Lately, it seems as if Sony is releasing a new T-series camera every other week. The newest addition to this hip line of snapshooters is the Cyber-shot DSC-T50. Like the T30, it features a 7.2-megapixel CCD sensor, optical image stabilisation, a 3x optical, 38mm-to-114mm (35mm equivalent), f/3.5-to-f/4.3 zoom lens, and sensitivity of as high as ISO 1,000.
However, instead of the T30's 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen, the DSC-T50 includes a 76mm (3-inch) touchscreen LCD. This touchscreen is the only major difference between the two models, and since Sony has priced them much the same, it looks as though you'll be able to choose whether you want a touchscreen or not.
Pricing the T30 and T50 identically is probably the best thing Sony could've done. As we've seen with the touchscreens on Sony's camcorders, not everyone likes the interface. In general, we find it somewhat clunky and cramped, especially on screens smaller than 76mm. The worst part is that touchscreens often aren't as responsive as hard buttons tend to be. We often ended up pressing the virtual touchscreen buttons multiple times before they worked.
Sony includes a stylus, which helps a lot, but it doesn't tuck into the camera body. Instead, you're supposed to attach it to the camera's strap, and we doubt many people will actually do that. Beyond the stylus, our best advice is to keep your fingernails long enough to use them when navigating the camera's menus. The screen is more responsive to fingernails than to softer fingertips.
The menus themselves could also do with some refinement. For instance, the first screen you come to includes seven choices -- shooting mode, flash mode, focus mode, resolution, exposure compensation, timer on/off, and macro/magnifying glass on/off -- as well as a menu button. That menu button leads you to a second level of menus, which lets you adjust other settings, such as ISO, white balance, colour mode, metering mode, JPEG quality and others, and also has a button to lead you to the Setup menu, where you can adjust even more settings. This means you have to toggle past the main menu page every time you want to change the ISO, and you have to navigate past two pages just to format a memory card or turn the red-eye reduction preflash burst on or off.
As much as we've harped on about the touchscreen, these issues may not matter as much to you if you don't change your camera's settings. If you're the type to set your camera up once, leave everything on auto and just press the shutter release, then the sleek, sparse design offered by the touchscreen -- there are a grand total of two buttons and a zoom rocker on the back -- will probably be very appealing to you. However, given the amount of empty space, it would've made much more sense for Sony to include a few buttons next to the LCD to simplify the menu system. For instance, just including dedicated buttons for direct access to the three levels of menus would have made the camera much more usable.
The rest of the camera's features and functions are essentially the same as the T30's. In other words, we like it. You won't find manual exposure controls, but those are rare in a pocket camera like this, anyway. If Sony had added aperture- and shutter-priority modes instead of a touchscreen, they would have set themselves apart from the pack in a more meaningful way.