Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20

Performance results were pleasingly quick in our lab tests. The DSC-T20 took 1.3 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG, and took 1.3 seconds between JPEGs thereafter with the flash turned off. When we turned the flash on, that wait increased to 2.9 seconds. Shutter lag measured an impressive 0.4 second in our high-contrast test and 1.3 seconds in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In our continuous shooting test, we were able to get about 2 frames per second regardless of image size.

Image quality was good for a compact camera, and better in some ways than last year's model, but those benefits came with trade-offs of their own. While colors are more saturated overall in the T20 than the T10, the noise profile is completely different in the T20. This make s sense, given the increase in pixel count and Sony's switch to its new Bionz image processor, which was developed for its Alpha DSLR-A100 digital SLR.

I saw some--albeit very minimal--noise when viewing on my monitor even at the T20's lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 80, though you won't notice it much in prints. The same can be said for ISO 100, though ever so slightly more noise is visible. However, at ISO 200, noise between the two cameras evens out, which is to say that you'll definitely see some on your monitor, though it will be minimized greatly in printing. You still see some advantage in terms of the T20's extra saturation, which is pleasing and not overly saturated, per se. Also, while there is some loss of sharpness at ISO 200, you should still be able to make prints up to letter size that have an acceptable amount of fine detail. At ISO 400, Sony manages to blur away noise in solid-colored areas, but loses some shadow detail, thereby decreasing the overall dynamic range, and much of the fine detail is lost. At ISO 800, noise becomes more pronounced, taking on a tight, fine-grained look. More of the shadow detail and fine detail is lost, and images take on the look of a pointillist painting. This effect--and the associated losses in detail and dynamic range--continue to amplify as you step up to ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200. I recommend staying below ISO 800 whenever possible and avoiding ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200 completely.

The Cyber-shot DSC-T20 is a nice ultracompact, with most of the features that consumers are looking for in a point-and-shoot camera. However, Sony could do better at keeping noise under control at higher ISOs, or just not include and tout those higher sensitivity settings in the first place. Ultimately, the T20 is a nice, stylish, solidly built camera, which is a good choice in its price range as long as you look beyond the hype, remember to prefocus, and stick to the lower ISO settings.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20
1.3 
1.3 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot SD1000
1.5 
1 
0.5 
Canon PowerShot SD750
1.6 
1 
0.5 
Nikon Coolpix S50c
2.4 
3.9 
0.9 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate faster performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Ultracompact
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Super HAD CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 8.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (Super Steady Shot)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.5"
  • Lens 38 - 114mm F/3.5