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Quick Review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 03/10/04
User Level
Novice to Intermediate
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Great, 5.1-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Sharp 8x10s and larger
Availability
Now 
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$549.95


Introduction
Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
The Sony DSC-T1 is Sony's latest subcompact Cyber-shot model, but that simple description doesn't begin to convey how unique the Cyber-shot DSC-T1 is. Sony digital cameras span the full range of price and performance, and Sony enjoys a leading position among digital camera manufacturers, but the DSC-T1 is truly a unique product in the digicam marketplace. Unlike most subcompact digicam models, Sony's Cyber-shot T1 is a truly full-featured digital camera, with a 5 megapixel CCD, a 3x optical zoom lens, a huge 2.5-inch LCD screen, and a full complement of options such as variable ISO settings, color saturation, contrast, and sharpness adjustments. Automatic exposure control offers point-an-shoot ease, with a handful of scene modes for more difficult shooting situations. Packaged with a camera dock for quick USB connection to a computer, the Cyber-shot T1 offers exceptional portability and a great selection of features. Read the review below for the details, but if you're looking for an ultra-compact and highly functional five-megapixel digicam, the Sony DSC-T1 should be on your "short list".

 

Camera Overview

Similar Cameras
If you're looking at the
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1, here are some similar models to consider:

Canon PowerShot S500
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Xg
Nikon Coolpix 5200
Pentax Optio S4i

Confused? Check our list of the
Best Digital Cameras!

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1 looks nothing like any of its Cyber-Shot predecessors, and is actually one of the most compact Cyber-shots available (not counting the very tiny "U" series). The camera's thin profile is chic and attractive, with smooth panels and very few protrusions, and its all-metal body conveys a strong impression of ruggedness. The T1 has a vertical lens design (similar to what we've seen on Minolta's DiMAGE X series digicams), which eliminates any lens protrusion on the front panel. At roughly the same size as a small makeup compact and with almost the same outline as a credit card, the DSC-T1 is definitely pocket friendly and travel-worthy. Sony even has an underwater housing available as a separate accessory, so you can literally take it just about anywhere. The most noticeable feature on the DSC-T1 is its large, 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, which takes up most of the camera's rear panel. Though small, the DSC-T1 doesn't skimp on features, offering a 3x optical zoom lens with a range of focus options, a 5.1-megapixel CCD for high-resolution images, and a host of preset shooting modes and exposure options.

The DSC-T1 is equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x, 6.7-20.1mm lens, equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. (A fairly standard zoom range, going from an average wide angle to a good telephoto.) Normal focus ranges from approximately 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity, with a Macro setting that lets you get within 3.25 inches (8 centimeters) when the lens is zoomed to its wide angle position, and 9.8 inches (25 centimeters) at its telephoto setting. A Magnifying Glass scene mode (described below) gets even closer, focusing as close as one centimeter (though it also uses digital zoom to enlarge detail). Besides its default automatic focus control, the DSC-T1 offers a range of fixed focus settings through the Record menu, as well as Center AF, Spot AF, and Multi AF focus area options. (Spot AF reads from the very center of the frame, and Center AF from a larger area at the center.) Through the camera's Setup menu, you can also select Single, Continuous, or Monitoring AF modes. Both the Monitoring and Continuous modes adjust focus continuously, though the Continuous setting is better for tracking moving subjects. An AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera helps focus at low light levels, a very handy feature I wish more digicam manufacturers would add to their cameras. In addition to the camera's 3x optical zoom, the DSC-T1 offers a maximum of 2x Precision Digital Zoom. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom does an excellent job of minimizing loss of quality, although there's no getting around the tradeoff between resolution and magnification that Digital Zoom implies. There's also an option to use Sony's Smart Zoom digital zoom up to 4x, which simply crops out the central portion of the CCD's image, without interpolating it to a larger-size file. This means that the maximum digital zoom varies with the current image size setting, the greatest zoom only available at the smallest image size. It has the advantage though, of avoiding any interpolation artifacts. The 2.5-inch LCD monitor is the only viewfinder on the camera, and the generous size definitely helps with framing. Unlike most digicam LCDs though, the screen on the T1 is "transflective," which means that it functions every bit as well in full sunlight as it does under indoor conditions. (Overall, this is one of the best LCD screens I've yet seen on a digital camera.) The informative display reports a variety of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed when the Shutter button is halfway pressed), and features an optional live histogram display in both Playback and Record modes. An additional display mode turns off the backlight, presumably saving battery power without eliminating the display entirely. (The battery-life info overlay is disabled in this mode, but my tests indicate that turning off the backlight increases battery life by about 25%.)

Exposure is automatically controlled on the DSC-T1, great for novices and casual users looking for simplicity. However, a range of seven preset Scene modes is available, as well as a handful of adjustable exposure options. An On/Off button on top of the camera turns the camera on (as does opening the sliding lens cover), and a Mode switch on the right side selects between Playback, Record, and Movie modes. Within Record mode, you can select Automatic, Program AE, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Snow, Beach, High Speed Shutter, Fireworks, or Magnifying Glass exposure modes. The Automatic setting takes away all user control, with the exception of flash, macro, and resolution settings. Program AE mode keeps exposure control automatic, but allows user control over all other exposure variables. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting broad vistas. Snow mode enhances saturation to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures that blue tones are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. Both Snow and Beach modes bias the exposure system to help avoid the underexposure problems most cameras have with overall-bright scenes of this sort. High Speed Shutter mode is best for moving subjects, and uses faster shutter speeds to freeze action. Fireworks mode preserves color by using a slower shutter speed and smaller aperture setting to capture the full display, and Magnifying Glass mode magnifies the subject on the LCD display up to 3.3x (a separate function from Macro mode), focusing on subjects as close as one centimeter. However, keep in mind that this mode also employs the digital zoom function, which may degrade image quality slightly.

Although the camera controls aperture and shutter speed at all times, it does report the settings it's chosen on the LCD information display, so you have an idea of what the exposure parameters are while you're shooting. By default, the camera uses a 49-segment Multi metering system to determine the exposure, which takes readings from throughout the frame. However, a Spot metering mode is available through the Record menu, good for high-contrast or off-center subjects. You can manually increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV), and sensitivity is adjustable to ISO equivalents of 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well. When shooting at slower shutter speeds or higher ISO settings, the DSC-T1 automatically enables a Noise Reduction system to eliminate excess image noise. The DSC-T1 offers Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Picture Effects setting that lets you record images in sepia monotones, or select the Solarize or Negative Art options for creative effects. White Balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash modes. The DSC-T1's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync modes.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 640 x 480-, or 160 x 112-pixel resolution moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available storage space. At the 640 x 480 setting, you can choose between Standard and Fine quality options. Standard records at 16 frames per second, while Fine records at 30 frames per second and requires Memory Stick PRO Duo media to support the necessary data rates. Through a Record menu option, the DSC-T1 also offers a Multi Burst mode, which captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames per second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (This is a useful tool for analyzing golf and tennis swings.) The same menu option also offers Voice, E-Mail, Exposure Bracketing, Burst, Framing Burst, and Speed Burst options. Voice mode records a short sound clip to accompany an image, useful for attaching voice captions, while E-Mail mode records a 320 x 240-pixel image in addition to one at the current resolution setting. Exposure Bracketing mode captures a series of three images at different exposure settings, and you can set the exposure step size that's applied between shots. Burst mode works like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera, capturing a maximum of four images in rapid succession. You can choose between Speed Priority Burst and Framing Priority Burst modes, the former focusing more on speed while the latter captures a slower series so that you can change framing more easily between shots. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, giving the photographer time to run around and get into the picture.

The DSC-T1 stores images on Sony Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards, available separately in capacities as large as 128MB for standard Duo cards and 512MB for PRO versions. A 32MB Memory Stick Duo comes with the camera, but I'd recommend immediately purchasing a larger capacity card so you don't miss any shots. For power, the DSC-T1 uses a single NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery pack, which accompanies the camera. An included USB cradle also acts as the battery charger and AC adapter, and connects the camera to a computer as well. The DSC-T1 doesn't have any standard connection terminals itself, though the cradle features USB, DC In, and AV Out connector jacks. A software CD is loaded with Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers, for downloading and organizing images.

Basic Features

  • 5.1-megapixel CCD.
  • 2.5-inch color LCD monitor with Transflective design for dramatically improved readability in bright light.
  • Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x zoom lens, equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum aperture of f/3.5 - f/4.4, depending on lens zoom position.
  • As much as 2x Precision Digital Zoom, and as much as 4x Smart Zoom.
  • Full Auto and Program AE exposure modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to one second.
  • Built-in flash with four modes.
  • Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo image storage, 32MB Memory Stick Duo card included.
  • USB cradle included for easy connection to a computer or television set, USB and A/V cables included.
  • Power supplied by NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery (supplied) or AC adapter (via USB cradle).
  • Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with MPEG VX Movie option.
  • Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Snow, Beach, High Speed Shutter, Fireworks, and Magnifying preset scene modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Picture Effects menu with Sepia, Negative Art, and Solarize effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens setting.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six modes.
  • Burst, Multi Burst, Auto Exposure Bracketing, Voice, Email, Framing Burst, and Speed Burst record modes.
  • Multi-Pattern and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with three ISO equivalents (100, 200, 400) and an Auto setting.
  • Five-area Multi-Point auto focus with Spot and Center AF modes, and AF illuminator.
  • Single, Continuous, and Monitoring AF modes.
  • Automatic Noise Reduction for longer exposures.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.


Recommendation
With its thin, compact size and very attractive looks, the DSC-T1 is an exciting new addition to Sony's Cyber-shot line of digicams. The camera sports a completely new design aesthetic compared to the rest of the line, and though it's small, offers excellent features like a Carl Zeiss zoom lens, large LCD monitor, and 5.1-megapixel CCD. It offers the convenience of point-and-shoot simplicity, but with enough advanced features to make it possible to take photos in otherwise challenging situations (low light, fast action, etc.). Overall, the T1 is a great choice for anyone wanting a capable, portable camera that takes good photos in a variety of circumstances. The DSC-T1 is easy to use, but has enough flexibility to handle a range of conditions.

 

Design
Small, sleek, and very compact, the DSC-T1 marks a noticeable departure from the rest of the Cyber-Shot line. The camera's thin dimensions and large LCD panel are distinctive design features, along with the horizontal lens cover that slides up and down as opposed to side-to-side. Because the camera has a vertically-oriented internal lens, the front panel remains smooth at all times, and very pocket friendly. Measuring 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.8 inches (91 x 60 x 21 millimeters), the DSC-T1 will definitely fit into shirt pockets and tiny evening bags. Though it sports an all-metal body, the DSC-T1 is still light weight, at just 6.6 ounces (180 grams) with batteries and memory card.

The front of the DSC-T1 is nearly flat, except for a slight protrusion from the sliding lens cover. The lens cover acts as a power switch as well, though the camera does feature a separate Power button. Because the lens design is all-internal, it doesn't telescope outward when the camera is powered on. Instead, the lens lines up vertically, using a mirror to reflect the view. This also makes the camera quick on the draw (only 1.6 seconds from power-on to the first shot captured), as you don't have to wait on the lens to telescope into position before you can shoot. Also beneath the lens cover are the flash and self-timer / AF illuminator lamp. There isn't much of a handgrip on the DSC-T1, though the lens cover does have a slight ridge on the right side for fingers to grasp.

The right side of the DSC-T1 features a sliding Mode switch (the icons for which are on the rear panel), and a small eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless, with a slight curve toward the rear panel.

The DSC-T1's top panel is also quite smooth, with hardly any protrusions from the few controls. The Shutter and Power buttons line up on the right corner, with a small microphone to the left of these.

The remaining few camera controls are on the back panel, along with the very large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor. A series of raised bumps provides a slight thumb grip, and overlays the camera's small speaker. A zoom control is in the top right corner, with the Four-Way Arrow pad next to the lower left corner of the LCD monitor. The Menu, Resolution / Erase, and Display buttons are located around the Four-Way Arrow pad. Finally, a small LED next to the top, right corner of the LCD monitor indicates the status of the flash.

The DSC-T1 has a flat bottom panel, which holds the dual-slot memory card and battery compartment, as well as the connector jack for the USB cradle. There is no tripod mount, though I doubt users of this camera will mind terribly, given its very portable design. (Most users of cameras like the T1 would very rarely want to mount the camera on a tripod.)

 

Camera Operation
The DSC-T1's user interface is very straightforward, and is very similar to those we've seen on earlier Cyber-shot models. The animated LCD displays have the same basic options and characteristic Sony labeling, but with a slightly updated layout that's still very straightforward and simple to navigate. The DSC-T1 has only a few external controls, as most of the exposure options are accessed through the LCD menu system. That said, the camera's Four-Way Arrow pad keys serve multiple functions, and you can quickly change the camera mode via the Mode switch on the side panel. The arrow keys of the Four-Way Arrow pad scroll through menu selections, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. New on the T1 is an external button for directly accessing the image-size setting or for deleting images in playback mode. This a welcome change, as both these controls are used frequently enough that having to navigate the LCD menu system to access them is a nuisance. The menu system is so simple and intuitive I think even novice users will be able to become completely familiar with it in an hour or less.

Record Mode Display: The DSC-T1's LCD monitor reports a fair amount of camera information in Record mode, including the battery level and approximate operating time left (a feature unique to Sony digicams, thanks to their "InfoLITHIUM" battery technology), image resolution and quality, exposure mode, flash mode, autofocus mode, and any other basic settings. A set of focus brackets is in the center of the frame. A half-press of the Shutter button adds the shutter speed and aperture settings to the bottom of the display. The Display button cycles through a range of display modes, enabling a histogram, as well as eliminating the information overlay. A fourth display mode turns off the LCD's backlight, presumably to save power. (Although this mode also disables the battery-life display, my measurements indicate that it extends battery life by about 25%.)

Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, the LCD monitor reports basic information such as the image resolution, battery level and time, folder number, image series number, file name, and the date and time the image was captured. Pressing the Display button enables an expanded information display with basic exposure information and a small histogram. You can also cancel the information display entirely, by pressing the Display button a third time. As in Record mode, a fourth press of the button dims the LCD, but doesn't shut it off. Pressing the wide-angle side of the zoom control brings up a 9-image thumbnail display of previously-captured images, and pressing it a second time switches to a 16-image display. Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom control reverses the process, and continued pressing smoothly zooms in on the currently-displayed image. When zoomed, the arrow keys scroll the enlarged view around the image as a whole.

 

 

External Controls


Sliding Lens Cover
: Stretching across the width of the camera's front panel, this cover slides up and down to reveal or conceal the lens. Though the camera has a Power button, this sliding cover also controls the camera's power.


Shutter Button
: Located on the far right side of the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed. Half-pressing the shutter button causes the camera to display the shutter speed and aperture setting its exposure system has chosen for the current scene. Even though you can't control the shutter speed or aperture manually, being able to see what the camera has selected can be a useful guide for experienced photographers to judge depth of field or motion blur.


Power Button
: To the left of the Shutter button, this button turns the camera on and off.


Zoom Rocker Button
: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, this rocker switch controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode.

In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images and accesses the index display mode as well as a detailed information display. (The "T" side zooms in, the "W" side zooms out. Zooming out from the normal-sized single image view brings up an index display of tiny "thumbnail" images.)


Mode Switch
: This switch is on the right side of the camera, though the indicator icons line up beside it on the rear panel. The following options are available:

  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, for as long as the memory card has space.
  • Record: Places the camera in still Record mode, with a handful of preset scenes and Auto and Program AE modes available.
  • Playback: Replays captured still images and movie files, with options for image management and printing.



Menu Button
: Located next to the top right corner of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button displays or dismisses the settings menu in any Record mode or in Playback mode.


Display/LCD Button
: Below the Menu button and adjacent to the lower right corner of the LCD display, this button controls the LCD monitor's display mode. In both Record and Playback modes, the button cycles through the image and information displays, and turns the LCD monitor's backlight on and off.


Image Size / Erase Button
: Across from the Menu button to the right, this button activates the Image Size setting in any Record mode. In any still image mode, resolution options of 2,592 x 1,944; 2,592 (3:2); 2,048 x 1,536; 1,280 x 960; and 640 x 480 pixels are available. Movie mode options include 640 x 480 (Standard), 640 x 480 (Fine), and 160 x 120 pixels. (The 640 x 480 Fine option is only available when using the Memory Stick PRO Duo media format.)

In Playback mode, this button calls up the single-image erase menu, letting you delete the currently displayed image. Pressing this button in Index display mode gives you the option of deleting all files in the current folder on the memory card.


Four Way Arrow Pad
: In the lower right corner of the rear panel, this five button control pad features four arrow keys and a center "OK" button. The arrow keys navigate through any settings menu, and the OK button confirms menu selections.

In Automatic Record mode, the up arrow controls flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, Suppressed, and Slow-Sync modes. The down arrow activates the Self-Timer option, while the right arrow controls the Macro mode. The left arrow calls up a quick review of the most recently-captured image.

In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys move around within the enlarged view.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In this mode, the camera captures standard still images, controlling aperture and shutter speed. Pressing the Menu button displays the Record settings menu, with options varying depending on the exposure mode selected:

  • Camera: Offers Automatic, Program AE, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Snow, Beach, High Speed Shutter, Fireworks, and Magnifying Glass (Macro) exposure modes. The mode selected dictates which of the following options are available. Program mode offers all of the following, most of the others offer less. Auto mode provides access only to the Mode and Setup menu options.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF, Spot AF, or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • Spot Metering: Turns on Spot Metering or places the camera in Multi Metering mode.
  • White Balance: Sets the color balance to Auto, or adjusts for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, or Flash light sources.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.






  • Image Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • Mode: Changes the recording mode to Normal, Voice, E-Mail (records a 320 x 240-pixel image in addition to one at the selected image size), Multi Burst, Exposure Bracketing, Framing Burst, or Speed Burst modes.
  • Bracket Step: (Only available if Exposure Bracketing is selected above.) Sets the level of exposure variation for Auto Exposure Bracketing shots. Step sizes include 1.0, 0.7, or 0.3 EV.
  • Interval: (Only available in Multi Burst mode.) Specifies the shutter interval for Multi Burst mode. Options are 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30.
  • Flash Level: Sets the flash intensity to Normal, Low, or High.
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.





  • Saturation: Adjusts the overall color saturation, with High, Normal, and Low options.
  • Contrast: Controls the level of contrast in images, with options for High, Normal, and Low.
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening. Options are High, Normal, and Low.


Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. When playing back movie files, you can also opt for "frame-by-frame" playback, which plays back the movie file slowly, several frames at a time. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Folder: Selects the folder of images to be played back.
  • Protect: Write-protects the current image, or removes protection.
  • DPOF: Marks the current image for printing on a DPOF device, or removes the print mark.
  • Slide: Enables a slide show of all images captured on the Memory Stick Duo. You can control the interval between each image, the range of images to be played back, and whether or not the slide show repeats.
  • Resize: Resizes the current image to one of the available resolution sizes.
  • Rotate: Rotates the current image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Divide: Divides movie files into segments, providing a very basic editing tool you can use to "trim" your movies to just the portion you want to keep.




Movie Mode: Records short movie clips with sound, for as long as the Memory Stick has available space. If set through the Set-Up menu, this mode can also record Clip Motion or Multi Burst frames. The LCD menu system offers the following options:

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF, Spot AF, or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • Spot Metering: Turns on Spot Metering or shuts it off.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the color balance for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Picture Effects: Applies creative effects like Solarize, Sepia, or Negative Art, or turns Picture Effects off.




Set-Up Mode: The following four-page Set-Up menu is available in Playback, Record, and Movie modes, as an extension of the LCD menu:

  • Camera:
    • AF Mode: Sets the autofocus to Single, Monitor, or Continuous modes.
    • Digital Zoom: Enables Smart Zoom or Precision Digital Zoom, or turns digital zoom off entirely.
    • Date/Time: Controls the date and time display, options are Day & Time, Date, or Off.
    • Red-Eye Reduction: Enables the Red-Eye Reduction flash (which will fire with all flash modes), or turns it off.
    • AF Illuminator: Puts the AF Illuminator into Auto mode, or simply turns it off.
    • Auto Review: Activates the Auto Review function, which automatically displays the most recently captured image post-capture.






  • Memory Stick Tool
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick Duo, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • Create Rec. Folder: Creates a new folder for recording images.
    • Change Rec. Folder: Changes the folder that images are recorded to.





  • Setup 1
    • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the LCD display brightness level to Normal, Bright, or Dark.
    • LCD Backlight: Controls the LCD backlight feature, setting it to Normal or Bright.
    • Beep: Controls the camera's beep sound, setting it to Shutter, On, or Off.
    • Language: Changes the camera's menu language to English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese.






  • Setup 2
    • File Number: Sets file numbering to Series or Reset. The Series option continues numbering files from one memory card to the next, while Reset starts over with each new memory card.
    • USB Connect: Places the USB connection into PTP or Normal modes.
    • Video Out: Specifies the camera's Video Out signal as NTSC or PAL.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's internal clock.




In the Box
The DSC-T1 ships with the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • 32MB Memory Stick DUO card and adapter.
  • USB cable.
  • Video cable.
  • NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery pack.
  • USB cradle.
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.


Recommended Accessories


Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

User Reviews

Sample Pictures
See our sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the DSC-T1's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the T1's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the DSC-T1 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: A slight tendency toward warm color balances, but good color overall. Overall, the T1 tended toward a slightly warm color balance, with both the Auto and Daylight white balance settings. I typically chose the Auto white balance, as it usually offered the least warm cast. Indoors, the Incandescent setting produced the best color under the tough incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash). Other than the slight warm cast overall though, the T1 delivered good-looking color, with accurate hue and good saturation. It had a slight tendency to oversaturate bright primary colors, particularly reds, but with more subdued tones, it responded very well. Skin tones were quite good, with just a bit of a yellowish cast, and the camera handled the always-difficult blue flowers of the Outdoor Portrait shot quite well. Color-wise, the T1's biggest limitation is that its white balance system has a little difficulty with the very warm color cast of household incandescent lighting, a very common light source for indoor photography in the US. That said, the T1 did better with this light source than many competing models - The amount of warmth left in its images with the Incandescent white balance setting was more than I'd prefer, but within the acceptable range.

  • Exposure: Better than average exposure accuracy, but a rather weak flash. The T1's automatic exposure system performed very well, requiring much less positive exposure compensation in both the Outdoor and Indoor Portrait shots than most cameras I test. On my "Davebox" test, the T1 distinguished the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, although it overexposed the shot slightly. My two complaints about the T1's exposure system both relate to low-light conditions: I found its flash to be somewhat underpowered (a common failing of subcompact digicam models), and its combination of maximum exposure time and light sensitivity is such that it will be barely adequate for shooting outdoor night scenes under typical city lighting.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very good resolution, but not quite up to the level of the best full-sized 5-megapixel models, particularly with low-contrast image detail. The T1 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,350 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,600-1,650 lines.

  • Image Noise: Hard to quantify, but it appears that sensor noise results in lost detail in areas of subtle contrast. Image noise on the T1 is a little hard to quantify. On the one hand, the flat tints of the MacBeth(tm) chart on my Davebox target showed relatively little noise, but it's clear that the credit for that goes to Sony's noise-suppression technology. Significant amounts of noise were visible around the edges of the flat tint blocks, and in other areas where there was more subject contrast. I also saw significant loss of detail in subject areas with subtle contrast, such as Marti's hair in the Outdoor Portrait shot. Overall, not bad (and Sony's engineers deserve a lot of credit for the quality of their noise-suppression processing), but the camera would do a lot better if there was less noise in the sensor data in the first place.

  • Closeups: Good macro performance, but soft details and corners and the flash is too powerful for the closest shots. The T1 performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.82 x 1.36 inches (46 x 35 millimeters). Resolution was high, with a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill. However, details were rather soft throughout the frame, especially in the corners. Color looked good though, and the exposure was about right. The T1's flash had a little trouble throttling down for the macro area, and overexposed the shot. - Plan on using external illumination for the closest macro shots.

  • Night Shots: Limited low-light capabilities, enough for city street scenes at night (just), but fairly clean-looking images. The T1 operates under automatic exposure control, though you can manually adjust the ISO setting. Still, low-light shooting is a bit limited. The T1 produced usable images only down to the 1 foot-candle (11 lux) light level at ISO 400, and in Twilight mode, the images at that level were darker than I'd consider acceptable. Color balance was pretty good though, just slightly blue. Sony's noise-suppression processing worked hard in my low-light shots, but generally did a good job, with the final images a fair bit less noisy than I suspect the original sensor data would have been. (The flat tint blocks of the MacBeth(tm) target were pretty clean-looking, but I saw a lot of noise around their edges, and in areas where there's a lot of higher-contrast detail, such as the min-res target.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: An accurate (and easily visible) LCD viewfinder. The T1 offers a very large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor for framing, which proved to be nearly 100 percent accurate at both wide angle and telephoto settings. In my viewfinder-accuracy shots, the reference lines were just barely outside the frame, but the error was quite small. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the T1's LCD monitor did quite well in this regard. (And the "transflective" LCD that Sony used in the T1 is remarkably visible even in direct sunlight, dramatically more so than most digicam LCDs currently on the market.)

  • Optical Distortion: Average distortion at wide angle, higher than average at telephoto. Generally good sharpness across the frame. Optical distortion on the T1 was average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end did only slightly better though, as I measured 0.6 percent pincushion distortion there. The 0.8% barrel distortion at wide angle is average among the cameras I've tested, although I personally feel that this level is too high. At the telephoto end, 0.6% pincushion is quite a bit higher than average. Chromatic aberration was moderate, showing about six pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Although I saw a little softening in some images, most of my shots from the T1 showed relatively little of the softness in their corners that I've come to expect from subcompact digicam models.

  • Shutter Response: Very (!) fast shutter response. Sony seems to have really gotten a handle on autofocus speed. - Their flagship DSC-F828 was one of the fastest prosumer cameras I've tested, and the T1 is even faster. Full-autofocus shutter lag ranged from 0.28 - 0.32 seconds depending on the zoom setting, and prefocus shutter lag was a blazing 14 milliseconds (0.014 seconds). Big kudos to Sony for getting one of the most annoying digicam shortcomings under control.

  • Battery Life: Fairly typical (e.g., short) battery life for a subcompact model. With worst-case run time of 81 minutes in capture mode with the backlight on, the T1's battery life is decent for a subcompact model, but definitely in the range that would justify purchasing a second battery along with the camera. (And, since there's no optical viewfinder, you can't turn the LCD off to save battery power.)

 

Conclusion
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Sony's Cyber-shot line of digicams have consistently proven themselves to be versatile performers, with high build quality, providing numerous innovations in the digicam marketplace. Now, the DSC-T1 breaks new ground in the subcompact category, packing more features into a smaller space than pretty much anything else out there. Most impressive is how few tradeoffs Sony was forced to make relative to full-sized five-megapixel models. The DSC-T1 shows good image quality, with good color, high resolution, and excellent sharpness from corner to corner (a common failing of the optics of subcompact digicam models). Its image sharpness and noise levels aren't quite up to the level of the best full-sized 5-megapixel cameras out there, but they're impressive for a subcompact model. (The other tradeoffs relative to competing full-sized digicams were limited low-light capability, limited flash power, and relatively short battery life.) While offering the ease of use of a fully point & shoot model in "auto" mode, the T1 provides enough flexibility and image control to satisfy even relatively sophisticated users. With its combination of small size, obvious build quality, good image quality, and rich feature set, the DSC-T1 was an easy "Dave's Pick." If you're in the market for a really compact digicam, but don't want to give up key features to get there, the DSC-T1 should be on your (very) short list of prime prospects.

 

Related Links

More Information on this camera from...

Megapixel.net:
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1, Sony Digital Cameras, Digital Cameras

DCViews:
Sony DSC-T1 review


 

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