Sony DSC-T7 Review
The CyberShot DSC-T7 is one of a trio of diminutive 5-megapixel digicams SONY has introduced in 2005, the other two being the DSC-T5 and the DSC-T33. Weighing only 4.8 ounces including battery, media and wrist strap, the T7 is a member of the growing class of 1-megapixel per ounce digicams. Despite its small size, it packs a 3x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5-inch LCD into its stylish metal body. 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 T7 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 0.6 inch; the DSC-T7 can easily be carried in a pocket or purse. The T7 is the lightest of Sony's new trio, tipping the scales just 1/10 ounce less than the T5. 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:
Despite its small size, the T7's controls are well-placed on the body and, with the exception of the zoom control, have a positive feel. Left handed photographers will appreciate the location of the rear controls (4-way controller, mode switch and menu button) on the left side of the body; being right handed, it took a bit of getting used to. And although it seems contradictory, the T7 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 a control for backlight brightness, but outdoors in bright sun you'll find that it is unnecessary; ambient light from the sun is used to intensify the LCD's image, allowing you to view it while saving battery power. The LCD viewfinder is also effective indoors, gaining-up the live image in dim lighting conditions. The LCD's wide field of view makes it visible from other than head on, allowing you and your friends to easily review captured images. 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; it captured nearly 150 shots before its capacity was spent, including a lot of time reviewing images and navigating the cameras menu system. The NP-FE1 InfoLITHIUM battery is proprietary and charged out of the camera in the included BC-CS3 charger; as usual, I recommend that you obtain a spare to avoid the inevitable disappointment a dead battery can cause. A latching mechanism keeps the battery from slipping out when its access door is opened.
The only issue I found with the camera's design was the placement of its lens near the top left corner of the body. It was too easily smudged by my left forefinger, which sometimes became an unwelcome addition to the images I captured. Keep a microfiber lens cleaning cloth handy to remove the inevitable smudge.
The T7 is a robust performer, turning in results nearly identical to the T5. From sliding open the lens cover till the first shot was captured measured an impressive 1.4 seconds; you will not miss many unposed spontaneous photo opportunities. Shutter lag, the time between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, measured 1/10 second when pre-focused, and lag including autofocus was an equally impressive 3/10 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 8/10 second with Auto Review off, or 1 per second with Auto Review on. Using flash, shot-to-shot time ranged between 1.5 and 4 seconds depending on subject distance.
The T7 has 2 modes of continuous image capture: Burst and Multi Burst. In Burst mode, I was able to capture 9 images at 7/10 second intervals; during the capture sequence the viewfinder briefly displayed the last captured image, helping you to follow a moving subject. It took only 3 seconds to flush the buffer full of 5-megapixel Fine images onto the Memory Stick PRO Duo media. 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 SanDisk ULTRA II 1GB 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 T7's shooting performance to achieve its small size.
I was pleased with the T7's outdoor shooting results. The lens produced sharp results throughout its 38 - 114mm (35mm equivalent) optical zoom range, with a moderate amounts of barrel distortion at extreme wide-angle and pin cushioning at full telephoto. It zooms smoothly and nearly continuously throughout its 3X range; I counted 27 steps between full wide angle and full telephoto. Our outdoor test images were both well exposed and richly saturated, and had very little chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high contrast areas.
Because of the limited maximum flash range (approx. 8.5 feet (W) and 6.8 feet (T) at ISO Auto), 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 T7's capability. The T7's red-eye reduction flash mode proved effective, although using it adds about 1/2 second to shutter lag. The T7 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 T7 would be a good choice for shooting close- up images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings. The T7 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 because of the very small working distance to the subject. Because it is so thin, the T7 is not equipped with a tripod mount, limiting its usefulness for macrophotography.
The T7 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 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 T7 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 T7 or its T5 and T33 siblings could be just the ticket. With 5-megapixel imagers, terrific image quality, small size, light weight and good-looks, Sony produced a trio of high-quality go anywhere cameras for recording your vacation travels and outdoor activities. They are less successful at capturing indoor family events because of their limited flash range. Because they so equal in quality, performance and features, it seems that Sony is conducting market research with real products, an expensive proposition for them and somewhat of a dilemma for you; how do you choose?
Start by comparing our Sample Photos, where you will find a link to comparable images of some of our standard subjects taken with each of the three under identical conditions. There are differences between the three cameras:
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