Years after the first Sony T-series hit the market, it's still impossible to deny the cool factor of these little, silver point-and-shoot cameras. This time, Sony serves up the 7.2-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T10, which lands between the 6-megapixel DSC-T9 and the 7.2-megapixel DSC-T30 in the company's line.
The DSC-T10 doesn't sport the fancy plexiglass back panel or the 76mm (3-inch) LCD of the T30, but it's got most of that camera's other features and a nice looking 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD of its own. To keep things interesting, Sony has offered a choice of four colours for the T10 -- black, pink, silver and white.
Except for its 7.2-megapixel CCD sensor, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10 is extremely similar to the DSC-T9. A full-body-width sliding lens cover turns the camera on and off, and the back panel layout is essentially identical, with most of the control buttons gathered to the right of the 64mm, 230,000-pixel LCD. One nice touch is that, when the lens cover is in the down position, a small vertical ridge provides a perfect grip for your middle finger.
A tiny button to the right of the shutter controls the camera's optical image stabilisation, which Sony refers to as Super Steady Shot. We found that it'll give you between one and two stops of leeway when shooting at slower shutter speeds. For example, we were able to shoot steady, crisp images at 1/20 second with stabilisation on, in situations that would normally require a shutter speed of 1/60 second to prevent blur.
A handy selection of shooting modes covers most specialised situations, while program and full auto let you tweak -- or not -- settings such as white balance, metering and focus modes. In addition to the normal autofocus modes, you can also set the camera to a range of fixed focus distances.
Like its predecessors, the DSC-T10 has a 3x optical, 38mm-to-114mm-equivalent, f/3.5-to-f/4.3 Carl Zeiss lens. Many cameras now include wider angles of view, which can be useful in casual shooting when you may not have the room to back up, and some have wider maximum apertures, which help in low light. Perhaps the next T-series camera we see will include a wider setting. Nit-picking aside, the lens does a decent job with little, if any, blooming, and fringing appearing only in the brightest areas of the image.
As usual for a T-series camera, the DSC-T10 is quick. It took 1.4 seconds to start up and capture its first image, while images thereafter took 1.6 seconds without flash. With the flash that slowed noticeably to 2.38 seconds, but that's still very respectable. Shutter lag impressed us, measuring 0.5 seconds in our high-contrast test and 1.45 seconds in low-contrast. Burst mode was the only less-than-stellar performance result, with an average of 1.28fps when capturing VGA resolution JPEGs and 1.35fps when capturing 7.2-megapixel JPEGs. Of course, an ultracompact camera such as the T10 isn't likely to see much burst shooting anyway.
Image quality from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10 was pleasing, especially for a pocket camera. Colours look accurate, though a bit flat at times, and noise is kept under control except at the highest ISOs. The camera captured clean, well-detailed images at both ISO 80 and ISO 100. Noise crept in at ISO 200, but plenty of detail remained. By ISO 400, we saw enough noise to obscure finer details, such as texture in fabric and separate strands of hair. At ISO 800, there was noticeable detail lost, and off-colour speckles and grainy noise was pervasive, though smaller prints should be fine. At ISO 1,000, the noise was only worse, but 100x150mm (4x6-inch) prints, while obviously not perfect, should still be passable.
While on the outside it's difficult to distinguish Sony's DSC-T9 from the DSC-T10, once its innards start cranking out images, it's obvious that Sony has continued to refine its stylish series of pocket cameras. The T10 raises the bar in terms of noise performance, while retaining all the other nice features that have made their way into this line over time. When it comes to ultracompact cameras, it's hard to beat the value of Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T10, even if it does seem expensive.