The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T9, the latest in Sony's T-series of shirt-pocket-size digital cameras, is a great tool whether you're a casual shooter or a more serious photographer. Snapshooters will appreciate the camera's ease of use, and discerning photographers will appreciate the 6-megapixel model's above-average image quality and responsive performance. And while a not-so-wide lens and poor red-eye behavior will mar some indoor portraits, any user will love the camera's 2.5-inch LCD screen, its thin and attractive body, and its image stabilization for keeping low-light pictures sharp. The deal is sweetened by 58MB of internal memory.
Clad in black or silver stainless steel and less than an inch thick with the dimensions of a credit card, the first thing anyone will notice about the 5.6-ounce Sony T9 is its sleek styling; expect to field a lot of questions from gadget junkies when using this camera. The camera is designed well from a usage perspective, too, with a simple menu system and limited manual controls to prevent confusion. The only unconventional buttons on the camera, in fact, are one to activate its Super SteadyShot image stabilization and another that plays an animated slide show, complete with music.
Both features are new to the T series with the T9. The stabilization works mechanically; sensors detect motion from your hand and compensate by moving elements of the internal lens using tiny motors. While the system doesn't work as well as those in larger cameras we've seen, it does deliver an additional stop or so for handheld shooting, yielding sharp pictures taken at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 of a second. The slide show, which has five animation styles and lets you choose from four soundtracks, is a lot of fun. The styles are more than just transitions; individual pictures are panned and zoomed as if in a film documentary. Four soundtracks come with the camera or can be uploaded to the camera from user-supplied MP3s or CDs. The whole show can be viewed in-camera or on a television using the supplied cable.
The only disappointing spec is the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T9's lens. With a 35mm-film-equivalent range of 38mm to 114mm and a maximum aperture of f/3.5 to f/4.3, the Carl-Zeiss-branded glass is not wide enough for tight indoor shots or expansive landscapes and not fast enough to keep shutter speeds up in even moderate light. However, the lens does yield very good photo quality. While some geometric distortion is present at the widest and narrowest angles, darkened corners (vignetting) are very minor, and common aberrations such as colored fringing and blooming of bright onto dark areas are almost negligible, even upon close inspection. Noise is relatively under control, with only a little starting to appear at ISO 200. At the camera's maximum ISO rating of 640, noise is easily visible, but some usable pictures can be taken.
Colors are on the neutral side, sometimes becoming flat in heavy backlighting; both characteristics can be easily reversed in photo-editing software. Flesh tones are pleasing except when using flash, which washes out darker skin and turns lighter skin ruddy. Red-eye is also a problem with this camera, showing up even in moderate light with the reduction preflashes enabled. The camera's exposure choices are generally very good, though, even in tricky lighting.
The Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T9 is a very quick camera, whether you're going through the menu system, reviewing pictures, or shooting. It takes only 1.7 seconds to grab a first shot after turning on the power and only 1.3 seconds between successive shots in single-shot mode. Using the flash with red-eye reduction increases that time to 3.4 seconds. Continuous shooting is only fair at about 1.5fps, but shutter lag is impressive at 0.3 second.
It took Sony a few generations to get the T series right, but it looks like the company finally has gotten the idea. Though the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T9 is far from perfect, it's darn good for an ultracompact snapshot camera.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)