Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500
Touch-screen camera that records 720p video footage.
- Captures good detail, HD video recording, HDMI included on dock
- Noisy images even at low sensitivities, touch-screen interface is very fiddly
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T500 is a decent compact camera with some nifty features such as 720p video recording. However, its touch-screen interface is irritating and its images are noisier than normal.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
Joining the rapidly expanding high-definition video club is the Cyber-shot DSC-T500, Sony's latest T series compact camera. This is a relatively stylish unit with a few noteworthy features, including the afore-mentioned 720p video recording and a touch-screen interface. It operated well for the most part, but the screen can be fiddly at times. The camera's images also have a few issues, particularly with regards to image noise.
Like the Samsung NV 100 HD we looked at recently, this unit is primarily controlled through the touch screen. We loved what Samsung did with the technology on that camera; unfortunately Sony's implementation is not quite as good. It isn't as responsive and we often found ourselves tapping two or three times to change a setting. It is frustrating, but with a bit of perseverance it does the job.
The HD video recording, on the other hand, is quite good. The footage is somewhat grainy and the clarity isn't at as good as a proper camcorder, but it is a marked improvement over the standard-definition footage recorded by most compact cameras.
Image quality was fine for the most part, but there were a few issues, notably with noise. There was some fine grain at even low sensitivities, but it didn't cause any issues until ISO 400, where there was a sharp drop in clarity. ISO 800 is worse still; beyond that the pictures basically became unusable. Most compacts are fine at ISO 400 or even 800 in a pinch, so the T500 is a little behind the pack in this regard.
When noise wasn't a factor, however, the images were crisp and sharp. The unit has a 10.1-megapixel sensor, which is about average these days. It did a good job capturing the cityscape from our office window. Chromatic aberration was somewhat prevalent, with a little haloing on high-contrast edges, but there wasn't too much detail loss towards the corners of the frame.
Colours were very strongly saturated, erring somewhat on the side of too bright occasionally. This is standard for many compacts, with people often preferring a lively, vibrant look. However, if accuracy is your goal you will need to do a little tweaking in post-processing.
In our speed tests the T500 was fairly fast but not particularly noteworthy. It exhibited 0.09 seconds of shutter lag and 1.9 seconds between shots, both of which were in line with our expectations. The start-up time was a little slower at 2.4 seconds, but the burst mode did a fine job, snapping 2.2 shots in a second.
The unit's features are generally standard for a compact, with a couple of exceptions. Rather than connecting directly to your PC it comes with a dock, which includes an HDMI output in addition to USB. This allows you to easily play back your HD films and photos on a modern TV.
The camera sports optical image stabilisation to support the 5x zoom lens as well as the usual array of colour modes, white balance options (no custom mode unfortunately) and focus/metering modes. It should provide most of the features novices need.
Sony has continued its recognisable T-series slide design on the T500. The lens is stashed neatly behind the slide, lending a certain level of minimalism and sophistication to the unit. The unit also comes in a variety of colours, including red, black and silver. The other noteworthy design feature is the screen, which is a mammoth 3.5in. Obviously the size is a necessity given the touch-screen interface, but nonetheless it is nice to frame shots on such a large display.
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