Sony T700 Overview
by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 11/17/08
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 is closely related to the DSC-T77 that was announced at the same time. The T77 is a replacement for last year's DSC-T70 model, and both new cameras feature a higher-res 10-megapixel sensor which is coupled to a more powerful Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded 4x optical zoom. Where the T70 had an already roomy 16:9 aspect ratio 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD, the Sony T700 boosts this to an even larger 3.5-inch display with a staggering 921,600 dots of resolution, triple that of its lower-priced sibling. The other main difference from the T77 is that the DSC-T700 has almost four gigabytes of available memory, vastly more than the 15MB found in the T77.
The Sony T700's 35 to 140mm equivalent lens has a little extra reach at both ends of the zoom range as compared to last year's T70, and incorporates Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization to minimize blur caused by camera shake at slow shutter speeds. This despite a body that is just 0.6 inches thick. Other Sony T700 features include ISO sensitivity to a maximum of ISO 3,200, a Memory Stick Duo/PRO Duo card slot, and power from a proprietary lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The Sony T700 also offers USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connectivity for connection to a personal computer, and high-definition video connectivity for viewing your images on the latest HD televisions. To help take even more advantage of the built-in memory, a bundled Picture Motion Browser application allows low-res VGA duplicates of images to be easily made on a PC and uploaded back to the camera automatically, to allow for a vast photo library to be stored on the camera for viewing on the LCD when away from home.
The Cyber-shot T700 includes Sony's face detection technology, capable of detecting eight faces simultaneously, and 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. This allows the camera to ensure proper flash exposure and pleasing flesh tones. The face detection system also provides both an updated Smile Shutter function, and the existing child/adult priority mode, as well as a new anti-blink function in portrait mode that automatically captures two images and then discards any with the subjects' eyes closed. If eyes are closed in both photos, the camera warns of this so you can retake the photo.
The T700 features Sony's Bionz image processor, first seen in the company's Alpha DSLRs. Sony says Bionz offers improved image quality, faster response times, and better battery life in its compact cameras. Also on offer is an updated intelligent scene recognition function, which can now automatically select from eight different scene modes including macro, portrait, and landscape.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 ships from September 2008 priced at US$400, and body color choices include red, champagne gold, pink, dark gray and silver. Be sure to check our shopping links for a better price on the Sony T700.
Sony T700 User Report
by Mike Pasini
"Wow!" was my first reaction as I unboxed the T700. Its brushed aluminum front panel is just beautiful, and contrasts well with the black plastic bezel framing the 16:9 LCD that consumes its back panel. Elegant. Simple. Sweet.
Sony says you can engrave it, and while that tends to make it hard to resell, you probably won't want to sell this classic design. You can just put it up on a shelf and look at it if the day ever comes when you no longer want to shoot with it.
And you can just look at either the front or rear of it because not only is the front beautiful, but the T700 has 4GB of internal storage to keep that huge LCD busy with your favorite images. It's as much a photo album as a camera.
It's got the full load of Cyber-shot T-series features, too, so you're not giving up anything but buttons. No, there's not a single button on the back of this beauty. There is a Power button, a Shutter button, a Zoom lever, and a Playback button, but for everything else you just tap the touchscreen.
Design. Sony's T series has always been the stylish Cyber-shot line and that style has come at a premium price. At $400 list, the Sony T700 doesn't break that mold.
At 2.25 x 3.75 inches, the Sony T700 isn't the smallest digicam but at 5/8 inch it is one of the thinnest. It's easily pocketable, although you may prefer to wear it around your neck with a platinum chain. It may be a little too heavy for that unless you play pro football, though (the chain).
Despite the LCD's dominance of the back panel, the Sony T700 actually has something of a thumb grip back there. The right-hand edge has a quarter-inch of ribbed grips that are just enough to hold the camera securely.
Not only does that LCD function as your viewfinder, but it's also the camera's control panel. You use either a fingertip or the included plastic stylus (which snaps onto the wrist strap) to select an item and modify it. It does smudge pretty miserably, but it remains readable in sunlight. And when it's on, you aren't really distracted by the smudges.
Sony has graced the T700 with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens with 12 elements in 10 groups (including 4 aspheric elements, 1 prism) that covers the 35mm equivalent of 35 to 140mm. That 4x optical zoom is buttressed with a modest but excellent 2x digital zoom for a total 8x zoom. And it's stabilized with Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, too.
The Sony T700's lens does exhibit strong chromatic aberration at both ends of the zoom range as well as very soft corners. But its resolution is excellent.
Interface. There are a few buttons despite the touchscreen. And the biggest one of them all is the sliding lens cover that also powers on the camera. This is a design I really like in a compact camera because you don't have to take your eye off the scene to find one of those incredibly tiny Power buttons that seldom let you know you've pressed them hard enough. Nope, with the Sony T700, you just slide the front panel down and the camera comes to life. And when you're done shooting, just slide it back up to turn the camera off. Nothing to it.
There is a Power button so you can shut the camera off if you elect to press the Playback button just to view your collection of images (which can reside on that generous 4GB internal memory and a Pro Duo memory card). For some reason, pressing the Playback button a second time doesn't turn the camera off. Instead it warns you to slip the lens cover down to take pictures. To turn the camera off from Playback mode, you use the little Power button.
To the right of the Power button is the Shutter button. It's flush to the top panel but easy enough to find, thanks to its elongated shape. And to its right, on the very corner, is the Zoom lever. There is next to no travel on the Zoom lever (almost like a joystick) but it was fairly responsive. None of these ultracompact zoom controls are really smooth, taking a lot of fun out of using them. But this one is better than most.
Here's a tip for using the touchscreen: turn off the function guide (Home, Setup) as soon as you can. While the explanations can be helpful, you'll quickly get annoyed with the need to tap their OK button to dismiss some of them.
Sony uses the four corners of the touchscreen as buttons to the Home, Menu and Display menus (the top right is unused). But between them, Sony has ringed the screen with icons for various functions available in any particular mode.
The top of the screen shows the battery status, image size, stabilization status and the number of shots remaining on which memory device.
But you can't just tap the image size icon to change resolution. Nope, you have to hit the Menu corner button to bring up the Shooting menu. Which is odd, because the way you change the Flash mode is by tapping the flash icon on the right panel. And the way you change shooting modes is by tapping the mode icon on the left panel. And, just for the hat trick, the way you change ISO is by tapping the ISO icon on the bottom of the screen.
Once you tap into another menu, the right top corner comes alive with a big cancel button until you select a different setting and it turns into a big OK button. You can tap any of the listed options or the cancel button to return to shooting mode.
I really liked having almost every option on the screen at once. It's a lot easier than trying to remember if it's the Function button or the Menu button that has the control you want to change. But Luke Smith, who shot the test shots, thought that the icon display cluttered the screen, making it difficult to compose the shot. You can turn off that display, just showing the image, but you have to turn it back on to use the touchscreen.
Luke also thought the screen wasn't very responsive to his touch, requiring a rather sharp press. No doubt that's why Sony includes the stylus. Tapping with a fingernail is more reliable than using your fingertip, and the stylus is even more reliable.
And like any touchscreen camera, it turns a one-handed operation into a two-handed operation. I didn't mind that as much as I usually do, but I didn't fiddle with the settings on the Sony T700 as much as I usually do either.
Modes. Under the mode icon, there are 10 shooting modes including Landscape, Soft Snap, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Scene Selection, Auto, Program Auto, Easy, High Sensitivity, and Movie mode. That's the order they appear on the menu, oddly enough.
Under Scene modes, you can access Gourmet, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater, and Hi-Speed Shutter.
But the Sony T700 can intelligently detect a few scenes all by itself. Eight of them, in fact: Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a Tripod, Portrait, Landscape, and Macro. And man do I love an auto macro even if it takes a little longer to find focus. The Sony T700 has two intelligent scene modes. In Auto iSCN mode, the camera takes a single shot using the optimal settings. In Advance iSCN mode, the camera takes a picture with the current settings, and only if necessary takes a second picture with optimized setting.
Perhaps even more important than all that, though, is the Sony T700's Dynamic Range Optimization. Time and again we've seen this feature save an otherwise lost shot, salvaging highlights that would normally be blown out, or holding onto shadow detail that would normally be lost.
The Sony T700 can recognize up to eight faces, controlling flash, focus, exposure, and white balance to optimize skin tones and deal with red-eye. And it can distinguish between adults and children so you can tell it which faces to watch for a smile, grin or laugh, too. It also features an anti-blink function that will take two shots in Portrait mode, saving the one with less squinting.
Movie mode is limited to broadcast quality 640x480 at 30 frames per second. There's no HD video capture on the Sony T700. You can shoot clips up to 10 minutes in length, maximum. And you can use the zoom, too.
Special Features. As the flagship of the T-series, the T700 has every feature Sony could pack into it. That includes:
- Smile Shutter technology that can fire the shutter as soon as it detects a smiling face
- Face detection technology that can distinguish between adults and children (and lets you pick the one you prefer)
- Intelligent scene recognition that can detect eight kinds of scenes: Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod -- plus Portrait, Macro, and Landscape
- In-camera retouching functions including Trimming, Red Eye Correction, Soft Focus, Partial Color, Fisheye Lens, Cross Filter, Retro, Radial Blur, Unsharp Masking, and the mischievous Smile
Many of Sony's 2008 digicams offer similar capabilities (and if the T700 is too rich for your blood, take a look at the W170). But what really sets the Sony T700 apart is its 4 gigabytes of internal storage.
If you've got an iPhone, an iPod touch, or an iPod photo, you know how much fun it is to have an album in your pocket. And the bigger the better. It won't really hold your entire photo collection but it will probably hold a year's worth of images if you shoot birthdays and holidays and a vacation -- especially if you don't bother shooting at the highest resolution.
I almost always set my cameras for the highest resolution because you can't go back and reshoot. But that's because every few months I actually print an image. With the T700, you can certainly make prints, but my guess is you'll prefer the immediacy of seeing your images on the screen, and not want to delete them from the camera. So it's not at all a bad idea to shoot at lower resolution with this camera -- and shooting at 16:9 is a great way to do it.
Of course, if you're going to store 1,500 photos in the T700, you need some way to manage that chaos. And Sony hasn't neglected to give you some pretty good options. You can tag images as Favorites making them available for quick retrieval. But you don't have to go to that much effort. You can simply use a Calendar View to find each shoot by date, or a Date View to see every image shot on a particular day.
You can also tap into the Sony T700's ability to distinguish adults from children by filtering your collection by faces. Options include finding images with people's faces in them, finding children's faces, finding infant's faces, and finding smiling faces. And it's quick. I shot a birthday party one evening and filtered the results by smiling faces just to make it look like everyone had a good time.
We also tried the infants and children filters. The youngest child showed up as the single infant when she was being held by her grandmother. That shot also showed up in the collection of children images.
There are even a few cool display options, including a cute little automatic scrapbook function that displays images in a sort of page layout with the date in the top corner. You can choose from a number of built-in backgrounds and you can save a page or all the pages of the scrapbook to memory, too. We turned out smiling faces into a scrapbook in just a few seconds. It actually took longer to process the dozen or so images than to set it up -- and that only took a minute.
And, of course, there's a slide show option (with music), which is something Sony does very well, automating pan and zooms.
And all this works not just with the internal memory but with any card you install, too. And to take this one step further, you can fill the internal memory with images that are already on your computer. They don't have to be captured by the Sony T700 and saved to internal memory first. And they can be resized on the computer to take up less space on the Sony T700.
That makes the Sony T700 pretty personal, of course, so Sony has added password protection to the camera so only you can see what's stored on it. It's active for both playback and making a USB connection.
Sony also includes a Picture Motion Browser (don't ask me why they named it that), a Windows application with which you can organize and view your full collection on your computer. You can set labels and ratings, get map views with GPS data (which the T700 does not record), retouch and edit images, and share and archive them.
Storage and Battery. The Sony T700 is powered by a 3.6-volt, 680 mAh lithium-ion battery. The large LCD represents an unusual battery drain but we were able to shoot with flash without running out of power at an evening party.
In addition to the 4GB internal memory (like you need anything in addition), the Sony T700 supports Memory Stick Duo and Pro Duo media. This can be a little confusing when you plug the camera into your computer with the octopus USB cable. You'll see more than one removable device on your desktop (we counted three).
My high-res 10-megapixel shots ranged from 3.1MB to 3.5MB per image. Those are 3,648 x 2,736 pixel images.
Performance. With a Bionz image processor, you expect high performance marks and the T700 delivers. It scores better than average on combined wide-angle and telephoto autofocus lag, as well as prefocus lag; about average for cycle time.
And it's above average for USB speed, LCD size, and flash cycling (which, considering the short range of the flash is no compliment).
It scores average marks for its 4x optical zoom and 5.61 ounce weight, neither of which are faults.
But in that department, the 3.5-second startup and shutdown times are slower than average. Luke noticed that popping in a fresh battery really seemed to slow startup down. In practice, I didn't notice this quite as much as I do with a telescoping lens, probably because the startup and shutdown sequence was clearly initiated by the sliding lens cover instead of a soft Power button.
Playback. Sony doesn't provide a cable to connect the T700 directly to your HDTV. All you get is the octopus cable with AV and USB connections. That's a pity (which we've been complaining about all year) because it shoots in 16:9 mode at a resolution greater than any HDTV and direct output from the 4GB Sony T700 would be a lot of fun not only at your house but when you visit others, too.
You can order a composite cable as an accessory (VMC-MHC1) or a Cyber-shot Station cradle (CSS-HD2). But you shouldn't have to.
Image Quality. The lens itself suffers from pretty strong chromatic aberration at both ends of the zoom range. It's noticeable in several gallery shots, in fact, as a greenish fringing at the edge of some detail. The arches of the Ferry Building, for example, exhibit the problem.
The corners are significantly softer than the center of the image, as well. You see this more on images using a 4:3 aspect ratio than you do on 16:9 images.
And we did notice, as the test results confirm, a tendency to oversaturate reds and blues. Skies were a bit bluer than they were in reality and that red Ferrari was not quite that intense.
But the overall effect was not much diminished by these technical defects. We liked the pictures the Sony T700 captured. We were probably more disappointed with the lack of sharpness in a few (like the Ferrari detail, the mosaic and the leaf) that seemed attributable to a failure to find focus. It happened far too frequently, ruining some otherwise nice shots (which look pretty good as thumbnails, but not at full resolution).
The Sony T700 is capable of capturing good detail, as the Waterbar menu shows with its clear type.
One curiosity was performance at ISO 200, which produced noticeably more blurry images than ISO 400. Auto ISO performed rather oddly to begin with, stubbornly preferring ISO 100 to any other setting. There are a lot of outdoor shots in the sun in the gallery, all of them at 100, which makes sense. But indoors? The mosaic shot required the T700 to drop the shutter speed to 1/13 second to hold ISO 100. The Sony T700 is image-stabilized, but why not just take that shot at ISO 200 or 400?
While our ISO tests show significant loss of detail after ISO 400, I found ISO 3,200 to be surprisingly useful one night in a dimly lit restaurant. I didn't want to use the flash because it wouldn't have captured the scene accurately (and other diners would have thrown their water glasses at me), so I reluctantly switched to ISO 3,200 and fired away. But the results, even though they were noisy, were pretty representative and even printable at 4x6; although they look best on the Sony T700's LCD.
My experience with the gallery shots was confirmed in the test shots. Look particularly at the ISO 100 Still Life where the coffee cup is very soft and the proportion wheel type no where near as sharp as our menu. And check the Multitarget shot to appreciate the Sony T700's high resolution (right in the center) and the chromatic aberration and softness in the corners.
Appraisal. It takes a picky reviewer to be disappointed with the Sony T700's image quality. The casual photographer with a Sony T700 is mostly going to be looking at resampled, smaller images than full resolution prints -- and probably mostly on that gorgeous 3.5-inch screen because the camera can store about 988 high resolution images internally (and over 1,500 medium resolution images). If that's your plan, you'll love the Sony T700.
Sony T700 Basic Features
- 10.1-megapixel sensor 1/2.3 type Super HAD CCD
- Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 4x zoom lens (35-140mm eq.)
- 2x digital zoom
- 3.5 inch LCD
- ISO sensitivity from 80 to 3,200
- Shutter speeds from one to 1/1,000 second
- Max Aperture f/3.5
- MS Duo, MS PRO Duo memory card support
- Custom 3.6-volt lithium-ion battery
Sony T700 Special Features
- Ultra slim design in five colors (silver, gray, red, pink, and gold)
- Bionz image processor
- Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization
- 4GB internal memory
- Face detection up to eight faces with Touch/Auto/Child/Adult priority
- Smile detection
- Intelligent scene recognition
- Dynamic range optimizer
- Anti-blink function
- HD output (1080i)
In the Box
The Sony T700 ships with the following items in the box:
- T700 body
- Rechargeable Battery Pack NP-BD1
- Battery Charger BC-CSD
- Multi Connector Cable USB/AV
- Power Cord
- Wrist Strap
- Paint Pen
- CD-ROM Software
- Station Plate F
- Large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo. MemoryStick PRO versions can handle high-res movie data and give faster download times. They should be used for all current Sony cameras. These days, 2-8GB cards are reasonably priced.
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection like Sony's $39.99 White Carrying Case LCS-THM/W
Sony T700 Conclusion
If you're one of those people who wants to know what the best digicam is, the Sony T700 isn't the camera for you. Other cameras take slightly better pictures. Nothing, however, quite does what the Sony T700 does.
It's not only beautiful, but it can hold a year's worth of pictures and -- with the optional HDTV cable -- display them in a scrapbook or a pan-and-zoom slideshow format in high resolution on your flatscreen HDTV.
There are plenty of features like the large touchscreen, Smile technology, and image stabilization to make this new flagship worthy of its role, but the real reason to buy this camera is to have your favorite images a button press away. The Sony T700 does that and earns a Dave's Pick for it, too.