Sony DSC-T1 Review

Steve's Digicams

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1

Steve's Conclusion

Packing a 5-megapixel imager into a sleek body weighing only 6.3 ounces including memory and battery, the SONY DSC-T1 sets a new standard for image resolution per ounce. Considering its stylish body, 3x optical zoom lens and a 640x480 30 frame per second movie mode with sound, the T1 sets a new benchmark for fun factor per ounce as well. Its Automatic exposure mode will appeal to beginners needing the ease of use of a point-n-shoot, while its Program and Scene modes provide features desired by intermediate photographers.

The most distinguishing feature of the T1 is its packaging. The light weight, durable metal body's height and width are barely larger than a credit card, and its depth is only 0.8 inch; the DSC-T1 can easily be carried in a pocket or purse. It is stylish enough that some users might choose to show it off as a fashion accessory attached to the included silver wrist strap. Its small size was facilitated by 3 components:

  • Memory Stick PRO Duo™ Media, 1/3 smaller than Memory Sticks,
  • Small proprietary InfoLITHIUM battery, and
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 38 - 114mm optical zoom lens, which focuses and zooms internally within the camera body
Despite its small size, the T1's controls are well-placed on the body and have a professional feel. And although it seems contradictory, the T1 has one of the largest LCD viewfinders among consumer digicams, despite the camera itself being one of the smallest. The LCD is not only large, but very usable as well. It has controls for brightness and backlight, but outdoors in bright sun you'll find that they are unnecessary; ambient light from the sun is used to intensify the LCD's image, allowing you to view it while saving battery power. Because there's no optical viewfinder on this camera, SONY wisely provided this top-notch LCD; you'll enjoy using it. Battery life was surprisingly good considering its small size; I averaged about 120 shots before its capacity was spent, including a lot of time reviewing images and navigating the cameras menu system. The NP-FT1 InfoLITHIUM battery is proprietary and charged in-camera; as usual, I recommend that you obtain a spare to avoid the inevitable disappointment a dead battery can cause. The Memory Stick Pro DUO and battery are accessed behind the same door, but there is no latching mechanism to retain the battery when the door is opened, and the battery can slip out.

The T1 is a robust performer. From sliding open the lens cover till the first shot was captured measured an impressive 1.7 seconds; you will not miss many unposed spontaneous photo opportunities. Shutter lag, the time between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, measured 2/10 second when pre-focused, and lag including autofocus was an equally impressive 4/10 second; both of these times include about 1/10 second of delay in the live image on the LCD viewfinder. In single shot mode, images could be captured at a rate of 1 every 1.2 seconds with Auto Review off, or 1 every 3 seconds with Auto Review on. The T1 has 3 modes of continuous image capture: Speed Burst, Framing Burst and Multi Burst. In Speed Burst mode, I was able to capture 4 images in 1.1 seconds; during the capture sequence the viewfinder went blank, limiting its use to stationary subjects. Framing Burst mode is slightly slower, capturing 4 shots in 1.2 seconds, but provides a brief preview of each image as it's captured. While it doesn't provide a live viewfinder image, Framing Burst will help you follow a moving subject if you can anticipate its direction. In both Speed and Framing Burst modes, you'll have to wait before taking more shots while the camera flushes its buffer of the images just captured; I measured a 5 second delay after capturing 4 images. Multi burst records 16 images at a user-specified interval of 1/30, 1/15, or 1/7.5 second into a single 1-megapixel frame. It is most useful in recording an athletic movement, such as a golf swing or tennis stroke, for later evaluation; when reviewed in-camera, the images can be viewed frame-by-frame or as a continuous sequence. The above times were measured using a SONY 256MB Memory Stick Pro Duo memory card, recording 2592 x 1944 5-megapixel JPG images in fine quality with flash off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture; they are numbers you can reproduce in real-world shooting conditions. SONY did not compromise the T1's shooting performance to achieve its small size.

I was pleased with the T1's outdoor shooting results. The lens produced sharp results throughout its 38 - 114mm (35mm equivalent) optical zoom range, with a moderate degree of barrel distortion at extreme wide-angle and a bit of pin cushioning at full telephoto. It zooms smoothly throughout its 3X range. Our outdoor test images were both well exposed and richly saturated, and had almost no chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high contrast areas.

Because of the limited flash range (5 feet) and 38mm wide angle focal length, you'll realize the best indoor results when shooting portraits of individuals and couples. Capturing a well-exposed flash image of even a moderately-sized room is beyond the T1's capability. Although a red eye reduction mode of flash operation is provided, the close proximity of the lens and flash on the camera body resulted in red eyes in nearly every flash image. The T1 is equipped with a focus-assist lamp which it uses automatically when needed; its low light autofocus performance is exceptional as a result. Closeup macro shots with the flash were excellent as the camera "throttles down" the flash for nearly perfect exposures every time; the T1 would be a good choice for shooting close-up images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings. The T1 also has a "Magnifying Glass" close focusing mode that will focus as close as 1 centimeter, completely filling the frame with an object as small as a dime. I found this feature impractical to use, however, because of the very small working distance to the subject and the inability to mount the camera on a tripod to eliminate camera shake.

The T1 has a versatile movie mode, able to capture moving 640x480 images at 30 frames per second with sound. Be warned, however, that movies captured at this quality will consume a bit over 1-megabyte per second; make sure that you purchase a large capacity Memory Stick Pro Duo card if you intend to record movies in the cameras highest-quality mode. The T1 does have an in-camera movie editing function that can be used to trim your movies to a more memory-efficient size. The camera's zoom lens can be used to compose the movie before shooting, but the focal length can not be changed during recording.

If you're in need of a super-compact digicam that captures high resolution images, the SONY CyberShot T1 could be just the ticket. With a 5-megapixel imager, excellent image quality, small size, light weight and good-looks, the T1 would make an excellent camera for recording your vacation travels. It is less successful at capturing family events because of its limited flash range and consistent red eye when using the flash. With an MSRP (as of January, 2004) of $550, SONY is asking a premium for the smallest 5-megapixel digicam with a 2.5-inch LCD viewfinder -- but for those needing this combination of size, quality and style, there's currently no other camera in its class.

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Want a second opinion?

I4U's Sony T1 review

DC View's Sony T1 review

DC Resource's Sony T1 review

Photobird's Sony T1 review

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