The Sony DSC-T1 looks hi-tech and cool. And it is hi-tech, indeed. Featuring very compact dimensions, a 5-Megapixel resolution, a big 2.5-inch high-resolution (211,000-pixel) LCD and a compact 3x zoom by Carl Zeiss, it is a marvel of modern technology. But is it perfect? Not quite...
The camera is compact and stylish. The camera has a lid that protects the lens and the flash, and slides downward to reveal them and simultaneously turn the camera on. The rear panel houses the camera’s large 2.5-inch LCD, the charge/flash ready indicator, zooming rocker and control buttons. The menu control buttons serve dual purpose. The switch on the side of the camera switches it between modes, including the mode in which you can shoot VGA-resolution video.
The camera is compact and is lightweight, which doesn’t help to decrease the camera shake when shooting handheld. Do you want to use a tripod to get rid of the camera shake? Sorry, you can’t – there is no tripod mount.
The camera’s large LCD is visible even in bright sunlight. It doesn’t swivel, however, which limits the shooting angles somewhat. The camera doesn’t have a viewfinder. The AF-assist light helps you see (and helps the camera focus) in the low-light situations.
The LCD is very fluid and I can't say I missed the optical viewfinder much.
The camera supports sensitivity settings of ISO 100-400. You can set it to Auto, 100, 200 or 400.
The camera has a speedlight (flash) that is compact and, as a consequence, weak. The recommended flash range is only up to 60 inches or 1.5 meters (ISO set to Auto). In other words, the flash is weak. Also, it is located quite close to the lens, which causes red-eye problems.
The flash can be set to Auto, Forced, No Flash or Slow Synchro.
The camera uses a Vario-Tessar lens by Carl Zeiss. The amazing compactness is achieved by rotating the light path inside the camera 90 degrees using a prism and then having a 3x optical zoom inside the camera itself.
The lens has maximum aperture of f/3.5-4.4, which is quite impressive. The focal length is 38-114 mm in 35mm equivalent terms. The 3x optical zoom can be combined with digital zoom for up to 12x total magnification (while decreasing resolution down to VGA).
The low-light situations are really not the T1’s forte. Since the camera has a small flash, which is relatively weak, and there is no tripod mount, some low-light pictures might turn out blurry due to the camera shake. However, the noise level produced by this camera at ISO 400 is very low and thus you can counteract, if only somewhat, the flash weakness and the lack of tripod mount by having sensitivity set to ISO 400.
The noise at ISO 200 and 400 is almost as low as noise at ISO 100, which is a rarity and a pleasant surprise. The pictures the T1 takes are sharp, have great contrast and colors. The 5-megapixel resolution lets you enlarge them well beyond your regular 6x4 size without any loss of detail. The 8x10 prints at 240 dpi can be produced with no loss of detail.
There is a slight vignetting (corners of the picture darker then center) and the corners are slightly softer than the center, which is usual for small lenses.
The top resolution is 2592x1944 (5 Megapixels), but you also have an ability to take pictures at 2592x1728, 2048x1536 (3 Megapixels), 1280x960 (1 Megapixel) and 640x480 (VGA).
The camera saves pictures in compressed JPEG format. There is no uncompressed RAW mode and only two picture quality modes for JPEG are available – Fine and Standard. There is no Super Fine mode.
If you want manual control, you will be disappointed. The camera has not shutter priority or aperture priority mode, let alone full manual mode. The camera has Auto and Program Auto Exposure modes. The shutter speed ranges from 1 second to 1/1,000 and the aperture is automatically set to f3.5, f5.6 or f8.
The Auto mode adjusts focus and exposure automatically, letting you use the camera as a Point-and-Shoot. The Program mode lets you adjust focus but the exposure is automatically adjusted. There are also several modes that automatically adjust exposure and focus based on the mode selected, e.g. Landscape Mode.
You get an option to use camera’s exposure compensation +2 EV to -2 EV in 1/3 EV steps. The camera also features exposure bracketing (three pictures are taken in rapid succession with different exposures to let you select the better looking one). The bracket steps are 1 EV, 0.7 EV or 0.3 EV.
The camera has auto white balance and manual WB (Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight, Cloudy, Flash). You can also adjust the auto-focusing method (5-area multi-point AF, center AF and spot AF). You can also choose between Single AF, Monitoring AF and Continuous AF.
The focus distance presets are also available. You can set focus to 0.5m, 1m, 3m, 7m, infinity. Fortunately, the depth of field of digital cameras (including T1) is larger than that of 35mm film cameras and thus the focusing is easier.
Ease of Use
The camera is very easy to use, at least the main features of it. The Menu button calls different menus based on the mode you are in. The only annoyance I had was the fact that the camera refused to show any menus in the shooting mode with the lid closed over the lens (the camera was powered by the "Power" button on top of the camera). But once the lid was open, the menu appeared.
Deleting unwanted pictures is very easy as well - in the review mode, just push a button, which has a trash can icon beside it and select "yes" on the screen.
The sliding mode switch (video/still pictures/review) slides easily and has a precise feel. Another thing you might want to know is: to view the last taken picture, you dont' have to switch the mode, just push the "left arrow" button.
The camera has a close-up mode, instant review, live histogram, audio recording, movie mode (640x480 30fps MPEG), exposure compensation and bracketing.
The camera comes with a cradle that has a USB 2.0 port for fast transfer of images to your computer. The cradle also features an A/V out. The universal power adaptor can plug either into the cradle or into the camera directly – a very convenient feature.
The battery uses Sony’s InfoLithium system that keeps you informed about the remaining battery life. The battery is housed in the same compartment as the MemoryStick card, which is slightly inconvenient. The battery lets you record up to 170 pictures with an LCD on or playback up to 2600 images.
The camera uses small MemoryStick Duo. The supplied card is 32 Mb and you definitely should buy a card of larger capacity, unless you plan to take pictures of small resolution.
Pros:Excellent picture quality in good light, resolution, large LCD, size
Cons:Weak flash, no tripod mount, no RAW mode, red-eye, price, lack of manual control
I can recommend the Sony DSC-T1 as a compact point-and-shoot camera for good light conditions. If you want manual control over the aperture or shutter speed or need a good low-light performer, look elsewhere.