If you’ve read my Casio Exilim S3 digital camera review then you’ll know how much I really enjoyed the small slim factor and the amazingly large screen. I’m pretty sure that it caught on with lots of customers too because I’ve seen quite a number on the streets. Well, it must have been popular enough because it looks as if it caught the attention of Sony engineers. So to my surprise and joy, Sony has put out its own version of this same digital camera.
I initially fought off the urge to go and get the T1 when I first read about it. The main disturbing factor was its use of a new memory format, the Memory Stick Duo. That means buying more memory cards all over again. So I resisted at its initial launch. And it sold out really quickly. Finally, I managed to get my hands on a floor model so I could just see what it looked like. Wow! I just couldn’t put it down. I had to wait a few days more but I just couldn’t resist and finally bought one.
The T1 follows the same mini design and shape as the Casio Exilim series. Except this model does a good job of improving on an already good design. Instead of a 1.5″ screen, the T1 has a 2.5″ screen; instead of a 3 mega-pixel camera, the T1 is a 5 mega-pixel. And the list goes on. It has 3x optical zoom with a stunning Carl Zeiss Lens versus the static lens in the Exilim.
The similarities are there too. The T1 like the Exilim has a docking station which you place the T1 on to charge and to hook up to a computer if you want to download pictures that way. Of course, my Vaio has the memory stick slot so with a MS adapter, I can simply slot in the MS Duo card into my computer.
One other thing that Sony did which I was very grateful about was the ability to plug the end of the charger directly into the camera. The Exilim in contrast was designed so you could only charge the camera in the cradle. But when traveling, it’s a pain to bring around a cradle. Instead, the Sony allows you to bypass the cradle and plug the charger unit directly into the bottom of the T1.
The T1 has a more matte metallic finish than the Casio. It’s a little duller in color but this actually works to its advantage as it’s less conspicuous. The camera is actually very well designed (Sony has also launched a black version of this camera). The lens sits carefully behind a sliding cover that not only protects the lens but also turns the camera on and off (there is also another manual on/off button) as you slide the cover up and down.
Navigating the menus is a breeze thanks to the simple menus and the very nice buttons on the back. It’s easy to go through different photos and functions.
The T1 is of course bigger and heavier than the S3, but it’s not very large. Given the screen and capability, you’ll think this is an amazingly small wonder. And it is. The T1 is similar in size to a cassette tape. You can only marvel at this amazing package.
First and foremost, this screen is amazing. You think 1.5″ makes a difference. Forget about it! 2.5″ – now that’s a screen. I don’t know how to describe it but it makes a huge amount of difference. Digital photography changes. You have amazing levels of clarity and detail. You can see where shadows shouldn’t be, how flash or colors interfere, red-eye, etc. It’s fantastic. Also, now you can really share your photos with your friend. That’s definitely a big factor.
Well, how are the pictures? Brilliant – just brilliant. 5 Megapixels says it all. But in truth, it’s the total package. The Carl Zeiss lens doesn’t hurt either. While we are on the subject of the lens, what makes it pretty impressive is that it’s a 3x optical zoom. Having said that, the zoom is internal which is a really nice design feature because the lens does not stick out when you zoom.
I have read a number of critical comments about the “quality” of the images. Well let me tell you, from a user’s standpoint, the T1 is fantastic. Sure, you get some blurred images, off color images, red-eye, etc. with this camera, but it’s not more so than other digital camera. A lot of this has to do with the photographer, and take it from someone that has owned a lot of cameras, the T1 is as easy to take good pictures as it is bad ones. If you are going to take quick photos which might have camera shake or something, it’s hard for many cameras to take good photos. Having said that, I have some really nice images from the T1.
In addition, I recently had an outdoor event which I used the T1 and also my Nikon D100 digital camera. The Nikon D100 is a massive pro-digital camera. The reason I bring this up here is that the D100 made some weird camera adjustments this one day and all the pictures came out white-washed. In contrast the T1 performed beautifully and it sort of saved the day. So I’m biased towards the T1 because it worked well for me. For a point-and-shoot, the T1 takes brilliant pictures and is a great complete package. The flash is powerful enough for night photos but is not overwhelming. I always thought the little S3 had a flash which was a bit too powerful and overwhelmed photos particularly portrait shots.
The T1 also takes video clips which are only limited to the memory space available on the memory card (unlike other digital cameras that sometimes impose time restrictions). This actually is a very handy feature and is something that I now use. If this is a feature you are looking for, then the T1 is a good choice. Video clips are clear and the sound is crisp. It won’t replace a camcorder, but it will work well for fun moments.
The battery meter shows a time scale on the screen so you know just how much battery you have left. That’s a very Sony trademark design which I really like. Battery life is actually really good and I took enough photos to fill up a 256MB card and still had about 30 minutes of picture-taking time left (about half the battery meter). Considering such a large LCD screen, battery life is superb.
The downside of all this is of course Sony’s reliance on its own memory card format. In this case the Memory Stick. That wouldn’t be so bad except its actually another new format – the Memory Stick Duo. The MS Duo is a smaller version of the MS about half the size of the normal Memory Stick and usually requires you to use the adapter to fit into any MS slots (like on my Vaio). It also costs more relative to other formats like SD.
I hate the fact that I keep needing to change memory cards to different formats when I switch to different gadgets. My house is littered with SmartMedia, Memory Stick, MS Duo, SD, and Compact Flash cards. Not to mention that it’s pretty costly to do so. You have to add the cost of MS Duo cards to the overall cost of the T1 when thinking about this camera. That said, both my mobile phones now use the MS Duo so I’ve accumulated quite a number of cards. Oh well, such is the life of a gadget freak.
The T1 is an amazing little camera. Not only is it small enough to fit in your pocket, but it’s an extremely powerful, high resolution camera with, importantly, what is the largest, best screen available for a digital camera. Of course, you’re not going to get as good a quality as larger 5MP cameras, but for the balance this is a great choice. The price is also very attractive for the camera. But Sony has other hidden costs. For example, a case is extra, as is the memory card. It is the MS Duo that probably makes the T1 lose some of its appeal. After accumulating so many Memory Sticks (not to mention SD, CF, and SmartMedia) – Sony decides that they should introduce another new format. Ok, the MS Duo is pretty neat because it’s so small, but it made the camera cost an additional 20%! So with that in mind, while I love my T1, it’s probably a digital camera you would choose only if you had MONEY TO BURN. That or if you didn’t already own another camera using one of the other memory card formats.