DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot T50 Review
Brad Soo - November 17th, 2006

I wouldn't consider the new Sony T50 to be an upgrade to the T30 but here it goes: The Cyber-shot T50 takes the T30, strips most of its buttons and replaces that large 3 inch LCD with a touchscreen unit. Other than that, it's basically the same camera. Those two cameras currently have a $30 gap between them so does the upgrade justify that amount? Let's take a look.

Size and Weight

This is how small the Sony Cyber-shot T50 is compared to competition:

(172.6)  89.5 x 58.0 x 25.1 mm (150 g) - Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
(179.0)  91.2 x 59.6 x 28.2 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD900 Ti Digital ELPH
(172.2)  94.5 x 60.4 x 17.3 mm (127 g) - Casio Exilim S770
(172.8)  92.0 x 58.4 x 22.4 mm (139 g) - Casio Exilim Z1000
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F30
(163.6)  90.0 x 55.0 x 18.6 mm (130 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z3
(177.0)  93.0 x 61.0 x 23.0 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R827
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (170 g) - HP Photosmart R967
(189.7)  111.0 x 55.5 x 23.2 mm (160 g) - Kodak EasyShare V610
(171.2)  101.0 x 49.8 x 20.4 mm (124 g) - Kodak EasyShare V705
(191.5)  110.5 x 60.0 x 21.0 mm (140 g) - Nikon Coolpix S7c
(168.9)  90.5 x 58.0 x 20.4 mm (115 g) - Nikon Coolpix S9
(174.3)  96.0 x 54.0 x 24.3 mm (120 g) - Olympus Stylus 750
(169.4)  94.1 x 51.1 x 24.2 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX07
(179.9)  97.7 x 57.1 x 25.1 mm (151 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX50
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A20
(173.0)  95.0 x 58.5 x 19.5 mm (135 g) - Pentax Optio T20
(169.0)  94.5 x 57.0 x 17.5 mm (142 g) - Samsung NV3
(165.2)  89.7 x 54.9 x 20.6 mm (140 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T10
(174.8)  95.0 x 56.5 x 23.3 mm (132 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T50
(169.0)  89.0 x 57.0 x 23.0 mm (127 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W70

The T50 is a fairly small camera, though bigger than the T10 because of the larger LCD. Still, all those cameras are pocketable and don't have much of a size difference.

Open up the Box

There's a bunch of stuff included with the Sony T50:

  • Rechargeable NP-FR1 InfoLithium lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Stylus
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V + DC-IN multi-connector cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 has an above average 56 MB of internal memory. Anyway, you'd want to get at least a 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo for this 7 megapixel ultra-compact. The camera does not appear to take advantage of high-speed memory cards.

270 shots - Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
230 shots - Canon PowerShot SD900 Ti Digital ELPH
200 shots - Casio Exilim S770
360 shots - Casio Exilim Z1000
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F30
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z3
240 shots - HP Photosmart R827
160 shots - HP Photosmart R967
135 shots - Kodak EasyShare V610
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V705
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix S7c
190 shots - Nikon Coolpix S9
190 shots - Olympus Stylus 750
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX07
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX50
150 shots - Pentax Optio A20
130 shots - Pentax Optio T20
200 shots - Samsung NV3
250 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T10
400 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T50
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W70

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 turns in one of the top numbers for battery life - an above average 400 shots per charge (CIPA Standard). The T50's touchscreen feature sacrifices some 20 shots versus the T30 but the difference isn't noticeable at all. As with all InfoLithium batteries, this one also shows a minute-by-minute battery indicator.

 

Extras

The Sony Cyber-shot T50's only accessories are an AC adapter and a macro ring light.

Camera Tour

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 is available in your choice of silver, black and red. The Sony T50 looks exactly the same as the T30 before on the front and almost similar at the back.

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 uses the familiar 38 - 114 mm internal lens with an aperture range of f3.5 - f4.3. It's complete with optical image stabilization as well.

Next to the lens is an AF-assist beam/self-timer lamp which lights up red in low-light or when counting down. And there's a flash as well. The flash has an average maximum range of 3.4 m at auto ISO and goes up to an above average 6 m at ISO 1000.

The T50's 3 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels is now a touchscreen panel, which is visible both outdoors and indoors. And with that, there's only the zoom controller and two other buttons left: On-screen menu and toggle display. That's all there is to it! Unfortunately, accessing some functions like ISO are more than just a tap away.

A mode switch you around the playback, record and movie modes followed by a microphone. A power button with a status LED and image stabilization flank the circular shutter button. The OIS button turns on/off optical image stabilization.

The right side of the T50 is left blank while on the other side, there's a battery/memory card slot. There is a battery lock and the door over the slots is quite study though it doesn't have a lock.

The T10 (Behind) is thinner and slightly shorter than the more upscale T50 (Front).

At the bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot T50, you'll find a tripod mount, speaker and multi-connector port. The placement of the battery/memory card slots at the side of the camera make them swappable, even when the camera is on a tripod. The multi-connector port is the place where you plug in things like USB, A/V and DC-IN.

Shooting

 

You can select one of the Sony Cyber-shot T50's many image sizes which include 7 megapixels (with a 3:2 option), 3 megapixels, 2 megapixel (with a widescreen 16:9 option) and VGA plus two compression options - Fine and Standard.

The T50's display screen is complete with exposure information, a live histogram and a very precise battery indicator.

 

In the menus of the Sony Cyber-shot T50, there's an array of other settings you can tweak:

  • Sub-shooting mode (Auto, program, high sensitivity, twilight, twilight portrait, landscape, beach, snow, fireworks, soft snap)
  • Color modes (Normal, rich, natural, sepia, monochrome)
  • Focus (Multi, center, spot, preset manual focus)
  • Metering method (Multi, center, spot)
  • 5 white balance presets; daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent, flash (no custom option)
  • ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000)
  • Photo quality (Fine, Standard)
  • Record mode (Single-shot, burst, exposure bracketing, multi-burst)
  • Bracketing (exposures 3 shots in 0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 increments)
  • Multi-burst interval (1/7.5, 1/15 or 1/30 sec)
  • Flash intensity (High, normal, low)
  • Contrast, saturation and sharpness
  • Red-eye reduction (On/off)
  • Optical image stabilization (Shooting, continuous)

In "normal" macro mode, the Sony Cyber-shot T50 can go as close to a subject as 8 cm, turn on magnifying glass mode and you can go as close as 1 cm. The only disadvantages when using magnifying glass mode are the lens is locked at wide-angle and ISO is locked at auto ISO.

The Smart Zoom feature crops a full-resolution photo so there's no loss of quality and can be used up to 14x using the 640 x 480 resolution.

As for optical image stabilization, there's 2 modes: shooting (OIS is active when the picture is taken) and continuous (OIS is always on, even when framing). Here's how well the Sony Cyber-shot T50's optical image stabilization works:

 

Both shots were taken one after the other using 1 second long exposures. The first shot was taken with OIS off while the next one was taken with OIS on (in "shooting" mode).

I noticed there's a slight lag (about a fraction of a second) between taps on the LCD and the next screen loading in menus. And accessing important settings such as ISO require more than 2 taps. Overall, the menus are fairly (though not extremely) responsive and quick loading, though this is certainly not the camera for quickly flipping and altering lots of settings.

Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 can take VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. This requires a Memory Stick PRO Duo card (but nowadays, who doesn't have one?). Just in case you have a normal Memory Stick Duo or want to record longer movies, you can record VGA movies at 16 FPS or 160 x 112 movies at 8 FPS!

Exposure is automatically adjusted and image stabilization can be turned on while recording, but the Sony T50 cannot constantly focus while recording a movie. There's good new though: you can optically zoom (slowly) while recording. Movies are recorded in MPEG format so a 1 GB card will take 12 minutes of movies.

The T50's movie mode and quality is quite good.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 is ready within 1 second of flipping that cover down. The T50 normally takes about 1/8 to 1/3 seconds to focus, which is very quick. Shutter lag is not noticeable after pressing the shutter.

Shot-to-shot speed was a nice 1 shot every 1.6 seconds, longer if the flash is used. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery took 4 seconds. The camera zooms from wide-angle to telephoto within 2 seconds with very precise stops in between.

In continuous shooting, the Sony T50 has the same mediocre burst mode as the cameras before: it takes 5 photos in a row at 1 FPS. The camera powers down instantly when you either slide the cover up or press the button. Overall performance was just average with other cameras able to do better than this one. Not surprisingly, the T50 performs the same as the less expensive T10 because they have so many things and features in common.

Image Quality

Here are some crops from photos taken using the T50:


ISO 80 (f3.5, 1/6 sec)


ISO 100 (f3.5, 1/10 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/20 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/40 sec)


ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/80 sec)


ISO 1000 (f3.5, 1/100 sec)

Things start out clean at ISO 80 till ISO 200. Noise is more obvious at ISO 400. Photos start to lose saturation and turn really noisy at ISO 800 and ISO 1000.  There is little chromatic aberration (color fringing). There appears to be a touch more of noise than the T30 here.

Distortions were not issues for the T50 though blurry edges were. Color accuracy was overall quite good at lower ISOs. The Sony Cyber-shot T50's image quality is good, with reservations for redeye and corner softness.

Photo gallery

Full-sized photos in the Sony Cyber-shot T50 photo gallery.

Playback

 

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot T50 can playback stills and movies (With sound). It can also protect images, DPOF & print marking, resize, trim, rotate and split/edit movies. You can also magnify still photos by 5x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.

There's plenty of information shown in playback, including a histogram, shutter speed and aperture used. In addition, the Sony Cyber-shot T50 has a fancy slideshow feature with image-to-image transitions and slideshow music up to 3 minutes per track.

The album feature is well implemented and saves a VGA copy of your photos (up to 500 of them). They override the oldest one when you reach 500 photos but you can save your favorite shots. A rather gimmicky feature is "paint" which allows you to draw on your photos via the touch screen.

 

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot T50 is takes everything from the T30, throws away most of its buttons and puts in a touchscreen panel. Other things remain the same; 7 megapixels, internal lens with an image stabilizer, movie mode and LCD visibility.

Battery life has gone down slightly but not noticeable. Unfortunately, the T50 doesn't add much else either and this means there still aren't any manual controls, continuous shooting remains sluggish and limited and image quality has not improved. In fact noise is a little bit higher than on the T30 if you take a closer look.

The new touchscreen is not fully for the better, in my opinion. While there's the new (and a little gimmicky) "paint" feature, there's more bad than good. The protective layer has been removed so you can tap the screen (also adding a risk of it cracking when in your pocket without a case), less buttons on the side means a more slippery surface and you can't quickly change a bunch of settings without using both hands and a lot of taps.

My conclusion is the Sony Cyber-shot T50 is a nice camera, albeit for showing off using the big touchscreen which apparently is the craze nowadays (especially on cellphones), but other than that, I'd certainly consider the less expensive T30 instead which has 99% of this camera's features and functions.

Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Ultra-compact]

  • 8.5 - Body/Exterior
  • 7.0 - Bundle, batteries and memory
  • 7.5 - Lens
  • 8.5 - Feature set
  • 6.0 - Controls and operation
  • 7.0 - Performance
  • 7.5 - Image quality
  • 7.4 - Overall rating

What's hot:

  • 3x internal lens with optical image stabilization
  • Strong flash at high ISO speeds
  • Excellent battery life
  • Large and visible LCD
  • Nice close-up modes
  • Very good movie mode with zoom
  • Good image quality

What's not:

  • Clunky touchscreen interface (More menus than usual)
  • No manual controls
  • Slow and limited continuous shooting
  • Redeye and edge sharpness issues

Recommended Accessories

  • 1 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo card

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