Other than these unusual features, the T70 is strictly point-and-shoot. The menu options include three basic shooting modes; either full auto, in which only image size, flash mode, self timer, or macro focusing can be selected; a program auto mode which includes adjustment options for metering mode, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation and flash level; and scene mode, with ten scene programs including a high-ISO mode and the usual selection of landscape, sports, night portrait, beach scenes, snow scenes and fireworks. The movie mode is the now standard 640 x 480 at 30fps with mono sound, which is perhaps a little odd considering the wide-screen monitor and the fact that the T70 can be connected to a HD TV via an optional docking cradle and composite video cable cable.
The T70’s general performance is very good. The autofocus system is excellent, focusing quickly and accurately in all light conditions, with the best low-light and no-light performance I’ve seen in a while. The camera starts up in well under two seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot cycle time of approximately 1.6 seconds, which is very respectable. In continuous shooting mode it is even more impressive, shooting at two frames per second until the card is full or the battery runs out. Unfortunately it is likely to be the latter, because the T70 suffers from exactly the same problem as the Fuji Z100fd; it has a lot of complex electronics drawing power from a very small battery, in this case a relatively puny 660mAh Li-ion rechargeable. Bearing in mind that my review camera was not new, and the battery had already been through at least a couple of charge cycles, it started flashing the ‘battery nearly empty’ warning after about 120 shots, and fizzled completely after 130. By recent standards this is extremely poor battery duration, especially considering that Sony claims 270 shots per charge.
Overall picture quality is also not without its problems. The lens bears the brand name of the venerated Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar, but I’m afraid it does nothing to earn that accolade. At the wide-angle end it produces a large and uneven degree of barrel distortion, more towards the right of the image. Although the centre of the frame is reasonably sharp and well detailed, it is very soft in the corners, especially the top left corner. At the telephoto end of the zoom there was very noticeable pincushion distortion. Colour reproduction and exposure control are both generally good, but surprisingly for a social snapshot camera like this I found the flash produced extremely bad red-eye, with no option to correct it in the camera. Noise control is about average for a camera in this class, with little visible noise up to 200 ISO, but then the image quality drops off dramatically at 400 ISO, and as usual the 3200 ISO maximum setting is included just because big numbers sell more cameras. Pictures at this setting are utterly hopeless.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 is is a fairly nice little snapshot camera with some interesting talking-point high-tech features, but these are mainly gimmicks and of limited use. Its best selling points are really its excellent low light focusing ability, good image stabilisation and fast performance. Build quality is excellent, and although it is expensive compared to some rivals, it has a feel of real quality to it. Unfortunately it is let down by poor battery duration, an extremely fiddly touch-screen interface and indifferent picture quality.