With HD video and stereo sound, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 compact thinks it’s a camcorder
Its specification is impressive, with a 10.1-megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor, a 5x zoom Carl Zeiss lens (33-165mm equiv.) and a big 3.5in widescreen touch-sensitive monitor. The body is all metal and the build quality is superb, as one should expect in this price bracket. The T500 is available in silver, red or gloss black. At 21.4mm thick it is one of the slimmest cameras on the market, and at 180g including card and battery it’s also exceptionally light.
The T500’s main feature is its high-definition 1280 x 720 pixel video mode, with 30fps frame rate, full optical zoom, image stabilisation and stereo audio from twin microphones located just below the flash on the front of the camera. Video and audio quality are excellent, although the playback speaker on the camera is very weak. A 2GB Memory Stick Duo card provides almost 25 minutes of shooting time, and clip length is not limited.
The overall design is sleek and stylish, and despite its slim profile it handles well, with a small rubberised finger grip on the front and the strap lug on the back doubling as a thumb grip. The only handling problem is the mode switch between still and video mode, which is very easy to switch accidentally, especially when pulling the camera out of a pocket.
Touch-screen interfaces on cameras do not always work well, but the one on the T500 is exceptionally good. The buttons are large and responsive, with the most commonly used options located conveniently around the screen when shooting. Touchscreen-operated features include focus point selection and re-sizing in playback mode.
The screen itself is bright with good contrast and sharpness, wide angle of view, a fast refresh rate and an effective anti-glare finish, making it easy to see even in bright daylight.
The T500 has the same fast nine-point autofocus system as the T700. The AF works well in low light, with a good focus assist lamp for really dark conditions. The T500 also has Sony’s Optical Steady Shot image stabilisation, but still suffered from camera-shake blurring on some shots taken at shutter speeds as high as 1/40th of a second.
The built-in flash is somewhat underpowered, and falls short of its claimed 3.5m maximum range and failing to fill the corners of the frame in wide angle shots. It is also prone to red-eye, although this can be corrected later in playback mode.
In terms of image quality, the T500 generally performs very well. The lens lives up to its brand name with excellent sharpness, though it does suffer from both barrel distortion at wideangle and pincushion distortion at telephoto.
Thanks to the larger photocells of the Super HAD sensor, dynamic range is better than most 10MP compacts, and overall exposure and colour reproduction are also very good; however the camera does have a problem with image noise above ISO 400.
The Sony T500 is a stylish and well-made luxury ultra-compact with some nice features, including 5x optical zoom, HD video with stereo sound and a talking-point touch-screen interface. Image quality is generally good, but it does have some high-ISO noise problems.