The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T5, part of the sleek and slender T line, shares much of the DNA of its T7 sibling, including a 5.1-megapixel Super HAD CCD, a 3X Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens, and a stylish design, as well as point-and-shoot ease of use. One area where the two diverge, however, is price. For $150 less, the T5 won't come with the desktop stand or the 32MB media card that accompany the T7, but you'll get a built-in tripod mount, 32MB of internal memory, a longer-lasting battery, a more powerful flash, and a few other benefits---all of which add up to make the T5 more appealing than its fraternal twin. And, for fun, the T5 is available in several colors: red, gold, black, and silver. Unfortunately, the T5 retains the T7's less than stellar image quality.
At 3.7 by 2.4 by 1.5 inches, the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T5 is a hair larger than the T7 and 0.1 ounce heavier with its battery, a Memory Stick Duo card, and its wrist strap, but it's still incredibly slim and lightweight. The front of the camera remains the same, with a nonprojecting 3X (38mm-to-114mm, 35mm-camera equivalent) rectangular lens cover that all too easily slides down to power on the camera--even in your camera bag. Fortunately, the T5's new battery gives you more power to draw from and substantially increases the number of images you can take on one charge. Although an optional cradle is available for charging, image transfer, and TV playback, the T5 comes with a small, highly transportable plug-in-the wall charger and a multiconnector for connecting to USB and A/V ports.
Equipped with the same large, 2.5-inch LCD that the T7 features--there's no optical viewfinder--the T5 sports a control layout that is noticeably different than its predecessor's. All of the rear controls are grouped to the right of the LCD, making it more convenient to use your thumb to access the menu, to operate the four-way controller and set button, to change display information, and to select a resolution via a small button to the lower left of the four-way controller. On top of the camera, a sliding switch moves between playback, photo capture, and video modes.
Most notable is the inclusion of a tripod mount in the camera body, so you don't have to place the camera in a separate, tripod-compatible holder. The battery and media card slot is on the side of the camera for quick access even when you're using a tripod.
While the T7 came with a 32MB Memory Stick Duo card, the T5 contains 32MB of internal memory. You'll want to buy a card, though, and if you want to take advantage of the camera's high-resolution video capture, you'd better make it a Memory Stick Duo Pro card.
The functionality of the camera remains the same--snapshooter easy. Featuring 10 scene modes and an easily navigable menu, the T5 delivers no-brainer shooting. For those who want a little more flexibility, the T5 offers control over the basics such as white-balance presets, sharpness, contrast, and saturation, as well as multiple autofocus and metering options. Other above-and-beyond snapshot extras include exposure bracketing and two burst modes. As with the T7, the T5 captures MPEG-1 movies with sound (high-resolution video requires a Memory Stick Duo Pro card) and offers a video-mail option.
In addition to longer battery life, the T5 delivered slightly better performance than the already speedy T7. It started up and took its first shot in a respectable 1.3 seconds, maintaining a shot-to-shot time of about 1.14 seconds without the flash. Using the flash increased the time to 1.92 seconds in our tests. Autofocus was quick in optimal lighting conditions at 0.6 second and slowed to a still-reasonable 0.9 second in a more challenging setting. At low resolution and high compression settings, the camera's burst mode snapped off a total of 32 images in less than 20 seconds, vs. the T7's maximum of 15 images. High-resolution continuous shooting remained the same at about 1.5fps with a 9-image capture maximum per burst.
Considering the large number of 5-megapixel cameras that are on the market, it's unfortunate that the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T5 didn't bring with it better image quality. At its best, the T5 will make good snapshot prints. At its worst, you'll find limited dynamic range with clipped highlights, blocked shadows, and less than razor-sharp clarity. Details weren't as evident as we had hoped, and it's best to set the ISO manually to a lower number; otherwise you're likely to see some very noticeable visual noise in your shots. Red-eye was often a problem, as it usually is with cameras of the T5's size, but colors were generally reproduced well, and we saw little purple fringing.