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Sony DSC-T200 Digital Camera Review

Sony DSC-T200 Digital Camera Review - Matt Grayson takes a look at the Sony DSC T100... er, we mean the DSC T200. Got a bit confused there, what with them looking identical.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Sony DSC-T200
Price : £269
Rating :
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The follow up to the high specification Sony DSC T100 digital camera , the T200 offers a larger 3.5in LCD touch screen, faster fps, backtrack key on the menu and a slightly larger 31Mb internal memory.

Sony DSC T200 Sony DSC T200 Specification

  • Sensor: CCD - 8.1Mp
  • Image Size: 3264 x 2448 pixels
  • Lens: 35-175mm f/3.5-4.4 (5x zoom)
  • Focus: 9 Area Multi-Point AF, 5 Step Manual Pre-set, Face Detection
  • Exposure: Program AE / 9 modes
  • Metering : Multi-Pattern/Centre
  • Monitor: 3.5in Touch screen LCD
  • Movie Mode: Yes
  • Storage: 31Mb Internal, Memory Stick Duo and Pro Duo Media
  • Batteries: InfoLithium Rechargeable
  • AC Adaptor: Optional
  • Video Output: Yes via Multi Connector- HD 1080
  • Size/Weight: 94x60x21mm - 160g
  • Transfer: USB 2.0

Comparable to the T200 at £269 is, again, the Canon IXUS 950IS also with 8Mp, only a 4x optical zoom and image stabiliser for £209. Alternatively, the Nikon Coolpix P50 offers 8Mp, 3.6x zoom and 28mm wide angle lens for £199. Both cameras are cheaper than the Sony, but it is worth taking into account that they are also older.

Sony DSC T200 Modes and features
Looking straight on at the camera, it is identical to the T100 with its sliding power switch that also acts as the lens cover. The top of the camera has the usual Power and Shutter release buttons, but then the surprise sets in that the top of the camera is also accommodating the Playback button and the very small zoom switch. Flipping the camera over to see the back explains the reason behind this. The back of the camera houses a behemoth of a screen. It's only half an inch more than the previous screen, but is enough to take up the entire back of the camera.

Sony DSC T200 So with a gargantuan screen selfishly taking up the entire reverse of the camera and the buttons are all on the touch screen. The reason I think Sony has done this is because the T200 is so similar in every other way, that they had to make it look different in a visible way.

The screen has several options sprouting off, most noticeable are the three main options of Home, Menu and Display which all occupy a corner of the screen with the fourth corner left blank until a menu or multi choice screen is accessed, then that corner gives the option of going back.

The quick access options available on the left of the screen are the Resolution, Self timer and Record modes which in turn gives the option of Auto, Scene which has pre-set options of High ISO, Smile shutter which seems to have replaced the Portrait mode, Soft snap, Twilight portrait, Twilight, Landscape, Hi speed shutter, Beach, Snow and Fireworks. Program and Video are the final options in the Record mode. The right of the screen only offers two options of Flash and Macro modes.

The Home button is top left and is similar to the Home menu on the T100 with five tabs for Shooting, Playback, Print and Music, Memory and Settings. Each of the five tabs have at least four of their own options with the Shooting tab giving an Auto adjustment, Program auto, Scene selection and Movie mode which is exactly the same as the quick access Record mode.

The Playback tab gives the options of viewing your images as single images, thumbnails or as a slideshow whilst the Print tab only has two options of Print and Music tool which is used to download music for your slideshow.

The Memory tab has a button called Memory tool and then a button that says Format. No other options in this tab, so why have to go through two screens to format the card? Seems like a waste of time.

The final tab is for the main settings and when selected, four more tabs come up giving Sony DSC T200 options for Main settings, Clock settings, Shooting settings and Language settings. The Main settings tab is ridiculously long as it has six pages with four independent tabs each. The first simply changes the Beep, there is a Function guide which is the option of turning off the system that explains what everything does for you, Initialise is like a reset all button but it retains any images on the internal memory, Calibration of the touch screen can be performed here and the Housing option changes the function buttons for use in the Underwater housing pack.

Scrolling down to the second page brings up four more options and they are the USB connection options to set between Auto which should do the job, Pictbridge and Mass storage and are only really there for if the camera has a serious problem knowing what is connected to it, Component allows changes of the camera settings for use with a HD Television and the last two options are for the Video out and the TV screen size to ensure compatibility.

The third page allows changes to the AF illuminator, put grid lines on the page, change the AF mode to Single or Monitor and change the Digital zoom options. Halfway through and page four has only three sub menus for Auto orientation, Auto review and Smile level for the Smile shutter feature of the T200 whilst pages five and six only have one option each for the Clock and Language respectively.

Laughably, these could all be compacted down. The first page has five sub menus on it, so six can easily be fitted on. With a total of 18 sub menus, this charade of a menu could be reduced to three pages.

The great thing about the Main settings is that it is the comprehensive menu for the set up tab and the three Shooting, Clock and Language tabs are just repeats of the third, fifth and sixth pages. This is probably the reason that the list on the main setting is separated so much, but that doesn't stop me thinking it unnecessary.

Sony DSC T200 For those that read the review for the T100, you will know my disdain of the Home and Menu button as Sony have simply separated some of the same systems and even doubled some up. This does nothing but confuses people. They have carried on with the Menu again though and this has three pages of options with three options per page. The first page has the Shooting mode for Single, Continuous shooting and bracketing to pre-set values, the White balance override and the Colour mode for Vivid colour, Neutral, Sepia or Black & white. The second page has Flash compensation, red-eye reduction and Image stabiliser whilst the third page only has one option of the Set-up and this is the double up of going to the Shooting settings in the Home menu.

As mentioned previously, there is a noticable absence of the Portrait mode and this has been replaced with the Smile shutter. This feature is intended to reduce the chances of missing smiles as the camera not only detects a face, but prioritises a smile and even takes a picture without the button needing to be pressed. This is a great feature which does take some getting used to, which is why when we tried it, I started laughing which made the camera take even more pictures.

When the camera is set to Auto, the amount of options are reduced in the Menu and also changed. The Bracketing is not available and Face detection has been added to the list and a whole page of options has been removed.

Sony DSC T200 Build and handling
The build is the same as its predecessor with a metal body, 5x optical zoom and Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens. Therefore, everything that was wrong with the T100 should, in theory, be wrong with the T200. The only problem that I had with the T100 was the grip being too small and the possibility of the lens cover closing mid shot. However, fitting a huge screen has forced a change in the way the camera is held and because of all the controls on the top including the tiny zoom switch, not as much pressure is applied to the slider.

Sony DSC T200 I am proud to say that I reported on the T100 that there was a lack of a Back button in the menus and this has now appeared as the option in the fourth corner. Could this be because of my Review? (I wouldn't bet on it - Ed)

The zoom is still a little too slow and they have made the button even smaller and I cannot help but think that shunting the other buttons to the left a bit could have remedied the problem. I cannot help but think back to the early Cybershot models and the zoom that was so fast you needed the reactions of a computer to work it effectively, so maybe they are correcting their mistakes these days. Some people are never happy.

The touch sensitivity of the screen is not good enough in my opinion. Sometimes using it, the buttons had to be hit quite hard which in the long run could damage the screen or the touch screen sensors.

Sony say that the screen is 3.5in and it is. But you only use 3in of it, so there is a bit of spin going on there as it is misleading the consumer into thinking they have a larger workspace. Why make a 3.5in screen which is touch sensitive and only use 3in of it? What's the point? That's the beauty of it, it doesn't need one but if it did have one, it would be to make the camera more cosmetically different from its predecessor.

Sony DSC T200 Flash options
The flash options for the Sony DSC T200 are Auto, Flash on, Slow synchro and Flash off. The Red-eye reduction options are amended in the Menu. The distance range of the T200 is 10cm - 3.7m at wide angle and 80cm - 2.9m at telephoto and are no different to the disappointing results of the T100 as the performance range of the flash is quite low for a camera of this specification.

The flash does have a tendency to fire of its own accord, the portrait shots had to be overridden even though it was a relatively bright day.

Sony DSC T200 Performance
The 10se test was interesting. The T200 can shoot at approximately 2fps and using the internal memory even though the camera gave a figure of 10 shots available, I managed fourteen after it amended the figure.

The screen suffers from a little blur, but I think this is down to the Image stabiliser trying hard to settle everything, it thinks that any movement at all should be settled. The screen is bright, but the black bars down the side with the menus are distracting at least at first and suggests that the large screen is merely for boasting purposes about having a 3.5in screen and the touch screen is for show as it is only necessary due to the large screen.

The colour chart image gave a good result in the primary colours as it has boosted those, but the skin tone colour is flat and pale. Macro is as good as before getting into an eye watering 1cm.

Centre-weighted metering gave a balanced image throughout, but that meant a lot of detail lost in the sky. Changing to Spot metering and metering from the strip of trees on the horizon gave a more contrasty punchier image with cloud detail in the overcast sky.

The Lock test image was set to landscape mode and the result is dreadful. The sky is way over exposed thanks to the automatic controls and this has affected the whole image with flare showing in all low key areas. The day wasn't too bright so to get a result like this, I am truly surprised. However, on a lighter note, fringing is to a minimum with only a small green band on the building roof line and minor purple edges to the white bars leading into the canal.

The portrait shots were great fun as I managed to collar Pete to take them of me. We tried a shot with face detection and it even follows the face in the screen if the subject moves. It is unfortunate, that even on the bright day, it still fired the flash, this is something to look out for. The Smile shutter feature will take a picture as soon as it detects a smiling face in the frame and this is great for those candid moments of the kids as the button doesn't even have to be pressed. Interestingly, the camera will keep taking pictures until it runs out of space, there is no feature for stopping it other than the power switch. The Program mode gave a far more bland image with an exposure similar to the face detection shot, but that used flash. I prefer the punchier colours and contrast in the Smile shutter shot as it looks cleaner.

Sony DSC T200
Primaries are boosted as to be expected, but the skin tone looks flat and pale.

Sony DSC T200 The macro still has a 1cm close facility which is separate to regular macro.

Sony DSC T200
The centre-weighted metering takes a result from the overall image and the centre and balances everything.

Sony DSC T200
Spot metering from the trees on the horizon has given better colours and brought out the sky.

Sony DSC T200
Smile shutter is the only portrait mode on the camera.

Sony DSC T200
Watching Pete trying to use a compact ensured smiles all round.

Sony DSC T200
Program gave a balanced shot, but flash had to be overridden.

 

Sony DSC T200
The Landscape mode has been let down a lot. The sky has over exposed way too much.

 

Sony DSC T200 Noise test
The noise results from the T200 are truly astonishing. ISO80 shows amazing detail reproduction with all detail shown a smooth finish to the grey card and ISO100 has little difference. Being really critical, ISO200 shows a minor change in noise on the black square and this has started to sharpen on ISO400. The results by this stage are what the average ISO200 would be showing on other cameras. ISO800 shows more of the same sharpening of what noise is apparent, but I am having to be really brutal in looking for it.

Skipping onto ISO1600 and the amount of noise showing now is the equivalent of ISO400 and whilst ISO3200 has definite noise in the low key areas, the results are astounding. Purple blotches are only just starting to show yet on any other camera, this high rating would have a proverbial snow storm swirling over the image.

The noise shots were taken in daylight with the White balance set to daylight as the AWB was not coping and a blue cast was appearing.

The ISO80 test
The ISO80 test.
The ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.
The ISO3200 test
The ISO3200 test.
 

Sony DSC T200 Verdict
As a direct replacement to the T100 which I reviewed, there is little significant differences between the two. The screen size is the most apparent, but even that is not strictly true. The biggest difference between the T200 and the T100 is the noise which is virtually undetectable on the T200 even at its highest rating and the brilliant Smile shutter feature. To reiterate, the flash can have a tendency to fire even when it is not necessary

If you are looking for a decent camera with vast options available to you, a good lens and excellent noise performance, then this is the camera for you.

Sony DSC T200 Plus points
Excellent lens
Good build
Brilliant noise results
Close macro for uber-close ups

Sony DSC T200 Minus points
Misleading screen size
Touch screen is not sensitive enough
Zoom button is way too small

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL

The Sony DSC T200 costs around £269 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.

 

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