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Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T50 review: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T50

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T50

Phil Ryan
5 min read
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.


Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T50

The Good

Optical image stabilization; solid image quality; 58MB internal memory.

The Bad

Slow f/3.5 maximum aperture; too reliant on touch screen.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T50 keeps the better features of the DSC-T30, but adds a touch screen interface we could've lived without.

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.

Speaking of low light, the DSC-T50 managed to keep noise down to usable levels, even at its top sensitivity setting of ISO 1,000. At ISO 80 and ISO 100, noise was practically nonexistent. At ISO 200, it began to creep in, but without taking away much detail. At ISO 400, it's slightly more noticeable and eats up some finer details; for example, the hash marks on the tape measure in our test scene were blurry but still distinguishable from one another when viewed at 100 percent. At ISO 800, those same hash marks blurred together and noise was very visible; and we saw only a minor increase when we boosted it to ISO 1,000. While not as desirable as images shot at lower ISOs, even at this camera's top ISO settings, the images should be suitable for 4x6-inch prints as well as monitor viewing at less than full size.

In other aspects, the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T50's images were similarly pleasing. We witnessed images with well-saturated, accurate-looking colors and plenty of image detail at lower ISOs. The automatic white balance turned in warm results with our lab's tungsten hot lights, but the tungsten preset stepped in to save the day with much more neutral results. In actual daylight, the auto white balance served up nice, neutral colors.

Performance was fast. The time from pressing the power button to capturing its first image took 1.5 seconds, and the shot-to-shot time between subsequent images was also 1.5 seconds without flash, jumping slightly to 2.1 seconds with the flash turned on. The shutter lag measured 0.5 second in our high-contrast test, and 1.5 seconds in low-contrast conditions. Continuous shooting clocked in with 1.3fps when capturing VGA-size JPEGs, and 1.4fps when capturing 7.2-megapixel JPEGs.

If you like its touch-screen interface, then Sony's Cyber Shot DSC-T50 is a great choice in a pocket camera. If you'd rather stick with time-tested, old-fashion controls, then Sony's DSC-T30 offers everything this camera does and is just as great a choice. We suggest you go to a store and try this camera alongside the T30, if possible, before buying, though both can produce beautiful images, especially in decent lighting conditions.


Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T50

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8Image quality 8