Sony Cybershot TX5 Waterproof Camera Review

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Sony Cybershot TX5 Waterproof Camera Experience

Sony rushed a TX5 to me in May so I could take it on vacation to Mazatlan, Mexico and I’ve been abusing it ever since. I pride myself on really testing any camera described as “waterproof,” “shockproof” or “rugged.” The TX5 has been in a sandy pocket while I bodysurfed, it’s been dropped on tile, my neighbor’s kids took turns tossing it in a kiddy pool, it’s been liberally coated with sunscreen, and last week I shot an underwater video clip of a mountain bike riding through a creek. A couple times I was afraid it might not start up again. But no matter what I’ve done to it, the TX5 has continued to perform like a champ.

Sony Cybershot TX5 - Jenni in the Pacific

The things I like most about the TX5 are the size, the touchscreen LCD display, the HD video and the iSweep in-camera panorama mode. The TX5′s body is less than an inch thick making it really easy to carry in a pocket. The sliding lens cover, which doubles as an on/off switch, and the touchscreen LCD, make the TX5 really easy to use in the water or with bike gloves on. Taking off bike gloves to mess with tiny point-and-shoot camera buttons is a hassle and most of the time the rider gets past me before I can get my gloves off. Like I said in the Camera Design section, I haven’t been a fan of touchscreen cameras in the past. But in the case of the TX5 it turns out to be real benefit.

Sony Cybershot TX5 - Mountain Biking Sample Photo

I haven’t done a lot of action shooting with the TX5 – mostly because I got so caught up in shooting mountain bike video clips instead of still photos. The TX5 has some cool features that make it very good for action photos, though – minimal shutter-lag (for a point-and-shoot) – and a super fast, full resolution, 10 frames-per-second burst rate. That’s as fast as the quickest professional sports digital SLR on the market right now. Very impressive, Sony!

The day after I got the TX5 I flew to Mazatlan and started taking lots of touristy snapshots. Always having it in my pocket meant I took pictures of everything, all the time. I also took a higher-end interchangeable lens camera to Mexico (see my Olympus E-PL1 Pro Review) but the pocketability of the Sony made it more convenient to carry all the time. It’s nice to have a pro camera when you’re traveling but there’s a lot to be said about blending in and being inconspicuous. At some point during my trip my interest began to shift to video. I shot video all through my Mazatlan vacation and lately I’ve been using it to film mountain bike video clips. It’s so small and quick and the 720p video quality is surprisingly good. It’s not as good as my Canon EOS 7D or the Olympus E-PL1 Micro Four Thirds camera I also use for video. But the pocket-sized convenience of the TX5 makes up for any quality compromise. It also has surprisingly good sound and the Sony’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilization keeps handheld video clips from looking too shaky. And I really get a kick out of being able to stick it under water for HD video! Try that with your DSLR!

Sony Cybershot TX5 Mazatlan Video:

Sony’s iSweep panorama mode was a very nice surprise. Most point-and-shoot cameras have built-in panoramic modes now but you usually pay with compromised image quality and somewhat awkward controls. The TX5′s iSweep panorama mode is the most intuitive in-camera panorama feature I’ve ever used. All you do is select the iSweep mode, point the camera, hold the shutter release button down, and pan (sweep) with the camera. You don’t have to line up frame lines in the LCD or try to keep the camera level – after you press the button and start panning, the camera does everything else for you.

Sony Cybershot TX5 iSweep Panorama Sample Photo

The biggest problem I’ve had with the TX5 is getting my finger in front of the lens – especially when I’m shooting videos. The position of the lens makes it far too easy to accidentally get your finger in the way when you take a picture or shoot a video clip. This isn’t just a problem with the Sony TX5, though. I’ve had the same problem with other Sony T-Series cameras, the Olympus Stylus Tough cameras and the Casio G1 waterproof camera – all of which have a similar lens-in-the-corner design. It’s not a deal-killer but it is a bummer when you think you got a good picture or video clip and then discover your finger in the frame.

Sony’s camera menus are arranged differently from other cameras. If you haven’t used a Sony camera before you can expect to be a little lost at first. There are only three external controls on the camera – the on-off switch, the zoom lever and a playback button. That means all regularly accessed controls must be accessed with the touchscreen. At first I was a little disappointed with the controls I could access without going into the menus. Exposure compensation, which I adjust all the time, was in the menus and required extra clicks. However, discovered you can add and remove controls from the main screen and I moved the exposure compensation to the top level and lived happily ever after.

Next – Sony Cybershot TX5 Image Quality >>


Introduction Features & Design Camera Experience Image Quality Conclusion

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Fred says:

    May I add that this camera is great for children?

    My 6 year old is taking fantastic pictures. He’s places I’m not and even when I am, he has his own perspective. Now his 3 year old brother borrows it as much as he can and I get yet another “personal photographer”.

    I recommend any family getting a camera for their children. Waterproof and drop-proof at this price may be overkill, but less tears from the young ones and less annoyance from the parents is worth something (plus the image quality of the TX5 is really pretty good, and I’m a DSLR user).

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for your comment, Fred. Rugged, waterproof point-and-shoot cameras like the TX5 are definitely a good choice for kids. Olympus even made a video for one of their Stylus Tough cameras where they called it “kidproof.” You don’t have to spend as much as the TX5, either. Both Olympus and Panasonic make less expensive waterproof and shockproof camera models. I’d get myself a TX5 but if I had a kid I’d be looking at something a lot cheaper :)

  • gregg says:

    Nice review, John! Do you have any samples of the HD video that this takes?

  • Photo-John says:

    Glad you like the review, Gregg. On page three of the review there’s a video that I shot with the TX5.

  • gregg says:

    Thanks, don’t know how I missed that vid the first time.

    The vid looks good, I like the ending! ;)

    One of the important features that I’m looking for in a new camera (besides being able to take a beating) is the ability to do HD video. Overall the video looks pretty good, but it really doesn’t look all that “HD” to me. ‘Course some of that could be due to the YouTube compression.

  • Photo-John says:

    Gregg – HD is just resolution. It doesn’t really say anything about the actual image quality of the video. Spec-wise, the 720p video on the TX5 is HD and it’s as good as you’re going to get from a waterproof, shockproof camera right now. Here’s a link to another TX5 sample video I made. This one is all mountain bike stuff. I’m actually colllecting more footage and I’m going to update this video soon:

  • Bill says:

    Great review, great camera. I’ve had the TX-5 for a couple of months; I think iI bought it from Best Buy the day it arrived. Everyone who sees me doing the panorama sweep asks about it, very cool. Low light mode good too. This is my 6th Sony camera (I started with a 1.2mp Mavica that used 3.5 inch floppies and have had successively higher resolution cameras since, including Alpha 350 DSLR), so Sony controls logic not an issue. I rather like the touch screen control. Caution on the drop resistance factor; I believe the fine print reads: impact resistance tested from 5 feet on plywood surface. I’ve dropped my several times, usually over something harder than plywood and have always managed to get my foot under it to soften the impact. A lot of scratches, but otherwise no damage. I like the slidable front cover that functions as of on/off switch also, should resist damage/hang ups of leaf shutter type lens covers I have on some of my other Sony’s. I take ithe TX-5 everywhere, including kayak trips, but have not used it under water yet. I love the image quality, the best of any camera I have owned.

  • Kim says:


    Did you take any under-water with TX-5? I am look for a compact camera which we can use for under-water like swimming, diving at pool, snokelling (no deep diving involve here). Wondering how the TX-5 rating for this purpose.

  • Mike says:

    Has anyone used this with thicker gloves on (i.e. ski gloves)? I’d like to take this mountaineering, but also be able to use it in the water/dust, etc. I’m mostly concerned with being able to operate the touch screen with thick gloves.


  • Photo-John says:

    I skied with it last week. The touchscreen does work with thicker gloves, although it’s next to impossible to press the buttons accurately. It’s not heat sensitive like the iPhone screen, though. In the end, with ski gloves, I think you’re gonna have to take them off to really get full use of the camera. I haven’t found a pocket camera where that isn’t the case, though. Using glove liners might be the solution if it’s really cold. I do that when I’m doing serious shooting with the DSLR.

  • Igor says:

    I’m really looking for the smallest/ best picture/ best picture at night camera. I have a brave canon ixus7, that I love because its so small and just fits in my pocket as a dream, but now, after many concerts, rain, sand and trips it takes very pool pictures at night and the audio always gets disturbed in a concert for example.
    I’m between the Sony TX5, Panasonic TS2 and the Fujifilm XP10, specially by the size of it, looks to be the smallest.
    Ive been told that this Sony TX5 have some issues when some sand from the beach stuck between the lens and the slide cover scratchin the lens.
    Everyone talks about these Laica lens from panasonic that are amazing and I really noticed it too on my gf camera, but its the bigest.
    And the Fujifilm I dont have any good feedback and never heard or tried a Fujifilm camera.

    What do you recommend for me!?
    Many thanks John

  • aris says:

    this is the best review i’ve read about tx5! seems like you really used it well! thank you! i am loving to purchase a tx5 even more!

  • Eric says:

    I just purchased the Sony TX5 from Fry’s Electronics for $272. I can’t comment on the picture quality yet, but I found that water gets endlessly trapped under the sliding lens cover. After 25 open/closes and wipe downs in between each and several attempts to blow the water out there is still water trapped under the cover. I plan to return it for this reason. If the water was dirty, sandy, or salty this would be a major issue. I used the Olympus Stylus for years before loosing it and I loved it. I plan to exchange the Sony for the Olympus immediately.

  • Photo-John says:

    I understand your concern and I shared it while I was reviewing the camera. However, I had the review camera in the pocket of my swim trunks in salty surf for a long time. I turned it on and off multiple times over multiple days, in and out of the water. My pockets got sand in them, even. Because of the way I was treating the camera I fully expected it to fail. But it never did. Of course, that’s just experience with one camera and you’ve got every right to be nervous about the water. But I basically had the same experience and it never led to any sort of camera failure. That’s part of why I gave this camera so much praise and why I’m still calling it my favorite underwater point-and-shoot camera.

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