The T500’s main selling point is its high-definition 1280 x 720 pixel video mode. HD video is the latest must-have feature for digital cameras, even finding its way onto DSLRs, but it’s still relatively rare on an ultra-compact. The T500’s video mode is excellent, offering a smooth 30fps frame rate, full optical zoom, image stabilisation and good quality stereo audio from twin microphones located just below the flash on the front of the camera, although the built-in playback speaker is a bit tinny. A 2GB Memory Stick Duo card provides just less than 25 minutes of shooting time, with no limit on clip length.
I’m not a big fan of touch-screen interfaces for cameras, since they tend to result in a lot of greasy finger marks all over the monitor, but even I will admit that Sony has got it just about right on the T500. The screen is responsive without being over-sensitive, and the button areas are large enough to operate even with my shovel-like paws. The menu system is well designed and reasonably intuitive, and most of the commonly used functions are located conveniently around the screen when shooting. There are a couple of touch-screen operated features including focus point selection and re-sizing in playback mode.
The monitor screen itself is nice and bright with good contrast and sharpness, a nice fast refresh rate and has an effective anti-glare finish, making it easy to see even in bright sunlight. It’s not as sharp as the fantastic monitor on the T700, but it’s certainly sharp enough.
The T500 does suffer from a problem that is common to sliding-front cameras, in that the lens is very close to the top edge of the body. Consequently it’s very easy to get your finger in the shot, and also to accidentally touch the lens when shooting, especially in a busy social environment such as a pub or club, which is just the sort of place where the T500 should be most at home. Some cameras of this type have an easy-to-clean glass cover over the lens, but the T500 does not, which means that the front element of the lens is very vulnerable to finger marks and other dirt. I found that I had to clean the lens far more often than with other types of camera.