Sony DSC-T700 Review
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Some oversaturation of strong reds and blues, and pinkish skin tones, but generally good color performance.
Skin tones. The DSC-T700 does tend toward reddish and pinkish skin tones, even with the correct white balance for the composition, but the effect is not unpleasing. If a camera is going to err on the side of skin tones, though, adding red or pink is typically more palatable than greenish or bluish tones. 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.
Hue. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 showed a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, though overall hue accuracy was good. Cyans were shifted quite a bit toward blue (a pretty common practice with digicams, we think it's an attempt to produce better-looking sky colors), some yellows toward green, and oranges toward yellow, but overall color looked pretty good to the eye. Hue is "what color" the color is.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm color with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, a small amount of positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
The Cyber-shot DSC-T700's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings both produced warm color casts here, with the Auto setting showing just a hint of a reddish tint as well. Though overall color was warm, the Auto setting was actually preferable because the slight red tint made skin tones just a little more believable than the very yellow skin tones of the Incandescent image. There's some argument to be made for a camera to preserve the "look" of the original scene, but we'd really like to see a bit less warmth in the T700's images shot under household incandescent lighting. The DSC-T700 required only a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, which is about average exposure performance here. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
High contrast outdoors, but overall good exposure and accurate color.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 produced generally good exposure and color, though contrast was a little high. Though noise and noise suppression limits shadow detail some, the level of detail in the deep shadows is still pretty good. In the portrait above, the overall exposure is just a little dim at +0.3 EV, but anything brighter lost too much detail in the highlights. The DSC-T700 does feature an adjustable Dynamic Range setting, with options for Standard and Plus (as well as Off). The Plus setting did attempt to even out the exposure some, but it also increased the overall brightness level, making the overall image a little too bright. To use it, you'll probably want to dial down your exposure compensation a little bit, but under those circumstances, it should help a lot with high-contrast subjects.
Very high resolution, 1,600 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,600 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height in both directions, though you could argue for as high as 1,800 lines horizontally. Extinction didn't really occur on this standard test chart, though lines began to merge slightly around 1,900 lines. 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images overall, though definition in the finer details is sometimes soft. Slight evidence of edge enhancement in high contrast areas, and moderately high noise suppression in the shadows.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by noise
suppression slightly, with evidence of
minor edge enhancement as well.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 captures pretty sharp images overall, though noise suppression is a factor in areas of subtly-contrasting detail. Slight enhancement artifacts are also visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left, in the camera's attempt to increase definition here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows fairly high noise suppression, with the darker areas of hair showing limited detail. Individual strands fade into a blur, even in the brighter shadows. 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.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though stronger noise and increased blurring at the higher settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 produced low to moderate noise at its lower sensitivity settings. At ISO 200, noise level is still fairly low, but the camera's efforts at suppressing noise result in noticeable blurring, which actually clears up slightly at ISO 400. At ISO 800, the camera chooses to allow more noise grain rather than smudge the detail, and color balance shifts somewhat. At ISOs 1,600 and 3,200, not only is noise much higher, the effects of noise suppression are much stronger. (Check out our notes on Print Quality below, to see how this translates into usable print sizes.)
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but high contrast with the default Dynamic Range setting. Poor low-light capabilities, not even bright enough for average city street lighting at night under the normal ISO settings.
|Default Exposure||+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 produced high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, with strong highlights and deep shadows. Detail is good in the shadow areas, despite noise suppression and a few noise pixels themselves. The overall exposure is a hint dim at +0.3 EV, but we felt that the highlights in the skin, flowers and on the shirt became unnaturally bright and washed out with any higher adjustment.
|Dynamic Range Optimization|
|Off at 0 EV||Standard at 0 EV||Plus at 0 EV|
Dynamic Range Optimization. The DSC-T700 does offer a Dynamic Range adjustment tool, which pulls the shadows up in an attempt to even out the exposure. The result is a brighter overall exposure, but lower contrast. It did an excellent job with the difficult lighting in this shot: Rather than boosting the exposure to bring up the midtones, we could shoot with no exposure compensation and get a nicely-exposed image. In fact, we probably could have cut the exposure by 1/3 EV for even better results. (Of course, in situations like this, it's better to shoot in the shade when possible, or to use fill flash.)
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.)
|Off at 0 EV||On at 0 EV|
Face Detection. Like most Point & Shoot cameras these days (and some DSLRs in Live View mode), the Sony T700 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, it really works, as the image with face detection enabled is better exposed for the face. (We're not sure why the contrast appears to be higher in that shot, though; the dynamic range optimization option was off for both shots.) Sony says the system can detect up to 8 faces in a scene, can distinguish between adults and children, and can wait until a smile is detected before capturing, but we did not test those claims.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 had quite a bit of trouble shooting in low lighting, limited by its one second maximum exposure time. At its normal sensitivity settings, even the brightest light level of this test resulted in dark exposures. The ISO had to be increased to 400 before images were considered usable at one foot-candle. At the highest sensitivity settings, the target is visible at the lowest light levels, but overall exposure is quite dim. The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level, and to total darkness with the AF assist enabled, more than enough to keep up with the exposure system.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
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.
Coverage and Range
A modest flash at close range, though fairly even coverage. EV compensation didn't affect flash exposure in the normal flash mode, though Slow-Sync mode produced brighter results.
|35mm equivalent||140mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash, High Intensity||Slow-Sync Flash, High Intensity|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was slightly uneven at full wide angle, though results there were about average among the cameras we've tested. At full telephoto, results are quite dim, but more uniform. In the Indoor test, the DSC-T700's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, though the boost in intensity didn't really affect the exposure that much. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much brighter results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. Still, with more ambient light allowed into the exposure, many consumers may prefer the warm cast over the dim results that the normal mode produces.
ISO 100 Range. At both wide angle and telephoto settings, with the ISO at 100, flash shots were brightest at six feet, decreasing in intensity with each additional foot of distance. As with other recent ultra-compact models from the company, Sony has decided to rely on its high ISO capability to capture bright flash shots, as suggested by the results below at ISO 800.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 800
Auto ISO 800
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the DSC-T700 seems to perform exactly as Sony says it will at both wide angle and telephoto, producing a good exposure (albeit slightly overexposed at wide angle) at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto. It did however have to boost ISO to 800 to do so, resulting in rather noisy images. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, good color, prints usable for wall display to 16x20 inches, good for closer examination at 13x19 inches. ISO 800 good at 8x10 inches, ISO 1,600 acceptable at 5x7, good at 4x6. ISO 3,200 acceptable at 4x6 inches.
The Sony DSC-T700 has enough resolution to make 16x20 inch prints suitable for wall display, but its images will look soft at that size when viewed up close. Drop the print size to 13x19, and they're still slightly soft, but quite acceptable for table display, and at 11x14 inches, they'll look quite sharp, even under close inspection.
As always, image quality decreases as you raise the ISO setting, so maximum print sizes decrease. ISOs of 800 and under look good when printed as large as 8x10 inches, a good performance for a compact camera. Quality drops a fair bit at ISO 1,600; stick to 5x7 inches at that level, or 4x6s if you want clean-looking photos. ISO 3,200 looks a little rough even at 4x6 inches, but we think most consumers would be satisfied with the prints at that size.
The Sony T700's printed images showed bright, attractive color, without appearing overdone. As mentioned earlier, we'd have preferred a bit more aggressive white balance system when working with non-daylight light sources (particularly incandescent lighting), but that's more of a personal preference, and others may feel differently. We were pleasantly surprised by how well the T700's high-ISO images held up; ISO 800 is very usable, and consumers printing mainly at 4x6 inches should be quite happy with ISO 1,600 shots as well.
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 Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 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-T700 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.