're flying through roughly four and a half megabytes per second, and it only takes three and a half minutes to work your way through a 1.0GB SD card. The flip side of this is that the TX1's movie quality is very good - better than the cheap standard definition DV camera I use - though nowhere near as good as a dedicated HD camcorder (and a lot noisier in low light).
We found the TX1's 'HD' quality (1280 x 720 pixel) clips rather soft - they don't actually seem to contain 1280 x 720 pixels' worth of information, which has led some users to suggest that the output is scaled in-camera. I don't know if this is the case (it may simply be that the compression and processing is killing the extra detail), but I do know that the 1280 x 720 pixel output looks pretty soft on a big HDTV.
Below are some examples showing 100% crops side by side so you can judge for yourself; most interesting is the difference between the original '1280 x 720' clip and the same clip downsized to 480 pixels high and then re-upsized - which should result in a visible loss of detail. The fact that doing this makes pretty much no difference to the level of detail would seem to suggest that those huge files are not necessarily bringing a visible resolution advantage, though you are getting more detail than you would by shooting at 640 x 480 pixels and upscaling.
|100% crops compared|
|1280 x 720 clip||640 x 480 clip|
|1280 x 720 clip downsized to
848 x 480 then upsized back again
|640 x 480 clip upsized to 960 x 720 pixels|
|Res chart comparison|
|1280 x 720 clip||1280 x 720 clip downsized to
848 x 480 then upsized back again
Image quality aside you can't help feeling that this would be a considerably more useful camera if Canon had bitten the bullet and used an MPEG4 encoder to allow the TX1 to genuinely compete with dedicated camcorders... or maybe they simply don't want to kill sales of their DV-cams just yet. There is an LP mode (which uses higher compression to roughly halve the size of clips), but you'll see a lot more artefacts in your images viewed on-screen.
Looking at the output above I think an 848 x 480 pixel option (with significantly smaller file sizes) would also have been nice. But given it would probably look the same as the 1280 x 720 output I guess that might make the 'HDTV capability' claims look a little optimistic.
Of course Canon could argue that SD memory - even the fast cards the TX1 demands for 720p movies - are now so inexpensive that a pocketful of 2GB or even 4GB cards is hardly going to break the bank, but that's not really the point... I can buy a 60 minute mini DV tape for a couple of dollars - this is not only a lot cheaper than using 10 or 20GB of SD card, it means I don't need to continually upgrade my hard drive to accommodate my ever-growing movie clip collection.
Anyway, if you only ever shoot short clips (a few seconds at a time) I'm sure none of this will bother you, but the TX1 certainly doesn't herald a new age where the need for a separate camcorder and stills camera is history.
Movie options (time on a 1GB card):
- 640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps (7' 49")
- 640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps 'LP' (14' 20")
- 320 x 240 pixels @ 60 fps (10' 5")
- 320 x 240 pixels @ 30 fps (19' 07")
- 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps (3' 30")
- 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps 'LP' (6' 44")
You can record clips until your card is full, though there is a 4GB limit to a single clip (about 12 minutes at the best setting).
640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: VERY large file!)
Optical image stabilization
The TX1 isn't the only ultra compact PowerShot to get optical image stabilization, but with its 10x zoom it's the one that most needs it. As we've seen with previous models the IS works pretty well (Canon's system is one of the most effective on the market, second only to Panasonic's MEGA OIS), allowing you to shoot at two, three or even four stops below the recommended minimum for a non-stabilized lens (though at anything over a stop slower you'd be advised to take a couple of shots to be sure).
There are three modes: Continuous (IS on all the time), 'Shoot only' (IS is activated at the moment the exposure is made) and Panning (for horizontally panned shots).
The first option makes framing easier - the IS system steadies the preview image - but the second is easier on the batteries and, in theory more effective (though as usual our test showed this to be by no means guaranteed - in many borderline cases the continuous mode seems to work better).
The lack of manual shutter speed control means we can't run our full image stabilization test on the TX1, but I was very impressed with it in 'real world use'; we found almost 100% reliable at 1/60th sec at the long end of the zoom (a 3 stop advantage over non stabilized shooting) and it produced a considerably higher percentage of usable shots when pushed to four stops or more slower - as low as 1/15th at the 390mm end (though by then you're getting more blurred than sharp shots). It also makes for much less jerky movies.
As with all IS systems it's not infallible, nor is it easy to predict which setting will be more effective (I tended to leave it on 'continuous' when shooting tele, as the stabilized preview image makes framing so much easier), but if you don't expect miracles and take a few 'safety shots' in borderline cases it's rare you don't get at least one 'keeper'.
|1/15th second, hand-held, 390mm (equiv.)|
|IS off||IS on ('continuous' mode)||IS on ('shoot only' mode)|
|1/60th second, hand-held, 390mm (equiv.)|
|IS off||IS on ('continuous' mode)||IS on ('shoot only' mode)|
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
How does the iPhone 7 Plus stack up against the Arri Alexa cinema camera? Watch this short video to find out.
Canon Australia's video series "The Lab" is designed to make photographers experiment and think outside the box. In the latest video a group of photographers create images based on their sense of taste.
The GH5 is expected to get a firmware update this summer to support 400Mbps internal recording. NewsShooter explores what memory cards you'll need to make it work.
Microsoft's new Surface Pro offers Intel's latest processor generation and improved battery life.
Riding a mountain bike downhill is dangerous enough in daylight, but potentially lethal at night. Which is where drones come in.
Rumors abound that Canon (and maybe Nikon) may produce a mirrorless camera based using their existing DSLR mount. Does this guarantee immediate great lens choice or a perpetually second-rate experience? Read more
According to rumors, the next camera from Nest will be able to capture 4K video, though that resolution will be only used for 'virtual' pan and tilt functions.
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more