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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 Digital Camera (6/2007)

    by Douglas Dixon

Storage and Access
User Interface
Modes and Menus Reference
    Home Settings
    Shooting Menu Settings
    Viewing Menu Settings
References

After seeing the latest generation of digital cameras with cool features like image stabilization and face detection, I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself a new camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100.

You may have other criteria, but I was looking for a slim and light take-it-almost-anywhere camera with automatic point-and-shoot modes, plus these new features to try to avoid screwing up quick photos, plus some ability to override and customize in difficult shooting situations.

And I was willing to make some other tradeoffs -- the reduced size and weight rule out having an optical viewfinder, so a larger LCD display becomes important, especially for older eyes. And as the design runs out of room for dedicated controls and buttons, I'm willing to rely more on changing settings using the menus on that larger display.

The T100 hits my sweet spot -- 8 megapixels of resolution, 5X optical zoom lens, and a nice big 3-inch diagonal LCD, squeezed into a rectangular body that's only 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches and 6.1 ounces (loaded with battery), and available for under $399.

This is a nice clean pocketable design -- The front cover slides down to expose the lens, which does not protrude from the camera -- it's all done with optics and mirrors folded into the body. The result is a wonderfully portable device that is quite unobtrusive to use, especially in the available black finish (as compared to the other options of silver and red).

       

The T100 also has some nice features like exposure bracketing (take three quick pictures with +/- exposure), extra close-up Macro mode (closer than 3 1/2 inches), VGA-res movies with optical zoom available, and a variety of modes to help when photographic people, and in difficult low-light situations.

     Look up the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 digital camera on Amazon.com.

Storage and Access

The Sony DSC-T100 uses Sony's tiny Memory Stick Duo media or Memory Stick PRO
Duo
media (required for capturing highest-res motion video) -- current prices for PRO are around 1 GB for $39, 2 GB for $59, 4 GB for $99, and 8 GB coming for $199. But the camera also has 31 MB of built-in memory that you can use in a pinch without a Memory Stick.

   

The highest resolution 8 MP photos are 3264 x 2448 resolution, which compress to around 2 to 2.5 MB per JPEG file. You therefore can fit some 300 to 500 images on a 1 GB memory card, which relieves the worry about running out of storage.

Although if you want to fill up space, the T100 also shoots up to 640 x 480 MPEG movies with sound at 30 frames per second, and a 10-second movie uses around 3.8 MB. You also can zoom while shooting video.

The memory slot and Lithium-ion battery are installed in one side of the camera under a sliding cover. The product comes with a handy battery charger; full charge time is up to 6 hours. Or you can get a spare NP-BG1 battery for $49. Sony rates the battery at up to 380 shots on a full charge.

The only other slot on the T100 is the multi-terminal on the bottom. This attaches to a multi-part cable with the multi-use connector at one end, and a USB connector plus analog Audio/Video connectors at the other. That's a non-trivial collection of cabling to carry on a trip, although the alterative is to carry a USB reader for a Memory Stick.

If you want to charge the camera directly, you need the AC-LS5K Portable AC Adapter ($39), plus a replacement VMC-MD1 Multi-use Terminal Cable ($39) that adds a fourth DC jack to the multi-connector cable collection. Yeesh! What happened to USB for data transfer and charging?

User Interface

What was most interesting about getting used to the Sony DSC-T100 was the way the interface was almost -- but not quite -- clear enough to learn without needing help from the manual. Even our consultant digital-friendly young person needed some prompting.

   

The issue is the way this design deals with the traditional mode dial that is commonly found on digital cameras and camcorders, which typically combines Power off and on, with Camera mode to take new shots and Play to view stored shots, and even camera modes such as Still vs. Movie.

Since there really isn't room for a big dial and associated text or icons, the T100 breaks these out into separate buttons that take a bit of getting used to. The main controls are clustered along the right side of the back, along and then extending above the LCD display.

   

On the top, there's a Power button (marked "Power"). This is somewhat redundant since the camera turns on when you slide open the lens -- although it is useful to use to review your stored photos with the lens closed, and to power up after the camera has automatically turned itself off to save power.

Next to Power is a Play button marked with an arrow symbol (but no text), like the play control on a VCR. This is dedicated to switching between shooting and playback modes (what some devices call Camera and Play).

Also at the top right is the Zoom rocker switch, which controls the 5X optical zoom from Wide-angle to Telephoto. The Zoom also is useful when viewing stored photos: Press W to display an index screen of photo thumbnails (at two different resolutions), and then use the switch to zoom into a picture to check focus and whether anyone has their eyes closed. The T100 also offers a digital zoom feature (which degrades the image), and a Smart Zoom feature that enlarges by using more of the image sensor (if shooting at less than 8 MP).

 

Clustered on the right bottom of the back is the Control button for menu navigation, with four directions plus a center select button. Above it is a "Menu" button, which seems clear, and below is a "Home" button, which causes the confusion.

 

 

 

The key concept, which only needs to be explained once, is that the Home button selects the main shooting mode:
- Auto Adjustment: Automatic settings, with some overrides, with some overrides
- Scene Selection: Shoot using preset settings (Mountains, Beach, Twilight, etc.)
- Program Auto: Shoot with exposure adjusted automatically, plus most Menu settings
- Movie Mode: Shoot motion video with audio

The Home button also provides access to other options, including viewing slide shows, printing, memory management, and other general camera settings (but not the Menu settings for shooting and playback modes).

The Menu button then provides access to options for shooting and viewing / playback modes. The available options depend on the Home shooting mode (i.e., face detection is not available in Program Auto), and also on the specific Scene Selection mode.

The menu interface is straightforward to navigate with the Control button. The choices are displayed as graphical icons, with the text name displayed for the current sub-menu, and both the text name and a descriptive phrase displayed for the currently selected item.

The Control button also doubles as a dedicated control for four common shooting options:

- Display: Cycles through displaying Indicator icons, Brightness boost, and Histogram overlay
- Flash: Cycles through Flash Off, Force On, and Slow Syncro (for dark scenes)
- Macro: Cycles through Macro Off, Macro On, and Close Focus
- Self-Timer: Cycles through 2-second and 10-second delay self-timer modes. The 2-second mode can be helpful to prevent blur from shaking when pressing the shutter button.

For the flash, the T100 strobes the flash twice, with the first time to adjust the light level. This can have the side effect of forcing people to squint when you take flash photos from a short distance away. The T100 also has an AF Illuminator, a red fill light that helps the auto focus in dark scenes. However, this is a very bright light, and irritating to subjects when taking close photos.

For the Macro modes, the T100 has two close-up modes. The regular Macro mode (flower icon) is rated to focus at 31 1/2 inches when zoomed in full, or down to 3 1/2 inches at wide angle. The Close Focus mode (magnifying glass icon) locks the optical zoom at wide angle and lets you come in even closer than the 3 1/2 inches.


Modes and Menus Reference

Home Settings

The Home button accesses four main groups of general settings:

Shooting mode (discussed above)

- Auto Adjustment: Shoot with automatic settings, with some overrides
- Scene Selection: Shoot using preset settings
    High Sensitivity: Shoot in low light without flash
    Soft Snap: Shoot softer, for people, flowers
    Twilight Portrait: Sharper photos in dark environments
    Twilight: Night scenes at far distance
    Fireworks (like Twilight, uses slower shutter speed)
    Landscape: Distant subject
    Hi-Speed Shutter: Moving subjects in bright scenes
    Beach: Preserves blue in ocean or lakes
    Snow: Shoot white scenes and preserve color
- Program Auto: Shoot with the exposure adjusted automatically (shutter speed and aperture),    plus the ability to adjust the most Menu settings
- Movie Mode: Shoot motion video with audio

View Images (shortcuts for Play modes)

- Single Image
- Index Display
- Slide Show

Printing, Other

- Print
- Music Download, Format - Transfer MP3 files to play with slideshows

Manage Memory (Internal memory and Memory Stick)

- Format, Copy, Change Folder

Settings

- Main Settings
    Beep: shutter sound
    Initialize: reset
    Function Guide: text help
    USB Connect: removable disk or PictBridge
    Component out: SD, HD 1080i
    Video Out: NTSC, PAL
- Shooting Settings
    AF Illuminator: Fill light for focus
    AF Mode: Single - focus when press button halfway
    Monitor - continuous focus (but more battery drain)
    Grid Line: LCD overlay
    Digital Zoom: Smart Zoom: Enlarge using more of the image sensor (at less than 8 MP)
    Precision Zoom: Digital zoom, degrades image quality
    Auto Orientation: Records when shoot in portrait mode
    Auto Review: Display image for two seconds after shooting
- Clock Settings
- Language Setting

Shooting Menu Settings

The Menu button provides the following settings when in shooting mode. The available options depend on the Home shooting mode (i.e., face detection is not available in Program Auto), and also on the specific Scene Selection mode.

- Scene Selection (see Home)
- Image Size: 8 MP (3264x2448), 3:2, 5M, 3M, VGA (640x480), 16:9 HDTV (1920x1080)
- Movie Image Size: Fine (640x480, 30 fps), Standard (17 fps), 320x240 at 8 fps
- Face Detection - Adjust focus, strobe, exposure, white balance, and pre-strobe for red-eye reducton
- REC Mode: Normal (default)
- BURST - up to 100 images when press and hold shutter, at approx. 0.46 seconds
- BRACKET - shoot 3 images, +/- 0.3, 0.7, 1.0 exposure
- Color Mode: Normal (default), Vivid, Natural (quiet), Sepia, B&W (monochrome)
- ISO: Auto (default), 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
- EV: Exposure range -2.0, 0 (default), +2.0, in 1/3 EV increments
- Metering Mode: Multi regions (default), Center, Spot
- Auto Focus: Multi AF (default), Center, Spot, distance (1, 3, 7 meters), infinity (unlimited distance)
- White Balance: Auto (default), Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent (white, natural, day), Incandescent, Flash
- Flash Level: Low, Normal (default), High
- Red Eye Reduction (with Face Detection): Auto (default, strobes flash), On, Off
- SteadyShot: when Shooting (default), Continuous, Off
- SETUP (set same as Home screen)

Viewing Menu Settings

The Menu button provides the following settings when in playback / picture viewing mode.

- Delete: Single, Multiple, All images in folder
- Slide Show: Playback, with music, transition effects
- Retouch: Trim, Red Eye Correction, Soft Focus, Partial Color, Fisheye, Cross Filter,
- Protect: Prevent accidental erase
- Rotate: Left or right
- Select Folder: Cycle through folders on Memory Stick
- DPOF: Add Print Order mark
- Print


References

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 features 
8 megapixel images, 5X optical zoom, and 
a 3 inch LCD display. 

It features Super SteadyShot image stabilization and high sensitivity (ISO 3200), with exposure bracketing, plus face detection and red-eye reduction.

It is generally available for under $399, 
in three colors: silver, black, and red.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 at Sony Style

    www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?partNumber=DSCT100

CNET Reviews

    http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-cameras/sony-cyber-shot-dsc/4505-6501_7-32329621.html?tag=lst

Amazon.com

    www.amazon.com/Sony-Cybershot-DSC-T100-Digital-Optical/dp/B000M4J2OO