Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T3 review

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Sony has again managed to erode the compromise between form and function with the T3 – and you won’t have to mortgage your soul to afford it either. Despite its size, the Sony T3 makes use of a 5-megapixel CCD, just like Canon’s cheaper, and even tinier, IXUS i5 (see issue 123, p80). However, Sony improves on the IXUS’s basic specifications by adding a 3x optical zoom.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T3 review

As befits such a compellingly point-and-click camera, Sony’s Real Imaging Processor makes general use satisfyingly fast, with the T3 shot-ready in about 1.3 seconds. There are post-processing features too, such as noise and red-eye reduction, as well as the ability to record video at what Sony calls MPEGMovieVX quality (640 x 480 resolution, 30fps) – perfect for full-screen TV viewing. However, this requires a Memory Stick PRO Duo of 256MB or greater, rather than the supplied 32MB standard Duo. This costs about £35 and holds around three minutes of MPEGMovieVX video, or about 92 5-megapixel stills at highest quality (as opposed to the supplied 32MB card’s maximum of about 12).

The supplied cradle makes outputting to TV easy via the AV-out mini-jack. It also accepts the power input for recharging, USB cable (for connection to a PC or PictBridge-compatible printer) and a tripod mount. Unfortunately, the latter two aren’t present on the camera itself.

The comparatively huge 2.5in LCD screen (a 53 x 41mm screen on a 92 x 62mm camera) just about makes up for the lack of optical viewfinder, but it’s a touch grainy, and only just bright enough for sunny days. It comes into its own when reviewing shots though, with its wide viewing angles allowing you to show off photos to a group.

The menu system is generally clear, although it relies heavily on icons rather than text. It’s reasonably quick to navigate, thanks to the four-way button wheel, and offers most of the settings you’re likely to need day-to-day, as well as options to adjust flash strength, sharpness, saturation and contrast. There’s also a variety of shoot modes, including Exposure bracketing, and a Burst mode, capable of taking up to four shots in just less than two seconds.

For the most part we weren’t disappointed by image quality. The auto settings work well in most lighting conditions; the flash isn’t overpowering for indoor use, and results were free of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing in areas of high contrast). While images at ISO settings of greater than 200 suffered from noise, it’s neither an unusual or fatal flaw.

Scene modes are also available – most useful for difficult lighting environments. They include presets for candlelight, beaches, fast action and fireworks and produce pleasing results. The macro mode is also capable of some impressively clear and detailed shots, even at distances as close as 1cm.

It’s good to see long battery life on such a portable camera – the tiny lithium-ion NP-FT1 powers the T3 for a good three hours of heavy use. We managed 180 photos before having to recharge, and there’s even a battery indicator giving time remaining in minutes.

Sony has again rewritten the rulebook with this stylish camera. The auto settings take care of things when speed is more important, and there’s enough manual control for most situations. However, the need for a larger Memory Stick and a carry case to protect the LCD dilutes the T3’s value. Nonetheless, this camera oozes so much style and quality that you won’t regret buying it.

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