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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TF1

The last waterproof camera from Sony that I reviewed, the TX20, was an engineering feat in camera slimming. The new TF1 is more a cost-cutting coup.
The Straits Times - April 2, 2013
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TF1

The last waterproof camera from Sony that I reviewed, the TX20, was an engineering feat in camera slimming. The new TF1 is more a cost-cutting coup.

It is still fairly slim at less than 23mm thick. But its biggest draw is that it is about half the price of many similar rugged waterproof compacts in the market.

With its uncluttered design, the camera is fairly attractive. The body is flat but a rubber strip at the front provides a good grip. And like other underwater cameras, its lens is exposed but protected behind a tough glass cover.

The TF1 goes up to 10m underwater, putting it in the middle of the pack in underwater performance among similar cameras.

It worked fine underwater in tests done in a swimming pool. Then came the stress tests. It was flung about 5m in the air and then allowed to fall into the pool, all while recording a video.

Four out of six times, the recording stopped when the camera hit the water. While this double whammy of having to absorb an impact and being immersed in water is hardly to be recommended, it has to be said that higher-end models would have continued recording.

The TF1 is also dust proof, can work at minus 10 deg C and can withstand a 1.5m drop.

However, the design of the battery cover lacks a second lock to forestall an accidental opening. The catch for the flap is recessed but it is possible for some bit of snorkelling paraphernalia to depress the catch and flip open the cover while you are underwater.

The TF1 is kept small by using a tiny microSD card for storage instead of the usual SD card.

The cost-cutting starts with the display, a 2.7-inch one instead of the more common 3-inch ones. However, it is sharp enough that you will not notice the size difference.

The deeper cut is in the choice of CCD sensor over a more advanced CMOS one. The impact is two-fold. First, video resolution is capped at 720p - half that of the more common full high-definition resolution. It records only monaural sound instead of stereo.

Next, is the impact on low-light performance, which is significant. For some indoor shots in dim lighting with the TF1's at ISO 400, picture noise is obvious on parts of the photo where the subject is black. Most of today's compacts have little problem at this low setting.

Where the light is good, even if indoors, the TF1 captures very pleasant colours, especially of skin.

This cheerful-looking camera has poor low-light performance but that is compensated by its low price tag. Since its target is the outdoor adventure enthusiast, most shots would likely be taken where there is plenty of light.

 

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