Sony DSC-T200 Review
Sony's new top of the line compact point and shoot digital camera is the Cyber-shot DSC-T200. Sleek and compact, the T200 features a 3.5-inch wide touch screen, 5x optical Carl Zeiss internal folding zoom lens, and a very easy to navigate camera menu. Also included is an 8-megapixel imaging sensor, several pre-programmed shooting modes, in camera retouching of photographs and video editing, 640x480 movie mode and much more.
The touch screen adds a new level of dimension to the camera. Since there are no buttons that need to be placed on the back, this allows for a more compact and stylish look. The menu system is also easier to navigate using easy to identify icons on the screen. The screen also allows you to touch where you would like to focus while taking pictures and zooms to the point that you touch, allowing you total control while looking at pictures.
This camera fits very well into one or two hands. Even though it is a little bigger and heavier than the very similar DSC-T70, it is still just as easy to operate. You do have to watch out for your fingers on the left side of the camera, because it is very easy to block the lens witch is located in the top left corner of the camera. There are no controls left on the back of the camera, leaving only the power, play, zoom and shutter release on the top of the camera. All of the other controls are now part of the touch screen menu. The screen can be operated with your fingertips or the included stylus. An anti-glare coating allows for use of the camera in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight, it also gains up nicely in low light situations to make framing your shots easier. Fingerprints are always present with a touch screen but are not as noticeable as expected, and in most cases are not noticed at all.
Performance from the T200 is excellent. From the time you flip the front cover open until you are able to take your first photo is just 2.1 seconds. Shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and a mere 3/10 of a second when you include the focusing. In single shot mode, I captured 5 images in just 4.8 seconds without the flash, and 5 images in 7.9 seconds with the flash. There is also a continuous shooting (burst) mode. This mode does not work with the flash, but performed very well, capturing 12 images in 5.2 seconds, at the full 8-megapixel size, then it slowed slightly but continued to capture images. Our tests were performed using a Sony 1gb Memory Stick PRO Duo memory stick, program mode, flash off, and all other settings at the factory default unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
Just like with the other T-series cameras that we have seen, the image quality is very good. The 5x optical zoom lens did very well taking pictures outdoors, with only slight chromatic aberrations (purple fringing), and very slight edge softness. Neither of these would be noticeable when having prints made unless they were larger than an 8x10. The 35mm to 175mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens makes this camera a little more versatile than most compact digital cameras that you will find. The wide end is great for taking group portrait shots and landscapes. The digital wide zoom mode gives the wide angle zoom another dimension and can help add a little more to your landscape shots. When using the full wide angle, you will see a little barrel distortion. The zoom end is great for singling out people in group shots or getting closer to your outdoor subjects. Image noise was very low in areas of contrast, when the ISO setting is 200 or below. ISO 400 wasn't too bad, but 800 up to 3200 are very noisy, which is the case for most consumer digital cameras.
The indoor portrait shots came out very well. The flash did very well in controlling the amount of light that hit the subjects in the photograph. The colors and skin tones remained natural looking, however, if the camera does not recognize a face there is a little problem with red eyes (common with young children). On ISO Auto, on wide zoom the flash has a range of up to 12 ft. This is more than enough for taking portraits in most rooms. Our sample pictures were taken from 4 to 8 ft away and were all excellent.
The T200 performs very well when it comes to capturing video as well. The videos are very clear and smooth, and the camera handles moderate lighting situations very well. When using the steady shot, there is a little bit of noticeable noise, but the image is very still when shooting handheld and is worth using it if you do not have a tripod. You have the option to record in VX Fine (640x480), Fine (640x480), and 320 (320x240), several different color modes, and a feature that is just starting to become available on more cameras is the ability to use the full range of the zoom while recording. You are also given the ability to edit video inside the camera. In order to record movies at the best quality "VX Fine", you will need a Sony Memory stick Duo Pro memory card. Remember that the video files are large so you will need a large memory stick if you plan on taking multiple videos.
Powering the T200 is a 680 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery that recharges outside of the camera. This battery provided more than enough power to take over 150 pictures, many with the flash, several videos and completed all of our tests without having to be recharged. Since it does not have to be charged in the camera, we recommend having a second battery to keep charged as a backup.
Bottom line - Sony's top of the line model, the Cyber-shot DSC-T200 really makes a statement with its sleek design, high performance and pleasing image quality. It is incredibly easy to use with a 3.5-inch touch screen, well thought out menu system, and full auto and program modes with face and smile detection. With a MSRP of US$399, this model is a little expensive, but still offers a great value. If you like this camera, but would like something just a little cheaper, check out our review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 . While offering most of the same features, the T70 has a slightly smaller LCD, and a shorter zoom range, but can be had for about $100 less.
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