Sony has a new trick up its sleeve in the form of the CyberShot TX5, a compact digicam that takes waterproof, weatherproof, drop-proof engineering and wraps it in a design that looks, well, normal.

Whereas similar ‘tough’ cameras are trussed up in chunky, ruggedised external casings, the Sony TX5 retains the look and feel of a stylish everyday shooter without compromising on the level of punishment it can take. It is shock proof up to a 1.5 metre drop, dustproof, freeze proof down to -10 degrees Celsius, and water proof to 3 metres. We dropped it into a tall vase of water and experimented with the 3 inch (7.5cm) touchscreen, and all the controls worked to spec – just as they do in the dry.

The TX5 shoots 10.2 megapixels and 720p video – check out the underwater footage captured from the bottom of the vase in the accompanying video – and, in an acknowledgement that SD is now the de facto standard for digital cameras, a hybrid memory slot supporting it and and the company’s own Memory Stick.

Other features include a Carl Zeiss lens with 4x optical zoom and a 25mm equivalent wide angle lens for capturing landscapes, Sony’s Exmore R CMOS sensor for increased performance in low light, and an iSweep Panorama mode that captures scenes through a full 243 degrees. This version of iSweep also improves on previous iterations of the technology by using face and motion detection to help ensure that moving subjects appear stationary when the final panorama is stitched together.

Sony Cyber-shot TX5

Sony claims X5 is the thinnest and smallest waterproof camera in the world and will release it for sale in April 2010, just in time for the Australian snow season. Available in silver, black, pink, and red finishes, it will sell for $599.