Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7|
Sony Style to the very max
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
To understand the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7, first read everything we said about Sony, its history, and its current status in the Sony T5 review on page 65. It all applies to the T7 which is an even more extreme example of the overall Sony philosophy.
In essence, the Cyber-shot T7 is the ultimate technological tour-de-force--one of the planet's most skillful microelectronic makers' quest to make the thinnest possible 5 megapixel camera a with the largest possible screen. And it is totally symptomatic of Sony's current status that with the T7 Sony succeeded admirably yet still ended up with a camera that is neither the smallest nor the lightest in this lineup.
To illustrate: the basic housing of the T7 is stunningly small and compact. It has a footprint of 3.5 x 2.3 inches, but then Sony adds an absolutely unneeded metal ear so you can hook up a strap. Now the footprint is almost 3.8 x 2.3. Moving on to the thickness of the T7, Sony worked miracles. 2/3rd of the body is barely more than a quarter inch thick. The remaining third maybe 3/8th of an inch because that part, incredibly, houses a full internal 3X optical zoom. So far, the T7 makes the oh-so-thin-and-sexy Casio S500 look like as thick as a brick. So what does Sony do? It adds another one of those atrocious, gargantuan lens cover shields on top of that beautifully slender design, totally ruining the overall impact, and the T7's chances for the title of the slimmest, lightest camera out there. It just makes no sense. I mean, use an internal lens cover, or none. And, paradoxically, the T7 actually has a separate on/off switch. Go figure.
Now that we have that out of our system, let's see what the T7 can do.
For starters, the extreme design makes for a different user's experience. Since the lens apparently had to be on the left and it wasn't possible to layer the LCD on top of the internal zoom, the LCD is on the right side of the back, and the controls on the left. Lefthanders may rejoice over that, but the rest of us are faced with a camera that does it opposite from what we're used to. Other than that, the controls are logically laid out and very clearly and tastefully marked. This cannot have been the same department that worked on the T5. Some of the controls are needlessly minuscule--like the stylish but eensy mode and zoom knobbies--but I suppose that goes with the extremist nature of this camera.
The high resolution 2.5-inch LCD is an absolute pleasure to use. Both Sony displays are far and away the best of the bunch, and much more outdoor readable than any other. That makes up for the lack of an optical viewfinder.
In terms of features and specifications, the T7 is almost identical to the T5. You get 5 megapixel to work with, a 3X optical zoom that can be multiplied with a 2X digital zoom or Sony's very clever Smart Zoom that can get you closer without loss of image quality, but it only works well in the lower resolution settings. You can take full-speed 640 x 480 movies with sound, but you can't zoom in and out during recording. Amazingly, there appears to be no way to attach a sound memo to an image, and you can 't use the T7 as a voice recorder either. The menus are neither the worst nor the best, and you'll be familiar with them after a pass or two. There aren't many features. You get an automatic mode and then a few scene modes. In this area, Sony does not compete with Casio. Unlike the T5, the T7 does not have internal memory and relies on a Memory Stick. It's also too small for real onboard jacks. Instead, you use an ugly snap-on "port replicator" that has USB, AF, and power jacks.
Amazingly, the thinner T7 outperformed the T5 in picture quality. Technically it scored the same, but somehow the pictures subjectively looked better, nearly as good as those of the leaders.
Not so much:
- Superb hi-res 2.5" screen is best in class
- Incredibly thin, and nicely styled, too
- Sony design and style
- Needless, huge on/off slider ruins design and adds thickness and bulk
- No internal memory
- No voice annotations or recording