My old digital camera is the Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Elph, and it has served me well over the years. Back in 2000 or so when I bought it, it was one of the better digital cameras you could get for the size and price. But by today’s standards, it’s a little bulky and at 2MP, low resolution.
Although I have a Canon Rebel XTi for more serious shooting, it’s too big to carry around. Even lugging around my PowerShot at the World Series last week made me want to upgrade to something new.
With perfect timing, I got a good deal on a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 (MSRP $300) which is a whopping 8.1MP and packed with features, as well as a good deal from Best Buy for a SanDisk 4GB Memory Stick Pro Duo for $69.99.
The most obvious difference is the Sony is sexier, thinner, the LCD display is larger and it doesn’t have a viewfinder. I liked the viewfinder on the Canon when I was taking a shot in total darkness because the LCD would show just black. However, the Sony has a red (IR?) light that comes on automatically to let you see where things are on the LCD even when it’s pitch dark. Nice touch.
Some of the cool features of the Sony are high-res (640 x 480 at 30 fps) MPEG movies, HDTV aspect ratio stills, on screen real-time histogram, super steadyshot, face detection, macro close-up mode, and automatic red eye reduction. For some reason, the MPEG video plays properly with the Quicktime Player but not with Windows Media Player. Weird.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Sony is that it makes sounds. To take pictures, you slide the front open to reveal the tiny lens and flash. It boots quickly and is ready in about 1.5 seconds, which is nice when you want to take those action pictures.
You can create folders on your memory stick with the camera to separate family friendly vacation pictures from your pr0n pictures with your friend with benefits. It also makes it easier to copy an entire event to your computer later via the included USB cable, which makes the camera look like a hard drive.
Upon taking some test pictures, I noticed the tiny flash is amazingly bright for such a small camera. There’s a lot of smart code running on the camera (e.g. face detection) which will make sure the correct areas are properly focused and exposed. For example, if you take a picture of a bright object, it doesn’t cause the rest of the picture to look black. So much is going on behind the scenes to make your pictures look great automatically.
Something that my more expensive XTi has, which the Sony also has, is burst mode, where you can take multiple pictures while you hold down the shutter button. Another feature is automatic exposure bracketing, where it will take 3 pictures (under exposed, normal, and over-exposed) with just one push of the button. I use this feature on my XTi a lot.
After you have taken the pictures, there are several nice touches they’ve put into this little Sony. You can select multiple photos for deletion. You really need this if you’re using the burst mode. Also, like the more expensive Xti, you can zoom into the stored photo to make sure the focus is good. There’s also a bunch of in camera manipulation (soft focus, fisheye, crop, starburst, red-eye elimination) that you’d normally would do on your computer. But for people who want to print directly from their camera, those are nice features.
If you really want to bore your friends and neighbors, the Sony has an overkill feature. Connect your camera to your TV with the provided cable and watch a feature rich slide show with special effects and even background music. It looks a lot like those super busy myspace pages with slide shows.
In theory, the display is large enough and the speaker is loud enough for you to watch videos on it. But I don’t think too many people are going to be using it for that purpose. But in a pinch, you could show a video on a TV this way. It’s a lot easier than carrying around a DVD player for presentations I guess.
Overall, I’m very happy with my new Sony. I like that it’s easy to use but so much is going on behind the scenes to produce some great looking pictures. It doesn’t hurt that it looks cool and sexy too.