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DCRP Review: Sony
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 27, 2005
Last Updated: January 17, 2008
The Cyber-shot DSC-T5 ($349) is the latest addition to Sony's line of ultra thin cameras. The T5 takes styling cues from the original DSC-T1 (and the more recent DSC-T7 as well), with its unique slide-down lens cover. Other features on the T5 are typical of what you'll find in this class: the 5 Megapixel CCD, 2.5" LCD, point-and-shoot operation, and VGA movie mode. Unfortunately, some not-so-good things also come along with this design, and I'll cover them below.
How does the T5 stand up in the crowded ultra compact field? Find out now in our review!
Since the two cameras have so much in common, I will be reusing portions of the DSC-T33 review to save time.
What's in the Box?
The DSC-T5 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
As is the case with Sony's other recent cameras, the T5 does not include a memory card. Instead, Sony has built 32MB of memory right into the camera. That doesn't hold too many 5 Megapixel photos, so buying a memory card is a requirement. Like the other T-series cameras, the T5 uses Memory Stick Duo cards, which are available as large as 2GB. These cards are smaller than regular Memory Sticks, and an adapter is included so you can use them in things with regular MS slots. The downside with MS Duo cards is that they're expensive -- a 1GB card will set you back $105, while an equivalent SD card costs $88.
The DSC-T5 uses the same NP-FT1 battery as the DSC-T1 and T33. This battery has just 2.4 Wh of energy, which about as low as you'll find. Thankfully, Sony engineers figured out how to get as much out of that little battery as they possible could. The chart below shows how the T5's battery life stacks up against the other ultra thin cameras on the market:
As you can see, battery life has been improved quite a bit since the T7 and T33 were released. While it's not the best in class, the T5 is darn close.
The usual caveats about proprietary batteries apply here. They're expensive ($50 a pop) and you can't use "regular batteries" to get you throw the day in an emergency. Unfortunately these batteries are standard features on ultra thin cameras like the T5.
One thing I do like about the InfoLithium battery used by the T5 is that it tells you exactly how many minutes you have left before you run out of juice.
When it's time to charge the T5's battery, just pop it into the include external charger. This is my favorite type of charger -- you just plug it right into the wall.
If you want to charge the battery while it's inside the camera, you must purchase the Cyber-shot Station camera dock for $50 (see below for more on this). The optional AC adapter will power the camera, but won't charge the battery while it's in the camera.
(Paragraph updated 9/2/05)
The T5 has the same sliding lens cover design as the T1 and T7, which may or may not be a good thing. While it looks cool, it's really easy to accidentally turn on the camera, especially when you're putting it into your pocket. As you can see, this is one tiny camera.
There are a couple of accessories for the DSC-T5. First there's the CSS-TNA camera dock ($50) which lets you charge the T5's battery, transfer photos to your PC, or view pictures on your TV. A remote control is included so you don't have to keep the camera close by when it's plugged into the TV. The next accessory of note is the SPK-THB marine case ($100), which lets you take the camera up to 3 meters underwater. Other accessories include an AC adapter ($35), car power adapter ($70), and leather camera case ($50).
Picture Package viewer (Windows only)
Sony includes Picture Package v1.6 for Windows as the main image viewing application. It's a pretty basic image viewer and doesn't compare to things like ACDSee, Photoshop Elements, or even the software designed by other camera manufacturers.
Picture Package Editing
This latest version of Picture Package adds basic editing capabilities. You can remove redeye, adjusting brightness and contrast, and crop/resize your photos. You can also e-mail them at the click of your mouse.
ImageMixer VCD2 (Mac only)
Mac users don't get to use PicturePackage (you can use the camera with iPhoto just fine). Instead, they get ImageMixer VCD2 (don't worry WIndows users, you get it too). ImageMixer is used to create a Video CD from your images. Video CDs are kind of like a poor man's DVD -- not as good, but usable.
Cyber-shot Life (Windows only)
The Cyber-shot Life tutorial is a very helpful tool for learning to use the camera. It goes way beyond the manual and teaches some very useful techniques, like how to take night shots like the one later in this review. You can also do a simulation of various camera settings like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and white balance to see how they work. Now if only there was a Mac version too!
The DSC-T5's documentation is divided into two parts. First there is a fold-out "Read This First" guide that covers just about everything you'll need to know in order to start taking pictures. For more details you'll need to open up the 105 page User's Guide, which answers any possible question you may have about the camera. The fold-out guide is well presented, though the User's Guide still has a lot of fine print (though less than previous Sony manuals).
(Paragraph updated 9/7/05)
Look and Feel
The Cyber-shot DSC-T5 is a stylish, ultra thin camera that has a lot in common with Sony's T1 and T7 models. It's very thin, thanks to the folded optics technology that has most of the lens elements down the body, perpendicular to the path that light enters the lens. As I mentioned in the previous section, the T5's sliding lens cover looks nice, but it can be frustrating. The camera is very easy to hold and operate with just one hand, and it can fit in any pocket with ease.
Image courtesy of Sony Electronics
Like many other cameras in this class, the T5 comes in your choice of four colors. They include silver (which I tested), black, gold, and red.
Now let's see how the T5 compares in terms of size, volume, and weight with the competition:
The DSC-T5 fits in-between the DSC-T7 and DSC-T33 in terms of size. Compared to the other cameras in the ultra thin category it's about average.
Okay, enough of that, let's begin our tour of the T5 now.
First, let me apologize in advance for some of these product photos. Cameras with mirrored surfaces like the T5 don't photograph very well.
The DSC-T5 has the same F3.5-4.4, 3X zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens as the other cameras in the T-series. The focal length of the lens is 6.3 - 19.0 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. Not surprisingly, you cannot attach conversion lenses to the T5.
Immediately to the left of the lens is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the self-timer lamp. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.
The next thing to see is the built-in flash. If you remember the other T-series cameras you'll know that the flash is notoriously weak. The working range on the T5's flash is 0.1 - 2.5 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto (both at auto ISO), which makes it worse than the T7 and better than the T33. The T5's flash range is comparable to much of the competition, though cameras like the Canon PowerShot SD450 and the Fuji Finepix Z1 do a lot better in this area. You cannot attach an external flash to the T5.
Like virtually all the other cameras in this class, the DSC-T5 has a large 2.5" LCD display. This screen packs over 230,000 pixels, which results in sharp images. The LCD features Sony's "hybrid" technology, which allows for easy viewing in bright outdoor light, and it lives up to the hype. In low light conditions the screen "gains up" a bit, though not as much as I would've liked. I had the new Canon PowerShot SD550 alongside the T5 and it brightened a lot more.
One thing missing from the T5 (along with almost all of the competition) is an optical viewfinder. Whether this is a problem is your decision: I like having one myself, but most people never use them.
At the top-right of the photo you'll find the zoom controller. This moves the lens silently from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.2 seconds. I counted a whopping sixteen steps throughout the 3X zoom range.
Below that you'll find the Display and Menu buttons and the speaker. The Display button toggles the information shown on the LCD screen, while the Menu button does just what it sounds like.
Continuing downward we find the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation and also for:
The last thing to see on the back of the camera is a button for adjusting the image size (in record mode) and deleting photos (in playback mode).
I know it's hard to see what's going on here, so bear with me. At the left side of the photo is the microphone -- so watch your hands when you're recording movies. In the center of the picture is the power button, with the mode switch to the right of that. The three modes on the T5 are playback, record, and movie. The last thing to see here is the shutter release button.
Nothing to see here.
On the other side of the T5 you'll find the battery and memory card compartment. These are kept under a plastic door of average quality. As I said earlier, the T5 uses Memory Stick Duo cards (regular or pro varieties), and an adapter is included to get the Duo card into a regular MS slot.
The included NP-FT1 battery is shown at right.
This may sound silly, but one of the big new features on the T5 when compared to the T7 and T33 is the addition on a tripod mount (before you had to use an adapter or the dock). Since the memory card slot is off to the side, you can swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.
The only other thing to see here is the dock connector, which is also used for USB, A/V, and DC-in. The T5 supports the fast USB 2.0 High Speed standard.
Using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T5
The T5 is ready to start shooting in just 1.2 seconds, which is pretty darn fast.
A histogram is shown on the LCD in record mode
Focus speeds on the T5 were very good, with typical focus times of 0.2 - 0.4 seconds, and slightly longer if the camera has to "hunt" for focus. The camera focused very well in low light thanks to its AF-assist lamp.
As with Sony's other cameras, shutter lag was not noticeable, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed was excellent, with a delay of a little over a second before you can take another shot (assuming the post-shot review feature is turned off).
You cannot delete a photo right after it's taken -- you must use the Quick Review feature first.
Now, here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the T5:
The 16:9 option is new to the T5, and it comes in handy when you're displaying images on a widescreen TV. As with the other T-series cameras, the DSC-T5 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats.
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 T5 uses the same menu system as other recent Sony cameras. The menu is overlay-style -- meaning that its shown on top of the image you're preparing to shoot -- and it's pretty easy-to-use. Here are the menu options on the T5:
Like the other T-series cameras, the DSC-T5 is a point-and-shoot camera. The only pseudo-manual control is for focus, and it's pretty limited because there are only a few preset distances to choose from. The difference between the Auto and Program shooting modes is that the menus are locked down while in Auto mode.
It's worth mentioning that the LCD goes black very briefly between shots in burst mode.
The setup menu adjusts a mix of mundane and useful functions on the T5. They include:
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. This is similar to the "extended optical zoom" feature on Panasonic's newest cameras.
Let's move on to our photo tests now, shall we?
The DSC-T5 did a pretty good job with our usual macro test subject. Colors look good (though there's a slight reddish cast) and everything's very smooth -- no noise here.
As with the other T-series cameras, there are two macro modes on the T5. The normal one lets you get as close to your subject as 8 cm at wide-angle and 25 cm at telephoto -- pretty average. But if you want to get really close, turn on the "magnifying glass mode", which reduces the minimum distance to just 1 cm -- perfect for super close-ups. Do note that the lens is locked at the wide-angle position in this mode.
The T5 did a "just okay" job with the night shot. The camera didn't take in enough light due to the maximum shutter speed of 2 seconds (most of my night shots are 4-5 seconds), which make things a little darker than I would've liked. One way to bring in more light is to increase the ISO, though that will make your photos noisy. The photo here isn't noisy at all, and purple fringing levels are very low as well.
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the T5's lens. While I saw minor corner softness, there's no vignetting to be found.
Small cameras mean big redeye, so you shouldn't be surprised with the results of our flash test. The only small camera I've seen without a redeye problem is the Kodak EasyShare V550, and it's quite a bit thicker than the T5.
Overall the DSC-T5's image quality is good, but not great. As is the case with some other of these ultra thin cameras, the T5's images have a soft, "fuzzy" look to them. This will only be noticeable when viewing images at 100% or making large prints, so it will not be a problem for most people. Otherwise the news is good: the camera took photos with accurate exposure and color, and noise levels were low. Purple fringing was not a problem.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery and decide if the T5's photo quality meets your expectations. I also encourage you to print the photos, just like you would if they were your own.
The DSC-T5 has the same, top-notch movie mode as Sony's other digital cameras. The MPEG Movie VX Fine mode takes VGA resolution video (that's 640 x 480) at 30 frames/sec until the memory card is full, with sound. The VX Fine mode requires a Memory Stick Pro Duo card, and you cannot use the internal memory at that setting either. A 1GB Pro Duo card can hold about 12 minutes of video at the highest quality setting.
If you don't have a Memory Stick Pro Duo card, don't fret. You can quadruple the recording time by using the VX Standard mode, which is still VGA, just at 16 frames/second. An even lower resolution mode is also available: 160 x 120, 8.3 frames/second, which boosts recording time by a factor of fifty-seven!
As is usually the case, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming. Movies are saved in MPEG format.
Here's a very exciting sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (7.1 MB, 640 x 480, VX Fine mode, MPEG format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Cyber-shot DSC-T5 has a pretty standard (though well-implemented) playback mode. Basic features include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom & scroll". The camera is PictBridge-enabled, allowing for direct printing to compatible photo printers.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom up to 5X into your photo (in 0.1X increments), and then scroll around in it. This is useful for checking the focus in a photograph.
Some of the more advanced playback features include:
By default, the T5 doesn't tell you much about your photos. But press the Display button and you'll see a lot more, including a histogram.
The camera moves between images very quickly in playback mode. If you go one image at a time, the next one appears instantly, without any low resolution placeholder. If you really start flipping through them, you'll see a low res placeholder followed by the high res image a half second later.
How Does it Compare
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T5 is an ultra thin camera best suited to outdoor photos -- just like the other T-series cameras that I've reviewed. It takes good quality photos in those situations and camera performance is very good. In lower light conditions you may be frustrated by a weak flash and LCD display that can be difficult to see.
The DSC-T5 is an stylish, ultra compact metal camera. It has the same sliding lens cover as the DSC-T1/T7, and I'm not sure if I like it. The camera fits in any pocket and it comes in your choice of four eye-catching colors. The T5 retains the same 2.5" LCD as the other T-series cameras, and that includes its mediocre low light performance. Two new additions since the DSC-T33 (the last T-series camera that I reviewed) include a tripod mount and a "no dock requirement" for connecting to a PC or television. Speaking of connecting to a PC, the T5 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.
In terms of features, the DSC-T5 is point-and-shoot. There are several scene modes, though I wish slower shutter speeds were available. The camera offers a VGA movie mode that can record video until the memory card is full. Do note that for the highest quality movies you must purchase a Memory Stick Pro Duo card -- regular MS Duo cards and the internal memory will not work.
Camera performance is impressive. The T5 starts up quickly, focuses quickly, and there's no shutter lag. Low light focusing is good thanks to t he camera's AF-assist lamp. Battery life has been improved since earlier T-series models, as well. Photo quality is good, though the T5 has the same "image fuzziness" as other cameras that use this lens design. Redeye will also be a problem. Speaking of flash photos, the T5's flash is quite weak -- a side-by-side with the Canon SD550 that I had with me showed a very noticeable difference in flash range.
Some other issues worth mentioning: the bundled software isn't the greatest, especially if you have a Mac. I do, however, like the tutorial quite a bit. The T5 uses Memory Stick Duo cards, which cost about 20% more than the SD cards used by many other cameras in this class. And finally, watch your fingers: the microphone is right where you'll put your left index finger.
If most of your photos will be outdoors, I can definitely recommend the DSC-T5. If you plan on doing shooting in lower light conditions, I'd find a camera with a stronger flash and brighter LCD -- you'll be a lot happier with the results. I can't see a reason to spend more money on the DSC-T7 -- the only thing I can tell that it offers is a Speed Burst shooting mode, and that's not worth $150 to me.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other compact cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot SD450, Casio Exilim EX-Z57 and EX-S500, Fuji FinePix Z1, Kodak EasyShare V550, Konica Minolta DiMAGE X60, Nikon Coolpix S1, Olympus C-630Z and Stylus Verve S, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX8, and the Pentax Optio S5z.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the DSC-T5 and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Feedback & Discussion
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.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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