ByKLWHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 24 March 2013
Updated review after 4 months of use: I am a big fan and daily user of waterproof, shockproof and dustproof cameras and have previously owned some of the earliest digital models from the Pentax WP range through to Sanyo waterproof camcorders and then the Panasonic FT range.
For now, however, my attention is focused on this little gem, the sleek Sony TF1. This is a very slim camera (10x6x2.3cm), very lightweight at 150g, easy to hold, pocketable and it has a very clear 2.7" display. Due to the nature of this camera and its likely rugged use, I would recommend a screen protector to guard against scratches. 43mb of internal memory is included.
On first glance, it doesn't look or feel like a waterproof camera until you check it more closely and feel the protective rubberised plastic strip along 3 of the outside edges and the rubberised grip on the front making it easy to hold, enhanced by the thumb indentation on the rear. I tested it with cold wet hands in snowy weather and found it easy to grip even in these conditions.
*Build: The build quality is good with a smooth, sleek form, attractive design and its non-rugged appearance belies it rugged specification. However, I'm not sure I'd really want to drop it 5' onto a plywood board. Although the camera would probably survive, my concern would be for the vulnerable lens on the front. I'd like to see this either with a cover or at least recessed to provide more protection.
*Use and performance: Using it is easy. For a complete beginner there is the 'Easy' mode which is just that - point, shoot and the camera will take care of all the settings for you. For those who prefer to have a little control or input on the settings, via the Menu button there are options for the 'Intelligent Auto' mode, Programmable, special effects eg bright colours or just partial colour (black & white with red, blue, green or yellow picked out) or a selection of 'scene' modes, eg soft skin, pet, nightshot, beach, landscape and snow - the latter being just the job for spring 2013(!). There is minimal shutter lag, focusing is crisp and sharp and results are consistently good with reliable colour reproduction. I photograph a lot of animals and on taking a few quick snaps of some pet rabbits, I noticed that not one of them had red-eyes from the flash photos (see my uploaded pics). On photographing people I made the same observation and this seems to be a particular strength of this camera making it ideal for users who take pet and people shots. Impressive!
Shooting at just 2mpx using the 'snow' setting produced bright, crisp whites and my snowy shots of trees escaped with no purple fringing. On some other shots, purple fringing was evident (see my sample uploaded pic of castle). I would like to have seen a saturation adjustment for use in the other scene modes but instead the user has the option of using the 'Effects' setting with the more curiously-named 'Toy camera', 'Pop Color', 'Partial Color' filters and 'Soft High-key' saturation effect as the next best thing.
The macro facility for close-ups at as little as 10mm is superb, very much better than on the Panasonic FT range and I had excellent results, even in poor light. This will be very useful for 'bee on flower' shots in the spring and summer. The camera also has surprisingly good low-light capabilities with hardly any grain on shots at 400 ISO.
Battery life seems good. I managed over 130 pics (including some on burst mode) with/without flash, 22 video clips, playback and a lot of experimentation with various settings during a weekend when the temperature didn't rise above freezing - which notoriously drains batteries.
*Features Very straightforward menu layout with simple 'Easy' mode for pure point and shoot fun Compatible with micro-SDHC cards and not just Memory Sticks. 25mm -100mm lens giving a good wide-angle view along with an impressive 10mm macro Excellent optical 'steady shot' image stabiliser - I haven't taken a single wobbly shot, even in very low light.
For panorama shots, there's no need to 'stitch' a series of pics together. Instead, just switch to panorama mode and move the camera to produce one single, narrow landscape shot - no more dodgy alignments, or mis-alignments!
For people shots, there are some simple 'beauty effects' which can be applied to portrait pics on playback - eg skin smoothing and tooth whitening. The effects work but not always very well so should be enjoyed for their novelty value or just a mild enhancement of an otherwise perfect portrait.
*Performance Shutter lag is barely noticeable and performance is good. Picture quality, as per every Sony camera I have owned, is good. The auto-focus is fast, crisp and sharp and colour reproduction is good. It can be used either in 'Easy' mode for accurate point and shoot snapshots or use the scene-modes to fine-tune your shot.
The video films in AVI format. It benefits from continuous focus so that the subject is always in focus, although there is always some focus-lag when using a standard still camera's video facility rather than a designated video camera. On testing the TF1 by focusing first on my thumb held in front of the lens and then switching to a distant subject, there was some focus lag, but this was on a par with other still cameras but better than most I've used in this price point. Colour reproduction was good and images crisp and bright and it's good to be able to use the 4x optical zoom (27-108mm equivalent) while filming although the mic does pic up some motor noise (which is not unusual in still cameras).
Sound quality is very good for a waterproof camera, which typically has 'muddy' sound and the microphone is surprisingly sensitive, which I've also found on all other Sony cameras I've used. I would like to have seen a pause button so that videos could be created from several scenes rather than having to link together a series of clips.
However,the big flaw for me is the lack of video light for filming. It is only possible to film in good light. This was very disappointing because I like to film in darker environments, eg animals in their habitat, inside caves... For underwater photography, a light is usually essential, especially in murky British waters although not necessary if you're only planning to use it in a swimming pool or bright coastal location.
*Waterproof? I haven't yet taken the camera swimming or used it at any depths, but its waterproof capabilities were tested via washing it, trailing in a canal and I will update this review when the camera has enjoyed the challenges of some white-water kayaking. I partially tested its -10 freeze-proof claims in the -4 temperatures of our British equivalent of 'spring' when it was deliberately buried in snow. I've also used it in a stream and beneath a waterfall - and yes, it was fully waterproof with no leaks. It feels so wrong to do this to electronic equipment but this is exactly the mistreatment, along with being snowballed, that this camera is designed for. In fact it's the fact you can do just this, ie use it and abuse it and truly enjoy not have to worry about a spot of rain or grain of sand causing terminal damage which means you can truly take this camera anywhere.
*Pros - Comfortable to hold, even when wet or with cold hands - Easy to use with 'automatic' settings option - Quick start-up and easy to navigate menus - 43mb internal memory so you can use it from the box - Small, compact, lightweight and easy to carry - to avoid missing spur of the moment shots - 'Life-proof': water/dust/sand/freeze/shockproof - can use in almost any environment - Very effective optical image stabiliser (much better than digital) - Effective face detection and smile shutter - for spontaneous people shots - No red-eye on any of my pet or people shots - a particular strength of this camera - Very good panorama mode with no need to stitch together individual pics - Very good low-light capabilities with hardly any grain on shots at 400 ISO. - Video has continuous focus to ensure subject is always in focus, rather than fixed focus - HDMI out for playback on TV/monitor - Affordable - good value for money
*Cons - Battery and memory card compartment is on base so can't be opened when mounted on a tripod - Doesn't shoot Full HD (max 1280 x 70) and only mono sound - Not as fast as the Panasonic FT4 - Menus can be a little clumsy compared with some cameras - Battery charges inside camera - a separate charger would be preferable - No video light for filming - the biggest flaw for me.
*Verdict This is a good all-round, family-proof and life-proof camera ideal for outdoor use, year-round, in all weather and in almost all environments. It doesn't match the specification or performance of the Panasonic FT range (at twice the price!) but it is easy and fun to use, fulfills its promises, is a good all-round performer, reliable and is one of the better budget waterproof cameras available. Yes, I'm happy with it and would recommend it.
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We bought this camera for a holiday in the Caribbean for a snorkelling and scuba diving trip we organised.we decided to test the camera out prior to using it in the sea. After reading manufacturers instructions of use underwater we ensured the battery and SD card opening was securely shut by checking the yellow strip was not able to be seen (indicating camera was ready for use). The camera is advertised as waterproof up to 10metres but after using it at less than 2metres for less than 10 minutes it broke completely, wouldn't switch on and screen was completely broke. We had to buy another camera on holiday. Will be making sure we don't buy another Sony "waterproof" camera. Wouldn't give 1 star but won't let me rate as 0 stars.
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I have just returned this camera for refund after having it for one year with it leaking in water , but only using it on 5 snorkelling dives of no more than 3 metres and it leaking in water though the seal where you open it to charge the camera . I certainly thought for a Sony this camera would have been better quality , not impressed with the pictures either .
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