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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Meet Sony's New Party-Trick Camera

This curio of a camera is a one-lens three-ring circus.

  • July 29, 2011

Sony’s TX55 ($350, with a September release date) is a strange little thing. For all the strange feats it can pull off, it’s as much a conversation-starter as a picture-taker.

First of all, it’s beautiful on the outside. Thinner than a AA battery, Sony boasts that it’s “the world’s thinnest camera in its class.” Even while being small and smartphone-like, it still manages to pack a sizeable OLED touchscreen: 3.3 inches, taking up basically the entire rear of the camera.

But Sony wants you to know that it’s really what’s on the inside that counts. For starters, the device has a sensor offering a resolution of up to 16.2 million pixels. In can take Full HD video even in low light. And an elaborate “Picture Effect” mode, offering a “exciting palette of in-camera image treatments,” makes you feel like an artist, without the hassle of graduate school.

Where the TX55 starts to get a little weird, though, is in a few of its features. Take for instance, the fact that has Gizmodo hung up: that the device can take video and shoot photos at the very same time. A technique called “By Pixel Super Resolution” enables the feat–so if you’re in the middle of shooting that 1080i video and suddenly see an image that would look lovely as a 12MP still, you can snap the photo without interrupting the video.

Or consider this other neat trick, that Wired zeroes in on: that the camera offers 5x digital zoom on top of a 5x optical zoom. That wouldn’t be much, of course–digital zooms are well known, and widely loathed, since they often simplify magnify an image, thereby lowering its quality. But this camera is clever enough to make educated guesses at what pixels belong in the zoomed-in image; it “add[s] new pixels in between the blocky zoomed ones, smoothing things out.”

So it can juggle, it can perform feats of intelligence and strength–what else is missing from this technological circus act? 3D, of course. But the TX55 has you covered there, too. Sony claims the camera is able to pull off a 3D image despite its sole lens: “With a single shutter press, the camera takes two shots consecutively, using the first image to estimate depth information to create a dramatic three-dimensional still image.” We’ll wait for the next press release before announcing that the camera can also breathe fire, swallow swords, and walk the tightrope.

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