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Frankly, I find the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 something of a market-segment mystery. It's identical to the T20 with a few exceptions--a smaller, somewhat cleaner design, a marginally larger LCD, 4GB internal memory, and some not-terribly-engaging playback options--none of which are worth the $50-plus premium. On the other end, for about the same price (on the street) you can get the T200 with its 5x zoom and significantly larger 3.5-inch LCD compared with the T2's 3x lens and 2.7-inch LCD. They all deliver almost identical performance and photo quality. So despite the fact that the T2 is a pretty good camera, I can't really come up with any situation in which it's the most sensible choice. Unless you want blue, green, or pink, colors not offered for the more staid T20 and T200.
Even the ways in which the T2 clearly distinguishes itself don't confer clear advantages. For instance, I really like the new aesthetic. Unlike its increasingly larger siblings, which have slowly outgrown the "ultracompact" designation, the 5.4-ounce, 2.5-inch-by-0.8-inch-by-3.5-inch T2 remains firmly pants-pocketable. It's more flat-faced and protrusion-free than the other models, with a cooler front-sliding vertical lens cover. But the buttons and switches, most notably the Review and Scrap Book buttons, are very difficult to press, and the LCD is too small for comfortable touch-screen operation. (For more on the design, check out the slide show.)
Like the T200, the T2 doesn't include a dock and requires a dongle converter for the docking port (included) to connect the USB cable (also included), or to connect a cable for display on a TV (not included). But as the third Law of Consumer Electronics states, "One more small piece to lose: bad." It's doubly a problem with the T2; since it includes 4GB memory and will only write to an external card if the internal memory is full, you need that dongle. The alternative is springing for a standard or HD-capable Cyber-shot Station.
And then there's the touch screen. Over time, Sony has streamlined the operation and layout of the various options, making it less onerous of an interface. But finger touches don't always register immediately. Furthermore, unlike the higher-end model Ts, which have 16:9 aspect screens and use the blacked letterbox area for the touch-screen icons, the T2's 4:3 screen overlays the icons on the viewing display, and they can be difficult to see against some scene types.
You access the frequently used shooting settings via the display. These include resolution, self timer, exposure mode (auto, scene, program, or movie), focus (multi, center, spot, or manual), metering mode (multi, center-weighted, or spot), ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, macro, and flash. Though it lacks aperture- and shutter-priority modes, it does tell you the current shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting when you prefocus. There's also a live histogram for those, like me, who don't believe the display. Drive mode, white balance, color mode (standard, vivid, natural or sepia), flash compensation, red-eye reduction and SteadyShot require a dip down deeper into the menus. Oddly, the T2 lacks manual white balance, but I doubt many will miss it on this camera.
The face-detection autofocus works very well at spotting multiple faces in a scene--the T2 will optimize focus and exposure for the face(s)--and one of the bonuses of the touch screen is you can use it to indicate the primary face. I still think that the Spot Focus feature, in which you touch the desired focus point is a faster, better solution, however. The T2 also includes Sony's Smile Shutter mode, which pauses shooting until the detected faces crack a smile; I wish it could be liberated from the scene-mode ghetto, though, it would be useful in general Program mode shooting, too.
As all those gigs of onboard memory indicate, Sony geared up the T2 for photo sharing and storage. Toward that end, the T2 provides a host of ways of dealing with pictures post-shoot: Albums, Favorites, Sharemark, and Scrapbook. You physically organize the photo files into Albums, tag Favorites for retrieval, and tag with Sharemarks for automatic resizing and uploading. I simply couldn't get Sharemark to work--in theory, it runs a copy of Picture Motion Browser that's stored in the internal memory, but it gave me a lovely, cryptic error--and since it's a Windows-only application, it won't run on a Mac. But I only made a cursory attempt.
For playback, in addition to the traditional index thumbnails and slide show, there's a neat calendar view and predefined Scrapbook slide-show templates into which it dumps your photos. The latter simply doesn't make sense on the T2's relatively small LCD--you see mostly template graphics, while your photos are teeny. To display it on your TV, though, requires all those extra purchases. Finally, you can also "paint" on photos using the bundled stylus.
In almost all respects, the T2 is quite the zippy shooter. From power on to first shot takes a hair less than 2 seconds. Time to focus and snap runs only 0.4 second in good light, though that rises to 1.2 seconds in dimmer situations--pretty good for a snapshot camera, but slower than you really want. The interval between two consecutive shots is a brisk 1.4 seconds, which rises to 2.5 seconds with flash. In burst mode, it snaps at a clip of about 2 frames per second. Only the T2's slow-zooming internal lens provides a less-than-satisfying performance experience; it takes about 2.6 seconds to traverse the 3x zoom range. (By comparison, the T200 takes 2.8 seconds to cover its 5x zoom range.) As always, though, the Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization works well.
Overall, the T2's photos look pretty good. As with the T200 and T20, they're softer than the previous generation's--notably the T100--and than some of the competition's, due to what looks like more aggressive noise reduction. Still, they show good exposure and automatic white balance. There's a bit of lens distortion and a bit of purple and cyan fringing, but the colors look pleasing and reasonably saturated. Like most snapshot cameras, photos taken at sensitivities beyond ISO 200 look really mushy and by ISO 800 lack detail entirely, so take Sony's claim of ISO 3200 capability for the T2 with a chunk of salt.
Though it's a perfectly competent little camera, on the basis of features, image quality, and performance, there's little reason to opt for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2 over the less expensive T20 or better-equipped T200. If you find the design a significant attraction, then I suggest you visit one in a local store before making the commitment.
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|