My first priority with Sony’s recently-released Cybershot T200 compact digital camera was testing the much vaunted smile shutter function. The vendor says its algorithm detects smiles and automatically takes a picture of the happy subject. It sounded perfect for those times at Christmas when you actually manage to get someone a present they like. True to Sony’s word, the function worked.
Beyond the gimmicks, the T200 is also good-looking and easy to use.
The smile shutter is one of the T200’s range of recording modes that are handy for those who don’t want to make too many manual adjustments. Along with the smile shutter, modes comprise high-sensitivity ISO, soft background, twilight portrait, twilight, landscape, high speed shutter (for fast-moving subjects), waterside (for rich, blue colours of sea in the background), snow and even a setting for shooting fireworks (so just as well they were not banned here).
The first impression is of stylish design – it’s an update of the series predecessor the T100 and looks almost the same with its full metal body – and comes in black, red or silver. The three-and-a-half-inch touchscreen takes up most of the rear surface, while a cover slides up neatly to protect the lens (also acting as an on/off switch).
There’s no viewfinder and only three buttons on top, and each – especially the zoom button – feels too small. However, the touch screen interface makes the camera easy to use. The selected modes and functions (complete with helpful descriptions) are displayed as icons around the edge of the screen. These are then altered by touching the required icon.
The touch screen also lets you drag the focus point to anywhere in the frame and zoom in during playback.
Like its predecessor and its little sibling the T70, the T200 has a slimline form factor – it’s 20mm thick and weighs just under 190 grams with the battery in.
This 8.1 megapixel camera has a Carl Zeiss 35mm zoom lens, with better than standard five-times optical zoom and up to 10-times digital zoom (up to 25-times at 640 x 480 pixel resolution).
Other notable features are the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio of the LCD screen, and the ability to display pictures on high definition TV using the optional cable or a cradle.
The camera’s shutter speed was fine – and it wasn’t significantly slowed when the flash was on. The flash also worked well in all modes, without overexposing the image.
The lack of custom white balance was a drawback, although the auto white balance worked well, with options for daylight, cloud, fluorescent and incandescent lighting, and flash.
ISO ratings range from auto to 3200, and although image quality was good at 400, noise was evident at 1600 and worse by 3200.
There’s an extensive range of still image sizes, ranging from VGA (640 x 480 pixels) to the default size setting (3264 x 2448 pixels) and the HDTV aspect ratio.
Movie options are VGA at 30 frames per second, QVGA (16.6 fps) and QQVGA (8.3fps) for email attachments.
When taking a still picture, the shortest shooting distance is 500mm (in wide zoom) or 800mm (tele), when not in macro mode. Macro mode lets you get as close as 80mm from your subject in wide and the magnifying glass focus feature shortens this to 10mm.
The T200 also has a built-in slide show function, with options to add music by downloading tracks via your PC or using music pre-sets, and a choice of four visual effects to add to your pictures (simple, nostalgic, active and stylish), and a range of transitions.
You can also add some cool retouching effects in image playback, such as blurring out backgrounds, fish-eye and starburst, radial blurring and dimming.
Then there are different frames to add, or you can paint on the image and add stamps of everything from a snowflake to pawprints and a soccer ball.
With only 31MB of onboard memory, a Memory Stick Pro Duo is essential. Sony bundles its Cybershot Viewer software, and it connects to a PC through USB or Pictbridge.
At the time of writing, the T200 was available online from Sony for $549.95.