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DCRP Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 25, 2008
Last updated: May 19, 2012

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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 ($299) is a stylish, ultra-slim camera that features a 4X optical zoom lens, image stabilization, numerous point-and-shoot features, and a large 3-inch, touchscreen LCD. The T77 comes in a host of fashionable colors, including silver, black, pink, green, and brown.

There are currently three models in Sony's T-series lineup. Here are the differences between them:

Feature DSC-T77 DSC-T500 DSC-T700
Street price
(at time of posting)
$297 $392 $380
Resolution 10 MP 10 MP 10 MP
Optical zoom 4X 5X 4X
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 35 - 140 mm 33 - 165 mm 35 - 140 mm
Lens max. aperture F3.5 - F4.6 F3.5 - F4.4 F3.5 - F4.6
LCD size 3.0" 3.5" 3.5"
LCD resolution 230,000 230,000 921,000
Onboard memory 15MB 4MB 4GB
Movie mode resolution 640 x 480 1280 x 720 640 x 480
Portable photo album feature No No Yes
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
220 shots 180 shots 200 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.6 in. 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in.
Weight 126 g 155 g 135 g
Supports underwater case Yes No Yes
Available colors Silver, black, pink, green, brown Black Gray, silver, pink, red gold

In a nutshell: the T77 is the thinnest model, the T700 has a big screen and a fancy 4GB photo album, and the T500 has a more powerful lens plus an HD movie mode.

The DSC-T77 finds itself amongst some tough competition. How does it perform? Find out now in our review!

Is the Cyber-shot DSC-T77 the ultimate ultra-compact camera? Find out now, as our review starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The DSC-T77 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T77 camera
  • NP-BD1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Station plate (for the optional camera dock)
  • Paint pen
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Cyber-shot software, Cyber-shot Handbook and Step-up Guide
  • 55 page basic manual (printed) plus 171 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's recent cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-T77 has built-in memory instead of having a memory card included in the box. The T77 has a paltry 15MB of onboard memory, which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a large memory card, and fast. The DSC-T77 supports Memory Stick Duo media, and I'd start out with a 2GB card.

The DSC-T77 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. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD880 IS * 310 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z300 * 300 shots
Fuji FinePix Z200fd * 170 shots
Kodak EasyShare V1073 */** 170 shots
Nikon Coolpix S60 */** 140 shots
Olympus Stylus 1040 180 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 */** 280 shots
Samsung TL34 HD */**/*** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 */** 220 shots

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

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The DSC-T77's battery is almost the exact average among this group of cameras. You may want to buy an extra battery, so keep in mind that they'll be on the pricey side (the InfoLithium NP-FD1 costs at least $33). In addition, you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery when your rechargeable dies, though the same could be said for any of the cameras in the above table.

When you're ready to charge the T77'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.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 in the hand

Like all of the cameras in Sony's T-series lineup, the DSC-T77 has a sliding lens cover. The sliding cover not only protects the lens for when it's not in use, but it also serves as the power switch for the camera. Unfortunately, it's way too easy to accidentally bump, thus turning on the camera. I know this design has become a trademark of the T-series, but I'd be a happy man if Sony did away with it forever.

Now, here's a look at what accessories are available for the T77:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Waterproof case APK-THA $70 Rugged case protects the camera and is waterproof to 5 feet
Marine pack MPK-THG $230 This more serious underwater case is waterproof to 132 feet
Macro ring light HVL-RLS From $66 Continuous LED lighting for close-up photography
Cyber-shot Station for TV CSS-HD2 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 $31 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
AC adapter AC-LS5K From $23

Power the camera without wasting your batteries

GPS unit GPS-CS1KASP From $100 Lets you add location data to your photos
Carrying cases

LCM-THB
LCS-THP

$35
From $40
First one is a soft case, while the second one is a leather case that comes in black, red, pink, and brown.
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

A pretty standard set of accessories for an ultra-compact camera, though having two underwater cases is unusual.

One of the T77'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. Do note that you'll have to switch the camera to standard definition output if you


Picture Motion Browser for Windows

Sony includes version 3 of their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-T77. This software remains Windows-only, so Mac users will have to look for another product for photo viewing (iPhoto works just fine).

On the main screen you'll find the usual thumbnail view. A calendar view is also available, so you can see what photos you took on a particular day. Here you can e-mail or print photos, send them to photo or video sharing sites, or burn them to a CD or DVD. If you're using the Sony GPS unit, you can view a map showing where each picture was taken. Photos can be tagged as favorites, labeled, and given ratings.

One neat feature is the ability to show photos that only display scenery, people, or smiles. It works pretty well, though it once mistook a car wheel for a face.


Editing in Picture Motion Browser

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to the edit screen. The tools here include auto correction, brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, redeye removal, and trimming (cropping). You can even adjust the tone curve, with wasn't available on earlier versions of PMB. You can also print the date on your photo using Picture Motion Browser.


Music Transfer in Mac OS X

Also included is Music Transfer, this time for both Mac OS X and Windows. You'll use this to customize the background music for the T77's fancy slideshow feature. You can rip audio from a CD or select an unprotected MP3 from your computer, and it will be transferred to the camera. Do note that the sound quality will deteriorate quite a bit.

Sony's camera documentation took a turn for the worse earlier this year. No longer do you get a detailed, printed manual in the box with the camera. Instead, you'll find a basic manual to get you started, with the full manual in PDF format on the include CD-ROM. In terms of quality, the manuals are just okay -- organization and details could be better, but I appreciate the large typeface.

Look

The Cyber-shot DSC-T77 is an ultra-slim camera made almost entirely of metal. The camera is well put together, with even the normally flimsy battery door being sturdy.

Ergonomics are a mixed bag, and I've already complained about that sliding lens cover. Since the camera relies on its touchscreen interface to control its features, there are hardly any buttons to be found. Those buttons that you will find are on the camera are very small, and the zoom controller is ridiculously small. While there is a spot for your thumb on the back of the camera, the touchscreen interface ensures that you'll have fingerprints on the LCD in no time.


Images courtesy of Sony Electronics

It's virtually a requirement to offer ultra-compact cameras, and Sony did not disappoint in that respect. The DSC-T77 comes in black, silver, green, pink, and a really nice brown.

Now, here's a look at how the DSC-T77 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 SD880 IS 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 155 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z300 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 131 g
Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 134 g
Kodak EasyShare V1073 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 148 g
Nikon Coolpix S60 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 145 g
Olympus Stylus 1040 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.4 cu in. 108 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 155 g
Samsung TL34HD 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 138 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.6 in. 5.5 cu in. 126 g

The DSC-T77 is the second smallest and lightest camera in the group. It's slim enough to fit in any of your pockets, so it can go wherever you do.

Alright, let's start touring the T77 now, starting with the front.

The first thing to see on the front of the camera is its 4X optical zoom "Carl Zeiss" lens. This F3.5-4.6 lens has a focal length of 6.18 - 24.7 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 140 mm. That maximum aperture range is on the slow side, but it's pretty normal for a camera that uses the "folded optics" lens design (why is why the T77 is so thin). Obviously, the lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported.

Somewhere inside that lens is Sony's Optical SteadyShot 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. Now, it won't freeze a moving subject, nor will it allow for handheld 1 second exposures, but it will let you use shutter speeds that would be otherwise blurry.

Want some evidence? Have a look at this:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

Both of the photos above were taken at a shutter speed of 1/8 second. As you can see, the SteadyShot system did its job, producing a noticeably sharper photo. You can use image stabilization in movie mode, as well, as illustrated in this brief video clip.

Just to the left of the lens is the camera's AF-assist lamp. This lamp is used as a focusing aid in low light situations, and it also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

Continuing to the right, we see the T77's built-in flash. Don't expect miracles from this small flash -- it has a working range of just 0.08 - 3.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.4 m at telephoto. Sony used to offer an external slave flash, but they don't list it as an accessory for the DSC-T77.

Directly below the flash is the camera's microphone. And that's it for the front of the T77!

Back of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77

The only thing to see on the back of the DSC-T77 is its 3-inch, widescreen/touchscreen LCD display. The screen has 230,000 pixels, which is average for a screen this size. If you want a larger and sharper screen, you may want to check out the DSC-T700. Anyhow, the screen has average outdoor visibility, and in low light, you should be able to still see your subject.

All of the camera's functions are controlled via the touchscreen. I'll tell you all about that when I get to the menu section of this review.

As you probably noticed by now, there's no optical viewfinder on the DSC-T77. In fact, Sony doesn't offer one on any of their T-series models. That may bother some folks, while others could care less. In other words, it's up to you.

At the lower-right of the photo is the camera's speaker.

Top of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77

The only buttons on the T77 can be found in the top view. Here you'll find buttons for power, shutter release, and playback mode. There's also a microscopic zoom controller, which really needs to be larger. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. I counted at least sixteen steps in the DSC-T77's 4X zoom range.

Side of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77

Nothing to see here, though you can appreciate just how this camera is!

Side of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77

Nothing on the other side of the camera, aside from the speaker that I mentioned earlier.

Bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77

On the bottom of the DSC-T77 you'll find the memory card / battery compartment, the A/V+USB+camera dock connector, and a metal tripod mount. While at first glance the door over the battery compartment seems flimsy, it's actually fairly strong. As you can see, you won't be able to access anything in that compartment while the camera is on a tripod.

The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to a Mac or PC. The included NP-BD1 battery can be seen at right.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77

Record Mode

Flip down the sliding lens cover and the camera is ready to shoot about 1.1 seconds later. That's pretty snappy


A histogram is available in record mode

Focusing performance was very good in most respects. At the wide end of the lens, focus times were usually between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds. Telephoto speeds weren't too much worse -- expect to wait for 0.4 - 0.8 seconds, give or take. Low light focusing was just okay -- sometimes the camera locked focus, and other times it just gave up. You'll probably wait for a second or more for focus lock in those situations.

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

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal. You'll wait for just over a second before you can take another shot without the flash, and just under three seconds with it.

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-T77. 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 15MB on-board memory # images on 2GB memory card (optional)
10M
3648 x 2736
3 493
8M (3:2 ratio)
3648 x 2432
3 497
7M (16:9 ratio)
3648 x 2056
4 523
5M
2592 x 1944
6 781
3M
2048 x 1536
10 1253
2M (16:9 ratio)
1920 x 1080
16 2005
VGA
640 x 480
96 12030

See why I recommended buying a memory card right away? 15MB of onboard memory isn't much on a 10 Megapixel 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 cards.

Standard icon view -- pretty cluttered Simplified icon view - not much better

Now let's talk about the touchscreen interface employed by the Cyber-shot DSC-T77. When you're taking pictures, the image you're composing is surrounded by icons, which is a bit awkward. You can turn off the icons, but then the image has a black border (unless you're shooting 16:9), which is still a little strange. The icons on the screen can be selected with either your finger or the included paint pen, and I kind of preferred the latter (I have big, clumsy fingers). In general, I found that this interface (as with most touchscreen systems) makes adjusting settings take a lot longer than need be.

The camera lets you use the screen to select what you want the camera to focus on. Just touch the subject (which can be a face) and the camera will lock focus on it.


Adjusting settings using the touchscreen

So what options can be adjusted from this screen? Here's what's available in Program mode:

  • Home menu - described below
  • Smile shutter (on/off) - only available in Auto mode; see below for more
  • Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
  • Shooting mode (Landscape, soft snap, twilight portrait, twilight, scene selection, auto, program, easy, high sensitivity, movie) - see below
  • Menu - described below
  • Focus mode (Multi, center, spot AF, 1.0, 3.0, 7.0 meters, infinity)
  • Metering mode (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Display
    • Interface (Normal, simple, image only)
    • Histogram (on/off)
    • Brightness (Normal, bright)
  • Macro mode (Auto, macro, close focus) - more on this later
  • Flash mode (Auto, flash on, flash on w/slow sync, flash off)


Home Menu

Lots to talk about before we continue the tour. First up is the Home menu. As was the case on previous Sony models, the Home menu is a solution looking for a problem. It's part setup menu, part mode dial, and mostly unnecessary. The options you'll find in it include:

  • Shooting
    • Shooting - yes, really
  • View Images
    • Date view - display photos by date
    • Event view - view photos that were automatically put into single events
    • Favorites - view photos that you've tagged as favorites
    • Folder view - views photos by folder
  • Slideshow
    • Start slideshow
    • Music tool (Download music, format music) - for transferring music from your computer
  • Print
    • Print - DPOF print marking
  • Manage memory
    • Memory tool
      • Memory Stick tool
        • Format
        • Create REC folder
        • Change REC folder
        • Copy (from internal memory to a memory card)
      • Internal memory tool
        • Format
  • Settings
    • Main Settings
      • Beep (On, off, shutter only)
      • Function guide (on/off) - describes each menu setting
      • Initialize - returns camera to default settings
      • Calibration - in case of trouble with the touchscreen
      • Housing (on/off) - for use with the underwater case
      • Demo mode (on/off)
      • USB connect (Auto, PictBridge, PTP/MTP, Mass Storage)
      • Component (HD/1080i, SD)
      • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
      • TV Type (16:9, 4:3)
    • Shooting Settings
      • AF illuminator (Auto, off)
      • Grid line (on/off)
      • AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
      • Digital zoom (Off, smart, precision)
      • Auto orientation (on/off) - auto photo rotation
      • Auto review (on/off) - post-shot review
    • Clock setting
    • Language setting

I do want to mention two of the items in the Home menu before we get back to the other items on the touchscreen interface. First, the AF mode options, of which there are two. Single AF locks focus when you halfway-press the shutter release button. Monitor AF has the camera always trying to focus, which reduces focus times, at the expense of battery life.

There are two digital zoom modes available on the camera. Precision digital zoom just enlarges the center of the frame (while keeping the resolution the same), which reduces image quality -- it should be avoided. Smart 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 print), you can get a total zoom power of 7.1X.


My adorable niece Savannah put the Smile meter over the top, so a picture was taken

Getting back to the other items on the touchscreen interface now: let's talk about Smile Shutter. This feature, only available in the Auto shooting mode, won't take a picture until your subject is smiling. It'll keep shooting until your subject stops smiling, or your memory card fills up. If you have multiple people in the photo, it only takes one person smiling to get the camera to take a picture. You can adjust the sensitivity for this feature, so if you want to really make someone smile, you can do so.

Next, we have the numerous shooting modes available on the camera. There are several easy-to-access scene modes, plus some additional ones that require a little more menu digging to get at. Those include gourmet (food), beach, snow, fireworks, underwater, and sports. Don't want to pick a scene manually? Then you can use Auto mode with its Scene Recognition System (iSCN), which will pick one for you. If you're using the iSCN Advanced mode, the camera activates a "blink detection" feature, which takes a photo again if your subject blinked during the previous photo. If you need an even simpler interface, try the Easy mode, which has just two menu items, and a large font. Another item in the shooting mode menu is a high sensitivity mode, though I'd avoid using it, as the resulting photos can be quite poor.

There are no manual controls on the DSC-T77, save for a pseudo-manual focus feature, which lets you select from a few preset focus distances.

So what do you get when you press the Menu button? You get another menu! Keep in mind that not all of these options are available in each shooting mode. Here we go!

  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Scene recognition (Off, auto, advanced) - it seems that advanced mode will shoot two images in certain situations; blink detection is only available in advanced mode, as well
  • Flash (Auto, flash on, flash on w/slow sync, flash off)
  • Face detection (When touched, auto, child priority, adult priority) - see below
  • Smile detection sensitivity (Low, medium, high)
  • REC mode (Normal, burst, auto exposure bracketing) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Metering mode (Multi, center, spot)
  • Focus (Multi, center, spot AF, 1.0, 3.0, 7.0 m, infinity)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent 1/2/3, incandescent, flash) - no custom option to be found
  • Underwater white balance (Auto, underwater 1/2, flash) - only available when underwater scene mode is selected
  • Flash level (Low, standard, high)
  • Anti-blink (Auto, off) - this is only available when soft snap mode is used
  • Redeye reduction (Auto, on, off) - auto turns on the preflash redeye reduction feature when faces are detected; you can also force this by choosing "on"
  • Dynamic Range Optimizer (Off, standard, DRO plus) - see below
  • Color mode (Normal, vivid, sepia, black & white)
  • SteadyShot (Off, continuous, shooting) - see below
  • Shooting settings - jumps to that section of the Home menu


The T77 did a good job in our face detection test

There's still more to talk about before our photo tests, so let's begin with face detection. You have two ways of selecting faces: by touching them on the screen, or by letting the camera find them automatically. You can also select whether adult or child faces are given priority. Sony's done a great job with their face detection system, with the DSC-T77 easily locking onto all six faces in our test scene.

There's just one burst mode on the DSC-T77, and that's fine with me. In this mode, the camera took five shots in a row at 1.6 frames/second. The camera continued shooting in two shot bursts after that, but things were pretty slow at that point. The T77 also offers an auto exposure bracketing mode, which takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. The interval between shots can be ± 1/3, 2/3, or 1EV.

DRO off DRO Standard DRO plus

The dynamic range optimizer works to even out the contrast in your photos. I'm not sure what "off" does -- I guess it nothing. Turning on standard DRO analyzes the whole image and adjusts the levels accordingly. DRO plus breaks the image into smaller pieces, and adjusts the contrast for each of those individually. As you can see, the image has much richer colors and brighter shadows. It does come at a cost, though: camera performance slows down, and the image gets noisier.

The last thing I want to mention is the SteadyShot option in the record menu. Continuous mode has the IS system running all the time, so you can compose your photo without the effect of camera shake. Shooting mode only activates IS when the picture is actually taken, which results in more effective stabilization. You can also turn the IS system off entirely, which is a good idea if you're using a tripod. Speaking of which, one of the scene recognition modes is "night scene with tripod", which I assume turns off image stabilization for you.

Finally, we're done with menus. Let's move onto our photo tests now, shall we?

Since the DSC-T77 lacks a custom white balance setting, and its presets don't handle my studio lights very well, our macro test shot has noticeable brownish color cast to it. If you take a lot of photos under mixed or unusual lighting, you may want to seek out a camera with a custom WB option. That said, the figurine looks very good: it's tack sharp, and I don't see any noise here, either.

There are two macro modes on the camera. In regular macro mode, the minimum focus distance is 8 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto, which is about average. 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 T77'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 not slow enough for proper exposure here. Thus, the image is dark, and on the soft and fuzzy side, too. While I don't see any purple fringing here, I don't think the T77 is a great choice for long exposures like this.

Since I can't control the shutter speed on the DSC-T77, I was unable to perform the low light ISO test. I do, however, have the studio ISO test in a moment.

There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the DSC-T77's 4X lens. The effects of this distortion are apparent when you take pictures of buildings, which appear to curve, like this. While the T77 didn't have any trouble with vignetting (dark corners), you should expect to see at least some corner blurriness in your photos (example).

Ultra-compact cameras almost universally have big redeye problems. Like most cameras, the DSC-T77 attempts to prevent it by firing the flash several times before a photo is taken. As you can see above, that didn't work. There is a redeye removal tool in playback mode, but when I used it for this photo (which, in reality, is a head and shoulders shot), it said that no face could be found. Oops. The tool was able to find the faces in my other photos, though the redeye removal performed just "okay".

Here's the ISO test I promised you. It's taken in our studio, and is thus comparable with other cameras I've reviewed over the years. As with the macro shot earlier, there's a noticeable brown color cast here, due to poor white balance accuracy. Now, let's take a look at the noise levels on the camera at each ISO setting:


ISO 80

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Although you can find some noise reduction artifacting in the ISO 80 and 100 crops, overall, the images are still pretty clean. There's a bit more of this detail smudging at ISO 200, but there's not enough to keep you from making a midsize or large print at that setting. Things start to go downhill at ISO 400, where you'll find a fair amount of detail loss due to Sony's heavy-handed noise reduction. This reduces your print sizes to small or midsize. ISO 800 is as high as I'd take the Cyber-shot DSC-T77, reserving it for small prints only. There's far too much detail loss at ISO 1600 and 3200 for the photos to be usable for printing.

Overall, the photo quality on the DSC-T77 was good, but not great. Exposures were typically accurate, though I noticed some serious highlight clipping in two (admittedly torturous) photos. Colors were nice and saturated, though as you saw above, the T77 stumbles in unusual lighting conditions. Sharpness is a mixed bag: some things look great, while fine details and solid areas of color appear mushy due to noise reduction (I think this photo illustrates what I'm talking about). Purple fringing levels were moderate. If you're taking photos in good light, keeping the ISO low, and not making huge prints, then these issues aren't a big deal. If you're not, then you might want to consider another camera.

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 DSC-T77's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The DSC-T77 has the standard Sony movie mode (you'll need to buy the DSC-T500 for HD support). The T77 can record VGA video (640 x 480) at 30 frames/second, with sound, for up to ten minutes. Just to repeat: you could put a 16GB memory card in the camera, but a single clip can be no longer than 10 minutes.

For smaller file sizes, you can use the 640 x 480 (17 fps) or 320 x 240 (8 fps) modes, though the quality won't be nearly as nice.

The T77's internal zoom mechanism allows you to zoom in and out while you're recording a movie. And, as you'd expect, the image stabilizer is available too.

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

Here's a sample video 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 Cyber-shot DSC-T77 has a pretty elaborate playback mode. Basic features are covered, which include 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).

Calendar view Browsing photos by date

Photos can be viewed in a number of ways, in addition to one-at-a-time or as thumbnails. You can view them by date (see above), by "event" (similar to by date), and you can also view pictures you've tagged as favorites. The camera also has the ability to filter by faces: you can have it show only photos with people, children, infants, or smiles.

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". There's even a creepy "Happy Faces" option, which distorts a face until the person is smiling. In this same Retouch menu you'll also find the camera's redeye reduction tool -- which you'll probably be using frequently.


Fun with the stamp tool

There's also a paint option, for which you'll probably 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

Photos can be viewed at the aspect ratio at which they were taken, and you can select a "wide zoom" view so they fill the screen, as well. Shooting data and a histogram are available, though the latter isn't available in wide zoom mode, for some reason.

The DSC-T77 moves through images at an decent clip. You'll get a low resolution image right away, with a sharper version following about half a second later.

How Does it Compare?

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 is an ultra-thin, stylish camera that offers an impressive feature set for the price. Those features include a 4X zoom lens, image stabilization, face and smile detection, a large touchscreen LCD display (though the interface is frustrating), and more. While it takes good photos outdoors, it doesn't perform terribly well in unusual or dim light, or at high sensitivities. Thus, if you'll be doing most of your shooting outside, then the DSC-T77 is worth a look. If you're not, then it may be worth considering another camera.

The Cyber-shot DSC-T77 is an ultra-slim camera, made almost entirely of metal. The camera is well put together, with even the (plastic) battery door feeling sturdy. Ultra-compact cameras are required to come in multiple colors these days (that was sarcasm, in case you missed it), and the T77 is available in silver, black, pink, green, and brown. Design annoyances include the tiny zoom controller and the traditional T-series sliding lens cover. The T77 features a 4X zoom lens with a 35 - 140 mm focal range, plus optical image stabilization. On the back of the camera you'll find a widescreen, touchscreen 3-inch LCD display. The screen has 230,000 pixels, so things are fairly sharp. You'll control all over the cameras via the LCD, which can be an exercise in frustration. It takes a lot more work to change simple camera functions than it would on a camera with regular buttons, and Sony's clunky menu system doesn't help matters either. Composing photos isn't terribly easy either, as it's cluttered with icons (though you can turn them off). You should definitely try out the user interface before you buy this camera -- it's not for everyone. The LCD has average outdoor and low light visibility. There's no optical viewfinder on the DSC-T77.

The DSC-T77 is a point-and-shoot camera, with no manual controls (unless you count the manual focus feature, which lets you select from a few preset distances). If you want a camera that does everything for you, then I think you'll really like what the T77 has to offer. There's an auto mode that can pick a scene mode for you, but don't worry, you can do that yourself, if you wish. The camera has an impressive face detection system, which allows you to "touch" which face you want to focus on, and you can also select child or adult priority. In playback mode you'll find a host of retouching and organizing features. The most important retouching feature is redeye removal, and you're going to need it. The T77 can view photos by date, by event, by faces, and even by smiles. The DSC-T77's movie mode is a bit of a letdown -- it allows for just 10 minutes of continuous recording at 640 x 480. The good news is that both the optical zoom and the image stabilizer can be used while you're recording.

Camera performance was about average. The DSC-T77 turns on and is ready to shoot in just over a second, which is pretty fast. Focusing performance was very good, though the camera hesitated a bit in low light situations. I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal, except if you're using the DRO Plus feature, which adds a 4 or 5 second wait before you can take another photo. The T77 won't win any awards for its burst mode: it takes five photos at 1.6 frames/second, and then continues at a much slower pace. Battery life was average for this class of camera, which means that picking up a spare battery isn't a bad idea. As you'd expect, the Cyber-shot DSC-T77 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your computer.

Photo quality is a mixed bag. If you're shooting in good light and at low ISO sensitivities, then you'll be pleased with what the DSC-T77 can produce. It takes photos with accurate exposure (in most cases) and pleasing, vivid colors. Image sharpness varies quite a bit: fine details and solid areas of color tend to be smudged or mottled, due to the T77's heavy-handed noise reduction. The center of the frame is quite sharp, but you will encounter blurring in the corners. While traditional grain-like noise isn't really a problem, that's due to the aforementioned noise reduction. In good light you can shoot up to ISO 400 without too much detail loss. ISO 800 is for desperation only, and everything above that is not worth using. Don't expect miracles in low light, either: the camera's slow lens and weak flash, coupled with the heavy noise reduction, don't make for great pictures. Speaking of the flash, you will have to deal with redeye on this camera, though there is a tool which can remove it (though I had mixed results in my tests). Purple fringing was moderate at times.

There are a few other issues that I want to mention before I wrap things up. If you shoot under artificial light (like I do for my photo tests), then you might want to steer clear of the T77, whose white balance system performed poorly in those situations. The camera has very little built-in memory -- just 15MB on a 10 Megapixel camera. Sony doesn't include any Mac software, and the main camera manual is only found in PDF format on the included CD-ROM disc.

The Cyber-shot DSC-T77 is stylish, feature-packed, and capable of taking good photos when conditions are ideal. However, it's clunky touchscreen interface, heavy noise reduction, and design annoyances make it just "average" in the ultra-compact class. If you're sticking to outdoor, low ISO photos then it's worth a look, but ultimately there are better ultra-compact cameras available at the moment.

What I liked:

  • Slim, stylish body (comes in 5 colors) contains a 4X zoom lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Good image quality in ideal conditions
  • Widescreen 3-inch touchscreen LCD display
  • Good performance in most areas
  • Lots of point-and-shoot features; elaborate playback mode
  • Impressive face detection, Smile Shutter features
  • Zoom and image stabilization can be used in movie mode
  • Optional underwater cases, HD video output

What I didn't care for:

  • Noise reduction smudges details, mottles sky at low ISOs; unimpressive high ISO image quality
  • Some corner blurriness
  • Redeye a problem
  • Design annoyances: sliding lens cover, tiny buttons and zoom controller, inability to remove memory card when using a tripod
  • Touchscreen interface and confusing menu system(s) make the camera more difficult to use than it should be
  • Weak flash, slow lens
  • No optical viewfinder
  • White balance does not perform well in artificial light
  • 10 minute movie clip limit
  • Very little built-in memory
  • No Mac software included; Full manual only on CD-ROM

Some other ultra-compact cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot SD880 IS Digital ELPH, Casio Exilim EX-Z300, Fuji FinePix Z200fd, Kodak EasyShare V1073, Nikon Coolpix S60, Olympus Stylus 1040, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500, and the Samsung TL34 HD.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Cyber-shot DSC-T77 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.