Sony heads uptown, with another brushed metal T-series camera that screams quality and style, from its over-sized lens cover to an enormous 76mm (3-inch) touchscreen that occupies the entire back. Sony also somehow finds room for a 5x non-protruding zoom lens, fronting an 8-megapixel sensor.
The T200 is available now, in silver, black and (rarer) blood red, at around £230.
When it comes to build quality, only Canon can rival the sheer solidity of Sony's style cameras. The T200 isn't especially light (186g ready to shoot) or slim (20mm), but everything feels built to last, especially the rock-solid lens cover and the bright, colourful 76mm touchscreen.
Finding a 5x zoom inside such a compact camera is a real joy and Sony's Super SteadyShot image stabilisation is as effective as ever. This, combined with relatively noise-free high sensitivities (up to ISO 1,600 is still acceptable), makes the T200 a good bet for low-light shooting -- although the small flash is surprisingly powerful, too.
The big gimmick this time is a development of the now common face-detection technology, called 'Smile Shutter'. Activate this scene mode and the shutter is completely deactivated. Instead, the T200 simply automatically takes pictures when it detects people smiling. And guess what? It works. Admittedly, you sometimes have to pull grins wide enough to swallow whole slices of toast and it does favour toothy beams over subtle smirks, but it's a great way of side-stepping shutter lag when you want nice pictures of restless kids.
Images are powerfully bright and saturated. If you like eye-popping colours and don't mind sacrificing some fine detail and reality to get them, you'll love the saccharine-sweet snaps the T200 serves up.
There are also enough built-in colour and effect filters, including cropping and resizing options, so you may not need to open a PC editing package at all -- except perhaps to tone down those lurid splashes of colour.
Don't get too excited by all that touch-sensitive acreage. Of the 76mm widescreen on offer, only a letterboxed 71mm area of the screen can be used for framing or playing back photos. The remainder holds graphical icons that are clear enough to see (especially in the dark), but surprisingly slow and annoying to navigate.
Considering that there are only four buttons on the entire camera, it's hard to see why the zoom rocker has to be so painfully tiny, requiring fingertip operation to skitter in either direction.
Sony also makes a big fuss about how its latest cameras are HD-compatible, for super-sharp playback on high-definition TVs. But if you want to see the T200's pics on your 1080p panel, you'll need to splash out an extra £30 on a special component cable -- an HD rip-off if you ask us.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 is an almost perfect family camera. It's techy enough for Dad, stylish enough for Mum, easy enough for teens to get snapping in seconds and tough enough to withstand Junior's jam-smeared mitts.
The Smile Shutter may be gimmicky, but it really works -- guaranteeing at least a few genuine grins as you pull faces to trip the shutter. And if the image quality doesn't quite justify the high price of around £230, the long zoom and new features more than pick up the slack.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire