Sony DSC-T2 Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 12/15/07
The Sony DSC-T2 features an eight-megapixel sensor which is coupled to an internal Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.7-inch touch panel LCD display. The DSC-T2's 38 to 114mm equivalent lens incorporates Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization to minimize blur caused by camera shake at slow shutter speeds. The lens is protected by a sliding cover which nicely retracts flush with the surface of the camera body when closed, making the T2 more pocket-friendly. Other T2 features include ISO sensitivity to a maximum of ISO 3,200, a Memory Stick Duo/PRO Duo card slot plus a truly whopping 4GB of built in memory, and power from a proprietary NP-BD1 InfoLithium rechargeable battery.
The Sony T2 also offers USB 2.0 Hi-speed connectivity for connection to a personal computer, and high definition component video connectivity for viewing on the latest HD televisions. The Sony Cybershot T2 also includes Sony's face detection technology, which is linked not only to the camera's autoexposure and autofocus systems as in most similar systems, but also to white balance and flash metering as well -- allowing the T2 to ensure proper flash exposure and pleasing flesh tones. Also included is Sony's "Smile Shutter," which detects when a subject is smiling and automatically captures the photo without pressing the shutter button.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 ships from December 2007 priced at U.S. $350, and is available in blue, green, pink, white, or black, with matching case colors available separately.
Sony DSC-T2 User Report
by Mike Pasini
Intro. Sony has a history of clever innovations in digicam design including the F1 (an early swivel camera), the F505 (a 5x long zoom), and the FD floppy disc cameras and CD compact disc cameras. The compact and stylish new Sony T2 stands out in a crowd, but its innovative features don't stop with its appearance. It's inherited the soul of those other imaginative efforts. And like them, it's going to have some rabid fans.
The Sony T2 isn't just a collection of hot features, like so many other digicams. It really seems, instead, designed for the way many people use digital cameras. And not just people who don't want to learn how to become photographers. But people who want a camera that makes taking pictures easier.
Yes, the Sony Cyber-shot T2 has face detection, optical image stabilization, and high ISO sensitivity; and if you scan reviews for that sort of information, you'll find it.
But the Sony T2 goes further. You don't need a memory card with its 4GB of built-in memory. In fact, the camera only writes to that built-in memory. Before you grumble, though, ask yourself if you'd really pony up for a high-end card to handle 30 fps movies? You don't have to think about that with the Sony T2.
Just as impressive, playback is organized automatically into albums. And you can scrapbook your playback so that the Sony T2's big 2.7-inch screen shows them off in sets with a background you can choose. That's a simple but very nice touch.
There's more to this sweet little machine, including an excellent touch screen interface that rethinks buttons, too. Let's take a closer look.
Design. Just slightly taller than a credit card, but a good 3/4 inch thick, the Sony T2 is a compact package. You can get it in blue, green, pink, white, or black with a matching case, too.
The Sony T2's lens cover seats itself flush to the front face and the buttons are all very shallow, making it easy to slip into a pocket. In fact, the Power and Shutter buttons are flush to the aluminum case. It's a very unusual, but elegant design.
I've complained a lot about latches on other digital cameras, but I like Sony's approach. The small battery/card compartment latch has a lock on it. Unlock it and it swings open on a hinge. Close it and lock it. Simple.
The metal tripod mount is right next to the Sony T2's hinge, but that's just life on a compact.
The Sony T2 ranks about average weight for a compact camera but it feels solid in your hand. The grip isn't generous, but because the camera is small, it isn't much of an issue. Your thumb rests right between the zoom options, a good place for it. And the thick shell is easy to grasp with your left hand if you want.
The unusual physical design of the Sony T2 is just a hint at its magical powers.
The back panel, with a 2.7-inch LCD centered on it, has just four very slim buttons: Playback, Scrapbook, Telephoto and Wide Angle. The last two are the Zoom lever. No Mode dial, no arrow buttons, no Display button. What's going on?
The Sony T2's touch screen interface is what's going on. In the corners of the high resolution screen, you'll see Home, Menu, and Display soft-buttons. A question mark toggles the Guide, explaining the touched item.
There's a lot on the Sony T2's menu system, but it's all very easy to find. I had no trouble finding features or options, which is saying something.
The lens is a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 38 to 114mm. Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.5 at wide angle to f/4.3 at telephoto. That's not particularly fast, but it's coupled with Sony's Super SteadyShot image stabilization to make up for it handsomely.
To take a picture, you slip the lens cover down, focus, and press the large Shutter button. In spot focus mode, you can just touch the screen where you want to set focus. A small white frame will be displayed where you touched.
Even with a card in the camera, images are saved to the 4GB of internal memory until it is full. You have to export the images from internal memory to the Memory Stick. The T2 groups images into albums depending on the shooting interval and frequency. And the Scrapbook button plays back images stored internally with backgrounds. It also powers the camera on (but not off), like the Playback button.
Finally, an application called PMB Portable is embedded in the camera so when you save an image as a sharemark, the app uploads them to the Web using a computer when cabled by USB.
It turns out that the internals of the T2 are just as unusual as the externals.
Performance. So what's the performance like? Buckle your seat belt.
Startup was quick at 1.7 second, ranking above average among entry-level digicams. I got pretty deft at flipping the cover open with one hand as I was raising the camera's LCD up to my eyes. The trick is to press the top edge of the cover down. So there was no noticeable startup time for me.
While the Sony T2's shutdown ranked average at 2.9 seconds, that figures is a bit misleading. Once you shut the cover (which takes just a fraction of a second), you can pocket the camera without worry. Power does stay on a second or so more, but there are no moving parts. So, again, there was no noticeable shutdown time for me, either.
What really counts is shutter lag, however, and here the Sony T2 was very, very good. Its combined wide angle and telephoto autofocus lag was an above average 0.49 second. That's above average for any digicam. Certainly having just a 3x zoom avoids the autofocus penalty of a long zoom, but consider that average dSLR autofocus lag is 0.25 second and you can see how impressive this is.
Prefocus lag, where you half-press the shutter button to set focus and then completely depress it to capture the shot, was blindingly fast at 0.018 second, well above average for any category of camera; except, perhaps, other Cyber-shots.
Cycling time with the Sony T2 was above average, another place where built-in memory may make a big difference.
The flash recycles quickly, taking just 3.9 seconds and ranking above average. But that's a misleading number. It often indicates a weak flash, and that's what we have on the Sony T2. The manufacturer-specified flash range shots do well from 10.5 feet at wide angle and 9.2 feet at telephoto -- but they both crank the ISO up to 800. That's bolder than most digicams dare. And there's a good bit of noise in those images to remind you why.
Download speed is a robust 8,476KB/s over the proprietary USB 2.0 Hi-Speed port. That's good news because the Sony T2 stores your images in its internal memory, not the card you pop in. So your most efficient workflow would be to cable it up and copy the images from internal memory, rather than copy them to the card and then put the card in a reader to copy them a second time.
Weight ranks average by just a hair, and LCD size is above average by just another hair. Neither bothered me. The Sony T2 package feels like a deck of cards in your pocket and the screen seems large enough. The LCD is high resolution with 230,400 pixels and was usable in bright sun, if just barely. That's important because you need to see the screen to operate the camera. That's where the buttons are.
Storage and Battery. With 4GB of internal storage, you can fit quite a few images in the Sony T2 before it off-loads them to a Memory Stick. That's many more than you would typically shoot in a session, but not many more than you might take on a vacation. And if you keep some favorite images in the camera or shoot video, you have plenty of space left over.
The Sony T2 can capture images in six different sizes. At the highest resolution (8M), you can store 1,266 images internally or 150 on a 512MB Memory Stick. You can also record 640x480 video at 30 fps for up to 51:40, nearly an hour, internally, or about six minutes on a 512MB card.
The proprietary lithium-ion battery is CIPA-rated for about 140 minutes or 280 shots. But several factors affect that performance. Tapping into features like continuous focus (Auto Focus set to Monitor) and continuous SteadyShot, shooting more than once every 30 seconds, zooming, and firing the flash: all shorten battery life.
Touch Screen. I love the buttons on my dSLRs, no question about it. But I also like touch screens. I like them especially for devices that can do more things than they have buttons for (like an all-in-one printer). Better a touch screen that can draw many single function buttons than an OK or Start button that may or may not do what you expect it to do.
But organizing all those options takes some work, and some companies with touch screen cameras don't quite finish the job. Sony has. I never once had to look in the manual to find out where a command or control would be.
It would be on the screen, of course. But it has to be apparently where in the hierarchy of menus it should be, and Sony has worked that out rather elegantly. I say that after complaining about prior models. Sony retains its odd Main Menu arrangement, but it seemed less cumbersome on the Sony T2.
Menus with a lot to list use multiple pages. These are clearly indicated and easily scrolled (you just tap the Sony T2's screen, after all), although it's easy to get lost.
Your finger is all you need to activate screen buttons, although Sony supplied a Paint Pen or stylus that can be attached to the wrist strap. None was supplied with the Sony T2 review unit, but it's just one more thing to lose, really.
You can turn off the beep (a set of musical notes that I find particularly unnerving in public) that accompanies every press of an onscreen button. And if you're having trouble using the buttons, try that. The audio feedback isn't quite simultaneous, but the visual feedback is.
Sony uses the four corners of the T2 screen for navigation. The Back button is in the top right corner when you start burrowing into the menu system. Home is in the top left corner. You'll see strips of options along the bottom and left side of the screen. And you can tap any icon (like the Macro status icon) to activate its menu.
In spot focus mode, tapping the screen also sets focus, which is a terrific idea. In playback, tapping the screen enlarges the image, drawing navigation buttons (which can be dismissed) and providing zoom control.
The touch screen doesn't recognize gestures like the iPhone, but it functions surprisingly well, both for beginners, thanks to its Guide mode, and advanced users, who are looking for things like ISO, EV, and White Balance options.
Scrapbook. Viewing images on a digicam with a large LCD like the Sony T2's is always an immediate pleasure. But a few cameras have made that simple pleasure into a full-blown performance. In some, you actually run a program to build the show (as in muvee-equipped cameras). Sony has recently added pan and zoom effects with music to transitions in its very effective slide shows.
With the T2, Sony has rethought how to display the captured images. And I really like what they've done.
It starts with the camera's ability to automatically group your images. The trick is simply to group by time and frequency. For example, albums are organized by date. But on each day, you might have shot several different scenes. Let's say you took three shots of some flowers in the morning and four more of people at lunch and then two cars in the afternoon.
Those are three distinct groups in your mind. And the Sony T2 groups them together, too, based on the frequency. Three together, four together, and finally two.
But how can the Sony T2 show you that?
Well, it uses a technique from the scrapbooking world, simply laying them out together on the same page, or screen. A background, which you can change, adds to the effect, with borders you can add, and images slightly rotated. It's very effective.
You can always see your images in Single Image mode or Index mode, as you do on most cameras. But on the Sony T2, you can also see them in Calendar mode and as a list of Albums. Those two are clearly organized by date.
Of course, you can just run a slideshow with music and transitions as well (but not images on the Memory Stick). You can choose Simple, Nostalgic, Stylish, Active or Normal effects styles that change the tempo and music to fit those moods. An example is embedded in our Cyber-shot Station review.
There are also options for recording your own music and transferring music clips of about three minutes to the Cyber-shot T2.
And you can see what's on the Memory Stick either in Single Image display or an Index display. But that's about it.
If you get tired of the show, you can sit back and paint borders, stamps, and symbols on your images in edit mode using the enhanced Paint function.
PMB Portable. PMB Portable is a 96KB Windows application contained in the internal memory of the Sony T2. If you happen to reformat that memory, you'll lose the application, but you can reinstall it from Picture Motion Browser, the supplied software.
What's it do? If you tag images with what Sony calls a sharemark, when you cable the Sony T2 to your computer, PMB Portable will launch and automatically transfer them to your computer. PMB Portable is preset with URLs from several Web sites so the transfer can go beyond your computer to the Web.
HD Output. Sony touts the T2 as an HD camera, but that moniker really refers just to the 1080i output signal for stills. The Sony T2 doesn't take HD resolution movies (1080 or 720) and it has a hard time playing VGA movies through the optional HD dock. In fact, Sony doesn't even supply a cable with the T2 to connect it to your HD television.
Instead, the company provides three HD accessory options: You can buy a component cable that attaches to the Sony T2's proprietary USB port, or you can buy the $80 Cyber-shot Station CSS-HD1. Sony also sells a $149 printer/dock solution for the problem.
The Cyber-shot Station includes two cables: a composite video cable for HD output and a stereo audio cable that also has standard video (yellow) output. If you attach both video cables to your set, the composite cable takes precedence and the VGA signal is ignored. But the Sony T2 only outputs a VGA signal for video. So you see the station report: "Invalid operation. HD (1080i) output in progress." It can't send the VGA signal out the composite cable. You see the first frame of the movie on the TV but that's it. The error message is overlaid. The trick is to pull the composite connection out of the back of the Station so the VGA connection (assuming you've made it) is live. Then the movie plays.
You may wonder if it's worth the trouble to buy any of these accessories considering that TV resolution -- even HD resolution -- is a lot less than the full resolution the Sony T2 can capture with its 8.1-megapixel sensor. But the Sony T2 does have a 16:9 aspect ratio mode (not recommended for portraits) and the included special effects and music that make up the automated slide show function really are quite well done, as our CSS-HD1 review demonstrates. That also plays well on a standard TV, but at a much reduced size.
Image Quality. Of course, you don't buy a camera because it makes a Porsche look like an accessory, or because it has the best touch screen this side of an iPhone. You buy it to take pictures. And the final test of any camera is how well it takes them.
Digicams that do not provide a Raw file format save their images in JPEG format after processing them. In processing, they often sacrifice detail in the highlights to balance the exposure, which otherwise would appear too dark (thanks to the nature of linear capture). So it common to find blown highlights in digicam images.
Sony has taken on this problem with its Bionz processor, a descendent of the one used in its Alpha dSLR. The Bionz processor in the Sony T2 provides D-Range optimization to preserve highlight and shadow detail. But it wasn't very successful, at least compared to other Bionz Sony digicams we've reviewed recently.
My real-world test for this is the shot of a white fire hydrant in full sun against a dark hedge in shadow. In the Sony T2 shot, you can see the white of the hydrant blooming into the hedge. You can also see, in the full resolution shot, the lack of detail in the upper part of the hydrant. It's not a particularly bad shot and looks balanced overall, but the highlights are gone.
The Sony T2 did a lot better with the white truck, though. The highlights of that white trailer in full sun are not burned out. And you can clearly see the folds in the vinyl sign. Of course, the shadow detail (under the truck) is missing; but that's not the subject of the picture. Color is accurate and tonality is good enough to have captured the moon (look above the A in HANG).
Detail was very good on the shot of the guardrail post where you can see the grain of the wood and the rusted bolt very clearly. Our resolution test shot shows detail to about 1,400 lines horizontally and 1,300 lines vertically.
Digital zoom was a disappointment. The shot of the Golden Gate Bridge appears to have captured the cables holding up the roadway, but it's an illusion.
There's also a bit of oversaturation in the reds (particularly the fire alarm), but oversaturation is a common problem in digicams, and the T2 isn't the worst offender.
The Sony T2's Chromatic aberration was fairly high at both wide angle and telephoto, and not just in the corners, unfortunately. You can see this in my landscape shot with the small white flowers in the foreground. They're fringed in purple. Or check the Optics tab of this review.
High ISO is increasingly common, but common wisdom suggests that anything ISO 400 or above is going to exhibit more pronounced noise; and ISO settings above 800 are going to be like the kid next door learning the drums. Sony takes a slightly different approach to noise than some camera makers, sacrificing detail to maintain color accuracy.
The Sony T2 shoots as high as ISO 3,200, so I set it that high and used very dim room light to photograph a mouse and a keyboard. These are interesting shots that look good as thumbnails where some of the noise has been averaged out. But the full resolution images lack the sort of detail that you expect to see.
Macro mode was a bit confusing for me. I took some Macro shots I really liked, but they were all taken wide open in Super Macro mode. Zoom is available, but restricted to digital zoom, so you might as well stay wide open.
Regular Macro mode was just too distant from the subject for me. I really want to see the subject big in the LCD when I go into Macro mode and Super Macro did that. See, for example, the tip of my gel pen.
My experience with Auto White Balance was better than it may appear. The first two images in the Gallery (a paperweight of the Rosetta Stone and the pen point) were taken under a warm fluorescent bulb. They look quite warm, in fact, but they aren't inaccurate. Same for the mask on the wall, which was taken around sunset when there was a rosy glow to the light. As there was for the orchid.
When I got outdoors mid-day, the images look normal, of course, but I thought I should point out the quality of the light in the earlier images.
Appraisal. As a concept camera, the Sony T2 really flies. The compact form factor is attractively sculpted -- unusually so -- and the touch screen interface is also unusual in its functionality. The Scrapbook playback mode is not just a gimmick, either, but an intelligent way to view groups of images. The Sony T2's performance was above average and image quality wasn't bad in daylight, either, not for a camera of this very small size. Performance indoors was another story. The combination of weak flash performance and high ISO performance that's softer than most digital cameras in this class make the Sony T2 a beautiful camera that we can't recommend as strongly as we'd like. A like the Sony T2 is more likely to be used for indoor flash photos at parties and events, and we don't think it's image quality is quite up to snuff. The Sony T20 is only a few millimeters larger and does better at high ISO, so we'd steer most folks to that digital camera instead.
- 8.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD
- 3x zoom (38-114mm 35mm equivalent)
- 6x digital zoom
- 2.7-inch LCD with 230,400 pixels
- ISO sensitivity from 80 to 3,200
- Shutter speeds from one second to 1/1,000 second
- Max Aperture: f/3.5
- MS Duo/MS PRO Duo memory card support
- Custom lithium-ion battery
- 4GB internal memory
- Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization
- Smart Zoom (digital zoom for smaller image sizes)
- Flush lens cover
- USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
- 1080i HD component video with optional cable or dock
- Face detection technology for exposure and focus
- Smile Shutter mode for finding smiling faces
- Touch screen user interface
- Scene modes: Fireworks, High Sensitivity, High Speed Shutter, Landscape, Snow, Soft Snap, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Smile Shutter, Beach
- In-camera editing: Red-eye correction, soft edge filter, cross filter, partial color filter, fish-eye filter, retro, radiation, trimming
In the Box
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 ships with the following items in the box:
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 body
- NP-BD1 lithium-ion battery with case
- Compact battery charger BC-CSF with folding prongs
- Paint pen
- Wrist strap
- HD1-C adapter plate for Cyber-shot Station
- Long USB cable with proprietary camera connector
- Short USB cable with proprietary camera connector
- USB adapter for Multi connector
- Software CD
- Owners manual, registration materials
- Large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo. With 4GB built into the Sony T2, technically you don't need one, but if you still want a memory card for backup, get the largest Memory Stick PRO Duo you can afford. They should be used for all current Sony cameras. These days, 1GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 2GB should be a minimum.
- Small camera case like the soft leather Sony LCS-TWB/B for outdoor and in-bag protection
- HD cable or dock or printer dock for viewing images on HDTV
From a design perspective, the Sony T2 is a breath of fresh air, integrating 4GB of memory in the camera, replacing awkward buttons with a sensuous touch screen, and wrapping the whole package in an elegantly sculpted aluminum frame the size of a small pack of cards. Automatically organizing your image collection by date and frequency within the date, it also provides a unique playback mode inspired by scrapbook design. And it's no slouch when it comes to performance, obliterating prefocus shutter lag, and significantly reducing full-autofocus shutter lag. The lens does exhibit chromatic aberration, detectable in some images at 11x14-inch print sizes, but isn't significant at 8x10. High ISO performance really isn't good enough to make up for the weak flash, but those are expected compromises in a camera of this size. If you can accept these compromises, the Sony T2 is a good choice thanks to its very small stature, extremely large built-in memory, and good print quality at small sizes, under 8x10. There are other small cameras that don't compromise as much on image quality, however, including the Sony T20, except that they don't have all the memory that the Sony T2 has. We were tempted to give the Sony T2 a Dave's Pick, but it just misses the mark when we also consider the poor flash performance. You'll get okay flash pictures with the Sony T2 in terms of exposure, but the camera has to raise the ISO so much that even 5x7 output is soft and noisy -- even if you lock it to ISO 200. That's just not satisfactory for most indoor snapshots. The Sony T2 is a good and stylish camera that has a lot going for it, but it's not the best choice for both indoor and outdoor photography.