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Sony Cybershot DSC-T100 Review
by  -  6/13/2007

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 is the current top of the T line of ultra-slim, ultra-compact digital cameras from Sony.  It shoots at up to 8.1 megapixels with a stabilized 5x optical zoom lens and you can frame your shots on a large 3 inch LCD.  Some newer features, including the already mentioned 5x optical zoom, include a new processor, 9-point AF system, facial detection for auto focus/exposure and HD output.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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In our review, when you read on, you’ll see that we found the T100 to continue the Sony reputation of well-built, fast cameras with excellent battery life.  We found the new menu system to be the only negative about shooting with the T100 and that image quality was good overall, as long as you keep the ISO settings as low as you can.

NUTS & BOLTS

Viewfinder/LCD

The T100 has a nice large 3 inch LCD with 230K pixels of resolution.  There is no optical viewfinder on this camera.  The LCD does well enough in bright light outdoors, so you shouldn’t let the lack of an optical viewfinder rule this camera out of contention (unless you really, really want one).  It’s not perfect outdoors, but is bright enough that you can see your shot.  Color reproduction on the screen is good and the refresh rate is sufficient to provide a smooth viewing experience.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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Lens/Zoom

New with this generation of T series cameras, the T100 has a 5x optical zoom lens for a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 35-175mm.  The aperture range at wide angle if f3.5-f5.6.  At telephoto, this range is f4.4-f10.  As has been the case with just about every Sony T model, the lens does not protrude at all from the body of the camera.  A sliding lens cover powers on the camera when you open it and keeps the lens protected while in your pocket.  If you just want to review images on your camera, it can be powered on with a button as well.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
Sliding lens cover closed (view large image)

In normal focus mode, you can focus on objects as close as 50cm.  In macro mode, this close range moves in to 8cm.  In “magnifying” mode, you can focus on objects as close as 1cm and it’s pretty impressive.

Another new feature in the latest T models is a 9 point AF system.  You can use the multi-area focus, a center area focus, or a spot focus when taking your shots.  A new facial detection system can be used to make sure that faces are focused on and exposed well in your shots.

The T100 also includes Sony’s Super SteadyShot image stabilization system, which is very effective for minimizing blur from camera shake at slower shutter speeds.

Flash

The built-in flash has a range between 5/16 of an inch to 12 feet, one inch at Auto ISO.  If you really want to increase the range, at ISO 3200 the flash ranges out to 25 feet, 4 inches.  For flash modes, you can choose auto, always on, disabled, or slow synch. A flash range of 12 feet is pretty optimistic. In my test at a 9 foot distance, illumination was falling off quickly at the corners of the image (shots below are 100% crops of a larger image) which you can see in the left shot (upper right corner). The shots below used the ISO Auto setting and according to the EXIF data, the shot on the left used ISO 400 and the shot on the right is ISO 500.


Flash at about 9 feet
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Flash at 12 feet - brighter because of higher ISO
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Memory Media

There is about 31MB of internal memory that can be used and the camera accepts Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick Pro DUO media.  Keep in mind that if you want to take movies at the highest data rate (MPEG VX Fine, which is 640x480 at 30fps), you need the faster Memory Stick Pro Duo media.

Image File Format(s)

The T100 saves images as JPEG only.

Connectivity

A multi-connector provides AV output (including HD) and a USB 2.0 connection for transferring images to your computer.

Power

The camera is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack (NP-BG1).  The included battery charger plugs into an outlet and you need to remove the battery from the camera to charge it. 

Battery life was excellent.  During my time with the camera, I took just over 150 shots and there was plenty of juice left.

EXPOSURE  

As far as shooting modes, the Sony T100 is your basic point and shoot camera, meant to capture quick snapshots at the spur of the moment.  There is an auto mode, which really just lets you change the focus mode, flash mode, and timer mode (2 second or 10 second).  If you want a bit more control, the program auto mode lets you adjust the sensitivity (ISO), white balance setting and more.  If you want to dig into the scene modes, the T100 has presets for Beach, Fireworks, High Speed Shutter, High Sensitivity, Landscape, Snow, Soft Snap, Twilight, and Twilight Portrait.

Movie Mode

The T100 lets you capture movies in MPEG VX Fine (640x480 @ 30fps) mode, MPEG VX Standard (640x480 @ 16fps) mode, and Presentation (320x240 @ 8.3fps) modes.

Metering

The default mode is a multi-area metering mode.  You can also use center-weighted or spot metering.

White Balance

You can leave the camera’s white balance setting to Auto for the most part, but if you notice a strange color cast, you can try one of the presets: cloudy, daylight, fluorescent 1, fluorescent 2, fluorescent 3, incandescent, and flash.

Sensitivity

In addition to letting the camera determine the ISO at the default automatic setting, you can set ISO to 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, or 3200.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Below are 100% crops from a Crumpler mini-matchbox. The dots you see are the pigment of the green background behind the red Crumpler logo.


ISO 80 (view large image)

ISO 100 (view large image)

ISO 200(view large image)

ISO 400 (view large image)

ISO 800 (view large image)

ISO 1600 (view large image)

ISO 3200 (view large image)

In-Camera Image Adjustment 

After you’ve captured your shot with the T100, there are several ways to tweak your images in the Retouch menu available during playback mode.  You can apply a soft focus to your shot, apply partial color, apply a fisheye filter, apply a cross filter that makes points of light “sparkle”, and you can trim images to smaller sizes.  A red-eye correction function does what it can to remove red eyes.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The T series is known for its compact, thin size and the T100 is no exception.  The camera measures 3-1/2 inches x 2-1/4 inches x 7/8 inches.  With the battery and media card in, the camera weighs around 6.1 ounces.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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Build quality is very good.  The nice metal body feels solid, the sliding lens cover slides with confidence and the buttons operate easily.  It’s not the easiest camera to hold, but that’s no surprise, this is an ultra-compact camera.  There is a nice depression on the back of the camera to rest your thumb, but for best results, I wouldn’t recommend shooting with this camera one-handed.

On the front of the camera, you’ll see the sliding lens cover.  Underneath the cover is the lens, flash, microphone, and AF-assist/self-timer lamp.

The top of the camera has the shutter release, power button, and playback mode button.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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The back of the camera is home to the large 3 inch LCD, zoom rocker, menu button, 5-way control pad, and home button.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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The bottom of the camera has the multi-connector jack, and tripod mount.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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On the right side of the camera, when looking at the back, you’ll find the door to access the battery/memory media compartment.

sony cyber-shot dsc-t100
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Included

Included with the camera is the rechargeable battery, battery charger, AV cable, USB cable, wrist strap and software on CD-ROM.

PERFORMANCE

Usage

The Sony T100 is fun to use, except for one big exception – the menu system.  The camera operates quickly, focuses quickly, charges the flash quickly, but if you have to change a setting, you have to enter the menu system.  While it certainly looks nice on the large LCD and Sony has managed to trim down the number of buttons on the camera, it’s not a good overall solution.  The menu system is slow to navigate and it’s not always intuitive.  As with anything, it is possible to get used to it, but it can lead to some frustration.  Other than the menu system, the camera is a joy to just pull out of your pocket, slide the lens cover open and have the camera up and ready to shoot by the time you get it up to your face.


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Image Quality

Image quality from the T100 was good overall.  If you end up with shots taken at sensitivities over ISO 200, the images have an “over-processed feel”, with heavy noise reduction making some areas of your image look like a painting.  Normal sized-prints will look fine, with the strong colors typical of Sony images, but when viewing at 100% on a computer monitor, you'll see that the noise reduction takes a lot of detail out of the shot.  Sony usually does (default) colors a little too strongly for my taste, but you’ll have to take a look for yourself in the sample shots.  Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was pretty noticeable (see the shot of the old house below and look at the trees) and lens distortion (barrel distortion at wide angle and pincushion distortion at full telephoto) was very noticeable.


Barrel distortion

Pincushion distortion

The auto white balance of the camera was about average.  Indoor shots in my office under fluorescents had a reddish cast.  Also, some flesh tones looked a bit redder than I would like.

Timing/Shutter Lag

As far as timing, I have absolutely no concerns with the T100 (well, except the sluggishness of the menu system).  Start up time is excellent.  Shutter lag, with the camera pre-focused with a partial press of the shutter is less than 0.1 seconds.  Without a pre-focus, shutter lag was between 0.2 and 0.3 seconds.  Focus times are very quick for the most part (just a few tenths of a second), but it can take up to 2 seconds in dimly-lit or difficult focusing conditions.  Cycle time (time between shots) was very good and flash charge time, under good battery conditions, was around 4 seconds.

Sample Images

sony t100 sample image
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sony t100 sample image
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sony t100 sample image
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sony t100 sample image
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sony t100 sample image
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sony t100 sample image
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sony t100 sample image
Night shot, ISO 100, 2 sec exposure
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sony t100 sample image
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Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 is another nice camera in Sony’s ultra-slim T line.  It definitely caters to the individual looking for a high quality, stylish camera who doesn’t mind paying a higher price, as seems to be typical for Sony products.  The camera’s specs – 8 megapixels, 5x optical zoom with image stabilization, 3 inch LCD – are also pretty compelling.  Image quality is good overall, but heavy noise reduction really muddies up details at sensitivities over ISO 200.  The camera operates quickly and has great battery life – another big selling point for users who like to grab the impromptu shots of your friends out on the town.

Pros

Cons