Think about how often you show digital photos to your friends, either on your mobile phone or camera's LCD. Now think about how miserable the experience is trying to find an image on that camera or phone, how frequently you don't have the photo you really want to show, and how pathetically small and visually underwhelming the display is for the task.
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T700 aims to improve this picture-sharing experience by giving consumers not only a well-rounded point-and-shoot camera, but also a portable digital photo album able to store up to 40,000 images and view them on an 89mm (3.5-inch) LCD screen. And we're pleased to say: it succeeds. It's out in September for around £250.
The T700 replaces the in Sony's lineup. Like that camera, the T700 has a 10-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch Super HAD CCD sensor, wide 89mm touchscreen display, f3.5-f10 35-140mm-equivalent Carl Zeiss lens (though the zoom range drops from 5x to 4x), Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation, and shooting features such as Smile Shutter, face detection with child- and adult-priority control, and iSCN Intelligent Scene Recognition.
Along with improvements made to the LCD's picture quality (921,000 pixels up from 230,000) the T700's internal memory jumps from 15MB to 4GB -- 3.7GB available for photo storage -- as well as support for up to a 16GB Memory Stick Duo Pro card. The internal storage combined with the touchscreen LCD and the bundled Sony Picture Motion Browser software is what turns the camera into a digital photo album.
Measuring a little more than 15mm thick and weighing 160g, the T700 is ultraslim and light. We tested a brushed silver version, but it's available in grey, red, pink and gold, too. The camera has an elegant feel with a full metal body on the front and sides, and nothing but screen on the back. In fact, the only physical controls are the power and shutter buttons on top and the well-positioned zoom rocker at the right corner. The only other button is a small Playback mode button at the top right of the display.
On the bottom is the battery/Memory Stick compartment, a proprietary connector for use with the included USB/AV cable, and a tripod mount. To take a picture you simply slide down the flat, metal lens cover and click away. You'll want to be careful of errant fingers getting in shots and touching the lens, however, as the lens is positioned at the far left.
Sony's high-contrast Xtra Fine display is quite good. At its Normal brightness setting, we had no problem seeing the screen in direct sunlight. Well, no problem after wiping away fingerprints -- the T700 seems to collect more than most. If having to wipe off fingerprints is a deal-breaker, you'll want to skip this camera and probably all touchscreen models for that matter -- of which there are more and more.
Aside from fingerprints, you might take issue with the touchscreen's responsiveness. We found the T700's to be fine with fingers, but better with the included stylus (or 'Paint Pen' as Sony calls it), probably because we could be more precise with it. It clips on to the wrist strap and allows you to quickly poke around the three onscreen menus (Home, Menu and Display) along with the in-camera retouching and painting tools (you can add stamps, frames or draw on pictures) all while keeping the screen free of fingerprints.
Navigating the camera settings is easy enough. The Home menu gives you access to all the main features and options, while the Menu screen provides context-sensitive options. For instance, if you're taking still pictures, you get all the shooting choices such as scene modes and resolutions. The T700 offers ten scene modes -- including a new Gourmet option for shooting food -- as well as the typical auto features.
Sony has updated its Smile Shutter function so that it continues to automatically shoot pictures of people smiling until you tell it not to, but still lets you take single shots with the shutter button. There are three smile sensitivity levels as well. The iSCN Intelligent Scene Recognition now selects the best mode from eight scene modes up from five previously, and there's an advanced mode that will take a picture with the current settings plus an additional shot with optimised settings if need be (nothing like being second-guessed by your electronics). The company added an antiblink iSCN, too, which will automatically take a second picture if it senses closed eyes. All of these worked well.
Performance for the DSC-T700 is about the same as the T300, and one of the top performers in its class. In , it averaged 1.7 seconds from power-on to first shot. Shot-to-shot time was about the same, while flash bumped that up to 2.4 seconds, which is pretty fast for an ultracompact. In high-contrast conditions it took only 0.4 seconds to focus and shoot, while that raises to a modest 0.9 seconds in a lower-contrast environment. It held a rate of 1.9fps in burst mode for over 50 shots.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Flash shot-to-shot time||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Picture quality is also respectable, with excellent colour and contrast at low ISO sensitivities, though there's some visible lens distortion on the left side, which is common in this class of cameras. Photos at and below a size of 200x250mm were fine quality, though all photos generally look soft. Viewed at 100 per cent, we saw some chromatic aberration, and off-subject elements of the scene tended to look smeary and overprocessed, but nothing that was noticeable at traditional print sizes and certainly not on the T700's LCD. Noise in the pictures becomes noticeable at ISO 200 and starts to seriously obscure detail at ISO 800; we don't suggest using higher settings.
As a playback device, the T700 definitely succeeds thanks to its large, sharp LCD and undemanding navigation and image management. The camera's PhotoMusic slide-show feature is fun too, and allows you to select from five visual and three face-priority effects, and eight audio tracks to add to a slide show (you can use your own music too). All this enjoyment drains the 680mAh battery pretty fast, however.
A key ingredient to the T700's package is the PMB software. Once installed on a Windows PC -- yep, it's Windows only -- all you need to do is connect the camera to a USB port and the software wakes up and walks you through importing images. Then with another click of the Easy Export button on its main toolbar, it'll send the images back out to the camera, shrinking them to VGA resolution -- good enough for showing people on the camera's screen while leaving you plenty of space for more pictures. The software handles organisational tasks such as tagging photos as favourites so you can easily find them once they're back living on the camera. PMB can be used to directly upload to sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket and YouTube as well.
Keep in mind that at this low resolution, you don't really want to actually give the photos on the camera to other people or print from the album, and they simply look bad when directly connected to a large-screen HDTV. Also, in order to use or view the internal memory you cannot have a Memory Stick card inserted in the camera. Once a card is in, the T700's memory is basically off limits. In order to access it again, say to show people stored images, you must remove the card. Annoying, yes, but better than the implementation for the , which required you to fill up its 4GB memory before you could use a Memory Stick at all.
Overall, the experience offered by the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 is enjoyable, especially if your main objective is to shoot tonnes of pictures in good light and then show them to all your friends.
Edited by Nick Hide