Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 Review

March 4, 2009 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 is a slim and stylish ultra-compact digital camera featuring a metal body, sliding front plate and folded optics. Highlights of the T500 include a 10 megapixel sensor, 33-165mm equivalent 5x zoom lens, large 3.5-inch touch-sensitive rear screen, Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation, face and smile detection technology, ISO 3200 and intelligent scene recognition. The Sony T500 also boasts 1280x720 pixel 720p HD movie recording with stereo sound and HDMI output. Available in silver, black and red, the Sony DSC-T500 currently retails for around £289 / $399 - carry on reading our in-depth review to find out if it's worth considering.

Ease of Use

Resembling an old-fashioned cigarette case, courtesy of its silver brushed metal front - 5x Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar zoom lens hidden by slide-open lens cover that stretches the width of its faceplate - the 10.1 effective megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T500 continues Sony's successful run of minimalist and slender Cyber-shot compacts. Not much larger than a credit card, their ethos appears to be mainly one of simplicity. A case in point: Like the T300 we rated last summer, the T500 panders to the iPhone generation with almost its entire back plate being given over to a 3.5-inch, 230,400 dot resolution touch screen LCD. Only a thumb switch for alternating between stills and video capture modes, itself encircling the shutter release button, intrudes top right. There's obviously no optical viewfinder to fall back on. Although it also features a top mounted power button, the act of sliding open the faceplate activates the T500, so the user can be up and shooting with a similar ease to taking snaps on their Sony Ericsson mobile phone.

Boasting a list price of £289 at the time of writing, the mostly metal Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 feels rock-solid sturdy yet lightweight at 180g when gripped in the palm, although admittedly there are very few protrusions on this camera with which to achieve said grip. The one concession is a raised lip - grey on our silver review sample, with a stippled appearance - that forms part of the right hand side of the sliding lens cover. This provides purchase for your fingers as your forefinger hovers over the shutter release button and your thumb inevitably smears the screen at the rear with greasy marks.

Like its predecessors the T500 features Sony's double anti blur technology, which translates as Optical SteadyShot plus additional high sensitivity, the latter maxing out at ISO 3200. Also present and correct is this year's must have of High Definition video clips, here in PC friendly MPEG-4 format with use of the optical zoom and the ability to fire off a snap in the middle of filming - though the T500 boasts a maximum 1280x720 pixels video at 30fps as opposed to a full HD 1920x1080. Still, this is an improvement on the T300's standard 640x480 pixels video, and comes with stereo sound too. So what if individual clips are limited to 10 minutes duration, that's more than enough for most of us, with Sony suggesting 60 minutes of footage can be captured if opting for a 4GB removable Memory Stick Duo (or Pro Duo).

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) output is additionally offered - via a desktop docking station into which the camera slots, upright - being useful for those who already own one of the company's Bravia HD sets, though the requisite cable is again an optional extra (at £39). AV out, USB in and mains power connections complete the available ports - again these are accessed via the docking station, with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 in situ, rather than being featured on the camera itself.

Press the top-mounted power button or slide open the faceplate and the T500 readies itself for action in a second or so, the rear LCD bursting into life sound tracked by an ident-like 'sting'. With a definite halfway point you can feel when depressing the shutter release button just enough for it to determine focus and exposure, a task it achieves quickly. With maximum resolution JPEG images committed to memory in around three seconds, the screen blanks and then displays the captured image momentarily before you can go on to take another.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500
Front Rear

Sliding down (and open) the lens cover also reveals the stereo microphone, built-in flash, self-timer lamp window plus of course the lens itself. Incidentally, as with its forbears it's all too easy for fingertips to stray into shot, the lens positioned as it is to the far right hand side (if viewing from the front). Around the front of the shutter release button is a spring-loaded switch for operating the zoom and alternating between wideangle and telephoto. This felt slightly loose on our review sample, the action of the zoom itself leisurely smooth and steady, rather than rapid.

Moving to the back of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500, the central portion of the screen displays the image before your lens in 4:3 ratio, while two menu bars with white text or icons on an all-black background frame it on either side - in effect cropping the screen's full 16:9 ratio. Top of the left hand bar, in regular stills capture mode, is a means of accessing Sony's 'Home' menu with the jab of a finger. Press this lightly and the user is instantly provided with an overview of the camera's main functions - shooting, playback, direct printing, 'memory tool' (with the ability to format the media in use, copy or create new recording folders) plus a composite set up menu that includes the ability to deactivate the camera's annoyingly cheery 'bleep' that otherwise sounds at every button press.

If we've one complaint about the screen it's that if anything it's a bit too sensitive, and so those with sausage fingers (or even the rest of us in a rush to get the possible shot we've just seen) may well find themselves inadvertently selecting features adjacent to the ones they actually wanted. It's not quite as bad for this as Samsung's competing NV100HD however.

Bottom of the left hand bar is a second virtual button marked Menu. As we've remarked before, we don't know why Sony, unlike every other manufacturer, doesn't combine the functionality offered by Home and Menu. Here the latter provides access to the likes of record mode (single or continuous shooing), exposure compensation (+/- 2EV), switching red eye reduction and/or face detection on/off, or jumping straight to the set up menu that mirrors exactly what you can access via the Home button. On one hand, dividing up the functionality in this manner creates confusion for those well used to handling cameras from other brands, though, in concession, 'Home' with its very naming has a friendly feel about it; a comforting place for the uninitiated to return perhaps should they feel overwhelmed or lost.

Returning our attention to the left hand bar, between the Home and Menu buttons we find an icon providing access to JPEG image sizes and ratios via a fold-out menu that extends from left to right across the screen. Here there's everything from the full 10 megapixels in 4:3 ratio to two megapixels in 16:9 ratio (at which point the black bars left and right of screen disappear and you have its entirety at your disposal for composition), with an email friendly VGA quality 4:3 ratio option thrown in for good measure. No RAW or TIFF here.

The next icon down gives the self timer options (off, ten seconds or two seconds), while the final icon sandwiched between Home and Menu lets the user switch between auto capture, scene modes (where we also, slightly inexplicably, find the means of manually adjusting ISO alongside the more regular pre-optimised snow, beach and firework options) and program mode. Press Menu again while in the latter mode and as you'd expect there are a wider range of options at your disposal, including manually adjusting white balance, adjusting flash intensity and choosing which SteadyShot anti shake mode to use: either active when the shutter button is pressed halfway, always on or off.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500
Battery Compartment Memory Card Slot

In Program mode a further toolbar appears along the bottom of the T500's screen, with, moving from left to right, an additional choice of focus options - multi AF, centre AF or spot, plus manually selectable ranges of between one to seven metres and infinity. Next along this bar is a choice of metering modes - the standard multi, centre or spot - plus, next again, a more literally 'to hand' means of adjusting ISO and exposure compensation.

Finally, the bar to the right hand side of the screen (in standard 4:3 ratio capture modes) features icons for turning flash on or off (along with forced flash, and slow synchro settings) plus macro on/off. Book-ending these two options are, at the top of the bar, a self-explanatory and useful 'back' button, and at the bottom a display button. This provides the choice of the default 'normal' display as described above, a 'simple' version or an image-only option, which as it sounds turns off all the toolbars and buttons (apart from display itself). In display mode users can also call up a live histogram or switch it off, plus adjust LCD brightness. Switch the capture mode from stills to video, and users have the ability - again via the left hand bar - to adjust image size and alter compression levels, plus, via the Menu button, select a normal colour, sepia or black and white mode to shoot in.

Staying with the rear screen menus and options, switch to playback mode via the top-mounted button adjacent to its on/off control, and review options are again presented left and right of screen and top to bottom. Down the left, users have the ability to dip in and out of created folders of images, select slideshows, or delete duff shots - with the 'back' button again coming in handy if you want to change your mind. Also useful is the fact that you can scroll up and down through an entire folder of images, presented on screen as a grouping of six visibly large enough thumbnails at once, which saves time. This number can be bumped up to 20 on screen at one time if your eyesight is particularly impressive.

Press Menu in playback mode and there's the ability to protect an image from accidental deletion, or earmark it for direct printing. Press the shutter button halfway at any point and the user is helpfully catapulted back into capture mode. And that's basically it. Touch screen operation is either love it or hate it - luckily the buttons and icons (not to mention 3.5-inch screen itself) are just large enough for finger operation (no alternative stylus is provided), though with the caveat it's occasionally fiddly and the conflagration of options around the screen (especially in Program mode) can be rather distracting from the central image itself.

The bottom of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 features the standard screw thread for attaching it to a tripod, alongside which is a narrow flap with lockable catch that protects the shared lithium ion battery and removable media (an optional Memory Stick Duo with a hardly worth it 4MB internal memory to fall back on). Incidentally the battery didn't last long enough for our liking - Sony suggesting a paltry 80 minutes or 160 shots - which is half as long as rivals in its class. As a result the on-screen icon was showing it was almost spent after a day and a half of occasional use, so if you're heading off on holiday you'll want to drag its charger with you.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 is best viewed as a premium quality snapshot camera. Like a Mercedes car it's flash looking yet ultimately sensible, it functions well (for the most part) and doesn't really claim to do anything else than what it actually does.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10M JPEG mode, which gives an average image size of around 3.5Mb.

As we noted back in our reviews of the Cyber-shot T100 and T300, the bugbear of producing a camera like the T500 that has its lens located at the top far right hand side of its front plate means that it's very easy for fingertips to creep into shot when the camera is held in both hands for a steadier shot. When using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 over the course of our review period I found myself sometimes overlooking those stray digits, though a quick review on the LCD does at least signal telltale shadows at the edge of the frame. Of course, when viewing in daylight this isn't always that easy to spot and images on screen generally appear sharper at first glance than when eventually downloaded. Even in the dullish conditions of late winter the T500 impresses however with the well-saturated colours we've come to expect from the Cyber-shot range. The combination of its 10 megapixel sensor and Carl Zeiss lens also delivers a pleasingly high degree of sharpness and detail – if both your camera and subject are fairly static. With its auto everything tendency to make every image as bright as possible when conditions are fairly drab there's inevitably some burnt-out highlight detail, while purple pixel fringing makes an appearance with a darkened foreground and a background of featureless skies. But so has it ever been with Sony Cyber-shots, so the above comes as no major shock. Edge-to-edge sharpness is well maintained even at maximum wideangle, though our white wall shots do display a very slight barrel distortion and corner shading. While none of this should necessarily sway your purchase decision either way, ISO performance may prove more of a decider, noise making an appearance from ISO 400, although ISO 800 is still perfectly usable. Quality and detail has noticeably deteriorated by ISO 1600 however, and at ISO 3200 the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500's shots are beginning to resemble a fuzzy grab from a security camera.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% Crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look, so you will have to edit the images later.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 did suffer from chromatic aberrations during the review, but it was generally very well controlled. Limited purple fringing was mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 8cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

Macro Shot (100% Crop)


The flash settings on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 are Auto, Forced On, Slow Syncro and Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (33mm)

Auto Flash - Wide Angle (33mm)


Flash Off - Telephoto (165mm)

Auto Flash - Telephoto (165mm)

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red-eye option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Flash - Red-eye Flash

Flash - Red-eye Flash (100% Crop)

Night Shot

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500's maximum shutter speed is 2 seconds in the Twilight scene mode, which isn't good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/4 second, f3.5 at ISO 800. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 camera, which were all taken using the 10M JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 25 second movie is 29.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Front of the Camera / Turned Off

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Isometric View

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Isometric View

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Rear of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Top of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Bottom of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Side of the Camera


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Side of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Battery Compartment

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Memory Card Slot

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500

Docking Station


Given that its suggested list price is below £300, Sony's metal-build Cyber-shot T500 feels fairly priced if not quite an outright bargain buy now you can pick up a 10 megapixel alternative for as little as £100. Still, it is a small object of desire that will in truth tempt more the monied or fashion-conscious snapper than it will the photo enthusiast, or anyone wanting a cheap-as-chips intro to digital photography.

Given that, as with the previous T300 model, 95% of the Sony Cyber-shot functions are accessed via the T500's screen, having a larger than average display proves both a boon initially, and, in the final analysis, a necessity. The 3.5-inch screen is larger than that usually found on a pocket compact and very responsive – as we've noted it can occasionally feel too responsive, and apart from the strange doubling-up of some functions via the Home and Menu options, is intuitive to use for the most part. You will however be constantly wiping it clean of smeared thumb and fingerprints, readily noticeable when the screen is inactive.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500's image quality is perfectly adequate if not quite awe-inspiring, with inevitably the best results achievable when there is plenty of light around. But if what your camera looks like matters to you as much – or probably more – than how its images look, then the Sony T500 represents a fair compromise between output and form factor.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 3

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 from around the web. »

The bottom line on the T500 is that it's a solid camera, with quick performance and a high fun factor. Its size is hard to beat, and its movies look great and even sound alright to boot. Even considering its high price point, the T500 delivers an awful lot – probably more that's useful, on balance, than the T700, unless storing lots of images on your camera is your thing. It's certainly not the camera it could have been with a better (probably retractable-design) lens, a more powerful battery, and some manual exposure controls, but respecting its limitations and shortcomings, the T500 works reasonably well as a total package as it is.
Read the full review »



Optical Zoom 5x
Precision Digital Zoom Approx.10x (Total)
Smart Zoom up to 28x (with VGA)
F 3.5-4.4
Focal Length (f= mm) 5.8-29
Focal Length (f=35mm conversion) 33-165
Macro (cm) Wide: Approx. 8-infinity, Tele: Approx. 80-infinity
Filter Diameter (mm) NO
Conversion Lens compatibility YES
NightShot NO
NightFraming NO
Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Lens YES

Image Sensory

CCD Type Super HAD CCD
Size (Inches) 1/2.3


Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels) Approx. 10.1M
Bionz Processor NO
Face Detection YES
Smile Shutter NO
A/D Conversion (DXP) (Bit) 14
Auto Focus Method (Single) YES
Auto Focus Method (Monitoring) YES
Auto Focus Method (Continuous) NO
Auto Focus Area (Multi Point) YES
Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted) YES
Auto Focus Area (Spot) YES
Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot) YES
Manual Focus NO
Focus Preset YES
Focus Preset (m) 1 / 3 / 7 / Unlimited distance
Aperture Auto Mode YES
Aperture Priority Mode NO
Aperture Manual Mode NO
Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec) 1/4-1/1000
NR Slow Shutter YES
Hand Shake Alert YES
Exposure Control +/- 2.0 EV, 1/ 3 EV step
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash
Automatic White Balance YES
Light Metering (Multi Pattern) YES
Light Metering (Centre weighted) YES
Light Metering (Spot) YES
Sharpness Setting NO
Saturation Setting NO
Contrast Setting NO
ISO Sensitivity (REI) YES (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
Scene Selection Twilight, Twilight portrait, Soft snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, High speed shutter, High Sensitivity
AF Illuminator YES
Flash Mode Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash
Distance limitations using Flash (m) 0.15-3.5 (wide), 0.8-2.7 (tele)
Pre-flash YES
Red-eye Reduction YES
Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash YES

Super SteadyShot

Super SteadyShot capability YES

Auto Focus System

AF Illuminator YES


Flash Mode Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash
Red-Eye Reduction YES
Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash YES

LCD/ Viewfinder

LCD Screen Size (inches) 3.5
LCD Total Dots Number 230.400
LCD Monitor Type TFT
Auto Bright Monitoring YES
LCD Field of View (%) 100
Optical Viewfinder NO
Electrical Viewfinder NO

LCD screen

LCD Field of View (%) 100


Recording Media Memory Stick™ Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo™. Memory Stick PRO Duo™ High Speed, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo (same speed as PRO Duo). Internal memory (4MB)
Recording Format JPEG, MPEG4 AVC/H.264
Memory Stick Pro Interface Parallel
DCF (Design rule for Camera File System) YES
DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) YES
Burst Mode (shots) 100
Burst Interval (approximately sec) 0.74
Still Image size (10 Mega 3648 x 2736) YES
Still Image size (5.0 Mega, 2592 x 1944) YES
Still Image size (3.1 Mega, 2048 x 1536) YES
Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480) YES
Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080) YES
Still Image size (16:9 mode, 3648 x 2056) YES
Still Image size (3:2 mode 3648 x 2432) YES
Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Fine Approx.9Mbps) YES
Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)  
Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps) YES

Playback/ Edit

HD (High Definition) Playback YES
Slideshow Playback YES
Slideshow with Music YES
Trimming YES
Resize NO
Playback Zoom YES
Divide (MPEG) NO
Cue & Review (MPEG) YES
Index Playback YES
Image Rotation YES
Auto Image Rotation YES


Battery Remaining Indicator YES
Histogram Indicator YES
Exposure Warning Indicator YES
Disk / Memory Stick remaining indicator YES
PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol) YES
Print Image Matching YES
PictBridge YES
Shop Front Mode YES
Start up time (approximately sec) 1.9
Menu Language Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
Bluetooth® Function NO


Multi use Terminal with HD YES
Multi use Terminal YES
Digital I/O (USB) NO
USB 2.0 Hi-Speed YES

Power/ Others

Battery System Lithium D
Supplied Battery NP-BD1
Stamina (battery life) with the supplied battery(s) in normal shooting condition 180 shots, 90min (CIPA standard with LCD screen on)
Battery for Clock Manganese-Silicon (MS614S)
Weight (g) 155
Weight with Accessories (g) 180
Supplied Software Windows: Picture Motion Browser Ver.3.1 + USB Driver + Picture Package Music Transfer
Supplied Accessories Rechargeble battery pack (NP-BD1), Battery charger, A / V cable, USB cable, Wrist Strap, CD-ROM, Multi-output Stand


Width (mm) 97
Height (mm) 59.3
Depth (mm) 21.4

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