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Quick Review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 Digital Camera

 

Sony T7 Camera QuickLook
Review Date 7/12/2005
User Level
Novice to Intermediate
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Very Good, 5.1-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
11x17s or 8x10s with heavy cropping
Availability
June, 2005 
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$499.95


Introduction

Sony T7 Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
The Sony DSC-T7 is Sony's latest subcompact Cyber-shot model, a device that we can safely say is like no other. Sony digital cameras span the full range of price and performance, and Sony enjoys a leading position among digital camera manufacturers, but the Sony T7 breaks new ground in slim camera design, and it will not go unnoticed in the market. Sony's Cyber-shot T7 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-and-shoot ease, with a handful of scene modes for more difficult shooting situations. Its diminutive profile has forced some interface compromises, including an external charger, a dock that offers no connectivity, and an unusual Interface Adapter to enable image offload and A/V out. Read the review below for the details. Be warned though: Be sure you really want this camera before you go into a store to hold it, because to hold a Sony T7 is to want one!

 

Sony DSC-T7 Overview

Apart from its older brother the DSC-T1, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 looks nothing like any of its Cyber-Shot predecessors, and is actually one of the most compact Cyber-shots available. 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 Sony T7 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-T7 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 Sony DSC-T7 is its large, 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, which takes up most of the camera's rear panel. Though small, the Sony T7 doesn't skimp on features, offering a surprisingly 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. Overall, the T7 is very much like the original T1, only a lot slimmer.

The Sony DSC-T7 is equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x, 6.33-19.0mm 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 1.64 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity, with a Macro setting that lets you get within 3.1 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). Tiny lenses like this often have poor optical performance, but our testing showed the lens on the Sony T7 to better than average relative to other members of its subcompact class.

Besides its default automatic focus control, the Sony DSC-T7 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 or Monitoring AF modes. Monitoring mode adjusts focus continuously (the continuous mode found on the T1 is missing on the T7). An AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera helps focus at low light levels, a very handy feature I wish more digital camera manufacturers would add to their cameras. In addition to the camera's 3x optical zoom, the Sony T7 offers a maximum of 6x 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 12x, 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, and not at all available at the 5 megapixel or 3:2 setting. 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, the screen on the Sony T7 is "transflective" (Sony calls it a Hybrid LCD), 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.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the Sony T7, great for novices and casual users looking for simplicity. However, a range of 10 preset Scene modes is available, as well as a handful of adjustable exposure options. Opening the sliding lens cover turns the camera on, and a Mode switch on the left side selects between Playback, Record, and Movie modes. Within Record mode, you can select Auto, Program, Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow, or Fireworks exposure modes. The Auto setting takes away all user control, with the exception of flash, macro, and resolution settings. Program mode keeps shutter speed and aperture selection automatic, but allows user control over all other exposure variables. Magnifying Glass locks the lens at its telephoto position, and lets it focus as close as 1cm (However, keep in mind that any zooming in this mode employs the digital zoom function, which may degrade image quality somewhat). Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, although the ISO sensitivity is set to its lowest value of 64. Candle mode keeps the nice yellow glow of a candlelit scene. "Soft Snap" mode replaces the usual Portrait mode, adding a softening effect to the image. Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting broad vistas. High Speed Shutter mode is best for moving subjects, and uses faster shutter speeds to freeze action. 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. Fireworks mode preserves color by using a slower shutter speed and smaller aperture to capture the full display while maintaining a black sky.

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 64, 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well. When shooting at slower shutter speeds or higher ISO settings, the Sony T7 automatically enables a Noise Reduction system to eliminate excess image noise. The DSC-T7 offers Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Picture Effects setting that lets you record images in sepia or black and white. White Balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash modes. The Sony DSC-T7's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, and Slow-Sync modes. Red eye reduction mode must be set in the Setup menu, at which point it is applied to all flash-on 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 in the still capture mode, the Sony T7 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 Exposure Bracketing, and Burst options. 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 nine images at 5 megapixels and fine compression, at a rate of about 1.4 frames per second. (Pretty impressive for a subcompact camera model, particularly the 9-shot buffer capacity.) 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 Sony DSC-T7 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 1GB 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. Note too, that the Sony T7's high-resolution video mode requires PRO Duo cards to handle the high data rates involved: Be sure to buy a PRO Duo Memory Stick if you want to take full advantage of the T7's video capabilities.

For power, the Sony T7 uses a single NP-FE1 Info-Lithium battery pack, which accompanies the camera. An external charger is included, as without the optional power supply, the battery must be removed to be charged. Like most subcompact camera models, the T7's tiny battery translates into rather short battery life, about 74 minutes in capture mode with a fully-charged cell, although this is still better than many subcompact models manage. An included USB cradle has no I/O functions, nor does it provide power. The Sony DSC-T7 doesn't have any standard connection terminals itself, but it comes with a connector terminal that features USB, DC In, and AV Out connector jacks (as mentioned, a special power adapter must be purchased separately to power the camera, and even then, the battery doesn't charge inside the camera). Frankly, this is one of our gripes with the camera's design. Something surely had to give to cram everything into such a tiny body, and standard connector jacks were likely candidates to be cut. The external "port adapter" is a kludgey solution for an otherwise incredibly sleek little camera, though. Another quibble: The manual is somewhat problematically split into two pieces: the Users Guide/Troubleshooting book and a Read this First poster. When looking up basic functions, the manual often refers to the poster as the only source for information like Scene Modes. Be sure to keep and carry both manuals for a complete reference. (What a pain, would it have been that much more expensive to just replicate the contents of the poster in the manual itself?) 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 6x Precision Digital Zoom, and as much as 12x Smart Zoom (in VGA mode; not available at 5 megapixels).
  • Full Auto and Program exposure modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1 second (as long as 2 seconds in Night Shot mode).
  • Built-in flash with four modes, plus Red Eye reduction.
  • Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo image storage, 32MB Memory Stick Duo card included.
  • Cradle included as stand; Interface adapter also included for easy connection to a computer or television set, USB and A/V cables included.
  • Power supplied by NP-FE1 Info-Lithium battery (supplied with external charger) or AC adapter (optional).
  • Pixela Image Mixer software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with MPEG VX Movie option. (Continuous high-res video recording with Memory Stick PRO Duo cards)
  • Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow, and Fireworks preset scene modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Picture Effects menu with Sepia and Black & White effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens setting.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six modes.
  • Burst, Multi Burst, Auto Exposure Bracketing, and Normal record modes.
  • Multi-Pattern and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with four ISO equivalents (64, 100, 200, 400) and an Auto setting.
  • Five-area Multi-Point auto focus with Spot and Center AF modes, and AF illuminator.
  • Single and Monitoring AF modes.
  • Automatic Noise Reduction for longer exposures.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.


Recommendation
With its thin, compact case and very attractive looks, the DSC-T7 is an exciting new addition to Sony's Cyber-shot line of digicams. Carrying forward the winning styling of the original DSC-T1, the new T7 takes the concept of ultra-slim digital cameras a few steps further, with one of the thinnest packages we've seen to date. Sleek, elegant, and well-constructed, this is a "fashion accessory" camera in which the camera part actually performs quite well. Although it's small, the Sony T7 offers excellent features like a Carl Zeiss zoom lens, large 2.5-inch LCD monitor, and 5.1-megapixel CCD. It offers the convenience of point-and-shoot simplicity, but with a surprising array of advanced features. Its main limitation is that its low light capabilities are a bit limited due to a relatively short maximum exposure time and a rather weak flash. Low light shooting aside though, the T7 is a great choice for anyone wanting a capable, portable camera that takes good photos in a variety of circumstances and is thin enough to take everywhere. The Sony DSC-T7 is easy to use, but has enough flexibility to handle a range of conditions. Keeping the unit charged and ready to go is the only challenge, with its external-only charging method.

 

Design

Small, sleek, and very compact, the Sony DSC-T7 continues the slimming down of Cyber-Shot line. The camera's ultra-thin dimensions and large LCD panel are distinctive design features, along with the horizontal lens cover that slides up and down (very smoothly) as opposed to side-to-side. Because the camera has a vertically-oriented internal lens, the front panel remains smooth at all times (except for the sliding lens cover), and very pocket friendly. Measuring 3.62 x 2.37 x 0.57 inches (91.7 x 60.2 x 14.7 millimeters), the DSC-T7 will definitely fit into shirt pockets and tiny evening bags. Though it sports an all-metal body, the DSC-T7 is still light weight, at just 4.6 ounces (131 grams) with batteries and memory card.

Here at IR, we had some differences of experience/opinion with the T7's form factor. Shawn really didn't care for it: His hands were so conditioned to holding conventional cameras that he kept wanting to hold it like a conventional rangefinder, with the result that it was forever slipping from his grip. Dave liked it fairly well though, gripping it with thumb and middle finger on the right side, leaving his index finger to work the shutter button. Given this range of experience though, you may want to actually pick up and hold a T7 in a store before committing to a purchase.

The front of the Sony T7 is nearly flat, except for a 3mm protrusion from the sliding lens cover. The lens cover acts as a power switch, though a physical power button is also present on the right side of the camera. 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 1.3 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 Sony T7, though the right panel includes a flared thumbrest that extends the back surface area sufficiently for most thumbs to get a reasonable purchase.

The right side of the Sony DSC-T7 features the Power button, the protruding ridge that also serves as a neckstrap eyelet, and the battery door and release. The door is spring loaded and works independently of the release. You have to first open this heavy metal door, then slide the battery release up. From there, you have to use your thumb to pry the battery loose from the bottom using a small tab. Nestled meekly behind the battery door is a very small port for the Interface Adapter that adds A/V Out, USB, and DC in. (Note though, that this port does not charge the T7; the battery must be charged in the included wall charger.)

This brings up one of our few objections to the Sony T7's design. Keeping this super-slim camera going requires at least the separate charger (with an hour to charge), and the full solution requires the USB cable, dock, and Interface adapter. So while the camera itself is incredibly slim, the necessary support contingent is not, and the little port adapter feels to us like something that would be a little too easy to lose.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless.

The Sony T7's top panel is rounded, with the shutter and zoom controls popping out the top. Left of these controls are seven holes for the Mic, and the Flash charge lamp. To the shutter's right is a tiny power-on lamp.

The remaining few camera controls are on the back panel, along with the very large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor. The Camera Mode slider is in the top left corner, with the Five-way navigator next to the lower left corner of the LCD monitor. The four directional buttons also serve as Flash, Macro, Self-timer, and Quick Review buttons. The Menu button is above the Five-way navigator. Beneath the monitor on the right are the Image size/Delete button and the Display button. To the right of the LCD button are five holes for the speaker.

The Sony DSC-T7 has a flat bottom panel. The Memory Stick Duo memory card door opens toward the back, and the card releases with an inward press. To the left is a tiny metal screw socket for attachment to the included cradle, which gives the T7 the ability to connect to a tripod (albeit at an angle). To the right, you see the little nib on the battery to help you remove it with a thumbnail.

 

Camera Operation

The Sony DSC-T7'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 Sony T7 has only a few external controls, as most of the exposure options are accessed through the LCD menu system. That said, the camera's Five-way Navigator keys serve multiple functions, and you can quickly change the camera mode via the Mode switch on the back panel. The arrow keys of the Five-way Navigator scroll through menu selections, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. An external button on the T7 directly accesses the image-size setting and deletes images in playback mode. Both of 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 that I think even novice users will be able to become completely familiar with it in an hour or less.

Record Mode Display: The Sony DSC-T7'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 digital cameras, 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.

Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, the LCD monitor reports basic information such as the image resolution, battery level and run time remaining (which is longer in Playback mode), 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. 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 up to 5x. When zoomed, the arrow keys scroll the enlarged view around the image as a whole.

 

 

External Controls


Sliding Lens Cover
: Stretching across two-thirds 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
: At the top of the camera's right side, this button turns the camera on and off.


Zoom Rocker Button
: Located on the top of the camera's curved surface, this tiny 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" 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 left side of the camera's back panel, offering the following options:

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



Menu Button
: Located upper left of the Five-way Navigator, this button displays or dismisses the settings menu in any Record or in Playback mode.


Display/LCD Button
: Bottom right 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.


Image Size / Erase Button: Just left of the Display button, 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, or of selecting individual images one at a time for batch deletion.


Five-way Navigator
: 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 Auto, Program, Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow, and Fireworks 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).
  • Metering Mode: Selects among Multi, Center, and Spot Metering modes.
  • 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, 64, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.

  • Image Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • Mode: Changes the recording mode to Normal, Burst, Exposure Bracketing, Multi 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. (Only available when the flash is enabled.)
  • Picture Effects: Applies Sepia and Black & White creative effects.

  • 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.
  • Print: Allows direct printing to PictBridge-enabled printers.
  • 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. The LCD menu system offers the following options: (Sorry, no screenshots here, the options are the same as similar items in normal Record mode.)

  • 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).
  • Metering Mode: Selects among Multi, Center, or Spot metering modes.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the color balance for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Picture Effects: Applies Sepia and Black & White effects.

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 1

    • AF Mode: Sets the autofocus to Single and Monitor 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.

  • Camera 2
    • Enlarged Icon: Turns the Enlarged Icon feature on or off.

  • 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 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.
    • Initialize: Changes all camera settings to the factory defaults.

  • 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 Sony DSC-T7 ships with the following items:

  • Neck/Wrist strap.
  • 32MB Memory Stick DUO card and adapter.
  • USB cable.
  • Video cable.
  • NP-FT7 Info-Lithium battery pack.
  • BC-CS3 battery charger.
  • Interface Adapter.
  • 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.

 

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 full details on each of the test images, see the Sony DSC-T7's "pictures" page.

For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony T7 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: Good color accuracy, bright and natural-looking. The Sony T7 performed well when it came to color accuracy and saturation. The camera's Auto white balance setting generally did pretty well, but both Auto and Incandescent settings had trouble with the household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test. Colors were quite hue accurate, and saturation was excellent as well, with only strong reds and greens being somewhat oversaturated. Looking at test prints from the T7's shots, I was impressed with the good balance between vibrancy and a natural appearance. Very good performance overall.

  • Exposure: Better than average exposure accuracy overall, but indoor shots required more compensation than average. High default contrast, a partially effective contrast adjustment though. The DSC-T7 handled my test lighting quite well, and in most shots required less than average amounts of exposure compensation. The exception was my Indoor Portrait test, which took a full 1.3 EV boost, more than is usually required on that shot. Dynamic range was pretty good, but the camera's default tone curve is rather contrasty. Its low-contrast setting helps quite a bit with this, but produced odd color saturation artifacts on Marti's skin tones when I tried to use it for my "Sunlit" Portrait test. Bottom line though, better than average exposure accuracy and pretty good dynamic range.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,300 lines of "strong detail." The Sony T7 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart with its 5.0-megapixel CCD. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,300 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,650 lines. Overall, a good performance for a 5-megapixel digital camera.

  • Image Noise: Average to a bit better than average image noise for a 5-megapixel digital camera. The Sony DSC-T7 has average to a bit better than average image noise for a 5-megapixel digital camera. Noise in our test shots was low at ISO 64 and 100, became visible at ISO 200 (with some softening of subject detail), and was quite noticeable at ISO 400, with further loss of fine detail. Images captured with the T7 at ISO 400 were a bit rough and soft-looking when printed at 8x10 inches, to the point that we personally wouldn't count on printing them that large. At 5x7 inches, ISO 400 shots still showed some image noise, but at a level we think would be acceptable for most consumers. At 4x6 inch print sizes, noise ceased to be an issue altogether.

  • Closeups: An average macro area with great detail. Flash performs pretty well, albeit with some falloff. The Sony DSC-T7 captured an average macro area, measuring 2.91 x 2.18 inches (74 x 55 millimeters). Resolution was high, with only slight softening in the corners. The Sony T7's flash did a good job of throttling down for the macro area, though some falloff is noticeable in the right corners of the frame.

  • Night Shots: Poor low-light performance, barely capable of capturing good images under average city street lighting. Good low-light autofocus though. A maximum shutter speed of one second severely limits performance here. (Two seconds in Night Scene modes, but those modes force the ISO sensitivity to 64.) If you plan on a lot of after-dark shooting, you should probably consider a different camera. (Flash range is extremely limited too.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: An accurate LCD monitor. The DSC-T7's LCD monitor was nearly 100 percent accurate at both the wide angle and telephoto lens settings. The edges of my standard measurement lines were just cut off, but results were quite good.

  • Optical Distortion: About average barrel distortion at wide angle, but moderately high pincushion at telephoto. Low chromatic aberration, particularly at telephoto, good sharpness in the corners. I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle setting (about average), and about 0.5 percent pincushion distortion at telephoto (higher than average). Chromatic aberration was low at both wide angle and telephoto. (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.) The wide angle lens setting results in some blurring in the corners, but only a small amount, corner sharpness is better than average.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Surprising speed for a consumer camera, very surprising in a subcompact model. More so than most digital camera makers, Sony seems to have really gotten a handle on autofocus speed. All of their current cameras focus quite quickly, and the T7 is really surprisingly fast, particularly for a subcompact model. Full-autofocus shutter lag ranged from 0.35 - 0.38 seconds depending on the zoom setting, and prefocus shutter lag was a blazing 12 milliseconds (0.012 seconds). (Big kudos to Sony for getting one of the most annoying digicam shortcomings under control.) The T7 was also quite fast from shot to shot, managing a shot every 1.26 seconds in single-shot mode, and capturing up to nine large/fine images at a time in burst mode, at a rate of 1.43 frames/second. All in all, very impressive, especially for a subcompact camera.

  • Battery Life: Short battery life, typical of subcompact cameras. With a worst-case run time of 74 minutes in record mode, and playback run time of 125 minutes, the Sony T7 has worse battery life than most full-sized digital cameras, but such short run times are unfortunately common subcompact models. Given the short battery life, my usual recommendation of buying a second battery right along with your camera applies doubly with the T7.

  • Print Quality: Very good print quality, great color, very usable 13x19 prints. ISO 400 images are rough at 8x10, very good at 5x7. 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.) In the case of the Sony T7, we found that it had enough resolution to make good-looking 13x19 prints, although they were just a tad soft. (More than good enough for wall display though.) Looking at the T7's high-ISO shots, images captured at ISO 400 looked a bit rough and soft when printed at 8x10 inches. At 5x7 inches, ISO 400 shots still showed some image noise, but at a level that we think would be acceptable for most consumers. At 4x6 inch print sizes, noise ceases to be an issue altogether. Color-wise, the Sony T7's images looked great when printed on the i9900, with bright, vibrant color, but still very natural-looking.

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Ultra-sleek, tiny form factor, very literally shirt-pocket sized
  • Rugged build quality, very nice feel to the lens cover in particular
  • Rich feature set for a subcompact
  • Better than average lens for a subcompact model, good sharpness in the corners
  • Excellent shutter response, much faster than average autofocus performance
  • Good continuous shooting speed, very good buffer depth (9 large/fine frames)
  • Very good color, better than average accuracy, bright and vibrant without being overdone
  • Big, beautiful LCD screen, entirely usable in full sun and in surprisingly dim lighting too
  • Excellent video capability (with sound), remarkable for such a tiny camera
  • Good, bright AF-Assist lamp
  • Very fast USB 2.0 computer connection
  • A good lens, but pincushion distortion is higher than average at telephoto focal lengths
  • Poor low-light performance due to short maximum shutter times
  • Very weak flash (very common with subcompact cameras)
  • No in-camera battery charging
  • External port adapter adds to bulk, is a nuisance, one more thing to lose
  • No tripod mount, separate dock is only a partial solution (not critical though, few will use this camera on a tripod)
  • Short battery life

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The new Sony DSC-T7 takes "thin" to a whole new level for a sophisticated digital camera design. By far the thinnest Cyber-shot to date, the Sony T7 is noteworthy not only for its amazingly thin profile, but for the range of features and image quality that the Sony engineers managed to pack into its tiny frame. While there are always compromises when making a super-tiny digicam, the Sony T7 does better than most. I was particularly impressed by its lens, not so much for its absolute quality as for the extent to which it avoids some of the severe problems with soft corners and high chromatic aberration we've seen in so many subcompact cameras in the past. Other image quality parameters are good too, with great color, solid resolution, and good dynamic range. Despite its tiny size, the Sony T7 offers a strong feature set, great shooting speed, and excellent video capabilities. About its only significant limitations are somewhat limited low light capability, and the short battery life and weak flash output that's typical of subcompact camera models. Bottom line, a fine little camera, good enough to be made a "Dave's Pick." If you're in the market for a really compact digital camera, but don't want to give up lots of features or accept poor-quality images to get there, you owe it to yourself to check out the Sony T7. One word of warning though: Don't pick one up and hold it unless you plan to buy one: They're that addicting.


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