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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 Gordon Laing, November 2008
   
 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 verdict


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 is a slim, stylish compact that will greatly appeal to gadget addicts with its touch-screen and smile detection. It’s comfortably slimmer than any of the other compacts we’ve tested recently, and when out taking photos with a variety of models, the Sony was invariably the one which got the most attention.

The touch-screen may mostly be a novelty, but Sony’s found some neat and useful functions for it, including tapping at a face you’d like to prioritise in face detection mode, tapping to magnify areas of an image, or dragging a magnified view with your finger.

The smile detection first seen on the T70 may no longer be exclusive to Sony models, but the T77 sensibly now adds a scale to indicate the current degree of cheeriness, and crucially the threshold at which it will take the photo. This will undoubtedly be of great relief to both the subject and photographer who could previously wonder just how far they were from triggering the camera. And for those who refuse to smile, one of the many digital filters in the T77 will curl up the edges of their lips into a surprisingly convincing grin. Resistance is futile.






Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77


The new scene detection also worked well in practice, recognising landscapes, portraits and macro subjects, intelligently switching the camera into the most appropriate mode.

So there’s no doubt the T77 is stylish and can be fun to use, but both aspects come with their downsides. The slim body with little on the front or back to grip can become quite hard to hold steadily or comfortably, compared with more traditionally-shaped models. Like other models which house their lenses in the corner of the body, you also have to be careful for stray fingers getting in the way.

 
 
 
The touch-screen may be fun at times, but at others it can prove infuriating, forcing you to tap multiple times to confirm an option – and that’s a best-case scenario when every tap is recognised. Different ergonomics should enhance or at least match traditional controls and user interfaces, but there’s many times when the T77’s touch-screen slowed us down and was unnecessarily laborious. It sometimes got in the way of photo opportunities, which is unforgiveable for a camera. Of course this is very much a personal thing and you may find the touch-screen quick, easy and intuitive to use. But we found it infuriating more times than not. Ergonomically, the tiny joystick is further insult over injury.

Technically speaking, while the T77 resolved similar amounts of detail and showed roughly the same noise levels to other 10 Megapixel compacts, its images often looked less natural – almost electronic in appearance – while the stabilisation proved slightly less effective than many.

So before our final verdict, how does the T77 compare to rival compacts?


Compared to Canon IXUS 870IS / PowerShot SD 880IS ELPH

 
Canon IXUS 870IS / PowerShot SD 880IS ELPH
 
 
For roughly the same money as the Cyber-shot T77 you could buy Canon’s IXUS 870IS / PowerShot SD 880IS ELPH. Both cameras share the same 10 Megapixel resolution, and from our results pages resolve similar amounts of detail with roughly the same noise levels too, although Canon’s noise reduction isn’t quite as heavy-handed as Sony’s.

Both also share a 4x optical range, although the Canon’s starts wider at 28mm, which is more useful to most than the T77’s longer end of 140mm. The screen on the 870IS / SD 880IS may also be 3in, but matching the native shape of its images, they look bigger in composition and playback – the screen also looks more vibrant in use. Canon’s user interface and general handling also feels much quicker than the T77, and its image quality looks more natural.

Of course the T77 is much slimmer and sports a touch-screen interface along with smile-detection and auto scene-detection, and if those appeal to you more than the Canon’s benefits, then it’s worth considering. But for most, the 870IS / SD 880IS represents a better bet overall. See our Canon IXUS 870IS / SD 880IS review for more details.

Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

 
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35
 
 

Again for roughly the same money as the T77, you could alternatively buy Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FX35. Like the Canon above, both models share 10 Megapixel resolution with roughly the same real-life detail recorded, along with similar noise levels, although Panasonic’s noise reduction is much more hands-off than Sony’s.

Both also share a 4x optical zoom range, although the Panasonic’s is much wider, starting at 25mm. This is wider even than the Canon above, and allows the FX35 to squeeze-in even bigger subjects or group shots, which is great when you can’t step back any further. And again while the T77’s maximum focal length of 140mm is comfortably longer than the 100mm of the FX35, most will find the wider end more useful in practice.

The FX35’s screen is physically smaller at 2.5in, but since this is filled by images in composition and playback, their actual size is roughly the same as the T77 in its 4:3 mode. We also preferred the FX35’s user interface to the Sony and like the Canon above, found the overall image quality more natural. The FX35 additionally sports HD movies in the 720p format and quicker continuous shooting.

Again in its favour, the T77 has the touch-screen, smile-shutter gadgetry and slimmer dimensions – although at 22mm thick and 52mm tall, the FX35 is hardly a large compact. So once again if the T77’s style and gadgets appeal, then it’s worth considering, but again most will find a more traditional model like the FX35 a more sensible overall bet. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 review for more details, or if you’d prefer to spend a little extra for a version with a longer 5x zoom and AF tracking, check out the latest prices on the new Lumix FX37 (USA) / Lumix FX37 (UK).

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77 final verdict

As we said at the start, there’s no denying the Cyber-shot T77 is a slim, stylish and gadget-packed compact camera. Its touch-screen means it’s almost bereft of buttons or switches, the smile-shutter really can recognise cheery faces and wait for them before taking a photo, and at only 15mm thick with a smart sliding front cover, it’ll slip discretely into most pockets, while drawing admiring glances when in use.

But you may find the touch-screen gets in the way of your photo taking, and the slim body hard to hold. While the sensor and lens resolves similar detail to rivals, it’s lacking true wide angle coverage, and has less effective stabilisation; we also found some of the images had an unnatural, electronic appearance to them.

Ultimately, much of the Cyber-shot T77’s appeal comes down to its slim dimensions and touchscreen. Some will fall in love at first sight (and tap), while others will find it hard to hold and often infuriating to operate. If you fall into the former camp, it’s worth considering, but most will be better-served by the superior quality, coverage, stabilisation and ergonomics of the rivals listed above.

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Good points

Slim body with non-extending lens.
3in touch-screen monitor.
Smile Shutter mode really works.
Optional cable for HDTV slideshows.

Bad points
Lacking true wide angle coverage.
Touch-screen often slow to use.
Slim body can be uncomfortable to hold.
Stabilisation less effective than rivals.




Scores

(relative to 2008 compacts)
 

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

18 / 20
15 / 20
10 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20

77%

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