Sony debuts cameras with touch screen control

Sony Wednesday introduced new additions to its digital camera line for this fall cameras. Of the three models announced today, two in particular caught my attention: the US$400 DSC-T200 and $330 DSC-T70 models (which replace the the DSC-T100 and DSC-T20, respectively).

In the world of post-iPhone design, what I like about these two Sony models is that Sony is maximizing its design options by utilizing a touchscreen. The touchscreen is only single-point touch, like a Palm device; it's not a multitouch screen like Apple's iPhone.

But what's nice is that not only do these models have generous, jumbo-size 16:9 screens (3.5 inch on the DSC-T200 and 3-inch on the DSC-T70), but they now use the screens for more than just basic navigation.

On the previous versions of these cameras, Sony's touchscreens allowed your fingertips to navigate menus. Now, the touchscreen interface has been expanded to allow you to control some camera shooting and playback functions as well.

For example, you can frame your image in the screen, then choose where your focus by touching on the point that you want in focus. This is a real boon for offering maximum flexibility in composition

And, it's a real convenience: You don't have to invoke the menu when shooting something that should be in macro mode--by selecting a close-up point in the foreground of your image, the camera will auto-detect its proximity and optimize the focus and shooting mode as needed.

Another neat screen maneuver: In playback mode, can touch the screen to zoom into an image, and to pick a direction to move your image around on the screen.

Sony has also added a nifty new feature it calls "smile shutter." An extension of face detection mode, smile shutter aims to make it so you won't miss the fraction of a moment your subject smiles. Press the shutter partially down, and the camera will start detecting smiles. It will detect and pre-capture frames up until the point you press the shutter all the way down to capture an image.

Once you take the shot, the camera will keep only those shots where it detects a smile. The algorithm will only work on humans, though -- so don't try this trick with your pets.

Like Sony's other Cyber-shot models introduced earlier this year, these new models integrate a cross-media bar interface, as you'd find on other Sony devices, including the PlayStation 3, TVs, and camcorders. In the long run, Sony says its goal is to have a familiar look and feel to its device interfaces, across product types.

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