Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1
At a Glance
Sony's 5-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T1 is an engineering marvel. About the size of a deck of cards, it has rounded edges that encourage it to slide smoothly into your pocket or purse. The 3X zoom lens is mounted completely inside the camera--so when you slide down the panel on the front, nothing projects out of the body. But the DSC-T1's most attractive feature is its stunning 2.5-inch LCD. It makes a great viewfinder (the camera doesn't have an optical eye-level viewfinder) and an outstanding photo-playback screen for showing off your work to anyone around you.
We had two complaints about this camera. The first is design-related: The camera is so thin that it won't stand securely on its bottom edge, which means that it will spend most of its time resting either on its front or on its back. If the former, you'll probably scratch the lovely brushed-metal lens cover; if the latter, you might scratch the LCD. Sony should have provided a slipcase with the camera for protection. (One is available as a $30 extra.) Which brings us to our second complaint: $550 is extraordinarily high--even for Sony--for a point-and-shoot with few advanced features.
The LCD takes up about two-thirds of the camera's back panel, but Sony managed to fit very usable controls into the remaining space. There is even a specific spot to place your thumb while gripping the camera, though it's also where the camera's speaker is located, so you'll have to put your thumb elsewhere to replay audio recorded with movies or still shots. You can record voice notes only while taking a photo; there's no way to add them later.
In our lab tests, the DSC-T1 produced some impressive photos, though its overall scores were up-and-down. It earned top scores for image sharpness and detail, and it excelled in a still-life shot that uses daylight-balanced lighting and in our outdoor shot. In lower light conditions, however, the camera may suffer from its relatively small lens aperture: Its scores fell slightly below average in our flash tests. Still, after a little effort adjusting the camera's white-balance control or flash-power setting, you should be able to achieve pleasing results.
For informal testing, we took the DSC-T1 on a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. We got some beautiful shots of fog streaming over the deck as we approached. But we had trouble getting good exposure of a companion standing in shade with the brightly lit bridge behind--even with fill-in flash. Otherwise, all of our photos looked crisp and sharp.
The DSC-T1 comes with a cradle for charging its lithium-ion battery and for downloading your images from its Memory Stick media. The cradle requires a separate power adapter that might prove cumbersome for travel. Though you can't download photos without the cradle, the power cable can plug straight into the camera. Whether you take just two or all three components with you, they should fit easily into a corner of your suitcase.
The Cyber-shot DSC-T1 packs a lot of functionality into its tiny case, and the 2.5-inch LCD will give other digital camera owners display envy. The photos aren't bad, either.