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DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 21, 2007
Last updated: May 17, 2012

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The Cyber-shot DSC-T200 ($399) is the flagship camera in Sony's ultra-compact lineup. Featuring an 8 Megapixel sensor, 5X optical zoom, optical image stabilization, and gargantuan 3.5" touchscreen LCD display, the T200 is "bigger and better" than just about everything else on the market. Heck, it even has a "smile shutter" feature which waits until your subject is smiling before it takes a photo (and yes, it works).

Sony has three T-series models available now, and this chart should help you figure out the differences between the models:

Feature DSC-T70 DSC-T2 DSC-T200
Street price
(at time of posting)
$283 N/A $372
Resolution 8.1 MP 8.1 MP 8.1 MP
Optical zoom 3X 3X 5X
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 38 - 114 mm 38 - 114 mm 35 - 175 mm
Lens max. aperture F3.5 - F4.3 F3.5 - F4.3 F3.5 - F4.4
LCD size 3.0" 2.7" 3.5"
LCD resolution 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
Onboard memory 31 MB 4 GB (!) 31 MB
Supports conversion lens Yes Yes Yes
Supports underwater case Yes No Yes
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
270 shots 280 shots 250 shots
Available colors Black, silver, pink Black, blue, white, green, pink Black, silver, red

Hope that helps a little!

Is the Cyber-shot DSC-T200 the ultimate ultra-compact camera? Find out now, as our review starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The DSC-T200 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 8.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T200 camera
  • NP-BD1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Cradle adapter
  • Paint pen
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser, Music Transfer and drivers
  • 40 page basic manual (printed) plus 131 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's 2007 cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-T200 has built-in memory instead of having a memory card included in the box. The T200 has 31MB of onboard memory (compared to the whopping 4GB on the DSC-T2), which holds ten photos at the highest quality setting. Therefore, you're going to want to get a decent-sized memory card right away. The T200 uses Memory Stick Duo cards, and I'd suggest a 1GB card to start out with. Going out of your way to buy a "high speed" MS Duo card does not seem to be necessary.

The DSC-T200 can use two different batteries: the included NP-BD1, and the optional NP-FD1. The only difference between the two is that the FD1 has the InfoLithium feature, which allows the camera to tell you exactly how many minutes of battery life you have left. Both batteries have just 2.4 Wh of energy, which is about as low as you'll find. Despite that, Sony's engineers have managed to squeeze some pretty remarkable battery life out of the T200, as you can see in this chart:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS * 270 shots
Casio Exilim EX-V8 * 240 shots
Fuji FinePix F480 150 shots
HP Photosmart R937 190 shots
Kodak EasyShare M883 200 shots
Nikon Coolpix S51 * 150 shots
Olympus Stylus 830 * 200 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55 * 280 shots
Pentax Optio V10 200 shots
Samsung NV11 ** 220 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 * 250 shots

* Has image stabilization
** Number not officially calculated with CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

While not best-in-class, the 250 shots per charge number for the DSC-T200 is amazing, considering that it has a power-hungry 3.5" LCD display on the back. The T200 is about 17% above the group average in terms of battery life.

I should mention a couple of "gotchas" regarding the proprietary battery used by the DSC-T200 (and every other camera on that list). For one, they're fairly expensive -- buying a spare battery will set you back about $50. Secondly, if that battery dies, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery like you could on a camera that uses AAs. That said, you won't find a camera this size that uses anything other than a proprietary battery.

When you're ready to charge the T200's battery, just pop it into the included charger. Sony says that a "typical charge" will take about 160 minutes, with a full charge taking 220 minutes. This is my favorite kind of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall, with no power cord needed.

Like most of the T-series cameras, the T200 has a big sliding door on the front of it. Not only is this used for lens protection, but it's also one of the two power switches for the camera. Personally, the sliding door drives me nuts -- it's way too easy to move, making it easy to accidentally turn on the camera when you put it in your pocket.

In one of those great mysteries of life, the DSC-T200 has fewer accessories than its lower-end siblings. That means no conversion lenses, folks. Here's what is available though:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Wide-angle lens VCL-DE07TB From $40 Reduces the focal length by 0.77X, bringing the wide end down to 27 mm.
Underwater case MPK-WB $200 Take your camera up to 40 meters under the sea
Macro ring light HVL-RLS $100 Continuous LED lighting for close-up photography
Cyber-shot Station for TV CSS-HD1 From $53 This camera dock charges your battery, and can connect to a computer or to an HDTV. Includes component and composite video cables, and a remote control.
HD output cable VMC-MHC1 From $28 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
AC adapter AC-LS5K From $28

Power the camera without wasting your batteries

Carrying cases

LCJ-THC/W
LCJ-THC/B

From $30
??
These leather cases come in white and black
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

As you can see, Sony offers a wide-angle conversion lens for the camera -- it just snaps right on.

One of the T200's unique features is to output video to your HDTV at resolutions up to 1080i. You'll need to buy some accessories to do it, though. The cheaper of the two options is to buy the component video cable, but if you're feeling spendy, you can go for the HD camera dock, which also charges your battery and lets you connect to a computer. While you will be able to view photos on your TV, you cannot view videos for some reason.


Picture Motion Browser for Windows

Sony includes their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-T200. This software is Windows only, so Mac users will want to use iPhoto 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.

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 my opinion. In the old days you got a full, printed manual in the box with the 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 isn't cool.

Look and Feel

From the front, the DSC-T200 looks just like the other T-series models. You've got the brushed metal body, sliding lens cover (ugh), and internal 5X zoom lens. Flip the camera around and whoa -- are you in for a shock. The only thing there you'll see is a giant LCD screen, with not a single button in sight. Since the screen takes up so much real estate, holding the T200 is a bit awkward. Sony has put a sort of thumb rest on the wrist strap connector, though I found myself using both hands to keep the camera steady. That big screen also means big fingerprints, so be prepared for that. Another thing I didn't care for is the tiny and awkward zoom controller on the top of the camera.


Images courtesy of Sony Electronics

In terms of build quality, the T200 is well put together, with lots of metal and a minimum of plastic. Like most Sony cameras these days, the T200 comes in multiple colors: silver, red, and black.

Now, here's a look at how the DSC-T200 compares to other ultra-compacts in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.5 cu in. 155 g
Casio Exilim EX-V8 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 149 g
Fujifilm FinePix F480 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 140 g
HP Photosmart R937 4.1 x 2.9 x 1.1 in. 13.1 cu in. 218 g
Kodak EasyShare M883 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 116 g
Nikon Coolpix S51 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.6 cu in. 125 g
Olympus Stylus 830 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 125 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 143 g
Samsung NV11 4.2 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 9.5 cu in. 195 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 160 g

As you can see, the DSC-T200 is one of the smaller (but not lighter) cameras in the group. It's small enough to fit into any of your pockets, though be careful not to accidentally move the lens cover when you put it there!

Enough of that, let's start touring the T200 now!

If you've seen the DSC-T100, then this view should look awfully familiar. I'll start with the T200's F3.5-4.4, 5X optical zoom lens, which is unchanged from the T100 before it. The focal range of the lens is 5.8 - 29.0 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 175 mm -- that's quite a bit more zoom than you'd normally find on a camera like this. As I mentioned in the previous section, you can attach a wide-angle conversion lens to the T200 that drops the focal length down to 27 mm -- great for indoor shots. The lens uses the folded optics design, which has most of the elements running along the length of the body, which helps the T200 stay slim and trim.

Deep inside the 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 the 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

Both of the above photos were taken at the very slow shutter speed of 1/2.5 seconds.You don't have to be a professional camera reviewer to tell you that the T200's image stabilization system produced a noticeably sharper photo. Naturally, it'll work in movie mode as well, reducing the risk of motion sickness due to camera shake.

The next stop on our tour is the AF-assist lamp, which is just to the left of the lens. The camera uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations. It also serves as a soft of visual countdown for the self-timer.

Next up we have the built-in flash, which is unchanged since the DSC-T100. The working range of the flash is 0.1 - 3.7 m at wide-angle and 0.8 - 2.9 m at telephoto, which is fairly average for an ultra-compact camera. Those numbers are at Auto ISO, so if you're using a lower ISO setting, the range will be considerably smaller. Sony does make an external slave flash for their cameras, though I don't think it'll work on the T200.

The last item of note on the front of the T200 is its microphone, which is right next to the flash.

This is going to be the shortest back-of-the-camera description ever. That's because the only thing to see in the above photo is an absolutely enormous 3.5" widescreen/touchscreen LCD display. While the screen is big, the 230,000 pixel resolution isn't any better than what you'd find on a 2.5" screen. You may notice this when you're looking at the screen, but it didn't bother me very much. Outdoor visibility is excellent when the screen is set to "bright". In low light, the screen brightens a little bit, but not as much as I would've liked.

Since there are no buttons on the back of the camera, everything is operated via a touchscreen interface that I'll get into later. Something else not here (obviously) is an optical viewfinder. In fact, none of Sony's T-series cameras have one. If this bothers you, you'll probably want to look for another camera, though you won't find a camera that has both a viewfinder and a giant LCD.

The only other thing I want to point out here is the "thumb rest" over on the far right. While it helps keep your right thumb off the screen, it's so off-center that I having to use my left hand to keep the camera steady (and watch your fingers if you do that, as it's easy to accidentally put them in front of the lens).

The top of the camera is where you'll find all of the T200's buttons. From left to right, we have the power, playback, and shutter release buttons, plus a tiny zoom controller. It's easy to mistake the power and playback buttons -- I turned off the camera several times when I simply wanted to review the photos I had just taken.

The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.8 seconds. I counted more than twenty steps in the camera's 5X zoom range. As I said earlier, it's pretty awkward to use, so try to test out the T200 before you buy it.

Nothing to see here.

The only thing worth mentioning here is the speaker, which is located near the bottom of the photo.

I said it before, and I'll say it again here -- the lens never protrudes out of the body of the camera, and you can thank whoever came up with folded optics lenses for that.

On the bottom of the DSC-T200 you'll find the memory card / battery compartment, the dock/cable connector, and a metal tripod mount (hidden in this shot). The door over the compartment is of decent quality, and it has a locking mechanism. Due to the proximity of the tripod mount, you won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The dock/cable connector is where you'll plug in the included USB+A/V cable, or the optional HD video cable. It's also what mates the camera to one of Sony's camera cradles. The T200 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

The included NP-BD1 battery can be seen at right.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200

Record Mode

It takes the camera about 1.4 seconds to prepare for shooting, which is about average for an ultra-compact camera.


A histogram is available on the LCD in record mode

The DSC-T200 is pretty snappy in the focusing department in most cases. In the best case scenario (meaning good lighting and at wide-angle) the camera locks focus in 0.1 to 0.3 seconds, which is quite good. If the lighting is good, telephoto focusing won't take much longer. However, if the camera has to use the AF-assist lamp, focus times can easily exceed a full second, though the camera does lock focus eventually.

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, that number rises to around three seconds.

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

There are just a couple of image quality choices on the DSC-T200. You can't actually control the amount of compression applied to each image -- you can only change the resolution. Here's the brief list:

Resolution # images on 31MB on-board memory # images on 1GB memory card (optional)
8M
3264 x 2448
10 306
8M (3:2 ratio)
3264 x 2176
10 306
5M
2592 x 1944
13 390
3M
2048 x 1536
21 626
2.1M (16:9 ratio)
1920 x 1080
33 1002
VGA
640 x 480
202 6013

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 cards.

If you've been wondering when I was going to discuss the DSC-T200's user interface, wonder no longer. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of it. I found it hard to find the option I was looking for, since I had to decipher what each of the little icons represents. While some options are easy to change with this system, I quickly found myself longing for physical buttons instead. There's also the Home menu -- found on Sony's other 2007 Cyber-shots -- that doesn't really know what it is. But more on that in a bit.

Above you can see the interface as it appears in Program mode. Numerous icons surround the field of view (actually, the bottom icons cover it), and you can press each one with your finger or the included stylus to select them, like so:

The options that you can select in this way include:

  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
  • Shooting mode (Auto, scene, program auto, movie) - see below
  • Focus mode (Multi, center, spot AF, 1.0, 3.0, 7.0 meters, infinity) - see below
  • Metering mode (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 8 0, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) - more on this later
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Macro mode (Off, on, close focus) - more on this later
  • Flash mode (Auto, flash on, flash on w/slow sync, flash off)


Scene submenu

There are two "auto" modes in the shooting mode menu, and the difference is that Program Auto has all the menu options available, while regular Auto does not. If you choose the scene selection (SCN) shooting mode, a submenu opens up, offering these choices:

  • High sensitivity
  • Smile shutter
  • Soft snap
  • Twilight portrait
  • Twilight
  • Landscape
  • Hi-speed shutter
  • Beach
  • Snow
  • Fireworks

I want to mention two of those before I move on to the focus modes. The high sensitivity mode will boost the ISO -- as high as 3200 -- in order to get a sharp photo in natural light. The problem with this concept is that photos will be filled with noise, noise reduction artifacts, or both. Thus, it's best to avoid this option, instead adjusting the ISO manually.

The other scene mode is unlike anything I've ever seen. Forget face detection -- that's so early 2007 -- the DSC-T200 does smile detection. Yes, it's silly and totally unnecessary, but it works quite well. Basically, you point the camera at your subjects, press the shutter release button, and the camera is ready to go. It uses the face detection system, so there should be boxes around your subject's faces. As soon as somebody smiles, the photo is taken. If there's a delay, I sure didn't notice. You can even adjust the sensitivity of the system. The only negative I could find was that it only detects the smile on the "primary" face in the photo, so it doesn't ensure that everybody's smiling.


Spot focus

Now, about those focus modes. Multi AF is your standard 9-point autofocus mode, while center AF should be self-explanatory. Spot AF lets you pick the area of the frame on which to focus by using your finger or the stylus. This feature comes in handy when the camera is on a tripod.

Okay, now I want to talk the four other "buttons" that surround the frame: Home, Menu, Display, and Back. Well, I'm not going to tell you much about the last one, other than to say that it backs you out of menus.


Home menu

The Home menu has a bit of an identity crisis. It's half mode dial and half shortcut menu, if that makes any sense. A lot of it is redundant, though, such as the shooting mode options which are already right there in the regular menu. Some options are buried many levels deep, requiring a lot of virtual button-mashing. Personally, I'm hoping that the Home menu disappears on future Sony cameras. Anyhow, here are the options in this menu:

  • Shooting (Auto adjustment, scene selection, program auto, movie mode)
  • View Images (Single image, image index, slideshow)
  • Printing, Other
    • Print
    • Music Tool (Download music, format music)
  • Manage Memory
    • Memory Tool
      • Memory Stick Tool (format, create/change rec. folder, copy)
      • Internal Memory Tool (format)
  • Settings
    • Main Settings
      • Main Settings 1
        • Beep (Shutter, on, off)
        • Function guide (on/off) - whether a description of functions is shown on the LCD
        • Initialize
        • Calibration - recalibrate the touchscreen
        • Housing (on/off) - for use with the underwater case
      • Main Settings 2
        • USB Connect (Auto, Mass Storage, PictBridge)
        • Component video (HD, SD)
        • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
        • TV type (16:9, 4:3)
    • Shooting Settings
      • Shooting Settings 1
        • AF illuminator (Auto, off)
        • Grid line (on/off)
        • AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
        • Digital zoom (Off, precision, smart) - see below
      • Shooting Settings 2
        • Auto Orientation (on/off)
        • Auto Review (on/off) - post-shot review
        • Smile Level (Low, medium, high) - how sensitive the smile shutter feature is
    • Clock Settings - set date/time
    • Language Setting

Two things to mention before I move on to the next menu (yes, there's another one). First up are the two AF modes offered by the DSC-T200. Single AF is what most people are used to: press the shutter release halfway, and the camera locks the focus. Monitor AF starts focusing before you even touch the shutter release button. This reduces the focus times, but it puts an extra strain on battery life.

There are two digital zoom modes available on the camera. Precision digital zoom just digitally enlarges the shot, which reduces image quality -- it should be avoided. Smart digital zoom allows you to get closer to your subject without reducing image quality, but the catch is that you must lower the image size. If you go down to 3 Megapixel (perfectly acceptable for 4 x 6 inch prints) you'll increase the T200's zoom power from 5X to 8X.


Shooting menu

Believe it or not, I'm still not done discussing menu options. In addition to the Home menu, and all those virtual buttons around the LCD, there's a third menu system, covering Shooting or Playback options (depending on what mode you're in). I'll get to the playback options later, so here's what's in the shooting menu:

  • REC mode (Normal, burst, bracketing [±0.3, ±0.7, ±1.0EV]) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments) - this is also available via the virtual buttons
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent 1/2/3, incandescent, flash) - no custom option to be found
  • Color mode (Normal, vivid, natural, sepia, black & white)
  • Flash level (Low, normal, high)
  • Redeye reduction (Auto, on, off) - in auto mode, redeye reduction is turned on if faces are detected
  • Face detection (Continuous, when touched) - see below
  • SteadyShot (Shooting, continuous, off) - see below
  • Setup - enters the setup menu, described in the Home menu discussion above

The REC mode option is where you'll find the DSC-T200's burst mode. In burst mode the camera took about thirteen photos in a row at 2.1 frames/second before slowing down considerably. Sony says that you can take up to 100 photos in burst mode -- I'm taking their word for it.

The auto bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. You can select an interval of ±0.3, ±0.7, or ±1.0EV between each shot.


The camera locked onto five faces

I already told you a little bit about the T200's face detection feature when I mentioned the Smile Shutter option. The camera can find up to eight photos in the frame, and it my tests it worked very well, finding 5 of the 6 photos in my test scene with ease. You can choose to have face detection always looking for faces, or you can activate the system by touching a face on the screen.

There are two SteadyShot (image stabilization) options to choose from. In continuous mode, the OIS system comes on as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release, allowing you to compose your photo without any camera shake. For more effective stabilization, you'll want to use the shooting mode, which activates the system when the photo is actually taken. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is recommended when shooting on a tripod.

Amazingly enough, I'm finally done talking about menus! So let's move onto our usual photo tests now.

The DSC-T200 doesn't have a custom white balance setting (or any manual controls, for that matter), so it had some problems with my studio lamps, hence the brownish cast to our macro image. That's a shame, because otherwise the image looks great. It's both smooth and sharp at the time, with plenty of detail captured. I don't see even a hint of noise. By the way, this white balance issue shouldn't affect the average user. However, if you shoot in unusual or mixed lighting you may want to find a camera with a custom WB feature.

There are two macro modes on the camera. In regular macro mode, the minimum focus distance is 8 cm at wide-angle and 80 cm at telephoto -- not bad. If you want to get closer, switch over to "close focus" mode, which has a minimum distance of just 1 cm. The catch in close focus mode is that the lens is locked at the wide-angle position.

With no manual control over shutter speed available, you'll have to resort to the T200's scene modes in order to take a night shot like the one you see above. I used the twilight scene mode, which used a 2 second shutter speed (at ISO 100), which is slower than I would've used had I been able to set it manually. Thus, the shot is on the dark side, but it's still pretty good. There's no noise, the buildings are sharp, and purple fringing wasn't an issue.

Since I can't control the shutter speed on the T200, I was unable to perform the low light ISO test. I do, however, have the studio ISO test below.

There is moderate barrel distortion at the wide of the T200's 5X zoom lens. To see what this does to real world photos, have a look at the buildings on the left and right (respectively) in these two photos. The chart also shows some mild vignetting and corner blurriness, both of which showed up at times in my real world photos. Those are the (fairly reasonable) tradeoffs that you get for having a 5X lens in a tiny camera!

Ultra-compact cameras almost always have redeye problems, and the DSC-T200 is no exception. However, the camera offers a software-based redeye removal tool that does a good job of removing this annoyance. See for yourself:

Nice improvement, eh? More than likely you'll be using this tool frequently, as redeye sort of comes with the territory on cameras like the T200.

Now it's time for our ISO sensitivity test, which suffers from the same color cast as the macro test (and it should, since it's taken under the same lights). Since we're looking at noise and noise reduction, the color cast shouldn't be a huge issue. With that, have a look at the crops -- and don't forget to view the full size images!


ISO 80

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Everything looks good in the ISO 80, 100, and 200 shots. At ISO 400, we start to see the effects of noise reduction, namely "pitting" (look at the poster) and detail smudging. Even so, a midsize print isn't a problem at this setting. At ISO 800, noise and noise reduction become more visible, and there's a drop in color saturation as well. Thus, I'd save this one for small prints only, and only if you have to. At ISO 1600 and 3200 there's too much detail loss for the resulting photos to be of much use, so I'd avoid those settings (as well as the high sensitivity mode) unless you're absolutely desperate.

Overall, the Cyber-shot DSC-T200's photo quality was good for an ultra-compact camera. Photos were generally well-exposed, though I noticed that the camera really blew out the highlights a few times (examples one, two). Colors were nice and saturated, and sharpness levels were right in the middle of the spectrum. Purple fringing is kept well under control. Noise isn't really an issue until the higher ISO sensitivities, though you can make out the effects of noise reduction, even at ISO 80, where skies appear blotchy and fine details like leaves and grass are smudged. Still, that's not going to be much of an issue unless you're making large prints or viewing the photos at 100% on your computer screen -- your typical shooter won't notice unless the ISO goes above 400.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing a few photos if possible, and decide if the T200's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The DSC-T200 has the standard Sony movie mode. Despite having a widescreen LCD and support for HD video output, the T200 can't record at resolutions higher than good 'ol 640 x 480. It can record at that resolution at 30 frames/second with sound until you hit the ten minute mark -- a restriction I don't recall on previous Sony cameras. A high speed memory card is required to use the fine quality movie mode.

For smaller movie file sizes, you can use the 640 x 480 (17 fps) or 320 x 240 (8 fps) modes, though your videos will be quite choppy with either of those.

The T200 is one of the few cameras that lets you use the optical zoom while you're recording a video clip. And, as you'd expect, the image stabilization system can be active as well.

Sony uses the MPEG-1 codec for their video clips.

Here's a sample movie for you. Be warned, it's a big one -- I let this one run for a little too long, and there's no way to trim videos on the camera.


Click to play movie (24.3 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, MPEG format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode


Play menu (sorry these look crummy, I couldn't capture them for some reason)

The Cyber-shot DSC-T200 has a pretty elaborate playback mode. Basic features are covered, naturally. You've got DPOF print marking, image protection, slideshows, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge a photo and then move around in it, though doing so is difficult with the touchscreen interface. The slideshow feature is extra-fancy, with transitions and the background music of your choosing (I showed you how to load your own songs onto the camera earlier).

The thumbnail view on the T200 is a bit weird -- it only shows you six photos at a time, though you can see parts of the other ones. To move to the next group, you use those arrows that are on the right side of the screen. On this screen you can quickly delete a group of photos by pressing the trash can (left side) and then touching the thumbnails of the photos that you want to remove.

Cross (star) filter effect Partial color effect

Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. There are also a number of special effects you can apply to photos, including soft focus, partial color, fisheye lens, cross filter, radial blur, and "retro". In this same Retouch menu you'll also find the camera's redeye reduction tool -- and you'll probably be using it frequently.


Fun with the stamp tool

There's also a paint option, for which you'll want to use the included stylus. You can draw, erase, and add stamps to your photos. There's an undo feature as well, in case you made a mistake. Best of all, the original file is left untouched (for this and all of the special effects).

Normal viewing (with shooting info) Wide Zoom Display

There are several ways to view your photos. You can view them with the black icon borders (and choose to hide the icons, if you wish), or you can expand the image to fill the 16:9 screen (via the "wide zoom display" feature). If you choose the former, you'll be able to see basic shooting data plus a histogram.

The T200 moves through photos at a decent clip. You'll wait for less than a second to see the next full resolution image.

How Does it Compare?

If the 3X zoom and 2.5" LCD on a typical ultra-compact just isn't enough for you, then you'll like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200. It packs a 5X zoom and an absolutely enormous 3.5" LCD display into an thin metal body. Of course, there are some compromises that come with those "big" features, but the T200 is still a pretty good ultra-compact camera, and one which I can recommend to most everyone. Just be sure to try it before you buy it, as the T200's ergonomics and user interface may not be for you.

From the front, the DSC-T200 looks like just another Sony T-series camera. It's made mostly of metal, and it feels pretty solid for the most part. It does have the annoying sliding lens cover of Sony's other T-series models, which makes it way too easy to accidentally turn the camera on or off. There are just three small buttons on the camera, and they're all located on the top of the camera, along with a small and awkward zoom controller. The DSC-T200's 5X lens reaches from 35 - 175 mm, which is a nice change from the norm. If you want to go wider, Sony sells a wide-angle conversion lens that snaps right onto the camera. Inside the lens is Sony's optical image stabilization system (known as Super SteadyShot), which does a nice job of producing sharp photos at slow shutter speeds.

Look at the back of the T200 and you'll see an enormous 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD display -- and nothing else. The screen is big in size, but its resolution of 230,000 pixels is the same as you'll find on smaller screens. I could certainly notice, but it didn't bother me particularly. Screen visibility is excellent outdoors (at the "bright" setting) and good (but not great) in low light. You'll control nearly all of the camera's functions via the touchscreen LCD, which can be frustrating at times. Some items are easy to access, while others require digging through Sony's confusing menu system. Having the icons around (and on top of) the field-of-view is odd, and it makes it difficult to compose photos at times. Holding the camera requires a bit of dexterity, as there are few places to put your fingers that don't block the lens or leave fingerprints on the LCD.

The DSC-T200 is a 100% point-and-shoot camera. There are numerous automatic and scene modes, including a high sensitivity mode better left untouched, and the one-of-a-kind Smile Shutter feature. The Smile Shutter feature will actually wait to take a photo until your subject is smiling. As silly as it sounds, it actually works, and without a noticeable delay either. The only real downside is that it only requires a smile on your primary subject, so everyone else could be sticking out their tongues or frowning and it would still take the shot. Still, it's a fun novelty. Another novelty feature the T200 offers are the numerous retouching and "painting" features in playback mode. There's also a pretty fancy slideshow feature, complete with transitions and customizable music. The camera's movie mode is pretty nice, though it has a 10 minute recording limit that I don't recall seeing on previous Sony cameras.

Camera performance was very good in most respects. The T200 is up and ready to go in about 1.4 seconds, which is average for a camera in this class. Focus times were very good, except in low light, where they often exceeded one second. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were brief. The T200's continuous shooting mode can keep firing away for up to 100 shots, though it slows down from it's maximum 2.1 frame/second burst rate after about a dozen shots. Battery life was above average, which surprised me considering the size of the LCD. Like all of Sony's cameras, the T200 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

The DSC-T200's photo quality was pretty good for an ultra-compact camera. The camera captures sharp photos with pleasing colors, with generally accurate exposure. A few times I did notice that the camera really blew out the highlights, though. Purple fringing was well-controlled, as was noise. There isn't much noise since the camera is applying a fair amount of noise reduction, the results of which are visible even at low ISOs. You'll notice that fine details are smudged, and solid colors (like the sky) appear a bit blotchy. The camera also has minor issues with vignetting, corner blurriness, and barrel distortion, which seem to be "standard features" on ultra-compact cameras. It has big issues with redeye, but at least there's a tool in playback mode to get rid of that annoyance.

There are a few final issues that I want to mention before I wrap things up. First, I don't like the recent trend on Sony cameras of not being able to adjust the image quality. Yes, you can control the resolution (size) of an image, but not the amount of compression applied to it. Secondly, you cannot remove the memory card while the camera is on a tripod, which may be an issue for some folks. Finally, there's the manual, or rather the lack of one. You get a printed basic manual in the box, but if you want all the details, you'll have to open up a PDF file on the included CD-ROM disc.

As you probably noticed, I'm not a huge fan of the DSC-T200's design, ergonomics, and menu system, and you might not be either -- so you really should try the camera before you drop $400 on it. If those issues don't bother you, then you'll enjoy what the DSC-T200 offers, namely good photo quality, extra zoom power, lots of bells and whistles, and that gigantic LCD display.

What I liked:

  • 5X zoom lens in a compact, stylish metal body
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Good image quality (by ultra-compact standards)
  • Enormous 3.5" touchscreen LCD display; great outdoor visibility (at bright setting)
  • Snappy focusing speeds, though sluggish in low light
  • Good face detection system and one-of-a-kind "Smile Shutter" feature
  • Elaborate playback mode includes good redeye removal tool, special effects, and "painting"
  • Above average battery life
  • Optional underwater case and wide-angle lens
  • USB 2.0 High Speed protocol supported

What I didn't care for:

  • Some blown highlights, blurry corners, and vignetting in photos; moderate barrel distortion
  • Noise reduction smudges details, mottles sky at low ISOs; unimpressive high ISO image quality
  • Redeye a big problem (but at least you can fix it)
  • Design annoyances: sliding lens cover, tiny buttons and zoom controller, inability to remove memory card when using a tripod; camera more difficult to hold than most ultra-compacts
  • Touchscreen interface and multiple, confusing menu system make the camera difficult to use
  • LCD resolution same as smaller screens; can be difficult to see in low light
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Could really use manual controls
  • 10 minute movie clip limit
  • No Mac image browser included
  • Full manual only on CD-ROM

Some other ultra-compact cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Casio Exilim EX-V8, Fuji FinePix F480, HP Photosmart R937, Kodak EasyShare M883, Nikon Coolpix S51, Olympus Stylus 830, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55, Pentax Optio V10, and the Samsung NV11.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the DSC-T200 and its competitors before you buy. And I really mean it for this camera!

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 another review of this camera at CNET.com.