Sony DSC-T100 Review

 
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Sony DSC-T100 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color and hue accuracy with slight oversaturation in bright reds and blues.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Sony DSC-T100 does oversaturate the strong red tones, and some blues a little, but the results are still quite pleasing.

Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the DSC-T100 did render skin tones slightly on the warm side in most cases, but many consumers find slightly warm skin tones more pleasing than cooler ones.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the DSC-T100 performed well, though it pushed cyan tones toward blue and some reds toward orange. Still, very good results.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm casts with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. About average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.7 EV
Incandescent WB
+0.7 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was quite warm, with shades of yellow and red in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting, though still somewhat yellow, looked more pleasing overall. There is no Manual white balance setting on the T100, so the Incandescent setting is the best you'll do indoors. The DSC-T100 required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color is a bit dark and yellow in Auto mode, making the blue flowers very dark and purplish. (A very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Good color balance overall, with fairly bright colors. Heightened contrast under bright outdoor conditions.

Auto White Balance, +0.3 EV Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots showed better than average exposure accuracy, though with notably high contrast under harsh sunlight. Strong highlights tended to produce slight underexposures, as in the house shot above, with a limited midtone range, but exposure accuracy was still better than average when compared to many other consumer digicams. Overall color looked pretty good, with bright reds and blues that nonetheless didn't look too overdone.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution with about 1,400 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to 1,400 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,400 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,400 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 1,400 lines vertically. Lines began to merge around 1,900-2,000 vertically. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Mostly sharp images with good detail. Noise suppression softens detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with visible edge enhancement, and some dithering and softening remains. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression adds significant blur to detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Sony T100 captures relatively sharp images at low ISO with good detail definition, though some edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing limited detail, with large "brushstrokes" of blur; though individual strands are visible where a lighted strand passes in front of a darker shadow area. This is a lot of detail lost at the lowest ISO setting.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, but very high noise and strong blurring at the higher settings, especially above ISO 800.

ISO 80 (slight motion blur) ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600
ISO 3,200

The T100's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, with blurred detail in the dark areas. However, starting at ISO 200, image noise begins to dominate areas of fine detail. At ISOs 800 and above, noise is strong and blurring significant. It's not only detail that suffers at these high ISOs: color also shifts, first with yellow, then purple-gray highlights. For more on whether this output is usable, see the Output Quality section below.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but high contrast limits both highlight and shadow detail. Limited low-light capabilities, but sensitive enough to capture bright images under typical city street lighting.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Sony DSC-T100 had a hard time with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Shadow detail is limited, with the effects noise suppression very evident in the form of smudged detail in deep shadow areas. The camera required a slightly less-than-average amount of positive compensation at +0.7 EV, making its metering a bit more accurate than most in this particular test. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

 

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
80
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100
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Twilight
Scene
(ISO 100)
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ISO
200
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ISO
400
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ISO
800
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ISO
1600
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ISO
3200
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Low light:
The Sony DSC-T100 performed poorly on our low light test. At the lower ISO settings (80 and 100), images were not bright at any level. At ISO 200, it took one foot-candle of illumination to get a borderline bright image. At 400, it took 1/2 fc, and so on. The camera's autofocus system worked well, able to focus on the subject down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and well past the darkest light level we test with the AF assist lamp enabled. Keep in mind that the long shutter times here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Poor flash range at normal ISO settings.

35mm equivalent 175mm equivalent
Normal Flash, High Intensity
Slow-Sync Flash, High Intensity

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle, and way too dark at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Sony T100's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting with a noticeable orange cast; images only became acceptable with the High Intensity adjustment. The Slow-Sync flash mode also needed the "+" or High Intensity setting, though it resulted in more even lighting (and a stronger orange cast).

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
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ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
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ISO 100
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ISO 100
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ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
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12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
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ISO 100

At ISO 100, flash power was inadequate even at six feet for both wide angle and telephoto settings. Sony apparently has decided to rely on its high ISO capability to capture flash shots, as suggested by the results below at ISO 800 and 3200.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see T100FL_MFR122WA0500.JPG
12.2 feet
Auto ISO 500
Click to see T100FL_MFR095TM0400.JPG
9.5 feet
Auto ISO 400

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of their claims. In the shots above, the DSC-T100 doesn't quite cut it with its ISO set to Auto, despite the camera's boosting the ISO to 500 in the Wide and 400 in the Tele shots. There's significantly higher image noise at this distance, so be sure to use the T100 at six feet or less to keep the ISO down.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, crisp prints at 11x14 inches, usable ones at 13x19. ISO 400 images are usable to 8x10 inches, better at 5x7. ISO 1600 images are usable at 4x6; ISO 3200 is not usable at all.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

The Sony DSC-T100 at ISO 80 produced crisp prints at 11x14 inches, and somewhat softer but still acceptable ones at 13x19. As always though, the real test of print size came at the higher ISO settings. Unfortunately, quality begins to degrade at ISO 200, backing the acceptable print size to 8x10. T100's ISO 400 images were still somewhat usable at 8x10, but ISO 800 images are only good for 5x7. ISO 1,600 images are only good at 4x6, an then only when held about two feet away. ISO 3200 images are only usable for Web display and don't hold up even to 4x6 inch prints.

Color-wise, the Sony DSC-T100 did quite well, with bright but natural-looking color and good-looking skin tones. Clearly they worked hard to keep color under control in favor of maintaining detail as ISO goes up.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

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. We 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 lot 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 digital camera 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...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 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!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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