Sony DSC-T10 Overview
by Mike Pasini
and Dave Etchells
Review Date: 09/22/2006
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10 offers a CCD sensor resolution of 7.2 effective megapixels and ISO sensitivity from 80 to 1000, coupled with an optically stabilized Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded 3x optical zoom lens. The lens has an 35mm equivalent focal length range of 38 to 114mm. Other features of the Sony DSC-T10 include shutter speeds from 1 to 1/1000 second, a choice of Multi-pattern, Center-weighted, or Spot metering, five white balance presets, 10 scene modes, USB and video connectivity, and both Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo storage coupled with 56MB of built-in memory.
The Sony T10 appears to use the same lens and imager combination as the previous Cyber-shot DSC-T30 model. Changes from that camera include a slightly smaller, lighter body (essentially that used in the DSC-T9 with a modified lens cover), the savings achieved thanks to the use of a smaller 2.5-inch LCD as opposed to the T30's 3-inch screen. The flash range is also somewhat reduced in the Sony Cybershot T10, and the 16-frame playback mode of the T30 removed since the LCD display is smaller. The built-in memory shrinks 2MB from the T30's 58MB, and the built-in battery is an NP-FT1 InfoLITHIUM instead of the T30's NP-FR1 type. CIPA battery life is rated at 250 shots, versus 420 shots for the T30. Most other features are unchanged.
Pricing for the Sony DSC-T10 is set at $400, and the camera ships from August 2006.
Sony DSC-T10 User Report
Sony isn't shy about describing the T10 as "so stylish that it can be viewed as a fashion accessory." In fact, our review was interrupted by a desperate request from Sony to FedEx the T10 to New York for an appearance in the third annual Fashion Rocks event at Radio City Music Hall.
But you don't have to be have a certain look to own a T10. Just the opposite. You can accessorize your T10 in pink, white, black or silver. Whatever color you choose, the T10 is stunning.
Yes, it's trim enough to slip into a pocket or purse without bulging. Yes, it's got a big LCD (2.5 inches). But the lens cover is what sets it apart. At first, I thought it was going to be a little clunky. After all, stylish digicams like the Nikon S6 just have a little disc that covers the lens.
But I got to like the lens cover on the T10 as I used the camera. It's a foolproof, totally blind way to turn the camera on and off. No hunting for a tiny little Power button.
I also really liked the time display for the battery condition, something only Sony seems to know how to do. I'm in the habit of ignoring battery status displays. Either they're full or you have 10 seconds of power left. Maybe 15 if it's half full. Anything less than full means doom. But not with the T10. Sony's InfoLITHIUM battery actually can tell the camera how much time it has left, and the remaining-time numbers seem to be pretty darn accurate.
The more I used the T10, the more I liked it. I didn't care for the menu system or the controls -- but I like the pictures. And I really liked what SteadyShot did.
Most cameras are tuned for good shooting conditions. Sunlight or open shade. If you have to use the flash, well, pat on the back and good luck. But the T10 has a few tricks up its sleeve for less than ideal conditions. And it doesn't require you to slip into some obscure Scene mode to survive, either.
The big decision is whether or not to use Macro mode (how close are you). Other than that, you just point and shoot.
That works on the T10 (unlike other digicams) because Sony has tapped into its SteadyShot technology to deliver sharp images at ridiculously low shutter speeds. That lets Sony keep the ISO down to levels that don't introduce a lot of noise.
Of course, the T10's ISO 1000 is worth playing with. On its own, it may not seem terribly useful, introducing a lot of noise, especially in the shadows, and even when you're only printing 4x6 inch snapshots. But you can clean a lot of that up in post-processing. If it bothers you. You may just find that taking a shot where you otherwise wouldn't is its own payoff. And a little noise, like a little grain, won't matter much.
There you have it in a nutshell. Style, Stabilization, Sensitivity.
Design. I liked the look of the T10 but for a real test, we palmed it off on Mom. She's the fashion czar in the family. She's never had to buy a gift certificate. Everyone wants her to select the merchandise. What did she say about the T10? "It's the best one yet."
Somehow the lens barrier, which you slide down to activate the camera and up to shut it off, keeps you from sticking your fingers in front of the lens up in the top corner. There's no grip to speak of, but the camera rests comfortably in our hand.
What I wasn't so enamored of were the controls. They're all small so you have to look for them. But where a nice navigator dial would have been were four small buttons and another in the middle. I just hate when they do that. Buttons instead of a dial.
I also found the Power button confusing. Never thought I'd say that, but you can't just use the Power button, as you would on other cameras, because the lens cover has to be open to take a shot. And when you slide it down, the power comes on anyway. So you can slide it up or down to turn the camera on or off.
But you want it up if for Playback mode, you know, to protect the lens as you pass it around. But pressing the Playback button doesn't turn the camera on. Sony could have dispensed with the Power button, relying entirely on either the lens cover for Record mode or the Playback button for reviewing. Except for Movie mode.
Display/Viewfinder. The 2.5-inch LCD isn't a 3.0-inch LCD but you can't really tell. It's big and dominates the back. Good enough. Outdoors it washes out in bright sun like many other LCDs.
But for reviewing your images, it does a nice job. No matter which way I turned the camera, I could see the picture. So sharing with a group of friends actually works.
More importantly, Sony includes both a live histogram when you're shooting and a display histogram. LCDs do not show 24-bit color. Big secret. They show just 16-bit color, so my shots of red roses looked absolutely horrible on the LCD. But they were fine on my computer screen (which does display 24-bit color). The histogram helps you evaluate what you've really captured.
Performance. Slip the lens cover down and the camera is ready to shoot. Slip it up and its off. After seeing so many digital cameras with delayed-reaction Power buttons, this was a refreshing change. Maybe it's mechanical, but it's also sensory. It's ready when it feels like it's ready and off when it feels like it's off. Brilliant.
Zoom is bit confining with just 3x optical. And Sony is conservative (but intelligent) with its digital zoom, limiting it to just 2x. So you're not going to get intimate shots across the soccer field with the T10.
Shot-to-shot performance is really a matter of menu options. The single shot mode is quick enough for normal use. Burst mode captures several images in rapid succession as long as you hold down the shutter button. Multi-Burst takes 16 images very quickly. So you have your choice.
The menu system sticks Scene modes at the very end of the non-looping navigation system. Not convenient. But not much missed either. Of all the digicams we've tested, this one seems among the least likely to require a Scene mode.
The proof of this was a little trip I took to the new de Young museum here in San Francisco (unfortunately, we can't publish those pictures). Not my first. I had been there before with one or another digicam. The lighting is misleading. There are some very dark areas and others that appear bright. But even the brightest areas are dim. You're allowed to take photos in the permanent collection and there plenty of images worth capturing. But the dim light makes it tough.
Too tough for most digital cameras. Even with image stabilization.
But the T10 actually came home with some printable images. And it did it without bumping the ISO up to ridiculously high levels. Instead of increasing the noise, it lowered the shutter speed and relied on SteadyShot to do the job. And it really did.
Most remarkable was a Tiffany vase in such dim light I thought I should take off my glasses to look at it. The focus assist lamp (which might draw a guard's attention) honed in on the vase and SteadyShot made the most of it. And I didn't have to do anything special. Just point and shoot. No Museum mode. No VR button. Just fire away.
With an ISO setting as high as 1000, it may be surprising to see Auto mode restrict itself to ISO 320. But that keeps noise in the shadows low. When I did shoot at ISO 1000, I found quite a bit of noise in the shadows. But, as I've pointed out before, a noise reduction filter in an image editing program can clean up much of that.
Here are three samples to demonstrate. The full image is in our gallery, but this is just a very small crop that includes highlight and shadow detail of a plastic product case. The top one shows the image as shot. The second shows it after processing in Imagenomics innovative Noiseware software. The third shows Photoshop's noise reduction filter.
Transferring images from the camera card proved to be a little awkward. The T10 uses a Sony Memory Stick Duo, which is a bit thinner and narrower than an SD card. I usually pop memory cards into a PCMCIA card adapter for my laptop, but didn't have an adapter for the Duo. So I cabled the T10 to my USB hub with the included octopus cable.
It's the strangest cable I've ever seen, with connectors for all sorts of things in addition to USB. Instead of multiple cables, Sony packs this octopus cable with the T10. At the end opposite the USB plug is the proprietary camera connection. It almost looks like the camera should pop into a dock, but it doesn't. It connects to this cable.
That's awkward because with the cable connected to the bottom of the camera, there's no obvious way to rest the camera during the transfer. We laid it on its stylish face so we could read the screen.
Appraisal. Even if the T10 looked like debris from a Soviet space capsule, its image stabilization would make it a winner. Toss in sensitivity that goes into orbit at ISO 1000 and you have a serious toy. And add that fashion statement to make it too compelling to ignore. "I always liked Sony," Mom said. She could be on to something there.
- 7.2-megapixel Super Hole Accumulated Diode (Super HAD) CCD
- 2.5-inch color LCD monitor with 230K pixels
- Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x zoom lens, equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera
- Aperture range of f/3.5-8 (wide angle) and f/4.3-10 (telephoto)
- 2x Precision Digital Zoom, 14x Smart Zoom (at VGA resolution)
- Full Auto and Program exposure modes
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to one second
- Built-in flash with four modes
- 56MB internal memory
- Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo image storage (no card included)
- Power supplied by NP-FT1 InfoLITHIUM battery (supplied) or AC adapter
- Pixela Image Mixer and Picture Package software, plus USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms
- Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization
- Movie mode with MPEG VX Movie option for continuous 30 fps recording at 640 x 480 pixel resolution. (Requires Memory Stick PRO Duo.)
- In-camera slide show with music and transitions
- High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, High-Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow, Fireworks preset Scene modes
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release
- Color menu with Sepia and Monochrome effects, plus Natural and Vivid color options
- Macro (3.1-inch close-up) lens setting with Magnifying Glass super-macro mode (0.4-inch)
- White balance (color) adjustment with six modes
- Burst, Multi Burst, and Exposure Bracketing record modes
- Multi-Pattern, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes
- Variable light sensitivity with ISO equivalents from 80 to 1,000, and an Auto setting
- Five-area Multi-Point auto focus with Spot and Center AF modes, as well as manual focus zones, and an AF illuminator
- Single and Monitoring AF modes
- Automatic Noise Reduction for longer exposures
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatible
In the Box
The Sony DSC-T10 ships with the following items in the box:
- Sony DSC-T10 camera
- Wrist strap
- USB/AV/DC-in multiconnector cable
- NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery pack and charger
- Software CD
- Instruction manual and registration card
- We strongly recommend buying a large-capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo; at least a 256 MB card, preferably a 512 MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings. (We recommend the PRO version of the Memory Stick Duo, because it supports non-stop video as well as longer sequences of continuous still-image shooting. You may want to pick up a Memory Stick Duo adapter, in case your card reader only accepts normal-size Memory Sticks.)
- Additional NP-FT1 battery pack
- Small camera case to protect the LCD
The DSC-T10 continues a Sony tradition of high quality in the subcompact category, packing more features into a smaller space than most anything else out there, but this time with the added bonus of optical image stabilization and high ISO settings. Like those of other recent T-series models, we found the lens on the Sony T10 to be of higher than average quality for a subcompact camera, and image quality was quite good as a result.
The 7.2-megapixel CCD delivers plenty of resolution for large prints, and the smattering of Scene modes makes it easy to bring back good-looking photos from what would otherwise be difficult shooting conditions. The biggest news of course, is the T10's Super SteadyShot image stabilization, which we found to be very effective. This will let you get crisp shots even when faced with hand-holding the camera under surprisingly dim lighting (assuming of course, that your subject is stationary as well). Of course, a tripod is always recommended when things get really dark, but we were very pleasantly surprised to see just how dark it could get, while we were still snapping sharp photos.
On the other side of the coin though, we found the Sony T10's higher ISO modes rather noisy when shooting after dark, diminishing their usefulness, and its flash was as anemic as those of all the other subcompact cameras we've tested. All in all though, we found the Sony DSC-T10 a delight to use, and its Super SteadyShot image stabilization made a huge difference in our ability to hand-hold long exposures. Bottom line, this would be a great camera to take along on a vacation. Super compact, able to handle a wide range of conditions, and able to save a lot of shots from what would otherwise be fatal camera-shake blur. An easy Dave's Pick as one of the more worthy digital cameras on the market, but we'd really like to see lower high-ISO image noise after dark.