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Sony Cybershot DSC-T500 8 to 10 Megapixel
Powerful still camera with HD video capture. 10.1 megapixel, 3.5" wide touch screen, HD video recording with stereo mic, 5X Optical Zoom, Face Detection.
Submitted by michaelob a Intermediate
Date Reviewed: November 15, 2008
Strengths: Stereo microphones, style and build quality.
Weaknesses: battery life, overall video quality, presets that reset (read above), poor manual, touch screen
I've had the DSC-T500 for about a month now. I bought it essentially for its video capabilities and it's ultra small size (compared to other small HD capable cameras). I will not be reviewing its picture taking quality as I use DSLR's for that.
Since the day i got it I have had a love/hate relationship with this camera. It fist started when I realized how lousy a touch screen really is. Even after recalibration, I still have to press 2-3 times on one button to get it to activate. Contrary to everybody, I'd much rather have a smaller screen and functional buttons that actually work all the time. It's a styling gimmick and I hope no other manufacturer will adopt it.
The second thing I noticed is that when changing some settings, some of them stay in memory even when you turn the power off while other settings that are just as useful have to be reset every time the camera is powered on/off. This is contrary to just about any other camera manufacturer out there and a major pain in the @$$& for me. I wrote to Sony about this and they said there was nothing they could do and that a firmware fix was not expected. "Sorry for the inconvenience".
The third thing I noticed and this is where it really hurts for me. The videos it takes are clear (almost free of compression artifacts or noise) but most (perhaps 80-90%) of the frames are soft/ out of focus. Of course when the camera and subject are perfectly still, the video quality is really outstanding but who shoots video of things that don't move ? Even slight movement throws the focus out of whack and makes the video look fuzzy. I suspect that is why Sony decided to incorporate a focus lock option button where the user can lock focus at different distances 1.0m, 3.0m, etc. Why then is the camera set at continuous focus by default ? II am still puzzled by this. I have a Fuji Z3 that focuses much better in video mode (about 50% of frames in sharp focus) with movements of the same amplitude. Of course the Fuji is not HD, it's VGA. Even so, some videos produced with the Sony seem to be sharper overall than others and after a month of use, I still don't know why. It's a hit or miss situation. I've tried steady shot and it doesn't help in this situation neither does setting the camera to high sensitivity/high ISO mode or macro mode.
I have seen other HD videos produced by this camera posted on the net and they are not better. Users seem to be satisfied with it even though videos are soft.
Finally the battery is very weak in video HD fine mode. It just doesn't last for more than about 10-15 minutes of shooting. A second battery is a must and they are expensive. Maybe that's why the videos are capped at 10 minutes.
I'm trying hard to love this camera but as it is now, I think it is an unfinished product. It might please the casual shooter who absolutely wants something with the name Sony on it and has nothing to compare the results with but it will not completely satisfy the serious amateur. Unfortunately as of now, it is the only ultra compact non extending lens with HD video on the market so let's hope other manufacturers put out something better than this. Fuji are you looking at this ? Perhaps on the next reincarnation of the Z series ?
The only pluses I see so far are the stereo microphones which work very well (if only the video quality was on par). Also the camera looks great. It has a certain heft to it and seems very well built. Like I mentioned earlier, I can't comment on the picture quality as I have not tested it yet. If you are more interested in pictures than video, skip this one and buy the T700. It has a better screen and the BIONZ processor which the T500 lacks.
I'm not trying to bash Sony. I've had a few of their prosumer digital cameras in the past and was very satisfied with the image quality. Truth is I had high expectations on this one and i'm mostly disappointed for all the reasons enumerated here.
One last thing: The user manual is one of the worst I have ever seen. It's just a quick start guide. If you want to read the whole thing you will have to read it on your computer screen since the full manual is on CD and even at that, it's not very good. Some of the functions are very poorly described as to what they actually do. I'm used to much better from Sony.
Duration Product Used: 2-5 years
Price Paid: $399.00
Purchased At: Sonystyle
Similar Products Used: Fuji Z3, Fuji F30, Sony DSC-505V, Sony DSC-F717
Type of photography: Outdoor
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