Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Review

June 26, 2009 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 is a slim and stylish ultra-compact digital camera featuring a metal body, sliding front plate and folded optics. Measuring 13.9mm thick, highlights of the T90 include a 12.1 megapixel sensor, 35-140mm equivalent 4x zoom lens, large 3.0-inch touch-sensitive rear screen, Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation, face and smile detection technology, ISO 3200 and intelligent scene recognition. The Sony T90 also boasts 1280x720 pixel 720p HD movie recording with stereo sound and HDMI output. Available in silver, black, pink, blue and brown, the Sony DSC-T90 currently retails for about $300 / £289.

Ease of Use

The glossy T90 is the latest in a line of fashion conscious Sony Cyber-shot touch screen compacts - coming after the T77 and T500, rated on Photography Blog earlier this year. Like both earlier models it features a sliding faceplate that covers and protects the lens when not in use, and also acts as another means of activating the camera when it is slid open.

Unlike the currently available T500 however, the T90 boasts an integrated 4x optical zoom (rather than 5x) and a 12.1 megapixel effective photo resolution (rather than 10.1). It's still minimalist and slender however, being a mere 13.9mm at its narrowest point, with the main talking point its 3-inch, widescreen ratio 230k-dot resolution screen at the rear. Another new model, the T900, boasts a larger 3.5-inch variety and basically looks to be the T500 with a resolution hike.

As you'd expect, with a screen of that size on a compact, the T90 has no optical viewfinder to fall back on. Only a couple of Canon's compacts seem to be bothering to include them these days - a throwback perhaps to its traditional photographic heritage - and Sony of course has no such ties to convention.

In fact the only physical controls the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 possesses are a playback button shaped like a lozenge and situated top right of the LCD, plus a top-mounted on/off switch recessed into a mirrored strip. Alongside this is a second lozenge button for the shutter release and a teeny rocker switch for gliding through the 35-140mm equivalent focal range provided by the zoom.

Boasting a Sony list price of £289 in the UK at the time of writing, gripped in the palm the mostly metal T90 feels rock-solid sturdy yet lightweight at just 151g with battery inserted. We had the sophisticated black finished T90 model in for review - although other less sober (blue, pink, brown/bronze) plus equally conventional colours (silver) are available.

Providing the only actual means of gripping the camera are a narrow 'bezel' around the screen, with a couple of raised ridges and eyelet for attaching a wrist strap over to its right hand side. As well as inevitably festooning the screen itself with fingers and thumbprints (that only show up when it's switched off), the polished front plate also attracts smears. So you'll be wiping this camera clean almost as often as you'll be taking pictures with it.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Rear

The lack of physical substance also suggests the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 will be prone to camera shake. So Sony has fitted a dual image stabilisation mechanism in the shape of both optical SteadyShot and an ISO range that extends up to ISO3200. If not quite class leading, it's better than you'll find on an average point and shoot.

As with its recent predecessors, present and correct on the T90 is the increasingly ubiquitous ability to shoot High Definition video clips, here in PC friendly MPEG-4 format with use of the optical zoom and the ability to fire off a snap in the middle of filming - though, like the T500, it boasts a maximum 1280x720 pixels video at 30fps as opposed to a full HD 1920x1080.

Unlike the Canon IXUS 100 or 110 IS however, there's no direct HDMI output from the camera - nor an included docking station providing such a feature. Sony does however say that 60 minutes of footage can be stored on a 4GB Memory Stick (Duo or Pro variety).

Interestingly, the manufacturer has added intelligent auto scene recognition to its line up of shooting modes, accessed via the left hand onscreen toolbar, working in identical fashion to the intelligent auto modes of Panasonic and Canon compact ranges. The user points the T90 at a scene or subject and the camera analyses it and automatically chooses one of 11 pre-optimised settings to best suit.

Adding to its snapshot simplicity, this feature joins enhanced face recognition and smile shutter functionality on board - the former mode biasing human faces in the frame and the latter mode firing the shutter when it detects a smiling subject.

With the camera looking fashionably understated when inactive, press the teeny, recessed power button on the top plate or slide open the faceplate to reveal the lens and, like its forebears, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 readies itself for action in a just over a second. The rear LCD bursts into life sound tracked by a musical flourish.

The shutter release button has a definite halfway point, determining focus and exposure with a bleep of affirmation, focus points highlighted in green on the LCD. Go on to take the shot and maximum resolution JPEG images are committed to memory in a couple of seconds, the screen momentarily blanking out and then displaying the captured image before the user can go on to take a second shot.

In revealing the lens, also exposed is the camera's built in microphone, plus a small and narrow window for flash, and a porthole for the self-timer/AF illuminator. As we've found in the past, with the lens situated to the far top right of the camera's front, when holding its steady with both hands, it's all too easy for the ends of fingertips to dip forward and therefore into shot. However, once thus 'bitten' you quickly learn to subsequently avoid it.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Top

Talking of fingertips, to the right of the shutter release button, if viewed from the back, is a small rocker switch for operating the zoom and alternating between wideangle and telephoto, the raised lip of which is only just large enough to connect with the pad of your digit. The action of the zoom itself is leisurely smooth rather than rapid, gliding unhindered through the focal range in a single, steady motion.

With the T90's degree of design minimalism meaning that is it for the front and top of the camera, moving to the T90's back plate, we find a single playback button top left of the screen.

Other than that single physical control, every other operation takes place in the virtual realm, the central portion of the screen displaying the image in 4:3 ratio on its default setting, while two menu bars with white text or icons on an all-black background frame it on either side - in effect cropping the screen's full 16:9 ratio. The view therefore is the same as that provided by the earlier T500 (albeit the screen itself is 3-inches, not 3.5).

This similarity extends to the fact that top of the left hand bar, in regular stills capture mode, is a means of accessing Sony's 'Home' menu with a finger or stylus jab. Press this lightly and the user is instantly provided with an overview of the camera's main functions - shooting, playback, slideshow options, direct printing, 'memory tool' (with the ability to format the media in use, copy or create new recording folders) plus a composite set up menu. The latter includes the ability to deactivate the camera's 'bleep' that otherwise sounds at every button press.

The screen on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 is responsive without being overly sensitive and, with use, we didn't find ourselves accidentally selecting the setting next to the one we intended as often as we initially thought we might.

Bottom of the left hand bar is a second virtual button marked Menu. As we've remarked before, we don't know why Sony, unlike every other manufacturer, doesn't combine the functionality offered by Home and Menu. Though it cuts down on endless lists of options, having both is a little confusing.

Via menu in program mode we get access to the likes of record mode (single or continuous shooing), three separate exposure bracketing options (three shots at 0.3EV, 0.7EV or 1.0EV apart, image size and ratio (4:3, 3:2 or 16:9), switching red eye reduction on/off, plus adjusting face detection sensitivity, or jumping straight to the set up menu that mirrors exactly what you can access via the Home button.

Back to the left hand bar, and between the Home and Menu buttons we firstly find a self-explanatory face detection icon, a second for the self-timer, and a third providing access to the various recording mode choices. Here we get the optimized scene settings, along with intelligent auto, program, easy shooting mode (a much pared down display), plus access to shooting video. The movie mode has its very own low light and underwater shooting modes, while moving back to the left hand bar allows the selection of 1280x720 or lower VGA quality clips.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Battery Compartment Memory Card Slot

All the while the bar to the right hand side of the screen (in standard 4:3 ratio capture modes) features icons for turning flash on or off plus a forced on and slow synchro setting and then, next down, macro on/off. Book-ending these two options are, at the top of the bar, a self-explanatory and useful 'back' button, and at the bottom a display button.

Pressing 'Display' provides the choice of the default 'normal' display as described above, a 'simple' version or an image-only option, which as it sounds turns off all the toolbars and buttons (apart from display itself). In display mode users can also call up a live histogram or switch it off, plus adjust LCD brightness. This again is the same as found on the identically priced - and at the time of writing still available - T500.

Staying with the rear screen menus and options, switch to playback mode via the dedicated physical button, and review options are again presented left and right of screen, running top to bottom.

Looking first at the left, users have the ability to dip in and out of created folders of images, select slideshows and choose transitional effects and accompanying music, or delete duff shots - with the 'back' button again coming in handy if the user changes his/her mind. Also useful is the ability to be able to zoom in and scroll around an image to check focus and exposure. Press the shutter button halfway at any point and the user is helpfully catapulted back into capture mode. And that's basically it.

With a press of the 'menu' button in playback, users have access to some funky in-camera retouching effects, including the ability to crop or sharpen portions of an image, blur the periphery to add emphasis to the central subject, add a starburst effect or bizarrely, force a smile on formerly sour-faced subjects. 'Painting' onto an image - or more likely scribbling all over it - adding a stamp or a frame is also encouraged.

This being the case, touch screen operation is either love it or hate it. Luckily the buttons and icons on the Cyber-shot T90 are just large enough for finger operation (with an alternative plastic provided in the box that clips onto the wrist strap). That said the busy array of options around the screen - especially in Program mode - can be rather distracting.

The bottom of this slender Sony features the merest of embellishments: a standard screw thread for attaching it to a tripod, alongside which is a narrow flap with lockable catch that protects the shared lithium ion battery and removable media (an optional Memory Stick Duo or Pro variety with a hardly worth it 11MB internal memory to fall back on). Sony claims the battery is good for up to 220 shots from a single charge, an improvement on the paltry 160 shots of the T500 but still no great shakes, so if you're looking at this as a possible travel companion you'll want to take its charger with you.

But is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 worthy of making the trip with you -in other words does it perform well in the area that matters most - namely the capture of images?

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

Leaving aside the possible issue you may have with stray digits creeping into frame because of the aforementioned position of the lens, and the occasional blurred image due to camera shake, the quality of the shots from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 were slightly better than we expected from a point and shoot model that puts as much emphasis on fashion as it does features.

Shooting on the default colour setting and with the built-in exposure enhancing dynamic range optimizer likewise set to standard mode, it takes little effort from the user to get acceptable results - as long, of course, you're happy with snapshots. Subdued yet natural looking colours are the order of the day, with a vivid option selectable if you prefer more punch. Pixel fringing is there if you look closely but it's kept reasonably well under control and the auto scene modes also provide a degree of consistency and reliability, with greens and blues brought to life particularly vividly courtesy of the 'landscape' option.

In terms of performance at higher ISO settings, at maximum selectable ISO 3200 equivalent images appear as if being viewed through a pane of frosted glass. So, while not perfect, they are at least comparable to a performance at ISO 1600 from a lower end model. Likewise the subtle softening of detail at ISO 1600 is comparable to the performance at ISO 800 from a humble snapper.

We did however notice some loss of critical sharpness towards the corners of the frame when shooting at maximum wideangle, and gentle barrel distortion, though the point and shoot brigade at whom the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 is aimed will find this easy to live with, if it's even noticed.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look, so you will have to edit the images later.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 did suffer from chromatic aberrations during the review. Purple fringing was mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 8cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 are Auto, Forced On, Slow Syncro and Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (35mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (35mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, both the Auto setting and the Red-eye option caused a small amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Correction

Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90's maximum shutter speed is 2 seconds in the Twilight scene mode, which isn't good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 35 second movie is 37.2Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Front of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Isometric View

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Isometric View

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Rear of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Top of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Bottom of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Side of the Camera


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Side of the Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Battery Compartment
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Memory Card Slot


The T90 feels fairly run of the mill as far as Sony's Cyber-shot range goes, its designers seemingly reluctant to depart from the template laid down by previous successful incarnations. Add the fact it's not actually that much of a bargain at £289 and you can get a larger touch screen on the identically priced T500 (though a couple of million pixels less), and do we have a compelling reason to purchase?

Well, if you're OK with the idea of a touch screen - kind of intrinsic to this model - on the upside the T90 remains one of the more attractive credit card sized cameras out there. Use of said LCD fairly quickly becomes second nature with a bit of practice, and since basically everything about it is point and shoot in nature, as long as the user has a good eye, it's easy to take a decent photo.

The T90's size also means that you're more likely to carry it around with you and so have it ready for those photo opportunities you might otherwise miss. And any device that encourages the taking of more photographs than one might otherwise can't be all bad. Ultimately the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 is best (or possibly kindest) viewed as a premium quality snapshot model. Treat it as such and you won't be disappointed.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 3

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 from around the web. »

For 2009, Sony has updated their popular DSC-T77 from last year (2008) by introducing the new Cyber-shot DSC-T90. Like its predecessor, the T90 is a very compact digicam that is not only stylish, but also very durable with an all metal exterior. Many of the features we saw on the T77 are included on this newer model, like the "folded" Carl Zeiss 4x optical zoom lens, 3.0-inch "wide" touch panel LCD, Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, iScene technology, 9-point AF system, HD (1080i) video output, in-camera photo editing, Smile shutter mode, Face detection, and DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer) technology. Sony has improved the T90 with a 12-megapixel image sensor, new Intelligent Auto exposure mode, and a 720p (1280x720) HD video mode.
Read the full review »



Optical Zoom


Precision Digital Zoom

Approx. 8x (Total)

Smart Zoom

up to 25x (with VGA)



Focal Length (f= mm)


Focal Length (f=35mm conversion)


Macro (cm)

Wide: Approx. 8-Infinity, Tele: Approx. 50-Infinity

Filter Diameter (mm)


Conversion Lens compatibility






Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Lens


Image Sensory

CCD Type


Size (Inches)



Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels)

Approx. 12.1M

Bionz Processor


Face Detection


Smile Shutter


A/D Conversion (DXP) (Bit)


Clear RAW NR


Auto Focus Method (Intelligent)


Auto Focus Method (Continuous)


Auto Focus Area (Multi Point)


Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted)


Auto Focus Area (Spot)


Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot)

YES (Touch)

Manual Focus


Focus Preset


Focus Preset (m)

0.5 / 1 / 3 / 7 / Unlimited distance

Aperture Auto Mode


Aperture Priority Mode


Aperture Manual Mode


Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec)

1" - 1/1000

NR Slow Shutter


Hand Shake Alert


Exposure Control

+/- 2.0 EV, 1/ 3 EV step

White Balance

Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash

Automatic White Balance


Light Metering (Multi Pattern)


Light Metering (Centre weighted)


Light Metering (Spot)


Sharpness Setting


Saturation Setting


Contrast Setting


ISO Sensitivity (REI)

YES (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)

Scene Selection

Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight using a tripod, Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Portrait

AF Illuminator


Flash Mode

Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash

Distance limitations using Flash (m)

0.08-2.9 (wide), 0.5-2.3 (tele)



Red-eye Reduction


Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash


Super SteadyShot

Super SteadyShot capability


SteadyShot capability


Optical SteadyShot capability


Auto Focus System

AF Illuminator



Flash Mode

Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash

Red-Eye Reduction


Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash


LCD/ Viewfinder

LCD Screen Size (inches)


LCD Total Dots Number


LCD Monitor Type


Auto Bright Monitoring


LCDField of View (%)


Optical Viewfinder


Electrical Viewfinder


LCD screen

LCD Field of View (%)



Recording Media

Memory Stick™ Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo™, Memory Stick PRO Duo™ High Speed, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ (No speed advantage), Internal memory (11MB)

Recording Format


Memory Stick™ Pro Interface


DCF (Design rule for Camera File System)


DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)


Burst Mode (shots)


Burst Interval (approximately sec)


Still Image size (12 Mega 4000 x 3000)


Still Image size (10 Mega 3648 x 2736)


Still Image size (8.0 Mega, 3264 x 2448)


Still Image size (5.0 Mega, 2592 x 1944)


Still Image size (3.1 Mega, 2048 x 1536)


Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480)


Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080)


Still Image size (16:9 mode, 3648 x 2056)


Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4000 x 2248)


Still Image size (3:2 mode, 4000 x 2672)


Still Image size (3:2 mode 3648 x 2432)


Moving Image Size (MPEG VX Fine, 640x480, 30fps)


Moving Image Size (MPEG VX Standard, 640x480, 16.6fps)


Moving Image Size (QVGA:  320x240 30fps)


Moving Image Size (QVGA: 320 x 240 8.3fps)


Moving Image Size (1440x1080 30fps Fine Approx.12Mbps)


Moving Image Size (1440x1080 30fps Standard Approx.7Mbps)


Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Fine Approx.9Mbps)


Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)


Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps)


Playback/ Edit

HD (High Definition) Playback


Slideshow Playback


Slideshow with Music






Playback Zoom


Divide (MPEG)


Cue & Review (MPEG)


Index Playback


Image Rotation


Auto Image Rotation



Battery Remaining Indicator


Histogram Indicator


Exposure Warning Indicator


Disk / Memory Stick remaining indicator


PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol)


Print Image Matching




Shop Front Mode


Start up time (approximately sec)


Menu Language

English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Romanian, Croatian

Bluetooth® Function



Multi use Terminal with HD


Multi use Terminal


AV Out


Digital I/O (USB)


USB 2.0 Hi-Speed


Power/ Others

Battery System

Lithium D

Supplied Battery


Stamina (battery life) with the supplied battery(s) in normal shooting condition

220 shots, 110min (CIPA standard with LCD screen on)

Battery for Clock

Manganese-Lithium (MS614SE) or Cobalt Titanium Lithium UT614)

Weight (g)


Weight with Accessories (g)


Supplied Software

Picture Motion Browser Ver.4.2 (Windows only) + Music Transfer

Supplied Accessories

Rechargeble battery pack (NP-BD1), Battery Charger, Multi Connector Cable, Power Cord, Wrist Strap, CD-ROM, PaintPen


Width (mm)


Height (mm)


Depth (mm)


Your Comments

Loading comments…