Sony Announces 7 Digital Cameras: Models Include New TransferJet Technology, And SD Support (Finally!)

DSC-TX7The seven Cybershot cameras that Sony announced at its press conference this afternoon ran the gamut from a $120 budget model to the first point-and-shoots that support the HD codec AVCHD. The flagship models also usher in Sony TransferJet, a technology built into some of its newest laptops, camcorders, and cameras, which allows users to transfer information simply by touching two compatible devices together.

It promises transfer rates of 10 Mbps (to put that in context, that would mean copying ten 10-megapixel photos in about 8 seconds). In our tests with Sony’s new VAIO F Series laptop, one of the first that supports TransferJet, we found that the technology works as fast as promised and is easy to master, but wasn’t nearly as fast as a good old-fashioned USB transfer.

Also, to take advantage of TransferJet you’ll need a little bit of gear. There’s the TransferJet-enabled camera, of course, as well as either another enabled camera or a TransferJet laptop. You’ll also need a Sony Memory Stick that supports TransferJet. These carry a premium of about $50 over regular Memory Stick cards. So, even though Sony now supports the SD format across its camera line, you’ll need to stick with the pricier Memory Stick format to take advantage of this neat (although not the most practical) feature.

Finally, while Sony introduced a panorama sweep mode to its highest-end cameras last year, the company has now made the technology more intelligent, so that it can compensate for moving subjects while the panorama sweep is in process. Additionally, whereas panorama mode was once reserved for cameras with CMOS senors, for which you pay a premium, Sony is now offering this mode on select models with less expensive CCD sensors. However, this intelligent panorama mode will only be available on models that have CMOS sensor.

Other new features include 1080 interlaced video at 60 frames per second, which, in a demo we saw, looked smoother than the progressive-frame video from past generations of Sony’s cameras. GPS-enabled cameras now have a compass as well. Sony’s High Dynamic Range technology brings out both highlights and shadow detail in harshly lit and low light shots. Finally, Active SteadyShot, an image stabilization technology that kicks in when the lens is in zoom mode (Canon introduced a similar technology yesterday).

After the jump, a rundown of the seven cameras themselves.

The flagship camera in Sony’s new line, the TX7 ($399, pictured), has all the goodies listed above: full HD video (AVCHD) at 60 interlaced frames per second, the smarter panorama mode, Sony’s High Dynamic Range technology, and TransferJet. It can also shoot ten frames per second in burst mode.  Rounding out the spec list, the 10-megapixel camera also has a large 3.5-inch touchscreen, 4X optical zoom, and HDMI output. Also on the high end, the bulkier HX5 ($349) offers all of these features (minus the huge touchscreen), but is better suited to travelers, thanks to its 10X zoom and GPS receiver.Sony will begin taking pre-orders for these cameras this month.

The other cameras Sony announced today are more affordable, ranging in price from $120 to $230. Here’s how they differ:

W370 ($229)

  • 14-megapixel resolution
  • 7X zoom
  • 3-inch LCD
  • HDMI output
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Intelligent Auto, Easy Mode, and Smile Shutter
  • Available in March

W350 ($199)

  • 14-megapixel resolution
  • 4X zoom
  • Slimmer shape than others
  • Records 720p video
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Panorama mode (not the newest iteration of this technology)
  • Intelligent Auto, Easy Mode, and Smile Shutter
  • 2.7-inch LCD
  • Available in January

W330 ($169)

  • 14-megapixel resolution
  • 4X optical zoom
  • 3-inch LCD
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Intelligent Auto, Easy Mode, and Smile Shutter
  • Available in February

W310 ($149)

  • 12-megapixel resolution
  • 4X optical zoom
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 2.7-inch LCD
  • Intelligent Auto, Easy Mode, and Smile Shutter
  • Available in March

S2100 ($119)

  • 12-megapixel resolution
  • 3X optical zoom
  • Digital image stabilization
  • 3-inch LCD
  • Intelligent Auto, Easy Mode, and Smile Shutter
  • Available in February

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