The latest in Sony's T-series line of slim digital still cameras, the DSC-T100, is now on sale in most regions.
This latest model packs an 8.1 megapixel image sensor, five times optical zoom and a big 3-inch LCD display on the back. I got a chance to use the camera for a couple of weeks and ended up with some great looking pictures and a favourable impression.
First impressions are of a handsome camera thanks in large part to its brushed-aluminum face and the large display on the back. You can switch it on by sliding a cover down to reveal the lens, and off by doing the opposite. The camera starts up quickly and is almost immediately ready to take a picture.
An 8-megapixel image works out at 3,264-x-2,448 pixels and occupies about 2MB of space, versus 1.5MB for a 5-megapixel image, from which you'll still be able to produce a good looking print. You'll also be able to store more on a Memory Stick Duo card or the camera's built-in 31 megabytes of memory.
While you're unlikely to need the 8-megapixel mode for day-to-day shooting, it does come in handy if you want to capture something at a distance. When you're a distance from your subject and the camera's optical zoom hits its limit then a top-resolution image should mean you can still zoom in a little on the image when it's in your PC and end up with a good shot.
The camera has a polished user interface that worked well although one thing puzzled me. There's an option to change the user language but when selected a message comes up on the Japanese model saying the language can't be changed. If they programmed in that message into the software, couldn't they have just taken the menu option out on this model?
And while I'm moaning, here's my biggest complaint about this camera. Sony's entire advertising campaign for the T100 is that it has a high-definition TV output. Now that's a good thing -- most cameras output a standard definition signal when hooked up to an HDTV so you end up looking at a VGA resolution image.
But the T100 doesn't do high-definition out of the box. If you want to make use of this heavily advertised feature you need to buy a cable or a docking station. Sony does warn you of this -- it's in the fine print on the commercials and on the box -- but it still would make me feel a little short-changed.
This isn't the first time the complaint has been made of Sony. It also doesn't ship HDTV connectors with its high-definition PlayStation 3 game console.
Sony's reply -- on both the T100 and PlayStation 3 -- is that the cable isn't in each box because not everyone owns an HDTV and it would be unfair to make everyone pay for it. Sure, but if the main selling point is an HDTV output then you'd think most customers would be interested in that.
Cables aside, the T100 is a very portable camera. I spent a week walking around with it in a jacket pocket and its size and weight, at 141 grams, meant I often forgot it was there.
There's a great magnifying mode that brings the macro focus down to 1 centimeter from the subject -- couple that with the 8-megapixel image and you're in for some great close-up photos. There's image stabilization and it runs on Sony's Bionz image processor and has a face detection system so your subjects' faces are always in focus. A fully charged battery will last about 380 images.
The T100 is now available in silver, black and red in most markets and costs around £280.