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DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 4, 2007
Last Updated: May 17, 2012

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I have to admit that I've been a bit jaded when it comes to Sony's Cyber-shot T-series of cameras. Each iteration was basically the same thing: higher resolution, maybe a larger LCD, and maybe a choice of body colors. So, when word came of the Cyber-shot DSC-T100 ($400), I thought "oh good, another one".

Thankfully, didn't just slap a new name on last year's model with the T100 -- it has a new, more powerful 5X zoom lens, a new image processor, a revamped user interface, and support for component video output. That's on top of the usual T-series goodies, which include optical image stabilization, point-and-shoot operation, a large LCD display (3" in this case), and a VGA movie mode. And yes, this slim camera comes in a multitude of colors.

How does this latest T-series model perform? Find out now in our review!

Since the cameras have much in common, I'll be reusing portions of the DSC-W80 review here.

What's in the Box?

The DSC-T100 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 8.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T100 camera
  • NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser and drivers
  • 32 page basic manual (printed) plus full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's 2007 cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-T100 has built-in memory instead of having a memory card included in the box -- 31MB worth to be exact. That holds just ten photos at the highest quality setting, so you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The T100 uses Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, which currently top out at 8GB, and I'd recommend picking up a 1GB card along with the camera. An adapter is included with all MS Duo cards so they work in standard Memory Stick slots.

The DSC-T100 uses the same NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery as several of Sony's other cameras. This is the only Sony digital camera battery that I know of that isn't an "InfoLithium", which means that it won't tell you how many minutes you have left before the battery dies. The NP-BG1 has 3.6 Wh of energy, which isn't much, but somehow Sony manages to squeeze good numbers out of it. Here are the battery life numbers for the DSC-T100 and the competition:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD750 210 shots
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS * 230 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z75 230 shots
Fuji FinePix Z5fd 200 shots
GE G1 200 shots
HP Photosmart R967 160 shots
Kodak EasyShare C763 250 shots
Nikon Coolpix S50 * 130 shots
Olympus Stylus 780 * 250 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 * 300 shots
Pentax Optio T30 200 shots
Samsung L74 Wide ** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 * 380 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 * 340 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90 * 350 shots

* Has optical image stabilization
** Not officially calculated using the CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

As you can see, the DSC-T100's battery life is well above average for this class. I don't know how Sony does, but they sure can draw a lot of power out of a pretty anemic battery.

I do have to mention my usual complaints about proprietary batteries, though. They're more expensive than rechargeable AAs (the BG1's prices start at $27), and you can't use "regular batteries" to get you through the day in an emergency. Unfortunately, these batteries sort of come with the territory: if you want a small camera, you have to deal with them.

When you're ready to charge the T100's battery, just pop it into the included charger. And then go for a day trip or something like that -- the battery will be charged when you get back. It takes a whopping 4.5 hours to charge the battery, which seems ridiculous to me. Naturally, Sony sells a faster charger (which takes just 1.5 hours), but that'll set you back more than $50.

The T100 carries over the large, flip-down lens cover from prior models. If you've been reading this site for a long time then you'll know that I hate this thing. It's way too easy to accidentally turn the camera on or off, especially when you're stuffing it in your pocket.

There are quite a few accessories available for the DSC-T100, and I've compiled them into this handy list for you:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Wide-angle conversion lens VCL-DE07T $45 A rather bizarre-looking lens that clips onto the camera body; reduces focal length by 0.77X, giving you a new wide-end of 27 mm
Underwater case MPK-THD $180 Take your camera up to 40 meters underwater
External slave flash HVL-FSL1B From $68 Boost flash range while reducing redeye; attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does
Macro ring light HVL-RLS $95 Continuous LED lighting for close-up photography
HD output cable VMC-MHC1 From $34 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
Cyber-shot Station for TV CSS-HD1 $70 This camera dock charges your battery (faster than the included charger too) and connects to an HDTV via included component and composite video cables. Also includes a remote control.
AC adapter AC-LS5K From $31

Power the camera without wasting your batteries

Compact battery charger BC-TRG From $47 Dump that slow charger and use this fast one instead.
Accessory kit ACC-CLGB From $41 Includes a spare battery and a leather case
Carrying cases

LCS-CSL
LCS-TWA
LCS-TWD

From $29
From $32
$35
Various leather cases for protecting your T100
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

Not too shabby for a little camera, eh?

One of the T100's unique features is to output HD quality video to your HDTV. You'll need to buy some accessories to do it, though. The cheap option (and I use this term loosely) is to buy the component video cable, which plugs into the bottom of the camera.


Front of the dock


And the back

Another option is to buy the $79 Cyber-shot Station for TV, shown above. Just pop the camera into the dock and you can then charge its battery or connect to an television. Do note that you cannot use the dock to connect to a computer! A remote control is also included, so you can sit back and view slideshows from the comfort of your couch.

[Paragraph updated 6/5/07]

Contrary to all the labels on the box the T100 came in, the camera doesn't output video at "Full HD 1080" (1080p). Instead, it outputs video at 1080i, though most people won't be able to tell the difference. If you're just viewing one photo at a time, they will not fill the screen, unless you took them in the 16:9 mode. The only way to see them full screen is to use the slideshow feature, and then everything looks really nice. For some bizarre reason, movies cannot be played back at all when using the HD cables.


Picture Motion Browser for Windows

Sony includes version 2.0 of their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-T100. This software is Windows only, so Mac users will want to use iPhoto or Image Capture to get photos off of the camera.

The software offers the usual thumbnail view of your photos (shown earlier), plus the calendar view you can see above. From either screen you can select photos for printing, e-mailing, and slideshows. You can also burn them to a CD or DVD.

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to the edit screen. This adds some basic photo editing tools such as redeye reduction, brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, and trimming. You can also put the date on your photo -- something which the camera itself does not do.


Music Transfer in Mac OS X

Also included is Music Transfer for Mac OS and Windows. You'll use this to customize the slideshow background music on the camera. The camera can hold four separate audio tracks, limited to 3 minutes in length.


Selecting tracks on an audio CD

In theory, you select unprotected MP3s or tracks on an audio CD, and the software will convert it into whatever format the camera uses. In reality, I was unable to get the software to see any of my MP3 files, but it worked fine with CD audio.

Sony's camera documentation has taken a major step backward this year. In the old days you got a full, printed manual in the box with camera. Not anymore. Now you get a printed manual covering the basics, but for more advanced operations you'll have to open up the "Cyber-shot Handbook" on the included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals themselves is fine, but having to open a PDF to read it is not cool.

Look and Feel

The DSC-T100 looks a whole lot like the other recent models in the Cyber-shot T-series. It's ultra-compact, made mostly of metal (brushed metal in the front), and has the annoying sliding lens cover that I complained about earlier. The camera is pretty well put together for the most part, save for the plastic cover over the memory card and battery compartment.

In terms of ergonomics, the T100 is just okay. The controls on the right side of the LCD are small and cramped, and since there's not much room for your thumb, you'll frequently end up leaving fingerprints on the display.


Image courtesy of Sony Electronics

Like the other models in the T-series, Sony offers the T100 in three colors: black, red, and silver. The red is quite eye-catching, I must say.

Okay, now let's see how the stylish and compact T100 compares to other cameras in its class:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD750 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 130 g
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 7.9 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z75 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.3 cu in. 122 g
Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 148 g
GE G1 3.6 x 2.5 x 0.8 in. 7.2 cu in. 115 g
HP Photosmart R967 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 170 g
Kodak EasyShare C763 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 8.4 cu in. 130 g
Nikon Coolpix S50 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.6 cu in. 125 g
Olympus Stylus 780 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 125 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 9 cu in. 151 g
Pentax Optio T30 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 119 g
Samsung L74 Wide 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.9 cu in. 174 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 141 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 127 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 124 g

Well what do you know -- the DSC-T20, DSC-T100, and DSC-W90 are all the same size. The weight different amounts, with the T100 being the heaviest of the trio. In the ultra-compact group as a whole, it's about average. The T100 is small enough to fit into any of your pockets, but beware: that sliding lens cover makes it easy to accidentally turn the camera on when you do so.

Okay, enough about that -- let's tour the camera now.

The biggest change on the DSC-T100 is undoubtedly its new lens. The T100 is the first T-series camera to have more than 3X zoom, and it's about time (though it would've been nice had it been wide-angle). Like the other T-series cameras, this lens uses folded optics technology, which has most of the lens elements perpendicular to the direction the light enters. Despite having more zoom power, this 5X zoom "Carl Zeiss" lens has an almost identical maximum aperture range as its 3X siblings (F3.5 - F4.4 vs F3.5 - F4.3). The focal length of the lens is 5.8 - 29.0 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 175 mm. While the lens is not threaded, you can clip on the wide-angle conversion lens that I mentioned in the previous section.

Deep inside this cleverly designed lens is Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization system. If you've been frustrated with blurry photos, especially in low light conditions, then you'll appreciate this feature. Sensors inside the camera detect "camera shake" (caused by tiny movements of your hands), and the camera moves a lens element to counteract this movement. It won't stop a moving subject, nor will it allow for handheld 1 second exposures, but it will allow you to use shutter speeds that would result in a blurry photo on an unstabilized camera.

Want some evidence? Have a look at this:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

This is an especially good example of how well the system works because of the very slow 1/3 sec shutter speed that was used. As you can see, the image stabilization system did a superb job of preventing blur -- well done Sony. If you want another example of how the Super SteadyShot system works, have a look at this sample movie.

Immediately to the left of the lens is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the self-timer countdown light. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

Next to that is the T100's built-in flash. While the flash looks tiny, it's actually pretty powerful, with a working range of 0.1 - 3.7 m at wide-angle and 0.8 - 2.9 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO). Both of those numbers are better than those from the similar Canon PowerShot SD850 IS and the Olympus Stylus 780 cameras. If you want more flash power, consider picking up the external slave flash that I mentioned back in the accessories section.

The final item on the front of the camera is the microphone, located to the left of the flash.

The big thing on the back of the camera is the T100's enormous 3-inch LCD display. Not only is the screen huge, but it's pretty sharp too, with 230,400 pixels. Outdoor visibility is just okay, even with the brightness turned up. In low light the screen is much easier to see, as the camera boosts the brightness automatically.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the T100. Heck, there's not even any room for one. Whether this is a problem comes down to you. Some people want a viewfinder, while others don't care. There aren't many cameras in this class that have a viewfinder, but they do exist (the Canon PowerShot SD850 is one example).

Directly above the LCD you'll find the power and playback mode buttons. To the lower-right of those is the rather small zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.8 seconds. There were over 25 steps in the 5X zoom range -- nice.

Below that is the Menu button, which opens up the record or playback menu (depending on what mode you're in). If you jump past the four-way controller you'll see the Home button, which opens up a completely separate (not to mention awkward) menu system. I'll cover all things menu in detail later in the review.

Now let's talk about that four-way controller, which too is on the small side. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as for:

  • Up - Display - toggles what's shown on LCD, and quickly brightens it as well
  • Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec)
  • Left - Macro mode (Off, macro, super macro)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, flash on, slow synchro, flash off)

And that's it for the back of the DSC-T100!

There's not too much to see on the top of the DSC-T100. There are the power and shutter release buttons that I just described, as well as the shutter release button.

Nothing to see on this side of the camera.

On this side of the camera you'll find the battery and memory card slots, which are protected by a somewhat flimsy plastic door that could really use a lock. Let's open it up and see what's inside.

And here are the goods: the included NP-BG1 battery and an optional Memory Stick Pro Duo card.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the dock connector, the speaker, and a metal tripod mount. In addition to being the connection between the T100 and the optional camera dock, the port on the left is also where you'll plug in the included USB + A/V cable. The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast photo transfer to your Mac or PC.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100

Record Mode

Flip down that lens cover and the DSC-T100 is ready to take its first shot in about 1.5 seconds. That's pretty snappy.


A histogram is shown on the LCD in record mode

The T100 was quite a speed demon in the focusing department. Typically it took between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds to lock focus at the wide end of the lens, with only slightly longer waits at the telephoto end. Low light focusing was quick (by compact camera standards) and accurate, thanks in part to the T100's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot speeds were excellent, with a delay of about a second before you can take another shot. If you're using the flash, expect roughly a three second wait.

You cannot delete a photo right after it's taken -- you must first enter playback mode.

The image quality choices have been greatly simplified on the T100 compared to previous T-series models. You can no longer select how much compression is applied to an image -- only its resolution -- and that's too bad. Here are the available options:

Resolution # images on 31MB on-board memory # images on 1GB memory card (optional)
8M
3264 x 2448
10 302
3:2 ratio
3264 x 2176
10 302
5M
2592 x 1944
13 384
3M
2048 x 1536
21 617
VGA
640 x 480
202 5928
16:9 (HDTV)
1920 x 1080
33 988

That last resolution (1920 x 1080) is the only true "Full HD" feature on the whole camera.

The camera does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats, nor would I expect it to.

The file numbering system used by Sony is quite simple. Files are named DSC0####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The numbering is maintained as you erase and swap Memory Sticks.

The Cyber-shot DSC-T100 (along with some other recent Sony cameras) has a totally new menu system, and I can't say that I like it. The regular "Menu" is an attractive, but sluggish version of the Function menus found on Canon, Panasonic, and Fuji cameras. One thing that really annoyed me is that the menus don't "wrap around", so you have to do a lot of button mashing to navigate through them. Now, keeping in mind that some of these options are not available in all shooting modes, here's the complete list of record menu items:

  • Scene selection (High sensitivity, soft snap, twilight portrait, twilight, landscape, hi-speed shutter, beach, snow, fireworks) - select a scene mode
  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Face detection (on/off) - see below
  • REC mode (Normal, burst, exposure bracketing) - see below
  • Color mode (Normal, vivid, natural, sepia, black & white)
  • ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) - more on this later
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments) - why is this buried down here?
  • Metering mode (Multi, center, spot)
  • Focus (Multi, center, spot, 0.5, 1.0, 3.0, 7.0 meters, infinity) - sort of a manual focus feature
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent 1/2/3, incandescent, flash) - no custom option to be found
  • Flash Level (Low, normal, high)
  • Redeye reduction (Auto, on, off) - see below
  • SteadyShot (Shooting, continuous, off) - see below
  • Setup - see below

Most of those scene modes are self-explanatory, but the heavily hyped high sensitivity mode deserves a mention. This mode will crank the ISO up as high as 3200 in order to get a sharp photo. Unfortunately, when the ISO gets that high, you end up getting a soft photo with terribly smudged details. I took this shot in high sensitivity mode (ISO 500 was used), and if you look at the full-size image you'll see that it looks more like an Impressionist painting than a photograph. My advice is to avoid this mode, especially in low light, and manually adjust the ISO yourself, keeping it as low as possible.

The camera located five faces in the frame And it locked onto five faces, though not all of the same ones

Next I want to talk about the face detection feature, another one of the "required" features for a camera in 2007. For some bizarre reason, this feature is only available in two modes: auto and soft snap. If you're in either of those modes, the camera will seek out up to eight faces in the frame (only two in soft snap mode though), and make sure they're properly focused and exposed. In my "lab test", the face detection system worked very well, performing just as well as Canon's latest cameras, which seem to have the best implementation of this feature. Now if only Sony let you use it in all the shooting modes!

There are three REC modes to talk about, and you can probably figure out what Normal does by yourself. The T100's new Bionz image processor has given the T100 a very respectable continuous shooting mode, which is quite an improvement over previous modes. In this mode, the T100 will take up to 100 photos at a very respectable 2 frames/second. The LCD lags behind the action slightly, but it's not too bad.

The other REC mode is for exposure bracketing. This feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. You can select an exposure interval of ±0.3, ±0.7, or ±1.0 EV.

Next up is the redeye reduction feature. If you're using face detection (which, again, is only available in two modes), you can select the "auto" option to have the software-based redeye removal tool run automatically if needed. Otherwise you can choose "on" to have use preflashes before the shot is taken, which is what all cameras have.

There are three options for the SteadyShot image stabilization system. If you select "continuous", the IS system activates as soon as you halfway press the shutter release button -- this helps you compose your shot without camera shake. For more effective image stabilization you'll want to use the "shooting" option, which only activates the IS system when the photo is actually taken. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is recommended for those times when you're using a tripod.

That brings us to the Home menu. The Home menu uses the Cross Media Bar (XMB), first seen on the Playstation Portable, which is now spreading across Sony's product lines, even to televisions.

This menu has a bit of an identity crisis -- it doesn't know what it's supposed to be. It's partly a mode dial, partly a setup menu, partly pointless -- and very confusing. In a nutshell, the Home menu makes it more difficult than it should be to access settings, even if most of them are not commonly used. Some of the items in the Home menu open up another menu system -- for a grand total of three separate menus on the camera. This is one reason why I always encourage people to try cameras before they buy one -- since you may think that the menu is great.

So here's what's in this bizarre Home menu:

  • Shooting - sort of a virtual mode dial
    • Auto adjustment
    • Scene selection
    • Program Auto
    • Movie mode
  • View Images (isn't that what the playback button is for?)
    • Single image
    • Index display
    • Slide Show
  • Printing, Other
    • Print
    • Music Tool
      • Download Music - from your computer
      • Format Music - erase the music
  • Manage Memory
    • Memory Tool
      • Memory Stick Tool
        • Format
        • Change/create rec folder - manage folders on the memory card
        • Copy (Internal memory, album) - copies either the photos in internal memory or in the album to a MS Duo card
      • Internal Memory Tool
        • Format
  • Settings
    • Main Settings
      • Main Settings 1
        • Beep (Shutter, on, off)
        • Function guide (on/off) - describes the mode you've selected
        • Initialize - return camera to default settings
      • Main Settings 2
        • USB Connect (Auto, Mass Storage, PictBridge)
        • Component (HD/1080i, SD) - whether you're using the component cables
        • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
    • Shooting Settings
      • Shooting Settings 1
        • AF illuminator (Auto, off)
        • Grid line (on/off) - displays a "rule of thirds" composition grid on the LCD
        • AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
        • Digital zoom (Off, precision, smart) - see below
      • Shooting Settings 2
        • Auto orientation (on/off) - automatically rotates images shot in the portrait orientation
        • Auto review (on/off) - post-shot review
      • Clock settings - set the date & time
      • Language setting

What are those two AF modes all about? Single AF is just like you're used to: press the shutter release halfway and the camera locks focus. Monitor AF lets the camera focus constantly, even without the shutter release pressed. This helps reduce the time required to take a picture.

The camera has two types of digital zoom. Precision digital zoom is the same old "enlarge the center" system that you should avoid. Smart Zoom lets you enlarge the image without a loss in quality, with the catch being that you can't use much of it unless you're at a low resolution. The lower the resolution, the more smart zoom you can use. For example, lowering the resolution to 3MP will give you a total zoom of 8X. This feature is called Safety Zoom on some Canon cameras, and Extended Optical Zoom on some Panasonics.

Let's move on to our photo tests now, shall we?

The DSC-T100 turned in an average performance in our macro test. Since the camera lacks any custom white balance feature, it was unable to get accurate color under my quartz studio lamps, hence the brownish color cast. That won't matter for most folks, but if you shoot under mixed or unusual lighting, you may want to find a camera with custom WB. Aside from that, the subject is sharp, though there are some fuzzy details to be found (look around the eyes and nose). This could be either due to noise reduction (at ISO 80?!) or too much JPEG compression.

There are two macro modes to choose from on the DSC-T100. In "regular" macro mode, the minimum focus distance is 8 cm at wide-angle and a whopping 80 cm at full telephoto. If you put the camera into "close focus" mode, you can get a lot closer: your subject can be just 1 cm away. Do note that the lens is locked at the wide-angle position in this mode.

With no manual control over shutter speed, you'll have to resort to the T100's scene modes in order to take a night shot like the one you see above. In this case the camera didn't use the best settings, choosing a shutter speed of 2 seconds, which is probably 4 seconds too slow for a proper exposure. The ISO was set at 100, and if you view the full size image you can see noise reduction kicking in already. On a more positive note, purple fringing was nonexistent, and the buildings were fairly sharp.

Since I can't control the shutter speed on the T100, I was unable to perform the low light ISO test. I do, however, have the studio ISO test below.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the T100's 5X zoom lens. The test chart shows mild vignetting (dark corners), but this wasn't a problem in my real world photos. One problem that showed up in both the test chart and the photo gallery was blurry corners, which can be seen in this photo and again here.

Ultra-compact cameras almost always have redeye problems, and the DSC-T100 is no exception, as you can see above. The good news is that the camera has a built-in redeye removal tool, which can be activated automatically in certain shooting modes, or manually in playback mode. Here's what it did with our test photo:

In this case it looks like the camera only detected redeye in one eye, so it wasn't entirely effective. I have seen this tool work well on the DSC-W80, so this was probably just a one-off situation. I should add that I had to boost the ISO to 400 in order to get a properly exposed flash shot, hence the noticeably smudged details.

Now it's time for our ISO test. This shot is taken in our studio and has the same color cast issue as the macro and distortion tests. Since this test is designed to measure noise (and not color), you should be able to compare it with other cameras we've reviewed. And with that, here we go:


ISO 80

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Everything looks nice and clean through ISO 200. At ISO 400 we start to see the effects of noise reduction, which destroys details and gives solid colors a mottled look (check out the poster in the background). Still, a mid to large size print is a piece of cake at this setting. At ISO 800 we get both an increase in noise, and a drop in color saturation, so I would save this setting for small prints only. ISO 1600 and 3200 are lousy, and should be avoided at all costs. Those last few crops also show why I don't recommend using the high sensitivity mode.

While far from perfect, the DSC-T100's photo quality was generally quite good, and comparable to other cameras in its class. Photos were well-exposed most of the time (except for here -- notice the blown highlights), with pleasing, saturated color. Images are fairly sharp, though there's noticeable blurring near the corners of the frame, a common "side effect" of folded optics lenses. Sony seems to be applying a lot of noise reduction to the photos, which can smudge fine details like grass or fur, even at the lower ISO settings. As far as noise goes, there isn't much of it (since it's being knocked back by NR), appearing only at ISO 800 and above. Purple fringing was not a problem on the T100.

As usual, don't just take my word for all this. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing a few photos if possible, and decide if the T100's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The DSC-T100 has the standard Sony movie mode. I was disappointed to see that there was no high definition movie mode, as HD output is one of the most touted features on the camera. The MPEG Movie VX Fine mode records video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound until either the memory card fills up, or the file size reaches 2GB (that takes about 25 minutes). The VX Fine mode requires a Memory Stick Pro Duo card.

For longer movies that take up less space on your memory card you can use the VX Standard mode, which is still VGA, just at a more sluggish 17 frames/second. There's also a 320 x 240 mode for even longer movies, but the 8 fps frame rate makes this video too choppy to be useful.

Two pieces of good news: one, you can use the optical zoom while filming your movie. Secondly, the image stabilizer is active in movie mode, to help smooth things out.

Movies are saved in MPEG format.

Here's a sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (13.1 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, MPEG format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The DSC-T100's playback menu has been refined, with some features added, and other (perhaps more useful) features removed. The menu system is the same style as the main record menu, which means that it's a bit sluggish and difficult to navigate. Basic record options include image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature (AKA playback zoom) lets you enlarge an image by as much as five times, and then move around in the enlarged area.

The T100 also has an enhanced slideshow feature, complete with fancy transitions and background music. You can use your own background music via the Music Transfer software that I described in the first section of the review.

Partial color effect (yeah, bad example, I know) Fisheye effect

One of the new playback items on the T100 is the retouch menu. Here you can apply various effects to your photos, including soft focus, partial color, fisheye lens, cross (star) filter, trimming (cropping), and redeye removal.

Some features from previous Cyber-shots to go missing on the T100 include image resizing and movie editing. One feature that's still present is the one that lets you delete a group of photos at the same time, though you have to zoom out to thumbnail view in order to do this.

By default, the DSC-T100 doesn't tell you much about your photos. But press "up" on the four-way controller and you'll see a bit more, including a histogram.

The T100 moves through photos at a good clip. You'll wait for less than one second to see the next full resolution image.

How Does it Compare?

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 is camera that takes some large steps forward -- and backward -- when compared to its predecessor, the T50. It's a good point-and-shoot camera, though not without a number of annoyances. Many of these negatives are subjective, so they may bother you less than they bother me (so try before you buy). While it's not a camera I would own myself, I would certainly recommend it to those who don't take a lot of photos in unusual or low lighting.

The DSC-T100 looks a whole lot like the other models in the T-series, which is both a good and bad thing. On the positive side, it's a generally well-built, stylish camera that comes in three colors -- I really liked the look of the red model that I tested. It has a huge 3-inch screen on the back, though it's not great in bright outdoor light. The buttons that sit to the right of the screen are small and cramped. There's no optical viewfinder on the DSC-T100. The biggest design annoyance on the camera has to be that darn sliding lens cover, which doubles as the camera's power switch. I can't tell you how many times I've put the camera into a pocket or bag and had the camera turn on accidentally.

One of the nice new additions to the T100 is a 5X optical zoom lens, up from 3X on previous T-series models. While it would've been nice had the focal range started at 28 mm, I'm not going to complain about having a 35 - 175 mm lens in an ultra-compact camera. The lens is paired with Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization system, which is effective at stopping the effects of "camera shake" for both still and movie recording. Another "new to the T-series" feature is support for high definition (1080i) video output, which requires the purchase of either the optional component video cables or camera dock. Slideshows look great on an HDTV, but viewing photos one at a time isn't in HD, and movies cannot be played back at all.

The DSC-T100 is a one hundred percent point-and-shoot camera, with not a single manual control. I really wish it at least had control over shutter speed and white balance, which would've really helped it in some of my photo tests. The T100 features a fully automatic mode, several scene modes, and a programmed auto mode which allows full menu access. One of the available scenes is a high sensitivity mode, though I would avoid it, as it can use very high ISO settings, which results in really lousy photos. The camera offers both face detection autofocus and automatic redeye reduction, but you can only use those features in two shooting modes. The playback mode has some new special effects features, though gone are the image resizing and movie editing features from previous models. The T100 has the standard Sony movie mode, which takes long, high quality video clips, though I'm disappointed in the lack of an HD video mode (seeing how the camera supports HD output).

The T100 has the same Cross Media Bar menu system as some other recent Sony cameras, and I'm not a fan of it. The regular record and playback menus are sluggish to use, and require too much button-mashing to navigate. The Home Menu is a confusing mess, and the camera would've been better off without it.

Camera performance is one of the T100's strong points. It starts up quickly, focuses about as fast as you'll see on an ultra-compact, and is ready to take another photo in about a second. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the camera's AF-assist lamp. While not as fast as the continuous shooting mode on the DSC-W80 that I just tested, the T100 can still fire off a nearly unlimited number of photos at 2 frames/second. Battery life was well above average, though the included charger is incredibly slow. Like all Sony cameras, the DSC-T100 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

Photo quality was generally good, though there were some annoyances. The camera took well-exposed photos, with accurate color and average sharpness. Purple fringing was not a problem. The T100 has problems with corner blurriness, redeye, and noise reduction artifacting, though. The first item won't be an issue for most people, the second issue can be at least partially resolved using the redeye removal tool, but there's not much you can do for number three. You'll see a few noise reduction artifacts at the lowest ISOs, but they don't really become obvious until ISO 200 and 400. Using the highest ISO settings (800 and above) is not a good idea, as your photos will have flat color and tons of detail loss from noise reduction.

There are a few other issues worth a mention. The door covering the memory card and battery compartment is on the flimsy side, and it could really use a lock. The only Mac software bundled is the Music Transfer application, which didn't work as advertised. No Mac image editor is included. Last, but not least, the full camera manual is on CD-ROM, which is a step backward from previous T-series models.

While not my favorite ultra-compact camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 does offer a lot for the point-and-shoot crowd. That includes a 5X optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, huge LCD display, snappy performance, and a stylish design. It has its flaws though, and is definitely not for those who may require some manual controls, but for a go-anywhere camera it's definitely worth considering.

What I liked:

  • 5X zoom in a compact, stylish body
  • Good image quality
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Huge 3-inch LCD display
  • Snappy performance
  • AF-assist lamp; good low light focusing
  • 1 cm minimum focus distance in "super" macro mode
  • Face detection and redeye removal features work well, though limited to just two shooting modes
  • Optical zoom and image stabilization can be used in movie mode
  • Superb battery life
  • Optional underwater case and wide-angle lens
  • USB 2.0 High Speed protocol supported

What I didn't care for:

  • Considerable corner blurriness; noise reduction a little heavy-handed
  • Redeye a problem (though it can be removed in playback mode)
  • Annoying sliding lens cover makes it too easy to accidentally turn the camera on or off
  • Clunky, confusing new menu system
  • LCD difficult to see outdoors
  • Flimsy plastic door over memory card/battery compartment
  • Cramped buttons on back of camera
  • Needs manual controls, especially for white balance and shutter speed (see photo tests to see why)
  • High sensitivity mode can produce some pretty lousy photos, is best avoided
  • Very slow battery charger included
  • No Mac image browser included; Music Transfer software did not recognize MP3s
  • Full manual only on CD-ROM

Some other ultra-compact cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot SD750 and SD850 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z75, Fuji FinePix Z5fd, HP Photosmart R967, Kodak EasyShare C763, Nikon Coolpix S50, Olympus Stylus 780, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50, Pentax Optio T30, Samsung L74 Wide, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 and DSC-W90.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the DSC-T100 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our photo gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or for technical support.

Want another opinion?

You'll find more reviews of this camera at CNET and Imaging Resource.