How wide is wide? Picture this. You're standing on the gangway of the US Intrepid Sea and Space Museum facing the Hudson River, with New Jersey dead ahead of you. The USS Intrepid is on your left, the cruise ship Princess Dawn is on your right, and Manhattan is behind you. You aim your camera, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1, towards the bow of the cruise ship, press the shutter button and start panning the camera across your field of view.
|The Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 captures up to 100 individual images and stitches them together in-camera to produce panoramic images as wide as 256°|
Building on the success of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1, Sony has incorporated several of the advanced features introduced in the HX-1 into a pair of palm-sized point-and-shoot cameras that just might make you think twice about lugging a full-blown DSLR system on your next photo jaunt.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 and DSC-TX1|
Now, before you start flaming me online for that last statement, let me qualify it by saying neither of these mini-wonders can replace a 'real' camera system for any number of reasons, but when it comes to taking photographs in cramped shooting quarters and/or poorly-lit locations where you can't use flash, these little pocket-rockets are capable of nailing shots that would stump many of the big boys.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 and Cyber-shot DSC-TX1 are a pair of versatile point-and-shoot digicams that share a variety of unique features including the abovementioned Sweep Panorama mode, a BIONZ image processor that enables 10 fps full-resolution image capture, and an in-camera Twilight Hand-held mode, which rapidly captures 6 images and combines the best portions of each into a single optimized image when shooting without a flash or tripod, under low lighting conditions.
Both cameras feature Sony's latest 10.2 megapixel Exmor-R CMOS sensor, which offers vastly improved low-light performance, and about twice the sensitivity of prior Sony Exmor imaging sensors. Sony's engineers accomplished this technical feat by relocating many of the circuits and wiring from the front of the photo diodes to the rear of the diodes to increase the surface area of the forward-facing, light-gathering portion of the sensor.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1, available in Blue, Gray, Pink, and Silver, is clad in a snug, pocket-friendly aluminum housing that features a sliding faceplate that acts as the camera's on-off switch, and also protects the lens and flash when in its closed position.
The rear of the TX1 is all but covered by its 3" Touch Screen LCD, from which you control all of the camera's functions by simply tapping on the various icons. And to avoid confusion, each function spells out a short explanation of what the function does when you click on it.
The lens on the TX1 is a Carl Zeiss 4x zoom, which contains 4 aspheric surfaces for edge-to-edge sharpness, and a focal length range equivalent to a 35-140mm lens on a 35mm camera. Images can be captured as JPEGs in a choice of 7 rates of image compression.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1
A tad smaller and slightly thicker is the Sony Cyber-shot WX1. Available in a matte black finish, the WX1 features a 5x Sony 'G'-series lens that boasts an angle-of-view equivalent to a 24-120mm lens on a 35mm camera, 5 aspheric surfaces, and an aperture that opens up to a fast f/2.4 at the wide-angle position. The WX1 also features a 2.7" Clear Photo LCD, and function control buttons that are both easy to read and use, despite the camera's small size.
Along with a broad selection of shooting modes, both the TX1 and WX1 contain a long list of features including high-definition 720p video clips up to 29-minutes long, or 2-gigs in size; ISO sensitivity up to 3200; an Intelligent Auto mode that recognizes scenes, lighting conditions, and faces in the crowd, and optimizes the exposure and tonal parameters for the best results; Face Detection AF for up to 8 faces; and an Intelligent Scene Mode that contains pre-sets to match 9 common lighting scenarios.
Other features found on the new Sony Cyber-shots include 3 metering modes, Optical SteadyShot for sharp, low-light imaging, Smile Shutter for frown-free portraits, and a Dynamic Range Optimizer for maximizing shadow and highlight details. Both cameras power off of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, contain about 11 megs of built-in memory, and accept MemoryStick PRO Duo memory cards.
It's party time
If you'd like to see Sony Face Detection and Smile Shutter technology in action, take a look at Sony's ITP-DS1 Party-shot Photographer, a very nifty accessory designed to expand the versatility of the TX1 and WX1.
Simply dock your TX1 or WX1 onto the Party-shot, place it on a table, countertop, or any flat surface, and the camera automatically begins searching around for faces. Once it detects a face – or faces – it zooms in, adjusts the exposure, and takes a picture. It then moves on looking for the next photo op.
Powered by a set of AA batteries or the optional AC adapter, the Party-shot allows the camera to rotate 360° as well as tilt up and down while making its rounds. A set of AA's enables about 2-hours of picture taking. And if you're plugged into the wall, the Party-shot will keep going until you fill the memory card. You can't help but smile when it zooms in on you, and even after editing the pictures, you end up with a surprising number of keepers.