By Edvarcl Heng
Fancy, cute cameras are just that--all fluff with possibly wool for brains. So when Sony announced the uber-adorable Cyber-shot T2, we had morbidly mixed sentiments. "It's another pretty brick." "All form, no function." But with the actual article in our hands, our impression changed. By how much? And in which direction?
Peachy design; 4GB built-in memory; optical image stabilizer.
Requires special cable for USB; on-screen controls not terribly clear; Smile Shutter accuracy not spot on.
The bottom line: The Cyber-shot T2 may look like a decent performer, but its sibling camera, the T200, will prove to be a stiff rival.
The Cyber-shot T2 is a flabby chump. It measures 86.8 x 56.8 x 20.2mm and weighs 156g. But despite the girth, its bright colors and curvy form make it look and feel endearing in a boxy sort of way. A slot on the bottom, next to the battery, accepts both Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo (yup, no SD).
The T2 borrows obvious design cues from the T200. It has almost the same slide-down lens cover that's large enough to protect the lens element, flash and AF illuminator all at the same time. We say "almost" because the T2's version pops out slightly before gliding down. In the T200, it slides down vertically. But however we look at it, Sony is still hands down better at making digicam sliders than other manufacturers.
Like the T200, the T2 has a touchscreen, though it's a little smaller (2.7- vs 3.5-inch). There are two rows of controls in-screen--one on the left column and one on the bottom (which like most touchscreens isn't as responsive as physical buttons).
But we were a trifle miffed with the onscreen controls and it's not because it is any less responsive or intuitive than the T200's. It's more a matter of presentation.
While the T200 cleverly uses the black letterbox areas created by its 16:9 aspect ratio to position its controls, the T2's 4:3 screen doesn't allow for this option. So onscreen controls are shown as an overlay, which makes them a distraction during composition. And it can be problematic when the control icons blend in with an overtly bright scene.
Like the Cyber-shot T200, the camera menu is pretty much touch-and-go. Depending on your settings, pressing the screen will activate spot focus or a splash of digital ink. There's also ample space displaying frequent camera settings for resolution, exposure, focus metering (multi, center weighted or spot), light sensitivity, exposure, marco mode and flash.
Even though buttons are sparse, Sony still got it wrong for the Playback and Scrapbook keys. There are positioned too flush with the surface and are particularly difficult to activate. So while it scores for aesthetics, it fails for usability.
The built-in 4GB capacity is both a curse and a blessing. While it's liberating to forgo storage cards, it's also infuriating when the only way you can transfer out the pictures is though a special Sony cable. Of which there is only one in the box.
Losing it in the middle of a three-week vacation would spell the end of your photo-taking adventure. You would need one to transfer out old pictures to make way for new ones. Good luck if you are vacationing in Timor-Leste.
The T2 is not all doom and gloom though the Cyber-shot T2 packs along Sony's new Smile Shutter feature. When it's in the mode, there's no need to hit the shutter button as the camera will snap a picture the moment it detects a smile.
In order for the T2 to adapt to different types of grins (coy, inane, brazen, lip-splitting, teeth-showing), there are three degrees of smile detection. Sony claims you will never miss a smile again. So it's cause for celebration.
That is up till you start using it.
You see, people want to look good in pictures. So they like to be prepared. For most, there's a certain smile for a certain occasion. Your role is to make sure that they do look good. Using an automated system means the camera may capture the wrong degree of a smile while your subject is still trying to work up a truly rictal grin.
We love the innovation that went behind it, but we don't particularly feel mushy about it. In real-life tests, it is exasperating that what the Smile Shutter considers as medium sensitivity is subjectively different from what your subject thinks. And the misunderstanding compounds when you have more than one subject in the frame. Imagine the camera firing off before both of them have presented their best smiles.
On the other hand, the face-detection autofocus works a treat at multiple face spotting. In a quirk that beats out non-touchscreen cameras, you can set the primary face by simply touching the face on the screen.
The T2 provides a number of ways to present your pictures. It can be in albums, share tags or scrapbook. The last is a slideshow that is reminiscent of paper-based ones. You can also "paint" over your pictures with a built-in paint program, though without pressure level detection it's really more gimmicky than anything else.
All these fancy tricks only go to prove that the T2 is primarily a fun camera. That the T2 doesn't include aperture- and shutter-priority modes is a given at the price. But no custom white balance setting?