Frankly, we find the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 something of a market-segment mystery. It's identical to the with a few exceptions -- a smaller, somewhat cleaner design, a marginally larger LCD, 4GB internal memory and some not-terribly-engaging playback options.
They all deliver almost identical performance and photo quality. So despite the fact that the £215 T2 is a pretty good camera, we can't really come up with any situation in which it's the most sensible choice -- unless you want blue, green or pink, colours not offered for the more staid T20 and T200.
Even the ways in which the T2 clearly distinguishes itself don't present clear advantages. For instance, we really like the new aesthetic. Unlike its increasingly larger siblings, which have slowly outgrown the 'ultracompact' designation, the 156g, 87 by 57 by 20mm T2 remains firmly trouser-pocketable.
It's more flat-faced and protrusion-free than the other models, with a cooler front-sliding vertical lens cover. But the buttons and switches -- most notably the Review and Scrap Book buttons -- are very difficult to press, and the LCD is too small for comfortable touch-screen operation.
Like the T200, the T2 doesn't include a dock and requires a dongle converter for the docking port (included) to connect the USB cable (also included), or to connect a cable for display on a TV (not included). But as the third Law of Consumer Electronics states, "One more small piece to lose: bad." It's doubly a problem with the T2. Since it includes 4GB memory and will only write to an external card if the internal memory is full, you need that dongle. The alternative is springing for a or Cyber-shot Station.
And then there's the touch screen. Over time, Sony has streamlined the operation and layout of the various options, making it less onerous of an interface. But finger touches don't always register immediately.
Furthermore, unlike the higher-end model Ts, which have 16:9 aspect screens and use the blacked letterbox area for the touch-screen icons, the T2's 4:3 screen overlays the icons on the viewing display, and they can be difficult to see against some scene types.
You access the frequently used shooting settings via the display. These include resolution, self timer, exposure mode (auto, scene, program or movie), focus (multi, centre, spot or manual), metering mode (multi, centre-weighted or spot), ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, macro and flash.
Though it lacks aperture and shutter-priority modes, it does tell you the current shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting when you prefocus. There's also a live histogram for those, like us, who don't believe the display. Drive mode, white balance, colour mode (standard, vivid, natural or sepia), flash compensation, red-eye reduction and SteadyShot require a dip down deeper into the menus. Oddly, the T2 lacks manual white balance, but we doubt many will miss it on this camera.
The face-detection autofocus works very well at spotting multiple faces in a scene -- the T2 will optimise focus and exposure for the face(s) -- and one of the bonuses of the touch screen is you can use it to indicate the primary face. We still think that the Spot Focus feature, in which you touch the desired focus point is a faster, better solution, however.
The T2 also includes Sony's 'smile shutter' mode, which pauses shooting until the detected faces crack a smile. We wish it could be liberated from the scene-mode ghetto, though, it would be useful in general Program mode shooting, too.
As all those gigs of onboard memory indicate, Sony geared up the T2 for photo sharing and storage. Towards that end, the T2 provides a host of ways of dealing with pictures post-shoot: Albums, Favorites, Sharemark and Scrapbook. You physically organise the photo files into Albums, tag Favorites for retrieval and tag with Sharemarks for automatic resizing and uploading.
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We simply couldn't get Sharemark to work -- in theory, it runs a copy of Picture Motion Browser that's stored in the internal memory, but it gave us a lovely, cryptic error -- and since it's a Windows-only application, it won't run on a Mac. But we only made a cursory attempt.
For playback, in addition to the traditional index thumbnails and slide show, there's a neat calendar view and predefined Scrapbook slide-show templates into which it dumps your photos. The latter simply doesn't make sense on the T2's relatively small LCD -- you see mostly template graphics, while your photos are teeny. To display it on your TV, though, requires all those extra purchases. Finally, you can also 'paint' on photos using the bundled stylus.
In almost all respects, the T2 is quite the zippy shooter. From power on to first shot takes a hair less than two seconds. Time to focus and snap runs only 0.4 seconds in good light, though that rises to 1.2 seconds in dimmer situations -- pretty good for a snapshot camera, but slower than you really want. The interval between two consecutive shots is a brisk 1.4 seconds, which rises to 2.5 seconds with flash.
In burst mode, it snaps at a clip of about two frames per second. Only the T2's slow-zooming internal lens provides a less-than-satisfying performance experience; it takes about 2.6 seconds to traverse the 3x zoom range. By comparison, the T200 takes 2.8 seconds to cover its 5x zoom range. As always, though, the Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation works well.
Overall, the T2's photos look pretty good. As with the T200 and T20, they're softer than the previous generation's -- notably the -- and than some of the competition's, due to what looks like more aggressive noise reduction.
Still, they show good exposure and automatic white balance. There's some lens distortion and purple and cyan fringing, but the colours look pleasing and reasonably saturated. Like most snapshot cameras, photos taken at sensitivities beyond ISO 200 look really mushy and by ISO 800 lack detail entirely, so take Sony's claim of ISO 3,200 capability for the T2 with a chunk of salt.
Though it's a perfectly competent little camera, on the basis of features, image quality and performance, there's little reason to opt for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 over the less expensive T20 or better-equipped T200. If you find the design a significant attraction, then we suggest you visit one in a local store before making the commitment.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday