DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot T30 Review
Brad Soo - May 1st, 2006 (Updated May 6th, 2006)

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:

 

Sony T9

Sony T30

Original retail/
current price*

$449/$369

$499/$499

Resolution

6.0 megapixels

7.1 megapixels

CCD sensor size

1/2.5 inch

1/2.5 inch

Lens specifications

3X optical - 38-114 mm/f3.5 - f4.3

LCD size

2.5 inch
(230k pixels)

3.0 inch
(230k pixels)

Brighten LCD func

No

Yes

Internal memory

58 MB internal memory

Color modes

No

Yes

Function guide

No

No

Max flash range

2.8 m

3.4 m

ISO range

80 - 640

80 - 1000

Scene modes

9

8

High sensitivity mode

No

Yes

Battery type

NP-FT1 InfoLithium

NP-FR1 InfoLithium

Battery life

240 shots

420 shots

Smart Zoom

13X

14X

Body color

Silver, black

Silver, black

Dimensions (mm)

89.7 x 54.9 x 20.6

95.0 x 56.5 x 23.3

Weight (g)

134 g

139 g

*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
Digital ELPH

Fujifilm FinePix
F650

HP Photosmart
R927

Nikon Coolpix
S6

Sony Cyber-shot
T30

Original retail/
current price*

$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
(173k pixels)

3 inch
(230k pixels)

3 inch
(230k pixels)

3 inch
(230k pixels)

3 inch
(230k pixels)

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

*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)
(173.3)  90.4 x 56.5 x 26.4 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
(166.0)  88.5 x 57.0 x 20.5 mm (112 g) - Casio Exilim Z600
(196.1)  104.7 x 60.6 x 30.8 mm (170 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F650 (3 inch LCD)
(169.8)  83.0 x 63.5 x 23.3 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix V10 (3 inch LCD)
(163.6)  90.0 x 55.0 x 18.6 mm (130 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z2
(177.0)  93.0 x 61.0 x 23.0 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R727
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (170 g) - HP Photosmart R927 (3 inch LCD)
(171.2)  101.0 x 49.8 x 20.4 mm (125 g) - Kodak EasyShare V570
(189.7)  111.0 x 55.5 x 23.2 mm (160 g) - Kodak EasyShare V610
(181.5)  100.5 x 60.0 x 21 mm (140 g) - Nikon Coolpix S6 (3 inch LCD)
(178.5)  97.5 x 56.5 x 24.5 mm (140 g) - Olympus SP700 (3 inch LCD)
(171.1)  94.8 x 55.9 x 20.4 mm (103 g) - Olympus Stylus 710
(170.2)  94.0 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX01
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A10
(174.0)  95.0 x 59.0 x 20.0 mm (135 g) - Pentax Optio T10 (3 inch LCD)
(175.3)  96.5 x 61.0 x 17.8 mm (130 g) - Samsung Digimax i6
(165.2)  89.7 x 54.9 x 20.6 mm (134 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T9
(174.8)  95.0 x 56.5 x 23.3 mm (139 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T30 (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:

  • Rechargeable NP-FR1 InfoLithium lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V + DC-IN multi-connector cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

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)
240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
500 shots - Casio Exilim Z600
150 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F650 (3 inch LCD)
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix V10 (3 inch LCD)
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z2
N/A - HP Photosmart R727
200 shots - HP Photosmart R927 (3 inch LCD)
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V570
135 shots - Kodak EasyShare V610
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix S6 (3 inch LCD)
N/A shots - Olympus SP700 (3 inch LCD)
180 shots - Olympus Stylus 710
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX01
N/A - Pentax Optio T10 (3 inch LCD)
150 shots - Pentax Optio A10
N/A - Samsung Digimax i6
240 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T9
420 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T30 (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.

 

Extras

The Sony Cyber-shot T30's only accessory is an underwater case which let's you bring the camera diving, swimming, etc.

Camera Tour

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:

  • Up - Flash setting (Auto, on, off, slow-sync - redeye reduction is turned on/off in the menu)
  • Down - Self-timer (Off, 10 seconds, 2 seconds)
  • Left - Quick review (View the last photo taken)
  • Right - Focus (Normal, macro, magnifying glass)
  • Center - Confirm setting

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.

Shooting

 sony-t30-screen2

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:

  • Sub-shooting mode (Auto, program, high sensitivity, twilight, twilight portrait, landscape, beach, snow, fireworks, soft snap) - The T30 is lacking the "candle" scene mode found on the T9
  • Color modes (Normal, rich, natural, sepia, monochrome)
  • Exposure compensation (2 in 1/3 increments)
  • Focus (Multi, center, spot, preset manual focus)
  • Metering method (Multi, center, spot)
  • 5 white balance presets; daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent, flash (no custom option)
  • ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000)
  • Photo quality (Fine, Standard
  • Record mode (Single-shot, burst, exposure bracketing, multi-burst)
  • Bracketing (exposures 3 shots in 0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 increments)
  • Multi-burst interval (1/7.5, 1/15 or 1/30 sec)
  • Flash intensity (High, normal, low)
  • Contrast, saturation and sharpness
  • Red-eye reduction (On/off)
  • Optical image stabilization (Shooting, continuous)

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)

Display

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.

Recording

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.

Performance

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.

Image Quality

And now the moment of truth - the image quality of the Sony Cyber-shot T30!


ISO 80 (f3.5, 1/5 sec)


ISO 100 (f3.5, 1/8 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/15 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/30 sec)


ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/60 sec)


ISO 1000 (f3.5, 1/80 sec)

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.

Photo gallery

There's more photos here in the Sony Cyber-shot T30 photo gallery.

Playback

 

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.

 

Conclusion

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!

What's hot:

  • 3x internal lens with optical image stabilization
  • Strong flash when using high ISO
  • Excellent battery life
  • Large high-resolution 3 inch LCD which is both sharp and visible outdoors/indoors
  • 1 cm magnifying glass mode; now available at a touch of a button!
  • Great high ISO performance (Even ISO 1000 shots are acceptable)
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Very good image quality (considering this is an ultra-thin camera)

What's not:

  • Looks ugly in front (in my opinion); lacks any textured grip and clear plastic layer covering the entire camera back can be slippery
  • Slow lens
  • No manual controls
  • Slow and limited continuous shooting
  • Lacking extremely fast performance that some competition have (ie Panasonic)
  • ISO performance is good, so why not have an ISO 1600 option?
  • No focus when recording movies

Recommended Accessories

  • 512 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo card

Other Cameras

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.

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