The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 is one classy compact. Continuing the design aesthetic of previous T-series models, its slim, stylish form utilises a sliding faceplate that protects the lens as well as serving as a way to turn the camera on and off. We reviewed the white version, though the T70 is also available in the more traditional colours of black and silver as well as a fairy floss pink.
While the front of the camera is a spare plain filled solely by the faceplate which hides the lens and flash, the back is even more bare, dominated entirely by the 3-inch touchscreen. We're starting to see more cameras move up to a 3-inch display from the standard 2.5-inches and there are already a few which sport 3.5-inch screens, like Sony's Cyber-shot T200.
Those unfamiliar or unimpressed with a touchscreen interface may be hesitant to give it a go -- we haven't been a fan of the touchscreen cameras we've seen so far -- but with the advent of devices such as the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, they're becoming more mainstream and the technology is improving. Our biggest gripes are the constant fingerprints and often having to drill down too far in the menus, but we think the T70 does quite well.
There are only three external buttons on the T70, the power button, shutter release, playback toggle and zoom lever which sit across the top. Given the slimness of the T70, these buttons are quite tiny and might be too cramped and fiddly to use unless your fingers are equally as small.
In terms of resolution, the T70's 8 megapixels won't turn heads, especially considering the increasingly large resolutions we're beginning to see. The 3x optical and 6x digital zoom are also nothing to write home about but fairly standard on a compact of this size.
Sony has crammed a hefty set of features into this puny package, including optical image stabilisation, face detection and in-camera editing tools like resizing and red-eye correction. There are three exposure bracketing modes and 10 scene modes including Soft Snap which tries to mimics a dSLR's depth of field by blurring the background, and a high sensitivity mode up to ISO 3200. Although the higher ISO may help shooting in low light, the noise generally makes anything over ISO 800 unusable.
Probably the most notable feature -- or at least the most unique, is the Smile Shutter function which detects your subject's smile and automatically releases the shutter to take a perfectly poised photo. Or so it claims. You can set the level of intensity to low, medium or high but what exactly does Sony deem a "smile"? Is it a smirk? A grin? Do you need to bare teeth?
In our tests, we managed to capture some smiles, though there were several other facial distortions that fooled the camera and some award-winning smiles that failed to register. As this is the first implementation of the technology, it should improve but as such, we wouldn't count on it though it's entertaining to play around with.
The touchscreen also makes way for some fun features we've seen implemented before -- there's a slew of borders and "stamps" to decorate your photos with, as well as the simple pleasure of scribbling over your friends faces with the stylus Sony dubs a "paint pen".
In playback mode, you can tap on a photo to zoom in on it and slide your finger (or the stylus) across to scroll across the image.
The T70 uses Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Pro and Memory Stick Pro Duo storage which is pricier than most other memory cards and means you're stuck using a Sony unless you want to fork out for different card formats. The T70 does have 31MB of built-in memory but that won't go very far, especially if you shoot using the full 8-megapixel resolution.
Large screens (and touch interfaces) generally suck the juice out of the battery considerably faster than those without but the T70 has staying power -- we filled our 512MB Memory Stick Pro Duo card several times before it needed a recharge.
The shutter lag on the T70 is practically non-existent. Sony boasts a 0.3 second shutter release time and we aren't about to argue. The burst mode wasn't nearly as impressive -- we found the single shot mode to be almost on par -- and thanks to the speedy shutter response the camera will shoot as fast as your finger can hit it.
The Cyber-shot T70 takes nice photos. The automatic white balance is pleasing and colours are reproduced pretty accurately, though skin tones lean towards the warmer end of the spectrum. The narrow lens and paltry zoom don't leave much room for barrel-distortion which is another plus for the T70.
Overall, the Cyber-shot T70 is a sexy, capable camera with a lot of useful features and some fun ones thrown in for good measure. Whether you're a fan of touchscreens will probably be the deal-breaker for this snapshooter, but it might be worth a look as it's the best one we've seen so far.