Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

Sometimes DSLRs just aren't practical, like any time you go out in public. Both Canon and Sony have sold ultra compacts for a while, but both have recently added optical image stablization to the mix, forcing us to take the baby cameras a bit more seriously.

Between Sony's Cybershot T50 and Canon's Powershot SD800 IS, which camera is the best? The fine people at CNET, Cameras Co. UK and Imaging Resource have their own opinions that we've squeezed together in a Frankenreview, but you'll have to hit the jump to find out. It's perfect water cooler talk that just might win over the "cool kids" after all.

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

Frankenreviewer Says:

Design

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

"Sony's Cyber-shot T-series has proven popular in the market thanks to designs with slim, compact bodies..."
"The 7-megapixel [SD800] camera's tiny body is shiny, curvy, and very attractive."

Winner: Tie. Whatever, both fit in your pocket and look nice enough.

Screen

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

"The 3-inch unit on the T50 looks positively huge."
"Although the touch screen is an interesting addition that is likely to appeal to many people I am not convinced it makes the DSC T50 easier to use."
"We often ended up pressing the virtual touch-screen buttons multiple times before they worked..."
"The SD800 screen resolution with 207,000 pixels is good for a 2.5" screen and pictures look clear on it."
"But the SD800 IS also includes an optical viewfinder. The advantage of the optical viewfinder is undeniable..."

Winner: Sony. Because the screen is .5" bigger, not the craptastic touch screen.

Image Stabalization

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

"If you haven't shot with an image-stabilized camera, you're in for a treat."
"...with the SD800 IS Digital ELPH, you can shoot in low light without having to put the camera on a tripod to avoid the camera shake..."
"Playing with the Sony T50...I could very easily hand-hold 1/4 second exposures...Without image stabilization...[only] 1/30 second..."

Winner: Tie. I've checked out reviewer test shots from both cameras. Both tiny cameras benefit a ton from image stablization, during zooming and low light.

Lens

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

"...the [T50] 3X optical zoom lens only opens as wide as an equivalent of 38mm..."
"Sony hasn't widened the zoom range since the T-series was instituted, it's definitely time for a change..."
"The [SD800] 3.8X zoom range offers the flexibility of wide-angle focal lengths..."
"Chromatic aberration was there at wide angle...[purple fringing]"

Winner: Canon. Better zoom ratio, wider angle, enough said - except that the color and sharpness problems are common with many wide angle lenses shooting at their widest.

Image

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

"[SD800] photos were attractive, with fine detail rendering and solid color reproduction."
"...Easily blows out highlights..."
"... there is very little redeye..."
"Indoors I am very impressed by the [T50's] sharpness and the brightness of both of my test shots....The outdoor portrait does not really grab me...I find it slightly dull."
"...It is a shame the red eye problem is so obvious..."

Winner: Canon. Without a true head to head photo comparison, this group is difficult to decide. But due to the nature of these cameras to be used in family/friend group photography, the red eye is a major problem that Sony might have fixed by moving the flash away from the lens.

Speed
"The [T50's] time from pressing the power button to capturing its first image took 1.5 seconds, and the shot-to-shot time between subsequent images was also 1.5 seconds without flash..."
"The [SD800's] switch on time is very quick and takes around 1.4 seconds to switch on and take a photo...could snap off a shot every 1.3 seconds..."

Winner: Tie. Canon starts up faster and is generally quick, but Sony has a faster continuous shooting mode.

Misc. Features

Frankenfight: Sony vs. Canon, Ultra Compact Cameras

"Canon SD800 also features Face Detect focusing in any mode. This is one of those gotta-have features...the camera identifies the closest face, focusing on it when you half-press the Shutter button."
"[T50 has] a generous 56mb of storage is built into the camera. I was able to take a respectable 20 shots before the memory became full."

Winner: Tie. In terms of random features, we really wish the touch screen on the Sony was better/more practical, but every reviewer disliked it.

Overall Winner: Canon SD800 IS. At the end of the day, the better lens makes the camera take this competition. And, in a world of point and shoots, details like red-eye and auto face focusing can vastly improve the quality of photos.

Canon Powershot SD800 IS Specs
Size: 90 x 58 x 25 mm
Image Resolution: 3072x2304, 3072x1728, 2592x1944, 2048x1536, 1600x1200
Continuous-mode frames/second: 1.7
CCD Sensor (Megapixels): 7.10
CCD Size (inches): 1/2.5"
Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 28 - 105 mm
Zoom Ratio: 3.80x
Auto Focus: Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light? Yes
Manual Focus: No
Normal Focus Range: 45 cm to Infinity
17.7 in to Infinity
Macro Focus Range: 3 - 60 cm
1.2 - 23.6 in
Aperture Range: f/2.8 (W) / f/5.8 (T) - ???
Optical Viewfinder: Yes
LCD Viewfinder: Yes
LCD Size (inches): 2.5
LCD Resolution (pixels): 207,000
ISO Settings: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White Balance Settings: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Shutter Speed Range: 15 - 1/1600
Exp Adj Range (EV): +/- 2.0EV in 0.3EV steps
Metering Modes: Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Aperture Priority: No
Shutter Priority: No
Full Manual Exposure: No
Self Timer: 1-30 seconds

Sony Cybershot T50 Specs
Size: 95 x 57 x 23 mm
Image Resolution: 3072x2304, 3072x2048, 2592x1944, 2048x1536, 1920x1080
Continuous-mode frames/second: 1.1
Movie Resolution: 640x480, 160x112
Movie Frame Rate: 30.00, 8.30
CCD Sensor (Megapixels): 7.20
CCD Size (inches): 1/2.5"
Focal Length Multiplier: n/a
Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 38 - 114 mm
Zoom Ratio: 3.00x
Auto Focus: Yes
Auto Focus Assist Light? Yes
Manual Focus: Yes
Normal Focus Range: 50 cm to Infinity
19.7 in to Infinity
Macro Focus Range: 1 - 0 cm
0.4 - 0.0 in
Aperture Range: f/3.5 - f/8 (wide) / f/4.3 - f/10 (tele)
Optical Viewfinder: No
LCD Viewfinder: Yes
LCD Size (inches): 3.0
LCD Resolution (pixels): 230,000
ISO Settings: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000
White Balance Settings: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash
Shutter Speed Range: 1 - 1/1000
Exp Adj Range (EV): +/- 2.0EV in 0.3EV steps
Metering Modes: Multi-pattern, Center-weighted, Spot
Aperture Priority: No
Shutter Priority: No
Full Manual Exposure: No
Self Timer: 2 or 10 seconds

Sony
CNET
Cameras.co.uk
Imaging Resource

Canon
CNET
Cameras.co.uk
Imaging Resource

Red Eye Photo