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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99

Shooting performance is fairly slow for the T99 with the exception of its time to first shot; slide down the lens cover and it turns on and fires in 1.6 seconds. Shutter lag--the time from pressing the shutter release to capture--in bright conditions is 0.5 second. In low-light conditions the lag goes up to 0.8 second. But the wait between shots is long: 3.9 seconds without the flash and 4.4 seconds with. Lastly, though the camera is pretty quick with continuous shooting for its class at 1.7 frames per second, it's a two-shot burst, so it slows a bit afterwards. With these times and the interface's laggy response, this point-and-shoot is best suited for portraits and landscapes and not moving subjects.

The T99's photo quality is average for its class, but can be very good depending on your needs. The camera is capable of consistently nice snapshots, particularly outdoors in daylight, mostly because it produces bright and natural and fairly accurate colors up to ISO 800. Sensitivities go from ISO 80 to ISO 3,200, but usability for prints more than 8x10 inches drops off at ISO 200 due to noise. Add to that the watery effect of Sony's noise suppression and lens distortion at the sides and corners and you end up with pictures that appear soft and painterly. If you're OK with some noise in exchange for getting a shot, though, photos up to ISO 800 can be usable for small prints or for online use, as long as you're not doing a lot of cropping.

And speaking of cropping, ideally a 14-megapixel resolution should buy you a fair amount of room for cutting down your images. However, the T99's photos are generally soft and lacking in fine detail when viewed at full size with the exception of those taken in macro. If you like to crop in a lot on subjects and then want to create 13x19-inch prints, you probably won't be happy with this camera (or any other current sub-$250 ultracompact, really).

What brought the overall photo quality of the T99 down is its lens distortion. Sony keeps the barrel distortion in check for the most part. There is some asymmetrical distortion on the left side. There's no sign of pincushioning at the long end of the zoom, though. However, there is distortion in the corners that pulls subjects up and in. The lens isn't particularly sharp, either. It's OK in the center, but drops off to the sides and corners, making subjects look soft and smeary. The camera produces a fair amount of fringing in high-contrast areas of photos, too. For the most part, all of this is distracting only when photos are viewed at full size or if heavily cropped. If you're not doing either of those, there's a good chance you'll like this Sony's results.

Video quality was good as well--on par with a pocket video camera--and you do get use of the 4x zoom while you're recording. Unfortunately, if you want to view HD movies and photos directly from the camera on an HDTV, you'll need to pony up for a proprietary component cable that connects to the multiuse terminal on the camera's bottom.

If you're considering the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 as a step up from a camera phone and most of your shots are destined for Web sharing and not prints, it's a good choice. That is, as long as you're not expecting the photo quality or performance of Sony's higher-end touch-screen models.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W350
Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99
Nikon Coolpix S4000

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

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

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