Canon PowerShot TX1
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The PowerShot TX1 ($499) represents somewhat of a departure for Canon. It's really their first true hybrid product, offering both advanced still and video recording capabilities in one camera. It's also a bit of a gamble, for two reasons. First, it's expensive -- nearly $200 more than the PowerShot S3 IS. Also, similar hybrids such as the Sony Cyber-shot M-series and Pentax MX4 were less than successful.
So what makes the TX1 interesting? Here's the short list:
As I mentioned, the TX1 is one expensive camera. At $500, the camera is the most expensive ultra zoom camera on the market. Is it worth the price, or will the TX1 join the ranks of the Sony M1/M2 and Pentax MX4 as failed hybrid cameras? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot TX1 has an above average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Canon includes a 32MB MMCplus memory card with the TX1. I've never seen an MMCplus card before -- it looks like an SD card, but with more contacts. These cards currently top out at 4GB, as far as I know. Naturally, the TX1 is also compatible with the more familiar SD, SDHC, and MMC formats. If you're mostly shooting still images then I'd suggest a high speed 1GB card as a good starter size. If you're doing lots of 720p movies then I would go for something like a 4GB SDHC card.
The PowerShot TX1 uses the very familiar NB-4L lithium-ion rechargeable battery for power. This battery packs 2.8 Wh of energy into its slim case, which isn't much. Here's a look at how the TX1's battery life numbers compare with those from other reasonably compact ultra zooms:
It's hard to have a battery life comparison when most of the competition is so much larger than the TX1, and thus uses more powerful batteries. If you look at the four compact models on the list (TX1, V610, S10, TZ3) you will see that the TX1's battery life falls well below average.
With that in mind, I recommend picking up a spare battery. Like all proprietary batteries, the NB-4L is expensive (priced from $34), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when it dies. That said, there's no way Canon was going to fit AAs into this camera.
When it's time to recharge the NB-4L, just pop it into the included CB-2LV charger. This is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs right into the wall. It takes just ninety minutes to fully charge the battery.
As you can see, Canon built a lens cover into the PowerShot TX1. You can also tell just how small it is: it's like a chunky Digital ELPH.
One of the "big features" on the TX1 is its component video output support. If you've got an HDTV then you can enjoy your photos and movies at resolutions up to 1080i. Movies you've recorded at the 720p setting look very nice. You will have to connect both sets of cables to the TV (save for the yellow composite cable), since the component cables only carry video.
The PowerShot TX1 is pretty light on accessories compared to other ultra zooms, which isn't terribly surprising considering its design. You can buy an external slave flash (priced from $91), which attaches to the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does. The only other thing is an AC adapter (priced from $47), for powering the camera without draining the battery.
ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)
Canon includes version 30 of their Digital Camera Solution software package with the PowerShot TX1. The main applications are the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser "twins" that come with all PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs. The Mac version is not Universal, so it doesn't run as fast as it could on Intel-based Macs.
After you download photos via the CameraWindow application, you'll end up with the screen above, which has a standard-issue thumbnail view. Photos can be organized, printed, and e-mailed from this screen.
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve.
ImageBrowser - MovieEdit Task (Mac OS X)
One of the big features on the TX1 is its movie mode, and part of the Canon software package is ready for the job. The MovieEdit task lets you edit videos, complete with transitions, effects, text overlays, and much more. Perhaps the most important feature is the ability to downsize the videos, which makes them easier to share with friends via e-mail or your website.
PhotoStitch (Mac OS X)
A separate program called PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the process takes minutes, and the results are impressive, as you can see. You can use the TX1's StitchAssist feature to line up the photos side-by-side with just the right amount of overlap.
The TX1's documentation comes in several parts. You get a basic manual to get you up and running, and an advanced manual for more complex camera features. There are also separate manuals for the bundled software and for direct printing (via PictBridge). While the manuals aren't what I'd call pleasure reading, they will answer any question that may come up about the camera.
Look and Feel
The PowerShot TX1 is an ultra compact metal camera that looks more like a vertically-oriented camcorder than anything. While its build quality is very good for the most part, there are a few cheap-feeling plastic parts, most notably the door over the battery compartment.
Ergonomics are not the TX1's strong point. I feel that the camera may actually be too small, as the controls are tiny, cluttered, and poorly placed. Holding it the proper way (with your fingers near the important buttons) is not comfortable, and I ended up putting my other hand on the LCD to stabilize it better (which sort of defeats the purpose of having a small camera). The four-way controller is way too small, and it makes navigating menus very frustrating, as it's hard to push it in the direction you intended. And -- this is kind of embarrassing -- it took me a few minutes to find the power button, which is off by itself on one side of the camera.
The bottom line here, and I can't stress this enough, is to try out the PowerShot TX1 in person before you buy it.
Comparing the TX1 and its arch rival (the Panasonic Lumix TZ3) is a little weird, due to the TX1's unusual design
Now, here's a look at how the TX1 compares with some of the competition in terms of size and weight: