DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot T30 Review
It's the all new Sony Cyber-shot T30. This little camera packs 7 megapixels of resolution, a large 3 inch LCD, ISO 1000 high sensitivity and a 75% battery life increase over its predecessor. The Cyber-shot T30 appeared to be a big hit when it was released less than a month ago but will it live up to its hype? Find out now in the Sony Cyber-shot T30 review!
Sony T-series comparison
The Cyber-shot T9 and Cyber-shot T30 are currently Sony's only ultra-thin cameras with optical image stabilization. So here's how the new T30 compare against the T9 released some 6 months ago:
*As of May 1st, 2006
3-inch LCD Camera Comparison
This is just insane... more and more cameras are starting to sport 3 inch LCDs - and majority of them came out this year! Here's a comparison of 3 ultra-compact cameras which have 3 inch LCDs and point-and-shoot operation plus the Fujifilm FinePix F650 5X zoom camera and HP Photosmart R927 with manual controls thrown in for comparison. The Cyber-shot T30 is probably the overall best camera of the bunch.
Canon SD630 Fujifilm FinePix HP Photosmart Nikon Coolpix Sony Cyber-shot Original retail/ $399/$349 $349/$349 $399/$336 $449/400 $499/$499 Resolution 6.0 megapixels 6.0 megapixels 8.1 megapixels 6.0 megapixels 7.1 megapixels CCD size 1/2.5 inch 1/2.5 inch 1/1.8 inch 1/2.5 inch 1/2.5 inch Optical zoom 3X 5X 3X 3X internal 3X internal Focal length 35 - 105 mm 36 - 180 mm 35 - 105 mm 35 - 105 mm 38 - 114 mm Aperture range f2.8 - f4.9 f2.8 - f4.7 f2.8 - f5.0 f3.0 - f5.4 f3.5 - f4.3 Optical IS No No No No Yes LCD resolution 3 inch 3 inch 3 inch 3 inch 3 inch Internal memory None None 32 MB 20 MB 58 MB WiFi No No No Yes No Max flash range 3.5 m 4.6 m 4.8 m 2.6 m 3.4 m ISO range 80 - 800 64 - 400 100 - 400 50 - 400 80 - 1000 Movie mode VGA 30 FPS VGA 30 FPS VGA 24 FPS VGA 30 FPS VGA 30 FPS Memory card SD xD SD SD MS Duo Battery life 160 shots 150 shots 200 shots 200 shots 420 shots Body color Silver Silver Silver Silver, blue Silver, black Dimensions mm 90.3/56.8/20.2 104.7/60.6/30.8 96.0/62.0/25.6 100.5/60.0/21.0 95.0/56.5/23.3 Weight (g) 145 g 170 g 170 g 140 g 139 g
35 - 105 mm
36 - 180 mm
35 - 105 mm
35 - 105 mm
38 - 114 mm
f2.8 - f4.9
f2.8 - f4.7
f2.8 - f5.0
f3.0 - f5.4
f3.5 - f4.3
Max flash range
80 - 800
64 - 400
100 - 400
50 - 400
80 - 1000
VGA 30 FPS
VGA 30 FPS
VGA 24 FPS
VGA 30 FPS
VGA 30 FPS
*As of May 1st, 2006
Size and Weight
This is how small the Sony Cyber-shot T30 is compared to competition:
(167.3) 90.3 x 56.8 x 20.2 mm (145 g) - Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH (3 inch LCD)
As usual, I've included the "DPI measurement unit" (As opposed to volume) on the left for a more accurate impression of a camera's size.
The Sony Cyber-shot T30 is a compact camera which has a 3 inch LCD. While it's compact, some other cameras (even with 3 inch LCDs) are even smaller
Open up the Box
There's a bunch of stuff included with the Sony T30:
Storage and Power
The Sony Cyber-shot T30 has a quite a bit of internal memory. That's about 15 photos using the 58 MB built-in space. Anyway, you'd want to get at least a 512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo for this 7 megapixel ultra-compact. If you're moving over from a previous Sony T-series camera, good news; you can use the Memory Stick Duo cards you already have.
160 shots - Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH (3 inch LCD)
The Sony Cyber-shot T30 uses the brand new rechargeable NP-FR1 lithium-ion battery (New to the Sony T-series, that is) which, even with the large 3 inch LCD, translates battery life to an excellent 420 shots per charge (CIPA Standard)! That's a 75% increase over the T9's battery life. As with all InfoLithium batteries, this one also shows a minute-by-minute battery indicator.
Battery life here is so good (speaking from quoted battery life and personal experience) that you probably won't need an extra battery. But current Sony T-series owners will probably still be unimpressed by the fact that the T30 uses a unique battery.
The Sony Cyber-shot T30's only accessory is an underwater case which let's you bring the camera diving, swimming, etc.
The Sony Cyber-shot T30 is available in your choice of silver or black.
The Sony Cyber-shot T30's lens is the same as the T9 before it. This 38 - 114 mm lens with an aperture range of f3.5 - f4.3 is rather fast for an internal lens, but slow if compared to the lens found on cameras like the Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH. The lens is internal so it never extends, and there's an optical image stabilizer built-in too!
For your information, optical image stabilizers help counter blur caused by camera shake (which are caused by shaky hands) - contrary to popular belief, optical image stabilizers cannot freeze subject motion!
Next to the lens is an AF-assist beam/self-timer lamp which lights up red in low-light or when counting down. And there's a flash as well. The flash has a slightly below average maximum range of 3.4 m at auto ISO and goes up to an above average 6 m at ISO 1000.
There's the trademark sliding lens cover below all of that action which was first seen back on the T1! Near that is a wrist strap mount which protrudes outwards and looks really ugly, in my opinion.
While I didn't find the T30 to have a "pretty face", the back of the camera looks good. New to the Sony Cyber-shot T30 is a huge 3 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. The LCD is excellent outdoors and quite visible indoors when it brightens. In comparison, the Sony T9 had a 2.5 inch LCD and some competition have 3 inch LCDs with the same resolution but lack the excellent battery life.
There's a single clear plastic layer covering the whole back, with space for the buttons of course. It's useful as a protective layer that can be wiped with cloth easily but can be a little slippery at times.
On the top right of the T30 is the zoom controller. Below the zoom controller is the menu button (brings up the menu) and LCD display button (toggles amount of info shown when shooting/playback). By holding down the LCD button, you can brighten the LCD more.
The 5-way controller has these functions:
Sony made a fairly smart move by integrating magnifying glass mode (since it's a kind of macro mode anyway) into the macro/focus button, instead of having to dig it up in menus on the T9.
There's two more buttons below the 5-way controller; one to change image size while shooting or delete a photo in playback and the other for starting slideshows in playback. I wish the slideshow button could be assigned to some other feature as well (such as changing ISO) since it serves no purpose in still shooting mode.
All the Sony Cyber-shot T30's other buttons on the top are crowded towards the right. A power button with a status LED and image stabilization flank the circular shutter button. The OIS button turns on/off optical image stabilization.
Nearby, there's a microphone and mode switch. The mode switch has these modes: playback, shooting and movie.
On one side of the Sony Cyber-shot T30 (Hand included for size comparison), there's a battery/memory card slot. A battery lock prevents the NP-FR1 battery from popping out should you be swapping Memory Stick Duo cards. The door over the slots is quite study though it doesn't have a lock. The other side of the T30 is bare.
At the bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot T30, you'll find a speaker, tripod mount and multi-connector port. The placement of the battery/memory card slots at the side of the camera make them changeable, even when the camera is on a tripod. The multi-connector port is the place where you plug in things like USB, A/V and DC-IN.
You can select one of the Sony Cyber-shot T30's many image sizes which include 7 megapixels (with a 3:2 option), 3 megapixels, 1 megapixel and VGA plus two compression options - Fine and Standard. Strange enough, there isn't any Function Guide on the T30, which displays a short description of each mode when you turn the mode dial - maybe because the T30 doesn't have a mode dial!
In the main menu of the Sony Cyber-shot T30, there's an array of other settings you can tweak:
In "normal" macro mode, the Sony Cyber-shot T30 can go as close to a subject as 8 cm, turn on magnifying glass mode and you can go as close as 1 cm! The only disadvantage when using magnifying glass mode is that the lens is locked at wide-angle and ISO is locked at auto ISO. As for optical image stabilization, there's 2 mode: shooting (OIS is active when the picture is taken) and continuous (OIS is always on, even when framing).
The Smart Zoom feature crops a full-resolution photo so there's no loss of quality and can be used up to 14x using the 640 x 480 resolution! Here's how well the Sony Cyber-shot T30's optical image stabilization works:
Both shots were taken one after the other using 1/2 second long exposures. The first shot was taken with OIS off while the next one was taken with OIS on (in "shooting" mode)
The Sony Cyber-shot T30 shows lots of info when it comes to its live framing using the large 3 inch LCD. There's the minute-by-minute battery indicator on the top left followed by sub-shooting mode (program), flash mode (off) and AF-assist beam status (on).
There's a framing area in the center though there's no grids to be found. Above that is image resolution (7 MP) and quality (Fine) followed by number of photos left in the Memory Stick PRO Duo. Under that is the ISO value and live histogram. Half-press the shutter button and more exposure info (shutter speed and aperture) are shown.
The Sony Cyber-shot T30 can take VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. This requires a Memory Stick PRO Duo card (but nowadays, who doesn't have one?). Just in case you have a normal Memory Stick Duo or want to record longer movies, you can record VGA movies at 16 FPS or 160 x 112 movies at 8 FPS!
Exposure is automatically adjusted and image stabilization can be turned on while recording, but the Sony T30 cannot constantly focus while recording a movie. There's good new though: you can optically zoom (slowly) while recording. Movies are recorded in MPEG1 format so a 512 MB card will take 6 minutes of movies.
The overall quality of both video and audio recorded in the T30's movies are good.
Flip down the lens cover and Sony Cyber-shot T30 starts up in just 1.2 seconds. Standard focusing takes about 1 second while low-light focusing may take slightly longer. Shot-to-shot speed was about 1 shot every 1.9 seconds. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery was 5 seconds.
In continuous shooting area, the T30 took only 6 photos at a slow 1.3 FPS. The lens takes 2 seconds to reach telephoto and the whole camera powers down instantly when turned off. Overall performance is not that bad but not fast enough.
And now the moment of truth - the image quality of the Sony Cyber-shot T30!
Over here, I don't see much signs of noise until ISO 400, do you? At ISO 400, there's a little noise. Following that is the ISO 800 but it has quite a bit of noise. There's a more in the ISO 1000 crop. Still, the ISO 1000 crop is fairly noisy but I could still get a 4 x 6 inch print out of that and an acceptable downsized monitor sized (1024 x 768) image out of that too! Something of note is that colors become less accurate starting from ISO 800.
Here's some results from my "more than the 7 colors of the rainbow" chart: Barrel and pincushion distortion are not noticeable. There is little chromatic aberration (color fringing) and the T30 had very slight problems differentiating the two purples. The image quality of the Sony Cyber-shot T30 is very good and deserves my acknowledgment.
There's more photos here in the Sony Cyber-shot T30 photo gallery.
In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot T30 can playback stills and movies (With sound). It can also protect images, DPOF & print marking, resize, trim, rotate and split/edit movies. You can also magnify still photos by 5x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.
There's plenty of information shown in playback, including a histogram, shutter speed and aperture used. In addition, the Sony Cyber-shot T30 has an enhanced slideshow feature (also found on the T9) with image-to-image transitions and slideshow music up to 3 minutes long per track.
While not the perfect ultra-compact camera, the Sony Cyber-shot T30 is fairly close. It has 7 megapixels packed with an internal 3x optical zoom lens and optical image stabilization - the lens is quite slow though.
What the Cyber-shot T30 lacks in looks (compared to the T9) it makes up with a lot more stuff. The Sony Cyber-shot T30 is a pretty competitive camera as well and it's bound to raise the bar of other ultra-compact cameras in order to be successful.
Despite the large 3 inch LCD which has good visibility and the strong flash when using high ISO values, the Sony Cyber-shot T30 has excellent battery life - the best among the small cameras with 3 inch LCD and third place in the overall ultra-compact class.
The Sony T30 has an excellent 1 cm macro mode but overall does not have any manual controls. And while its movie mode is excellent, there aren't any zoom or focus features while recording.
As for performance of the Cyber-shot T30, it's okay but not as fast as some of its even faster competitors (I'm thinking Panasonic FX01 when it comes to autofocusing and Canon SD630 when it comes to data processing). Image quality was very good, and definitely better than the T9's, (even for an ultra-thin camera) in all aspects except red-eye. Even noise was okay for small prints/crops at ISO 1000 and I think Sony could squeeze an ISO 1600 option out of there!
In case you haven't gotten the point yet, I like the Sony Cyber-shot T30 (very much!). While it's not the perfect ultra-compact, it is perfect for most shooting conditions. It's a great overall camera and I highly recommend it to those who want pocketable performance. Now, just toss in a faster lens, some manual controls, faster performance & buffer and better movie mode in the next T-series!
Here are some other cameras you might want to consider:
Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH - Essentially the SD600 with a larger 3 inch LCD but no optical viewfinder. It also features a "touch control dial".
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH - Larger than the SD600 but better battery life optical image stabilization, 4x optical zoom, slightly faster and more stylish.
Casio Exilim Z600 - The best battery life in its class, a ton of scene modes and excelent movie mode but still not good when it comes to low light shooting and fairly slow.
Fujifilm FinePix F650 - A large 3 inch LCD, 5x optical zoom and some manual controls but no high ISO shooting, worse battery life and not quite compact.
Fujifilm FinePix V10 - ISO till 1600, 3 inch LCD and compact but bad ergonomics, no manual controls and can be slow.
Fujifilm FinePix F30 - An excellent camera for low-light shooting (Low noise ISO 3200) along with a viewable LCD in low-light. Also has better battery life, full manual controls. The only issues here are slow continuous shooting and performance.
Kodak EasyShare V570 - A unique camera with two lenses which can take very wide-angled shots (great for indoor use) and excellent movie mode but terrible battery life and fairly slow. Image quality also leaves much to be desired.
Kodak EasyShare V610 - Another camera with two lenses which specializes in 10x zoom shots and excellent movie mode but no image stabilization, terrible battery life and fairly slow. Image quality also leaves much to be desired.
Nikon Coolpix S6 - 3 inch LCD, 6 megapixels, WiFi support but no image stabilization, manual controls and mediocre battery life.
Panasonic Lumix FX01 - Has a 28 mm wide-angle lens (not as wide as the Kodak though), comes with optical image stabilization, one of the best movie modes, good image quality and battery life. The downside is some soft photos and doesn't do that well at high ISO options.
Content ©2005 - 2006 Digital Photography Interface. All rights reserved.