The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 is basically the sexier ultracompact version of the company's W350. It has many of the same features as that model, but switches from a telescoping external lens to an internal lens and adds a 3-inch touch screen. Unfortunately, the design and display raise the cost, but don't do anything to improve photo quality or shooting performance. That's not to say that the photos are bad, though, and if you want a touch-screen camera and can't afford a more expensive model, the T99 is a decent camera. On the other hand, if you don't need its "wow" factor, the W350 is a better value.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.7 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.3 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||4x, f3.5-4.6, 25-100mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/MPEG-4 (MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 230 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No, external charger supplied|
|Storage media||Memory Stick Pro Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, Eye-Fi card support|
|Bundled software||Picture Motion Browser 5.0 (Windows), PMB Portable 1.1 (Windows, Mac)|
The T99 is very small and quite attractive. Available in five colors--black, silver, purple, green, and pink--it is eye-catching for its size alone, and its near-total lack of physical controls, the slide-down metal lens cover, and the 3-inch touch-screen LCD all add to the attraction. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to hold securely due to its rounded edges and slippery metal casing. Plus, the internal lens is positioned high on the front left side, making it all too easy to accidentally touch the lens and get your digits in shots.
The only physical controls are the power and shutter buttons, a small zoom rocker, and a small Playback mode button at the top of the display. The buttons are flush with the body, which gives it a streamlined look, but makes them tricky to find and press without looking. The camera can also be powered on or off by lowering or raising the lens cover. Everything else is handled through the LCD.
The touch-screen display is fairly responsive and can be calibrated for use with your fingers or the included stylus. However the interface is a little laggy, so making very fast changes to settings or moving to a different shooting mode isn't a snappy experience. Also, because it's a wide-screen LCD, there are gutters on the left and right sides when using the camera's full resolution. If you want to use the full screen to frame shots, you'll need to shoot in a wide-screen aspect ratio, which drops photos to an 11-megapixel resolution.
Though it may be slow to respond, the interface is at least easily navigated. A tap of the Menu icon in the upper left corner slides out a panel of available shooting options as well as access to a Toolbox icon to take you to a secondary menu for general settings. Back out to the main screen for framing shots and down the left side is a row of four customizable shooting-function icons (changing them is a simple drag-and-drop procedure). On the right side of the screen are shooting mode and playback icons. And if you don't want to see anything but what's in the lens, a simple tap and swipe on the left side hides everything. Still, touch screens aren't for everyone, and if you don't like them before using the T99, it's doubtful this one will change your mind. It's also not nearly as responsive as, say, the iPhone or other touch-based smartphones.
A multiuse port on the bottom of the camera works with the included cable for connecting to a computer, display, or TV by USB or AV output. Those who have hesitated to purchase Sony cameras because of the reliance on Memory Stick media will be pleased that the 2010 Cyber-shots accept SD cards. Eye-Fi wireless SD cards are supported, too, giving users an onscreen Eye-Fi indicator; a thumbnail of the photo or video as it is being wirelessly uploaded; and a menu option that allows you toggle the Eye-Fi's Wi-Fi receiver on and off and auto power off once wireless uploads are complete. The slot and battery compartment are protected by a lockable door, which you'll have to open regularly to remove the battery for charging. Though internal memory is limited, it does host a small piece of software for quickly uploading photos and movies to sharing sites when the camera is connected to a Windows or Mac computer.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, Flash, Custom, Underwater 1, 2, and Custom|
|Recording modes||Easy, Intelligent Auto, Program, Sweep Panorama, Scene, Movie|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child), Touch AF|
|Macro||0.4 inch (Wide); 1.6 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Up to 100 shots|
The T99's shooting modes are well-suited for snapshot photography and should not be considered for those who like to fiddle a lot with settings. That's not to say this Sony doesn't give you some control; the Program Auto lets you adjust ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering, and exposure values as well as control the amount of Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization used for rescuing shadow detail. The Intelligent Auto scene recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a few options available to you, such as exposure and setting face detection priorities. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small), flash, and the self-timer and enlarges onscreen text. There are 13 scene-shooting options including Beach, Snow, Food, Pet, and Underwater for use with an add-on housing.
There's a version of Sony's Sweep Panorama feature, too, that allows you to quickly and easily take panoramic shots horizontally or vertically. Though fun, the results just aren't as good as those taken with Sony's Exmor R-based models like the TX9 and HX5V. Consider them for Web use only or very small prints. Lastly, the Movie mode records at resolutions up to 720p HD with a mono mic for audio and use of the optical zoom while recording.