Though the 5-megapixel DC-T50, manufactured by Premier Camera, represents the pinnacle of Gateway's new line of digicams, it fails to rise anywhere near the top of its price or resolution class. Aside from differences in firmware and accessories, the T50 is virtually identical to the Toshiba PDR-5300 and a model from Vivitar. While it's adequately competitive in terms of design and features, the T50 falls behind the pack when it comes to performance and image quality.
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The power button is small and sits flush with the camera casing, so pressing it is a bit difficult.
The T50 has a compact digicam's standard interface. You access setup and operation via a top-mounted knurled mode dial, which encircles a solid-feeling shutter release. With the five-way pad at the rear, you navigate the menu and control a variety of other features. For example, pressing Up cycles through focus presets, such as Macro. You choose the Backlight exposure mode and adjust exposure compensation with the Left button. A tiny dial on the right-hand side of the body is for setting aperture and shutter speed.
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|You select aperture and shutter speed with a dial on the camera's side.||The navigation buttons are tiny and hard to press, but we like their function assignments.|
As a rule, we like an optical viewfinder to have a diopter adjustment. The T50's, however, is so tiny and close to the eyepiece that it's difficult to use. And while we appreciate the allure of petite cameras, this Gateway's small dimensions resulted in cramped, undersized controls. Large-handed photographers should try the T50 on for size before buying. The T50 targets photographers at the advanced-snapshooter level and beyond. It offers all the essentials, such as an f/2.8, 38mm-to-114mm (the 35mm-film equivalent) optical zoom lens. The automatic, 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings give you some flexibility even in fairly dim conditions. The Macro mode's closest focus distance is about four inches, a bit farther than we'd like. The mechanical shutter delivers speeds from 8 seconds to 1/1,500 of a second.
Exposure selection ranges from completely automatic and nonadjustable to fully manual. Three scene modes let you configure the camera for portraits, sports, and night shooting, while the Backlight option simply overexposes a photo by 1.3EV. More-advanced photographers can choose between pattern and spot metering, adjust exposure compensation to plus or minus 2EV in 0.3EV steps, and perform automatic exposure bracketing. We wish the T50 offered control over the flash's output level.
Though it delivers 5.25-megapixel resolution, the T50 doesn't support uncompressed output. Video clips have sound, but they can be only 30 seconds long at the best-quality setting (320x240 pixels). After each shot, the camera can capture a 10-second voice annotation.
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The T50 captured a mere 215 shots (50 percent of them with the flash). The batteries of most competing cameras last far longer.
Shot-to-shot time for best-quality images ran about 7 seconds, which increased to almost 9 seconds with the flash. The 3-frame-per-second continuous-shooting mode captures 3 frames; it's more useful as a best-shot selector than an action-photography tool. The all-glass lens zoomed quickly from its widest to tightest angle, pausing momentarily before continuing into the digital zoom's range.
Like the optical viewfinder of many competitors, the T50's offers approximately the same coverage as the LCD when the zoom is at its wide end. But the viewfinder is somewhat distorted, and it looks increasingly worse than the LCD as you zoom in. We advise you to stick with the LCD most of the time. It's sharp, bright, responsive, and quite usable in direct sunlight. Alas, the T50 produced some of the lowest-quality images we've seen from a 5-megapixel model. In fact, they were generally substandard for any resolution. On the plus side, the T50's white balance turned in amazingly neutral results under tough tungsten lighting. The camera also displayed good dynamic range across shadows and midtones; its success was due in part to balanced exposures and accurate metering.
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Thanks to excellent white balance and metering, the T50's photos look good at small sizes.
Our test shots included many pleasing photos, but more than usual had poor focus. And a variety of irritating artifacts appeared in all the pictures, rendering them bad candidates for close crops or enlargements--the only reasons to opt for a 5-megapixel model. We spotted fringing in places we'd never expected to find it, and poor compression algorithms resulted in high-contrast edges and blurry patches. Also, the sensor and the firmware somehow combined to produce blotches of color-shifted pixels across entire sections of images.
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|In the detail crop on the right (shown at actual size), you can see how various artifacts detract from the 5-megapixel images.|
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Digital cameras tend to introduce purple fringing at high-contrast edges, and the T50's poor focus exacerbates the problem.