I'm a miserable old git.
I'm ashamed to say it's been a **** very **** long time since I reviewed my "trusts", have sought to rectify this by going through every review I've written in the past couple of years, if you feel hard-done-by, drop me a note.
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'She who must be obeyed' dropped her 35mm 'compact' camera on a night out, having decided it really wasn't worth fixing, we started looking for a replacement digital camera.
I've always been a devotee of Olympus kit, since the days of the legendary OM1 (reviewed previously) and whilst I'm extremely happy with my C-8080WZ (also reviewed previously) it is, to be fair, a bit chunky, and bristling with buttons.
The boss holds true to the principle of 'less is more' and the Sony DSC-T50 meets that criterion admirably.
The T50 is currently the top of the range 'Cyber-shot' camera from Sony.
It shares the same basic format - a thin oblong block, with a sliding cover over a rather small objective lens.
Unlike a lot of 'compacts' it doesn't rely on a motorised 'snout' which pushes the lens forward on power-up, instead it has ingenious static 'periscope' mirror which allows the light path to take a right angled turn once it enters the camera body.
The main benefit of this is that there are no moving parts, and it means the camera can be ready for action in a fraction of a second - it's also one less thing to break!
From the front, the camera is virtually indistinguishable from most other Cyber-shot models, however from the back; it's a completely different story.
Instead of a plethora of buttons competing for space with a small LCD screen, there's just one great big touch sensitive viewer.
Ordinarily, you slide open the lens window, this powers the camera up, then simply point and shoot with the 7.2 megapixel sensor.
Under around 90% of occasions, that's perfectly adequate.
The camera seems to have an alloy body, which means it feels reassuringly solid, although at 130g shouldn't pose a problem for anyone.
The default settings allow auto-focus, auto flash etc - you hold the camera at arms length (no optical viewfinder to peer through) and press the button when your subject is in frame.
It's when you start using the onscreen menus that you realise this is a seriously capable piece of kit.
Image quality is exceptional - especially considering the diminutive size of the lens. The built-in flash is possibly a little too close to the objective (even in 'red eye mode'- meaning that red-eye can be a problem, although the instructions suggest moving closer to the subject (surprisingly enough - this actually works!)
There's a plethora of program modes; portrait, sport, landscape, and one I hadn't come across before; 'fireworks' - the 'steady camera' feature works very well, except don't expect that much from a moving subject!
It's even got a 'video' mode - which is significantly better than most mobile phones, but not up to proper 'camcorder' standards.
The camera uses one of Sony's 'short' memory sticks - don't expect it to work then with older kit (my PC, a VGC-V2S - previously reviewed, etc) without an adapter, although I was able to pick up a 1Gb card on Ebay for around twenty five quid.
The battery provides three or four hours usage - less I you use flash a lot. Sony will sell you an spare one for around £50, you can get a third party one on eBay for significantly less than a tenner!
In producing a small camera, compromises have to be made, or putting it another way, corners have to be cut.
Batteries have to be charged 'off camera' - the supplied charger comes with a 13A/ 'figure of 8' power connector but if you wanted to use the unit abroad, it copes with supplies from 110V through to 250V.
Something it doesn't have is an 'external power' jack, so if your battery goes down, you're goosed.
The other niggle I have is the proprietary USB connector - this doubles up as the video and data connector - it all saves space, but if you break / loose the cable, you're stuffed.
Saying that- it's got a rather fancy 'slide show' function which goes through the photos, applies various wipe and fade effects as well as playing music in the background! This can be played back through a normal TV system.
The icing on the cake for this particular model makes use of the touch screen facility to allow you to edit your pictures without the need for a PC- personally I'd always prefer to take 'standard' pictures and edit them on a computer, but it means you can use a 'Pict-bridge' printer and produce pretty respectable results in the field without having to lug your laptop around with you (I used it with my PCT-P30s - also reviewed, without any problems)
Were I to offer one criticism of image quality, that would be that the flash can be a little strong. Given the relatively short focal length, the depth of field can be fairly big. The result is that in a dusty environment, particles can be lit up, and produce random halos on your image - we checked the lens for contamination but it seems to be an atmospheric phenomenon. It's easy enough to avoid this, but something worth noting.
In all, an amazing range of features in a format smaller than a packet of fags.
To give you an idea of the quality of image, I photographed an A4 typewritten document, and running it through an Optical Character Reader program on my PC, was able to convert the image to text with a degree of accuracy which was easily the equal of my flatbed scanner.
The RRP of this model is £349 - careful shopping managed to find a street-price nearer £246.99 on Amazon, and I managed to claim back £7 by selling it to myself as an 'Amazon Associate' (work the system!)
Amusingly, Sony Pictures in their recently released James Bond film 'Café Royal' did a bit of blatant 'product placement' by featuring the eponymous Mr B using the exact selfsame camera - now if that isn't cool, I don't know what is!
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