The 10-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 is roughly the size of a closed flip phone, and its internal 4x zoom lens lets it stay that size even when in use. Since the T77 sports a touchscreen display with next to no physical controls, it slides in and out of a trouser pocket with no effort. Its small size, however, has an impact on usability and photo quality. It's a fairly quick camera, though, so, if you can overlook its less-than-sharp photos and don't mind the touch-based interface, the T77 is one of the better ultra-compact cameras around.
You can find the T77 online for around £170.
As is typical of Sony's T-series cameras, the T77 is stylish and available in multiple colours: silver, black, green, pink and brown. The camera has an elegant feel, with a full metal body, and nothing but a screen on the back. In fact, the only physical controls are the power and shutter buttons on top, the little nub of a zoom rocker on the right-hand corner, and a small playback-mode button at the top right of the display.
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 on the far left and the camera is so small it can be difficult to hold. 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.
Aside from fingerprints, you might take issue with the touchscreen's responsiveness. The T77 does alright with fingers, but is better with the included stylus -- or 'paint pen', as Sony calls it -- probably because you can be more precise with your taps. It clips onto the wrist strap and lets you quickly poke around the three on-screen menus -- 'home', 'menu' and 'display' -- while keeping the screen free of fingerprints. You can also use the stylus with the in-camera retouching and painting tools -- you can add stamps, frames or draw on pictures.
One of the better uses for a touchscreen camera display is a touch-based autofocus system. Simply tap on your subject on-screen and that's what the camera will focus on. The T77 occasionally struggled, however, requiring multiple taps before it selected the right subject.
You don't need to use this feature though, and the camera otherwise has a reasonable amount of shooting options without getting bloated and overly complicated. These options include Sony's iSCN auto scene-recognition technology, which picks the correct settings according to what's being shot: backlight, backlight portrait, twilight, twilight portrait, twilight using a tripod, portrait, landscape and macro.
The T77 delivered some impressive performance numbers for its class. Shutter lag in particular was excellent, at 0.3 seconds in brightly lit conditions and 0.6 seconds in dim -- a lag time we usually get in good lighting. From off to first shot takes 2.1 seconds and it's ready to take another photo in 2.2 seconds. Turning on the flash only drives that time up to 2.8 seconds. The T77 also has a good burst speed of 1.7 frames per second.
Considering how small this camera is, photo quality is respectable, with very good colour (although reds and whites tend to bloom), white balance and contrast at low ISO sensitivities. There's some visible lens distortion on the left side, which is common in this class of cameras. Photos printed up to 8x10 inches in size are of fine quality, but all the T77's photos generally look soft.
Viewed at 100 per cent, we saw some chromatic aberration (purple fringing), and off-centre elements of scenes look fuzzier, as sharpness degrades quickly from the centre to the sides. Noise suppression in the pictures becomes noticeable at ISO 400 and starts to seriously obscure detail at ISO 800. We don't suggest using higher settings.