Lately, it seems as if Sony is putting out a new T-series camera every other week. The newest addition to this hip line of snapshooters is the Cyber Shot DSC-T50. Like the T30, it features a 7.2-megapixel CCD sensor; optical image stabilization; a 3X optical, 38mm-to-114mm (35mm equivalent), f/3.5-to-f/4.3 zoom lens; and sensitivity of as high as ISO 1,000. However, the instead of the T30's 2.5-inch LCD screen, the DSC-T50 includes a 3-inch touch-screen LCD. This touch screen is the only major difference between the two models, and since Sony priced them the same, it looks like you'll get to choose whether you want a touch screen or not.
Pricing the T30 and T50 identically is probably the best thing Sony could've done. As we've seen with the touch screens on Sony's camcorders, not everyone likes the interface. In general, we find it somewhat clunky and, especially on screens smaller than 3 inches, cramped. The worst part is that touch screens often aren't as responsive as hard buttons tend to be. We often ended up pressing the virtual touch-screen buttons multiple times before they worked. Sony includes a stylus, which helps a lot, but it doesn't tuck into the camera body. Instead, you're supposed to attach it to the camera's strap, and I doubt many people will actually do that. Outside of the stylus, our best advice is to keep your fingernails long enough to use them when navigating the camera's menus. The screen is more responsive to fingernails than to softer fingertips.
The menus themselves could also use some refinement. For instance, the first screen you come to includes seven choices--shooting mode, flash mode, focus mode, resolution, exposure compensation, timer on/off, and macro/magnifying glass on/off--as well as a menu button. That menu button leads you to a second level of menus, which lets you adjust other settings, such as ISO, white balance, color mode, metering mode, JPEG quality, and others, and also has a button to lead you to the Setup menu, where you can adjust even more settings. This means you have to toggle past the main menu page every time you want to change the ISO, and you have to navigate past two pages just to format a memory card or turn the red-eye reduction preflash burst on or off.
As much as I've been harping on the touch screen, my issues with it may not matter as much to you if you don't change your camera's settings. If you're the type to set your camera up once, leave everything on auto, and just press the shutter release, then the sleek, sparse design offered by the touch screen--there are a grand total of two buttons and a zoom rocker on the camera back--will probably be very appealing to you. However, given the amount of empty space, it would've made much more sense for Sony to include a few buttons next to the LCD to simplify the menu system. For instance, just including dedicated buttons for direct access to the three levels of menus would have made the camera much more usable.
The rest of the camera's features and functions are essentially the same as the T30's. In other words, we like it. You won't find manual exposure controls, but those are rare in a pocket camera like this, anyway. If Sony had added aperture- and shutter-priority modes instead of a touch screen, they would have set themselves apart from the pack in a more meaningful way. Our only real gripe would be that the 3X optical zoom lens only opens as wide as an equivalent of 38mm. With so many pocket cameras offering 28mm lenses, and given that Sony hasn't widened the zoom range since the T-series was instituted, it's definitely time for a change, and that change should also include a faster lens. At its widest angle of view, the aperture is f/3.5, while an f/2.8 lens would be better suited to low-light shooting, such as at museums, nightclubs, and indoor parties.