Now we're getting to the Sonys and that's where it becomes difficult these days. Years ago evaluating a Sony product was simple: they were almost always the best. Sony was a class by itself and simply seemed to do everything better than most anyone else. In addition, Sony had an uncanny sense for style, and also an inimitable aptitude to convert seemingly never-ending innovation into perfectly executed detail.
Most of the above still applies, but Sony is no longer an automatic winner. Too often, we see multiple Sony products competing in the same space, or Sony products with features that seem to make little sense. Then there is the ever expanding variety of proprietary Memory Sticks and a slew of other idiosyncrasies where it's the Sony way or no way. This sort of thing would kill almost any other company, but this is still Sony, and Sony still knows how to make good stuff. And some Sony technologies simply work better than anyone else's.
All that said, let's take a look at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T5. It's an attractive camera with a uniquely styled silvery body that qualifies as something between an ultra-compact and an ultra-slim. At just 4.8 ounces it weighs barely more than the slender Casio S500, but its footprint is a bit larger and a needlessly large and not very attractive on/off slider in the front adds visual heft and actual thickness. The bulky slider makes what could have been a 0.65-inch thick camera one that is 0.80 inches thick--a huge difference akin to seeing an almost-supermodel figure marred by a protruding potbelly. The rest of the T5's housing employs no less than four different textures of silver: shiny, brushed, and two degrees of powdered. There's also an odd mix of straight lines and curves that all converge to create a design that is unique without really making a statement of any sort.
Things look considerably brighter once you start using the camera. While the T5, of course, uses Memory Sticks (Memory Stick Duo or Memory Stick PRO Duo, to be precise), it also has 32MB of internal memory to get you going. It further has a large 2.5-inch LCD with a very high 230k pixel resolution which together with its T7 sibling offers the best outdoor viewability, by far. In this day and age of cameras without optical viewfinders, that is important.
Considering Sony's reputation for features and detail, the DSC-T5 has surprisingly few. You can record 640 x 480 movies with sound, but you can't zoom in or out while recording. And while we searched the manual, the camera, and the web, it appears the T5 does not have a voice recorder or image sound annotation feature at all. That is a rather serious omission in a field where those features are standard. There is no manual mode, just a total of ten scene modes, all presented without any further on-screen explanation or help.
Controls are well laid out and don't crowd each other. Some are clearly marked. Others have silver labels embossed on silver surfaces, which can make them hard to see. The menus aren't terribly clear, but they are consistent and so you quickly get used to them.
An area where Sony excels is its proprietary Info-Lithium battery technology. Even though the T5's battery nominally has a low capacity, it lasts longer than most, and it also shows how many more minutes you can still expect under current operating conditions.
The DSC-T5 doesn't have a cradle (which we don't miss). It comes with a battery charger and a proprietary cable that combines USB, AV, and power.
With the Cyber-shot T5, Sony offers a fairly affordable camera that Sony enthusiasts will love, but that is not at the head of the class in most respects.
The T5 tended to produce pictures that just didn't look as good as we expected, especially since sharpness, contrast and detail were all there.
Not so much:
- Superb hi-res 2.5" LCD is best in class
- Unsurpassed InfoLithium battery technology
- Sony design and style
- Bulkier than it needed to be
- Not as many features as expected
- No voice annotations or recording