DigitalCameraReview.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 Review
by CalebSchmerge -  3/15/2008

Most of my camera experience is with DSLRs. Larger cameras are often great, but you can't just slip them in your pocket – at least not a pocket on anything resembling normal clothing. Sometimes, you want a portable camera that's easy to take along, just in case.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 is a nice little camera to fit this bill. It's compact in nature, yet easy to use, and provides decent image quality for general shooting. It's also one of a handful of cameras out there with a touch screen interface. If this bit of technology appeals to you, and you don't need lots of advanced options or the ability to make stunningly sharp large prints, the T70 may just be the "just in case" camera you've been looking for.


FEATURES OVERVIEW

The T70 is an ultra-compact, stylish digital camera from Sony. The primary attraction for many potential buyers is the T70's large 3-inch touch screen interface, but it also sports a 3x Carl Zeiss zoom, an 8.1 megapixel sensor, image stabilization, and face detection. With 10 different scene modes, this camera is sure to have a little bit of something for everyone.

The T70 offers the following primary modes:

Without much in the way of manual control, the T70 (like its big brother, the Sony T200) is truly a point-and-shoot camera designed to appeal to fashion- and gadget-conscious users looking for the T200's unique look and interface at a slightly lower price.

A detailed listing of specs and features can be found at the bottom of this review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

Styling and Build Quality

The T70 is a stylish, style-focused camera. The front of the camera has a nice cover which slides open to reveal the lens. Opening the cover turns the camera on, providing a convenient method of protecting the lens. I found the slider easy to operate one-handed.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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The back of the camera is dominated by the T70's large touch screen. There are no confusing buttons, and the increased space means that you get more screen in a physically smaller camera.

The camera felt like it was well built for the most part. The front cover felt solid, yet slid easily. The buttons on the top of the camera were slightly "softer" than I would generally prefer, but they felt that they would last.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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In fact, the only build concern that I found was the battery/memory card door. The lock was easily opened, and I was concerned that the door might be broken or easily unlocked and become damaged.

Ergonomics and Interface

With its square shape, the camera's feel isn't highly ergonomic. Rather, it feels like the Cyber-shot was built to fit the screen. The shutter button is not terribly comfortable; that said, it could have been worse. As noted, the T70 is very solid, and feels tough enough. However, I feel that the trade-off of comfort for solidity isn't a good decision.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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The controls on this camera are almost all managed through the touch screen. There are only three physical buttons on the camera (power, review, and shutter). Aside from the buttons, the zoom is controlled by a slide switch.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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All other adjustments are performed via the touch screen.

Even with its generally solid construction, all was not perfect. The buttons are arguably too easy to press, and I'm afraid that this might cause problems for many users. Even through a case I accidentally turned the camera on. This would worry me if I was traveling because of the risk of draining the battery. I also accidentally triggered the shutter quite a few times while holding the camera, and also fired the shutter more than once while pre-focusing.

The touch-screen on this camera is fun to play with at first. There are many neat things that the touch screen allows. For example, in a picture with a face, you can tap on a face and the face recognition feature will track that face. Alternatively, you can tap on a part of the screen to activate a specific focus sensor.

After the neat features stop amusing you, however, the touch screen's limitations quickly become apparent: ultimately, I found the system more difficult and annoying to use than a conventional interface. Working through on-screen menus is unquestionably much slower than using dedicated buttons. Navigating the menus and finding the right options (as well as accurately selecting the correct option, especially with larger fingers) can become tiring over time for users looking to make quick adjustments. In short and not surprisingly, both the praises and the complaints brought to light about the T200's touch screen still apply with the T70.

Display/Viewfinder

The T70's screen is quite large, and has a nice, bright, fluid look. It is more than adequate for doing a quick review of your photos.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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My biggest concern with the screen is that it becomes very dirty quite quickly. This doesn't sound like much of a concern until you remember that you have to constantly touch the screen, which covers it in fingerprints. Also, as said before, the touch portion of the screen can be difficult to control precisely, and at times it doesn't seem to want to recognize inputs.

As with the T200, there is no optical viewfinder on the T70.


PERFORMANCE

Timings and Shutter Lag

I feel that this camera was quite fast enough for being an ultracompact. Startup times were short: I found that by the time I had the lens cover open and the camera situated in my hands, it was ready to snap a picture.

Focusing time was quick: even if I just pressed the shutter button with no pre-focusing, the camera was able to focus and take a picture quite quickly, averaging around .35 seconds. With pre-focusing, this camera really didn't have any perceptible shutter lag, with a timing of .09 seconds. In continuous mode, the camera did excellently as well, firing off 5 shots in 2 seconds.

Lens and Zoom

The T70 sports an internally housed Carl Zeiss lens with an equivalent range of 38-114mm. The zoom felt reasonably fast. Because the lens doesn't extend from the camera, the startup time doesn't have to account for lens extension, helping to make this camera start quite quickly. The lens was also reasonably quiet when zooming.

I also must note that I was thoroughly impressed with the macro abilities of this camera. I was able to lock focus perfectly on very small items, and the results were consistently good. The only exception I found to this was that macro photos with flash were often ruined. In normal use I wouldn't worry, assuming there's enough light to take good pictures with natural light (image stabilization really helped here).

Auto Focus

As noted, the auto focus on the T70 is quick for a point-and-shoot camera. That said, I was not much a fan of the T70's ability to lock focus, with many of the photos I took focused too softly. While this odd choice (which may also be a lens quality issue) might be good for portraits, it was noticeable and intrusive in many of my shots with Cyber-shot.

I'm also concerned about the T70's focus assist lamp. This particular AF lamp is capable of nearly blinding subjects, causing them to shut their eyes and/or blink a lot. Obviously, this can seriously impact your photos.

Flash

At its default settings, the T70 liked using the flash. In most shots I took, even in decent to bright outdoor light where a flash is unnecessary, the T70 fired the flash. The photos usually ended up looking just fine, but I was disappointed with the increased shooting and cycle times when the flash really wasn't necessary. The flash was easy to turn off, but the T70's decisions in automatic mode were disappointing.

The actual flash recycle time is reasonably low – usually no more than 2 to 3 seconds for a shot using average flash power. For photos where flash is really necessary, I felt that this is perfectly acceptable.

Color is good with the flash, though its frequent use across a range of situations led to some severe reflections, especially in close-ups. Overall, though, while I generally dislike using flash on a compact because it makes pictures look too unnatural, with natural color reproduction from the camera's white balance system, I didn't feel as strongly about this with the T70.

Image Stabilization

Image stabilization is a welcome feature in most cameras, and the T70 is no exception. When I disabled the flash and forced the camera into slower shutter speeds (where IS is most necessary) I found that the image stabilization did a good job of preventing blurred images. There are different modes available for the image stabilization, allowing you to save power, and make it more effective for your shooting style.

Battery Life

The battery in the T70 is a rechargeable lithium-ion unit. In using the camera, the battery life didn't feel long enough – no surprise there, given that Sony's estimates run in the mid-200s. Blame a large screen and lots of flash use at the default settings for this one. Still, it's better than the T200's advertised 125 shots between charges, and it seemed that I was able to get more than 200 shots on a charge.

The battery charge time was a bit long as well. The charger is compact, and would be easy to take with you. However, don't expect just an hour on the charger: for a mostly depleted battery it took more than a few hours to fully charge.


IMAGE QUALITY

General Image Quality

The overall image quality from this camera is pretty good. The studio shot shows decent color both from white balance and good color range.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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Focus and lens sharpness are acceptable here, and there aren't any issues that would be noticeable in any normal photo. I wouldn't try to make poster prints from this camera; however, for most prints (even larger 8x10s) the T70 is good enough.

Exposure, Processing, and Color

I found the metering in this camera to be acceptably accurate. In all the photos that I shot, none were noticeably affected by poor metering, though some were blown out due to the flash issues discussed previously. For this camera's user group, I doubt the intricacies of the T70's metering behavior will ever be of much concern.

In terms of processing and color I was less impressed. I found that the color was off a bit (due to both white balance and general processing choices). Switch the color mode over to Vivid from the default setting and colors lose all sense of what they looked like in the "real deal." Clearly, poor color accuracy and reproduction in every color mode is disappointing.

White Balance

Similarly, I was very disappointed with the auto white balance on this camera under a variety of lighting conditions. More so than many cameras, using white balance presets are crucial with the T70.

Lens Faults

None of the "normal" shots I made with the T70 showed any concern with lens faults (other than the potential sharpness issue previously discussed). I made a few shots to show some of the possible issues. At the wide end I found some barrel distortion, though I didn't notice any issues at the tele end. Overall, though, these issues were never intrusive in photos of anything but test patterns, and overall I was quite impressed with this lens.

Sensitivity and Noise

The auto ISO setting on the T70 produced generally good results. With IS keeping ISOs low in most cases, I found that only a very few pictures had enough noise that it was a problem.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 80 (view large image)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 100 (view large image)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 200 (view large image)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 400 (view large image)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 800 (view large image)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 1600 (view large image)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 3200 (view large image)

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 80

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 100

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 200

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 400

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 800

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 1600

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
ISO 3200

 

The T70 does display the smearing noise reduction at higher ISOs seen in other Sony cameras, and image quality fanatics will be equally disappointed with these results. I didn't find a single shot from my testing that had enough noise to worry about for normal prints, though some photos at higher ISOs might have noticeable noise and detail loss at a larger print size. Overall, photos up to ISO 400 show almost no grain unless very large prints are made.

Additional Sample Images

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
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CONCLUSIONS

I found that the Cyber-shot T70 was a capable camera in most ways. While I wouldn't recommend the Sony for anyone interested in taking lots of "serious" photos with it, it is capable of good pictures, and it's hard to beat the size of this camera. High ISOs are still a problem, the flash is hit or miss, battery life is only ok, and there's some softness to some of the images. While this sounds like a long list of issues, for the kinds of photos taken by casual photographers, the Cyber-shot usually performs just fine. Unless you demand a lot from your camera, the T70 is definitely worth considering.

Pros:

Cons:

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 Specifications:

Sensor 8.1 megapixel, 1/2.5" Super HAD CCD
Zoom 3x (38-114mm) Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar, f/3.5-4.3
LCD/Viewfinder 3.0", 230K-dot Hybrid TFT LCD with touch interface
Sensitivity ISO 80-3200
Shutter Speed 60-1/1000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Program, Scene, Movie
Scene Presets Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Hi-Speed Shutter, Hi Sensitivity, Smile Shutter
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent, Flash
Metering Modes Multi, Center, Spot
Focus Modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Flexible Spot AF, four approximate distance AF modes, Macro, Close Focus
Drive Modes Normal, Burst, Self Timer
Flash Modes Auto, Forced On, Slow Synchro, Forced Off
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick Pro Duo
Internal Memory
31 MB
File Formats JPEG, MPEG
Max. Image Size 3264x2448
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Yes
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion
Connections USB 2.0, AV output (includes HD output, using appropriate cable), DC input
Additional Features Face Detection, Smile Shutter, Bionz processor, touch screen interface, super macro mode