Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700
At a Glance
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 Compact Camera
With great image-sharing options and 4GB of internal memory, this is a good-but-pricey camera for the design-conscious.
A trendsetter in digital cameras, Sony takes design to new heights with its 10.1-megapixel Cyber-shot T700. The main innovation with this good-looking touch-screen camera is its 4GB of on-board storage, as well as a few other features that may be irresistible despite the camera's $400 price tag.
Making up somewhat for its high price, the T700 has 4GB of internal flash memory, as well as the usual Memory Stick slot. If you use both the internal memory and a 16GB Memory Stick (the highest capacity currently available), you get a hefty 20GB of storage inside this camera, without having to swap out cards.
The T700 also sports the highest-resolution LCD in its class. In fact, at 3.5 inches diagonally, it very nearly constitutes the entire back of the camera. Aside from the power and shutter buttons, the touch screen contains all of the camera's controls. The unit is slim and compact, too, measuring a little over a half-inch in depth and weighing a slightly heavy 5.6 ounces.
On the exterior, this camera looks cool. The T700 has a brushed-metal finish that comes in several colors (red, pink, silver, and gray). Our test unit was gray, and out of the box its iridescence was mesmerizing: Tip it one way, it takes on a violet sheen; another direction, it becomes a slight pink or blue. It also has a neat sliding cover that's an attractive and functional design choice.
Sony's menu system is intuitive, and I had the camera up and running in no time at all. You can elect to view a simplified on-screen menu, which offers greater breadth for composing images, or you can see more information on your settings (including histograms, if you're technically inclined).
The camera also has some editing and playback capabilities that are, I have to admit, very fun to use. You can add effects such as star filters, fisheye, and the typical black-and-white or sepia, and you can even paint right onto your pictures using the stylus. The slide-show feature kept me entertained for a long time. It's highly customizable, with cool transition effects and music; you can add your own MP3s, too, which makes all that on-board storage even handier.
In practical use, though, the combo of the internal memory and a Memory Stick wasn't as convenient as I'd hoped it would be. In effect, you can't use both at the same time. You can use the T700 while the Memory Stick is in place, of course, but you cannot view or access pictures stored in internal memory. But because I rarely take 4GB of shots in a day, operating on the internal memory alone--and simply moving the day's pictures to my PC later--was easy.
The lovely design of this camera presented a few minor problems in my tests. For example, the sheer size of the huge touch screen leaves little room for a grip, and someone with larger hands may find that a serious problem. The slick front of the camera doesn't give your fingers anything to grab onto, either. In addition, the position of the lens at the upper left of the camera meant that until I got used to the T700, my index finger was often part of the shot. However, the touch screen offered just the right amount of sensitivity, meaning I could use my fingertip or the stylus (which stows away inside the camera) equally well. Also, my grip on the camera never accidentally set off any features.
Another drawback: The big touch screen takes a toll on the T700's battery life. In the PC World Test Center's battery test, the camera lasted through just 201 shots on a single charge. That's enough for a Good battery rating, but it falls well short of the 250-to-300-shot battery life of many other point-and-shoot cameras we've tested.
Picture quality on the T700 was reasonably good; in the PC World Test Center's jury testing, the camera's images earned a score of Very Good, with its strengths being color accuracy and overall image quality. Its glaring weakness was sharpness, and in my hands-on tests I too found soft focus to be an ongoing problem at the 4X end of the optical zoom.
The T700 handled color, contrast, and saturation well in my test shots. This camera incorporates Sony's Bionz processor, which may alleviate some of the overprocessing that I've observed with previous, lower-end Sony models. The T700 responded quickly to focus, shoot, and write to the internal memory. My daylight snapshots looked good, reasonably sharp, and exposed properly. On the other hand, in low-light situations, especially at higher ISOs, this camera stumbled a bit, even after I set it to ISO 200.
The T700 offers an "intelligent scene" option, which takes two shots at once; the first uses your own settings, and the extra shot uses settings that the camera determines may be superior to your choices. Cool as the feature sounds, I thought the results were spotty, particularly in low light.
In general the camera's other modes--macro, metering, nighttime, beach/snow, smile detection (which snaps a shot when a selected subject in the frame smiles), and even blink detection (which warns you when someone in the shot has their eyes closed)--worked well. Its video mode, while not in HD, allows for zooming. That was enough for my usual habits, and certainly good enough for YouTube.
Sony includes Picture Motion Browser desktop software, which lets you export images to your PC, resize them at VGA resolution, and reimport them to the camera. Why would you want to do that? Because it lets you include up to 40,000 snapshots (in the T700's internal memory) in the T700's great-looking slide shows. The app also allows easy uploads to image-sharing sites and YouTube.
The $400 price tag may make potential buyers shy away from the T700, but this great-looking camera offers enough features--most of which are flat-out fun--to merit serious consideration.