Canon PowerShot TX1
- HD video recording, great colour reproduction
- Chromatic aberration issues, control layout irritating
If you're after a hybrid HD video and still camera, then the PowerShot TX1 is a fairly decent choice, but a few image quality issues and an irritating control layout stop it from reaching its full potential.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Pistol-grip still cameras are few and far between at the moment. Sanyo attempted to make it work with their hybrid video and still camera range of Xacti products and now Canon has come to market with a similar offering, the PowerShot TX1. Offering High Definition video recording and 7.1 megapixel still images with an interesting new form factor, the TX1 is an ambitious product. Although it does succeed in some degree in making a multi-purpose, hybrid device, the image quality and new control layout leave a little to be desired.
Our biggest problem with the still images was high levels of chromatic aberration. Scoring .197% in Imatest's chromatic aberration test, it fell well below most other compact cameras. This was highlighted by some prominent haloing in areas of high contrast, and a lack of clarity towards the edges of our shots. As usual, this won't be a big problem at smaller print magnifications, but if you're looking to make any sort of enlargements it will be visible.
The sharpness score of 1432 was also a little below par, although not nearly as much as the previous test. For the most part our shots were clear and crisp and while there was a little fringing, it wasn't serious. Fortunately, the TX1 scored some points back in Imatest's colourchecker test, where it scored 6.01. Canon's cameras almost universally score very well in this test, and this one was no exception. It exhibited almost flawless colour reproduction, with the only minor inaccuracies rearing their heads in the red and green spectrums.
There was some very minor noise in a few of our shots, but it was extremely fine and not particularly problematic. Imatest gave it a noise score of .86%, which is slightly above average, but not enough to be damaging to your shots. The noise also scaled moderately well at higher sensitivities, with ISO 400 and ISO 800 both being somewhat useable. At the highest setting of ISO 1600, the noise became a little blotchier and much more colourful, however this wasn't unexpected.
The TX1 can record video at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, which means it can record in High Definition. Reflecting this, the footage had good clarity and a nice, smooth feel to it. However, there were noticeable problems with contrast, where shaded parts of the image would lose detail and colour, and the overall colour balance left a little to be desired. It was quite dull and while this can be corrected after recording, for many people who want a quick, happy snap camera, this isn't an option. Overall, the video will satisfy the average consumer, but more discerning users will pick up on the aforementioned flaws.
The TX1 records video in AVI format, which means videos can be instantly replayed on a PC and edited quite easily. However, as it is still fundamentally a digital still camera, the TX1 only writes to an SD card, which limits how much footage you record. Our test video, which ran for just over a minute in 1280 x 720, was 250MB, meaning that you could get four minutes of footage on a standard 1GB card or thereabouts. If you reduce the quality, or use the Long Play recording mode, you could cram in more, but to take proper advantage of the High Definition capabilities of the unit you'll really need to be selective with your usage. This means the unit is great to use primarily as a still camera with the occasional quick bout of HD recording thrown in, but as a pure digital video camera, the low capacity makes it a little less useful.
Another irksome element of this camera is the control layout. As mentioned, Canon has gone with a pistol grip design on the TX1, which is an interesting choice. In some ways it is more comfortable to hold, at least for video recording, and feels much more natural. However the unit is also quite small, measuring 88.8mm x 29mm x 59.9mm and so the controls are a little cramped for our liking. There is the standard array of a five-way navigational stick, menu and display buttons as well as a zoom toggle and function wheel on the side, however they are all crammed together in a space barely bigger than an inch. This means those with larger hands will struggle a little during longer shooting sessions. We did like the inclusion of two separate recording buttons though; one for still images and one for video. We were expecting to have to switch between the two modes using a menu or toggle, like on the majority of other cameras, but Canon has simplified the process, giving users a shutter button that instantly takes still photos and a video button that instantly begins recording.
Aside from the controls, the rest of the unit's design is reasonably good. It is constructed entirely from metal and has a sturdy, hefty feeling that inspires confidence in a product. The 1.8in LCD is a little small by modern standards, but it does rotate 270 degrees, allowing for the much loved vanity shot. Also worth noting is the 10x optical zoom lens combined with image stabilisation, which is a great inclusion. Such a large lens on such a small camera is almost unheard of and it should prove popular with those who like to take their photography up close and personal.
Another of their new features, face detect mode, has also found its way onto this product and it operates as well as ever. By turning this on, you make human faces the focus point of the shot. You can even see the little crosshair move around the screen as you shift the camera from target to target. Aside from that, all the usual options you'd expect are here, including auto and manual white balance, ISO sensitivities up to 1600 and a rather poor seven scene modes. The burst mode operates quite well however, capturing three frames per second.
In our other speed tests the TX1 also impressed. The shutter lag of .05 of a second was quite impressive, as was the two second start-up time, considering that it has a 10x zoom lens. The only area that was merely average was shot-to-shot time, which was about 1.6 seconds, but this remains more than adequate.
Overall, the TX1 is a decent but not outstanding product. While the convenience of having HD video recording and good quality still image capture in a single product cannot be denied, enthusiasts will find themselves more satisfied with two standalone products. If the quality of the images could be improved a little and the controls could be reshuffled, Canon may be on to a winner with this product, but as it stands it will appeal to a niche group for whom convenience is paramount.
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