Canon PowerShot TX1
The Canon TX1 is an unusual hybrid digital camera optimized for video capture. It features a 10x f/3.5-5.6 optically stabilized zoom lens, a seven megapixel imager, and a Movie mode with resolutions up to 1,280 x 720 pixels and frame-rates up to 60 frames per second in QVGA resolution. Other resolutions are limited to 30 fps video, and surprisingly for a camera aimed at video capabilities, Canon has selected a Motion JPEG AVI file format rather than the MPEG4 format found on most other such cameras.
Other features of the Canon TX1 include a rather small 1.8 inch LCD display with a fairly average 115,000 pixel resolution, as well as 35mm-equivalent zoom range from a rather tight 39mm wide-angle to a powerful 390mm telephoto. Optical zoom is supported during movies. Focusing is done via Canon’s relatively new Face-Detect AF system, and the TX1 can macro focus to a minimum of 10 centimeters; however, the TX1 has a Super Macro mode that gets right up to the glass. ISO sensitivity tops out at 1,600 as with Canon’s other PMA 2007 PowerShot digicams, and data is stored on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCards, including the newer SDHC types, with a not-very-generous 32MB MMC Plus card in the product bundle.
The TX1 derives its power from a custom lithium-ion battery pack and connectivity includes USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed), standard definition NTSC, or PAL A/V out, as well as high definition 1080i component video out. A component video cable assembly (CTC-100/S) is included.
Pricing for the Canon PowerShot TX1 was set at $500 when it started shipping in March 2007.
Canon PowerShot TX1 User Report
by Mike Pasini
Intro. If we can build a car that runs on gasoline and electricity, why can’t we have a digicam that takes great stills and terrific movies too? And let’s make it as small as a Canon ELPH while we’re at it.
Well, Canon has. And the diminutive TX1 has a lot of charm, too, shooting 7.1 megapixel stills and HD video through a 10x optically stabilized zoom with a 4x digital zoom (for a phenomenal 40x reach) — and adding ISO 1,600 into the mix just for fun. And they didn’t forget to fit a flash in there, too.
Sure, there are comprises. You want an ELPH form factor with a swivel screen, you get a 1.8 inch LCD. The control layout is awkward, and the Zoom lever is more like a one-way street. Forget fast start-up or shut-down with an LCD that swings open and closed.
But just try to find anything else like it.
Design. This hybrid’s specs read like a digital camera’s, but its physical design resembles a small palm-sized camcorder.
One advantage of the physical design is the 10x zoom you get compared to those compact lens-like digicam optics. Another is the all-metal construction really built to take some abuse.
Having a full-blown PowerShot tucked inside a camcorder is really sweet. You can tap into camera features like extended ISO and Face Detection autofocus but still enjoy camcorder bonuses like a 16:9 aspect ratio and component video playback of 720 pixel video.
Despite its small size, the stainless steel body no lightweight at 8.5 ounces (241 grams). Yet for a long zoom (which is what this puppy’s pedigree is), that’s remarkable.
But you only have to pick it up to confront the first compromise. It’s not easy to hold. Right-handers-only need apply, but even they will have problems. Your thumb goes on the back near the Zoom lever, your index finger on top by the Shutter button, but your middle finger has to slide down under the lens (something I had trouble doing), and your pinky has to rest under the bottom to provide a little slip-proof support. Every one of those positions is a bit of a stretch.
The biggest stretch is between your index finger on top and your middle finger in front. In fact, Canon even warns in the Basic Camera Guide (yes, two manuals again), “Be careful not to block the lens, flash, microphones or speaker with your fingers.”
Worse, though, the Zoom lever really has no leverage when you press up to zoom in. Your index finger is on the Shutter button, so it can’t force down as your thumb pushes up. That tilts the whole thing down so the lens loses sight of the scene. Only zooming out seems to be stable with that grip. And it wasn’t just me who had trouble. Luke Smith, who takes the 164 lab shots, put it this way, “Weird control positions never feel comfortable.”
Not that I could recommend a better arrangement. The back panel controls are just above the Zoom lever in a compact arrangement of Display button, Menu button, Navigator, and a joystick OK button that function just like their counterparts on any current PowerShot.
Below the Zoom lever is a big Movie button. Like the S3, this box is ready to shoot movies the minute you press the Movie button. There is a Mode dial on the side of the Zoom lever with Playback, Auto, Manual (such as it is on PowerShot), and Scene modes.
The tripod socket is almost an afterthought, protruding from the front edge and offering very little real estate to stabilize the mount.
The stereo microphones are on the back of the swiveling LCD, and the speaker grill is on the main body just under the Power button.
That all makes sense. But the grip itself is too much of a stretch.
Display/Viewfinder. Unlike other camcorders, the TX1 doesn’t have an optical viewfinder. A very small 1.8 inch LCD is all you get. It’s bright, and pretty smudge resistant, but it’s small. And shooting 16:9 aspect ratio images on that small screen is real punishment.
Probably the less said about this, the better.
But it is an articulated LCD. It swings up, and rotates. You can face it forward to take self portraits, or back so you can get behind the camera, and hold it either up high, or very low, tilting the LCD so you can easily see what the lens sees. You can also swing it around and fold it back into the camera so the screen is exposed, great for passing it around for playback. That’s probably where the size hurts the most.
But the less said about that, the better.
Performance. Yet another compromise imposed by the camcorder form factor is the slow startup and shutdown time. For a long zoom, it isn’t bad in light of the competition, which usually has to rack out a lens quite a bit.
But you have to swing up the LCD, and swivel it into position, too. Which takes quite a bit longer than it takes the lens to pop out. And that isn’t really reflected in our timings.
Zooming, however, is as smooth as buttah, so long as you use two hands. Even zooming into the digital zoom range works seamlessly. And that gives you a 40x zoom from the wide-angle focal length. It’s image stabilized, too.
And when you get down to pressing the Shutter button, good things happen. Fast. Both autofocus lag, and pre-focus lag are above average for a long zoom, good news for birders.
Cycle time is a leisurely one second in Continuous mode (and 1.68 seconds in Single Shot mode). But there are actually two Continuous modes, one that focuses continually (and takes that full second), and another that doesn’t (and gets about 2.2 shots a second). Here, as in Movie mode, a high speed SD card makes a difference.
Scene Modes. There are really very few Scene modes on this camera. Canon seems unable to simply group all its Scene modes under one menu, however, making it very difficult to find what you’re looking for.
What it calls Special Scene modes are available under the Scene mode option on the Mode dial. Those include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, and Aquarium.
But Canon also includes a number of Shooting modes not very different from Scene modes like Color Accent, Color Swap, Super Macro, and Stitch Assist. Those are under the Function menu.
Lens Performance. One of the highlights of using this camera, though, was the lens itself. There is moderate blurring in the corners, as our Test Results prove, but its images are sharper than many digicams can manage.
Canon doesn’t divulge the aperture range except to cite the maximum aperture is f/3.5 at wide-angle, and f/5.7 at telephoto. But I don’t think I have a shot in the Gallery with an aperture smaller than f/5.7, and some bright sunlit shots are just f/3.5. That translates to a shallow depth of field generally.
The focal length range is 6.5 to 65.0mm, a true 10x optical zoom with a 39-390mm 35mm equivalent. Despite that long range, the barrel distortion at wide-angle is only a moderate 0.89 percent. And the pincushion at telephoto is just 0.2 percent.
Add 4x digital zoom to that range, and you’re seeing things you aren’t supposed to see at 1,560mm telephoto equivalence.
With the lens shift image stabilization, you can actually observe them, too. It has three modes: Shoot only, Continuous, and Panning.
Image quality. Ah, well, this was a mixed bag. An interesting mixed bag.