Contax TVS Digital Review
With the 5-megapixel Contax TVS Digital , Contax aims to duplicate the success of its T-series 35mm-film cameras, luxurious point-and-shoot models with top-notch workmanship and pro-grade picture quality. The TVS Digital’s 3X zoom lens bears the prestigious name of Carl Zeiss, and the camera definitely has the elegant look and feel of its film cousins.
The TVS Digital’s traditional styling is clean and elegant. If you don’t mind paying an extra $100 for it, Contax also offers this camera in a black finish.
Four buttons surround the TVS Digital’s main navigation rocker switch, and each accesses a separate subgroup of the menu commands. It turns out that this unusual design offers speedy, efficient menu access. We were occasionally flummoxed, however, by cryptic button and menu labels. A few minutes with the camera manual will be in order even for experienced digital photographers.
As with its T-series film cousins, the TVS Digital’s feature set is aimed at quality-conscious snapshooters rather than pros. You can choose either program or aperture-priority exposure mode and any of three light meters: evaluative, center-weighted, or spot. You can also adjust the strength of the built-in flash with flash exposure compensation.
There’s also a three-shot exposure autobracketing function and a three-shot white-balance autobracketing mode. Saturation and sharpness adjustments add some creative flexibility.
You can capture still images only as JPEG files, and there are two compression levels available. You can also record video clips with sound up to 30 seconds long at 320×240 resolution, and you can annotate still shots with voice recordings.
The TVS Digital’s Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar 3X zoom lens covers a range from 35mm to 105mm in 35mm-camera-equivalent terms. Its f/2.8-to-f/4.8 variable maximum aperture is fairly standard for this class of camera, and with the closest focusing distance of 5.9 inches, it claims modest macro capabilities. The adequate but not exceptional manual focus system lets you set any one of eight focus distances by using the main rocker switch on the back of the camera.
The lens will not accept screw-on accessories such as filters or wide-angle and telephoto adapters. High-end touches such as its titanium body notwithstanding, the TVS Digital’s performance is run-of-the-mill. Autofocus speed is about average, as is shutter delay, and shot-to-shot time is a tad on the slow side for this camera’s class, at about 3 to 4 seconds. The camera’s continuous-drive mode will take three shots at 2 frames per second (fps), but it pauses for more than 10 seconds to clear the buffer before it will shoot again.
The camera’s 1.6-inch LCD uses a new technology that Contax calls DayFine, which is supposed to improve usability in bright light, but we rated the LCD just average in outdoor light. Curiously, in even moderately low light, the LCD won’t display a useful image at all–a minor but still annoying drawback. The optical viewfinder, though small, is very sharp and bright. It shows about 84 percent of the actual image area.
The built-in flash has the usual range of shooting modes, including slow-sync and daylight fill. Its 10.2-foot maximum range is average for a digital point-and-shoot. They’re also a bit noisier than images from the best of the competition. At ISO 400, this camera’s pictures, like those of many 5-megapixel point-and-shoots, are severely noisy.
Colors are quite saturated although not artificial-looking; the TVS Digital’s images generally have a vivid, contrasty look. The automatic white balance worked well, even under indoor lighting. Both ambient and flash exposures were generally good, and we saw only mild digital artifacts such as color fringing. It’s not that the TVS Digital’s images are bad–they’re just average. But average is not what most customers will be expecting from this relatively pricey camera.
Contax TVS Digital
|Max resolution||2560 x 1920|
|Other resolutions||1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480|
|Image ratio w:h||4:3|
|Effective pixels||5 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||5 megapixels|
|Sensor size||1/1.8″ (7.144 x 5.358 mm)|
|White balance presets||5|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|JPEG quality levels||Unknown|
|Optics & Focus|
|Focal length (equiv.)||35–105 mm|
|Digital zoom||Yes (1.3 x, 1.6 x, 2 x, 3 x, 4 x)|
|Normal focus range||60 cm (23.62″)|
|Macro focus range||15 cm (5.91″)|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Viewfinder type||Optical (tunnel)|
|Minimum shutter speed||1 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/2000 sec|
|Flash modes||Auto, On, Off, Red-eye reduction, Fill-In, Flash Off, Slow Sync|
|Exposure compensation||±2 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|Resolutions||30 sec, 320 x 240|
|Storage types||SD/MMC card|
|USB||USB 1.0 (1.5 Mbit/sec)|
|Battery description||Lithium-Ion rechargeable|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||260 g (0.57 lb / 9.17 oz)|
|Dimensions||112 x 60 x 33 mm (4.41 x 2.36 x 1.3″)|