Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100

The latest in a long line of stylish cameras, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 shares the same slim, metallic profile and signature sliding lens cover/power switch as the rest of the Cyber-shot T-series. Don’t let the DSC-T100’s pretty face fool you, though; this handy shooter proves that you can have plenty of substance with your style.

  The camera’s easily pocketable, all-metal body measures just 0.875-inch thick and weighs a bit more than six ounces. It comes in silver, black, and red, so you can have your choice of colors. Despite its sensibly laid out controls, the DSC-T100 still sacrifices some of its function for form; the camera’s buttons feel smaller and more shallow than I would like and can be a bit tricky for large thumbs.

  

A surprisingly strong heart beats beneath the DSC-T100’s slim, shiny exterior. The 8-megapixel camera features a 35mm-to-175mm-equivalent 5x zoom Zeiss lens, a notable upgrade over previous T-series cameras’ 3x zoom lenses. Its 3-inch screen supplies an extremely wide view; the display stays clear and colorful, even when looking at it from a near-90-degree angle in any direction. The T100 uses Sony’s Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization and can boost its sensitivity to as high as ISO 3,200 for low-light and high-speed shooting. The camera also features a 9-point autofocus mode, an extremely useful feature normally found on much higher-end cameras such as digital SLRs.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100’s firmware offers almost as many useful features as its hardware does. Its face-detection mode automatically adjusts exposures when shooting family photos. You can also tweak color, correct red-eye, and even apply different effects such as fish-eye and cross filter, all within the camera. The T100 can also output MP3-playing slide shows to standard definition TVs with the included RCA video cable, or to high-definition TVs with an optional component-video cable. It also works with Sony’s CSS-HD1 Cyber-shot Station, a dock with a remote and HD component output support. If you plan on viewing your photos on an HDTV, we highly recommend the component cable or dock option.  In CNET Labs’ tests, the DSC-T100 performed exceptionally well. After a quick 1.1-second start-up time, the camera rattled off a new shot every 1.4 seconds. With the flash enabled, however, that time ballooned to almost 3 seconds; the tiny 3.4 watt-hour battery simply can’t recycle faster. The shutter responded quickly, lagging just 0.4 second with our high-contrast target and 1.2 seconds with the low-contrast one. The camera’s burst mode also worked admirably, snapping 15 shots in 6.6 seconds for a frame rate of 2.3 shots per second. The DSC-T100 takes great-looking photos with plenty of detail. Pictures stay sharp and free of noise as high as ISO 400. ISO 800 and ISO 1,600 produce a notable amount of detail-softening, speckled noise but are still useable. The T100’s macro and super-macro modes really impress me; it took some beautiful close-up shots of flowers at the Brooklyn
Botanical Garden.

The camera’s pictures aren’t perfect, however. Like most snapshot cameras, shots taken at ISO 3,200 look more like expressionist paintings than photos. We recommend you stick to shooting at ISO 800 or lower to avoid extreme noise. Movies captured in Fine mode (640×480 30fps MPEG-4) look very good, as long as the motion doesn’t get too complex. A couple of flowers waving in the breeze works, but an entire tree full of fluttering leaves taxes the compression algorithm too much, leaving the video rife with blocky MPEG artifacts. Unfortunately, the trade-off leaves the video file size rather large: at about 1.3MB/sec, a minute of video takes about 77MB of disk space. That’s more efficient than the MJPEG used by the Canon PowerShot SD750, but overall still fairly large. The optical zoom operates in Movie mode, another plus. 

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 demonstrates exactly what a good snapshot camera should be. Its slim form looks good and fits easily in the pocket, it includes some very useful features, and it shoots great photos at a fast clip. Its price may seem a bit steep, but you’ll get a lot of camera in a very small package.

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