There is, unfortunately, a downside to all that cool style. It’s difficult to make a camera that both looks good and handles well, and in this case style has won out over handling. There are a number of problems, and the first of them is that huge monitor. As I mentioned, it covers virtually the whole of the back of the camera, leaving only a 5mm-wide strip down the right-hand edge to act as a thumbgrip. Combined with the style-over-practicality positioning of the zoom and shutter controls this makes the camera very awkward to hold. There’s simply no easy way to grip it without your thumb obscuring part of the monitor view, and that brushed-finish front panel is very slippery. Fortunately the touch-screen controls are sensibly positioned so that you don’t accidentally operate them while trying to take a shot, but it’s still not the most ergonomic of designs.
The touch-screen itself is certainly one of the better examples of the breed. The screen is large enough that even my oversize paws had no difficulty operating the controls, and the interface is well designed for fast and easy operation, while still looking slick and stylish. However the text on the screen, both in the menus and on the main display, seems to be designed for a different native resolution, and is very poorly anti-aliased. Letters have jagged edges and look slightly blurred, which can make them a bit hard to read. Considering how much effort has been expended to make the T700 look as good as possible this seems like an uncharacteristic oversight.
Like most Sony cameras the T700 is loaded to the gunwales with clever technology. It features Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation, an enhanced face detection with automatic child and adult optimisation, and Sony’s Smile Shutter mode, in which the camera will wait until your subject is smiling before taking the picture. All of these systems appear to work as advertised, although as usual they do have their limits. Face detection works most of the time, but is baffled by hats, beards, sunglasses, poor lighting and people who aren’t looking straight at the camera. Smile detection also works, but it is so unreliable that you’re unlikely to use it in most social situations. The optical IS system is very good however, providing pin-sharp shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/10th of a second.
The T700 has one unusual selling point, which is its 4GB of internal memory, enough for just under a thousand shots at maximum image quality. Considering the relatively high price of Sony’s Memory Stick cards this is a welcome feature, and means that you can comfortably use the camera without ever having to buy a memory card. You can download your pictures by connecting the camera to a PC either using the supplied cables or via the optional CSS-HD2 docking station.
The T700 has some fun features in playback mode too, including touch-screen controlled image editing and special effects options, such as a fish-eye lens effect, radial blur, starburst filter, and even an appallingly creepy option to adjust people’s faces to make it look like they’re smiling. You can also paint directly onto the image, using either an adjustable-size brush or pre-set stamp tools, although this feature is best used with some sort of stylus. Other playback features include automatic red-eye removal, frame composites and of course a slideshow.