Sony Cyber-shot TX55: The Reinvention of Digital Zoom?

In our recent "The Camera Specs That Matter" feature, we listed "digital zoom" as a spec you should ignore when deciding on a camera to buy. Until now, digital zoom technology simply cropped and enlarged portions of a photo, degrading image resolution and sharpness in the process.

That may change with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX55, a superslim point-and-shoot camera announced today with an image-processing system that approaches digital zoom differently. Using something called "by pixel super resolution technology," Sony claims that the TX55 will retain both image sharpness and megapixel count for digitally zoomed images.

The new technology uses an in-camera database to match the tone and contrast of pixels in the source image when employing digital zoom. If it works as advertised, this sort of technology could lead to even-smaller cameras--and cell phones--with simulated zoom ranges that rival those of pocket megazoom cameras.

We haven't had any hands-on time with the TX55 yet, but we're excited to test its image quality at the telephoto end against the output of a bona fide long-optical-zoom camera.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX55: Slim Camera With New Digital Zoom Tech

The touchscreen-controlled Cyber-shot DSC-TX55, which will replace the Cyber-shot DSC-TX100V in Sony's point-and-shoot lineup, is just 0.48 inch deep. Kate Dugan, senior business manager at Sony, says that the new DSC-TX55's depth falls "somewhere between a pencil and a AA battery."

The 16-megapixel DSC-TX55 uses a 3.3-inch diagonal OLED touchscreen for most of its in-camera controls, and its 5X optical zoom lens reaches from 26mm to 130mm in 35mm film equivalents. From there, the new digital zoom technology takes over, offering a simulated 10X optical zoom that reaches to 260mm telephoto at full 16-megapixel resolution.

In addition to the digital zoom features, the new image-processing engine offers a couple of performance upgrades over earlier generations of Cyber-shot cameras: the ability to snap 12-megapixel stills while shooting video, and a larger range of compensation in image stabilization when using the camera to shoot video.

The DSC-TX55 records 1080i AVCHD video at 60 fields per second in video mode, and it offers a 10-frames-per-second burst mode for still images. Like previous generations of Sony's Exmor R CMOS-sensored cameras, the TX55 also boasts special modes for low-light shooting, 2D and 3D Sweep Panorama modes, and a high-speed autofocus system.

The Cyber-shot DSC-TX55 also adds a few new creative shooting modes to the mix, including HDR Painting mode, which is similar to the HDR Art mode found in Casio's latest cameras, a tilt-shift-lens-simulating miniature mode, a toy camera mode, and several color and monochrome filters.

Due in September for $350, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX55 will be available in black, red, silver, and purple.

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