The 2-megapixel DC-T20 sits at the bottom of Gateway's line of aggressively priced digital cameras. We wish we could recommend this attractive little snapshooter, but its serious image-quality problems could ruin too many of your memorable moments.
This camera is slimmer, better built, and more stylish than its price would lead you to expect. Its mostly plastic body is easy to grip securely and weighs a highly portable 5.8 ounces with batteries and media installed. We have no real complaints about the controls' placement and labeling.
Basic, entry-level options are all you'll find in the T20's feature list. Programmed automatic is the only exposure mode; you don't get any of the scene modes that some competing models offer. You can adjust the exposure to plus or minus 2EV, and four presets augment the automatic white balance. The f/2.8 lens's focal length is a bit too telephoto for our taste, and there's no optical zoom. If you must, you can zoom digitally up to 4X. The camera doesn't autofocus, either; you choose either the Normal or Macro fixed-focus position by twisting a ring on the front of the lens.
You can capture JPEG stills at one of three resolutions. The 8MB of built-in memory will hold only 10 highest-quality shots, so you'll probably want to add the optional SD/MMC media to your shopping list. The camera will also record silent 320x240-pixel MJPEG video; clips can be as long as your card capacity allows. The included software enables the T20 to act as a Webcam, but you'll need to provide your own microphone to videoconference with sound.
This Gateway's performance results were mixed. Start-up took about 2.5 seconds, and shutter delay was a bit shorter than 1 second--both reasonably good figures. But shot-to-shot time was a slow 6 seconds. Switching modes and activating the menus often took several seconds. The 1.5-inch LCD was adequately sharp, and the optical viewfinder was surprisingly crisp and bright, though it's so small that we doubt many people will use it. The built-in flash is also tiny, which probably accounts for its subpar 6.5-foot maximum range. Battery life was generally good. On one charge of two rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride AA cells, we squeezed out more than 300 shots, most of them with the flash--not too shabby. You can use AA lithium or alkaline batteries, as well.
Unfortunately, the T20's bad images cancel out its design and price virtues. You won't get great pictures from any fixed-focus, entry-level digicam; all such models suffer from noise or subpar sharpness, which impair your ability to make large prints. But the T20's problems aren't so benign. Many of our test photos were badly exposed. They looked harsh and contrasty, and there were lots of blown-out highlights. Weird amber color casts seriously marred the skin tones in our flash shots. We would not trust this camera to capture important moments.