Sony DSC-T700 Review
By Mike Flacy
Holding the "top of the line" spot in Sony's ultra-compact "T" series of digital cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-T700 is a 10-megapixel model that features not only a stylish and slim body, but plenty of powerful technologies to go with it. This is also the big brother to the DSC-T77, in fact, these two share Very similar specs. The main differences between the T77 and T700 are body size, LCD size (3.5-inch compared to 3.0-inch), and the T700 offers a whopping 4GB of internal flash memory. Other features include a Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom lens, Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, iScene technology, 9-point AF system, 640x480 "VX Fine" movie mode, HD (1080i) video output, DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer), in-camera photo editing, Smile shutter mode, Anti-blink mode, and Face detection technology.
Like past "T" series models, the T700 is a simple point-n-shoot digicam that was designed to be taken just about anywhere. While not quite as compact as its sibling, this is still one of the smallest cameras in the ultra-compact category. With 11 scene modes, Easy, Auto and Program AE, anyone can pick this camera up and start taking great pictures. The touch screen LCD really adds a new level of dimension to the camera. I found it was a blast to use, and the onscreen menu system was very easy to navigate thanks to the easy to identify icons that are right on the screen. The T700 also allows you to touch the LCD to choose the focus area while taking pictures, or when reviewing pictures you just touch the screen to enlarge or magnify an area of the picture.
The ergonomics of this camera were pretty good when you consider its size. You can comfortably shoot with one or two hands, just be sure you watch out for your fingers on the left side of the camera. The lens is very easily blocked, as it is located in the top left corner of the camera. You can see an example of what can happen to your photos if you do not pay attention to this on our Samples page. I found using the "pinch" technique worked very well to help eliminate this occurrence. The only controls or buttons that remain are the power, play, shutter release and zoom lever. As mentioned in the paragraph above, all of the other camera settings are accessed via the onscreen touch menu. The screen can be operated with your fingertips or the included "paint" stylus pen. The LCD benefits from a nice anti-glare coating that allows you to frame images in bright lighting conditions without much fuss. This display also gains up nicely when using the camera in lower lighting, however the live image does get a bit grainy. Fingerprints are always something you deal with on a touch screen, but like past models, they were not as noticeable as expected when the camera was powered on.
Shooting performance was robust. From the time you flip the front cover open until you are able to take your first photo is between 2-2.5 seconds. Shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. In single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged less than 2 seconds between frames with the flash off, and about 3 seconds with the flash on. Sony also claims this model can capture images at 1.6fps using the continuous shooting or "Burst" mode. I found that this mode performs better than what Sony claimed, capturing 6 images in just 2.8 seconds (2.1fps), then the camera would pause for a second, then capture a few more shots, pause, etc. This is due to the buffer filling up. Our tests were performed using the camera's 4GB of internal memory, Program mode, flash off, and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
The T700's image quality results were the same as the T77's, mainly due to the fact that these models share the same 10-megapixel image and 4x optical zoom lens. We used the Auto exposure mode for just about all of our Samples. Using this mode, I was able to capture pleasing images with good exposure and natural colors. Photos are also nice and sharp, with very little edge softness. The T700 also features Sony's exclusive "iScene" (Intelligent Scene) recognition system. When using the Auto exposure mode as we did, iScene (when enabled) will automatically analyze your subject, and switch the camera to the appropriate Scene mode. We found that this system was very accurate while shooting our sample images, with the camera being able to quickly and correctly identify the "scene" within seconds.
The 4x optical zoom offers a bit more versatility in composing your shots when compare to the 3x zoom typically found on cameras of this size. The 35mm (equivalent) wide angle end of the zoom range works well for most indoor shooting as well as outdoor landscapes. The telephoto end is great for close-up photography, just don't expect to bring those distant subjects up close and personal. Overall, I noticed that this lens shows slight barrel distortion at full wide angle as well as moderate traces of purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberrations) throughout the zoom range. Sony's Super SteadyShot OIS system is a great addition on these tiny models. This technology helps ensure that your handheld images will have little to no blur from camera shake. Personally, I feel this is a must have option on a camera this small, as it can be very hard to hold steady.
When shooting indoors or any dimly lit environment, you'll have to rely on the tiny built-in flash unit. Sony claims a maximum flash range of up to 14 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto). This is an average range for a camera in this class, just remember that the flash coverage will drop off significantly when you start using the telephoto capabilities or lower ISO settings. I found shooting from about 5-6 feet away produced the best results. The only issue I had indoors was the amount of Red-eye in our people photos. This was seen when we had the Red-eye reduction mode turned off. We chose to do this because the red-eye pre-flash does add about a half a second to the shutter lag time, which can cause you to miss spontaneous moments. Luckily there are also very effective in-camera editing options, like Red-eye correction. One of the many "cool" features on this camera is the Smile Shutter mode. This is a function that was introduced not too long ago, and seems to becoming more and more popular. You can choose three levels of sensitivity for Smile shutter, and I found that the medium (default) option worked very well. I was impressed at how fast the camera would fire once the subject smiled. Overall, this is a great and "stealthy" feature that will help you capture photos of those who always run from the camera. The T700 also controls the flash nicely for close-up photography, by throttling down the output to ensure your subject is not blown out (over exposed).
Image noise is something that you deal with on any digital camera, especially consumer models. Like all cameras, as you increase the sensitivity, the amount of noise you are going to see will also increase. While reviewing our M&M shots, I found the Sony handles noise well at ISO 400 and below. Even the 800 settings looks relatively usable for small to mid sized prints. However, the 1600 and 3200 options look horrible in my opinion, and I don't really see how they could be of much use. Luckily, the T700's Auto ISO mode does a great job of keeping the sensitivity as low as possible. So, unless you manually set the camera to these extreme settings, I don't think you'll have many problems with image noise. You can see for yourself by looking at our examples on the Samples page.
The T700 offers the same movie options that we have seen from Cyber-shot models for sometime now. You have the option to record in VX Fine (640x480), Fine (640x480), and 320 (320x240) resolutions. When using the 4GB of internal memory, you can record VX Fine movies without any problems. However, if you are using a memory card, a Memory Stick Duo Pro card is still required to use the VX Fine movie mode. One feature that is not common on digicams is the ability to use the full range of the zoom while recording. Overall, the T700 can capture nice smooth video. It even does very well in low lighting, like our indoor sample, with minimal grain when you consider the shooting environment.
Powering the T700 is a Sony NP-BD1 3.6v 680 mAh InfoLITHIUM rechargeable battery. This unit is charged in the handy AC charger that is included with the camera, which features fold-away prongs. Sony claims this pack can power the camera for up to 200 images on a full charge. I was able to capture about 75 images, several short movie clips, and conclude all of our other tests with power to spare. I highly recommend you purchase a second pack to keep charged and ready at all times, especially since you can be charging one pack while using the other.
Bottom line - the latest "Top Dog" in Sony's "T" series camera line, the Cyber-shot DSC-T700 is an awesome ultra-compact. This is a Fast camera that can capture beautiful images, all the while being as compact and stylish as they come. Like we saw on the T77, the "cool" touchscreen worked great, and is sure to impress your friends. There were very few annoyances with this camera, but with an MSRP of $399 the T700 is expensive. However, I feel the larger 3.5-inch LCD and the fact that you don't have to buy Any memory cards for this camera help bring that price into a considerable range. If you love the features of this camera, but don't really need the built-in memory or a 3.5-inch LCD, be sure to check out our review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77. It offers just about all of the same features as the T700, is quite a bit smaller, and can be had for about $100 less.
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