Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 Review
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 is a slim and stylish digital compact camera for beginners. The T99 features a 14.1 megapixel image sensor, 4x zoom lens with 25mm wide angle setting and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, 720p HD movie recording, Sweep Panoramas, Intelligent Auto (iAuto) mode, ISO range of 80-3200, and a 3 inch wide touchscreen LCD. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 is available in silver, black, violet, pink or green for around £200 / $229.99.
Ease of Use
Unlike Sony's Cyber-shot WX5 with its conventional boxy shape and protruding zoom lens, the flat-fronted brushed metal 14.1 effective megapixel, 4x optical zoom T99 is a slim-line snapshot contender of the slide open and shoot lens cover variety. This means its internally stacked optics are hidden from view when the camera is inactive, and at no point extend proud of the faceplate surface when in use.
This enables the camera to retain coolly minimalist proportions of 93x55.6x16.8mm that are almost an exact match for a business card in width and height (if not quite depth), while rounded edges further ensure that the T99 slips easily into any trouser pocket, shirt pocket or handbag to be ready for spur of the moment snapping. It's available in the usual array of colour options - five in the UK - including the smart silver version we had in for review, and weight is 105g without rechargeable battery or SD/SDHC/SDXC or Pro Duo card (32MB internal capacity providing back up). At the time of writing its manufacturer's asking price is £179.
While the above could describe almost 50% of compact JPEG-only point and shoots these days, the difference here is that the T99's entire back screen is taken up by a 3-inch widescreen ratio touch sensitive display boasting a standard 230,400-dot resolution, meaning that what few physical controls there are have been pared back to the essentials and are found located only on the camera's top plate.
These comprise the shutter release button, small and indented on/off button, equally small and slightly fiddly zoom lever shunted to the top right hand corner and given a roughened surface to improve purchase, plus, thankfully, a dedicated playback button so that images can be viewed quickly without having to slide open the faceplate and expose the lens first. A press of this also powers up the camera, without having to first press the on/off button. So getting up and running with the T99 is also fairly intuitive.
Again, lens, LCD and resolution aside, a smattering of the latest must haves are on board. These include HD movie recording - albeit at 1280x720 pixels, 30fps and in widely compatible MPEG4 format - along with Sweep Panorama, in 2D, rather than the triple aspect provided by the WX5 and TX9. Though more unusually for your otherwise standard snapper here we get an Underwater Sweep Panorama option (the camera itself isn't waterproof), as found on the TX9, along with more regulation issue Bionz processor and Carl Zeiss branded lens. There's no HDMI output however for hooking directly up to a flat panel TV; just the standard AV/USB out via a multi component cable attached to exposed universal port at the camera's base.
For those looking to shoot in a wide variety of lighting conditions, ISO800 up to IO3200 is offered in incremental steps, the lens optically stabilized to help further prevent blur when shooting handheld, though as with other cheaper snapshots we found the T99's built-in flash is overly keen to fire to preserve detail when the camera is in 'auto everything' intelligent auto mode - and seemingly when there is plenty of available light. Inevitably it's tricky to hold the camera rock steady as there's no concession at all to a handgrip, so the rear screen becomes covered in finger and thumbprints as your digits slip and slide over its surface and you wrestle with it.
More positively it's also worth mentioning that the T99's lens starts out at a wide angle 25mm (35mm equivalent) and runs up to a more modest 100mm at the telephoto end. So it's adept at those wide angle landscape shots and group portraits, if not quite the ideal for candid portraiture as you do have to get fairly close to any subject if looking to fill the frame with it. At the macro end of the scale, subjects as close as 1cm from the lens can be captured.
Of course you want any point and shoot camera to be as easy to use as possible, and Sony here includes the scene and subject recognizing intelligent Auto mode as the T99's default option, though alternative shooting modes, including program, the aforementioned Sweep panorama and movie mode, plus a 13 option strong scene mode are also available for selection with a finger tap.
In normal 4:3 aspect ratio mode, black bands crop the T99's screen at left and right hand side, and it's on these bands rather than overlaying the image itself that shooting display and selection options are provided, though if you do select shooting modes these choices fill the screen instead. However, if choosing menu option, the available choices overlay the picture itself, so there's a lack of consistency there.
As we noted at the outset, from the front the Cyber-shot DSC-T99 looks very smart when held in, and almost enveloped by, the palm. With faceplate obscuring the lens, it won't be immediately obvious to the untrained eye that this is a camera at all. Slide open the faceplate and there's an audio flourish while the rear screen bursts into life.
This exposes the fact that the lens is located top right of the flat faceplate when inevitably it can fall prey to fingertips straying into shot if gripping the camera in both hands to take a picture, though it's light enough for one handed operation. To the left of the lens is a small AF assist/self timer lamp window, and to the left of this again a very narrow sliver indeed housing the built-in flash, which has to be one of the very smallest we've ever seen on a digital camera. Beneath the flash is housed the built-in mono microphone.
On the subtly rounded top plate we find the physical controls. These include a dedicated power button which here feels slightly superfluous, as - as noted - the camera can be activated by sliding open the lens cover to take a shot, or simply pressing the playback button on the rear to review any image captures. Press this however and the camera readies itself for the first shot in a second, which is commendably swift. The largest control is the shutter release button, which, like the on/off button, is set into and falls flush with the body for maximum compactness.
A half press of this and auto focus point/s appear on screen framed in green with a beep of affirmation that focus and exposure has been determined and the user is free to proceed and take the shot. Do so and a maximum resolution top quality JPEG is committed to memory in around three seconds, screen blanking out briefly and then freezing to display the captured shot as the image is being written to card or internal memory. The only control therefore standing proud on this camera is the knobbly zoom control lever.
Give this a nudge and the zoom powers swiftly and silently through its range from maximum wide angle to extreme telephoto in all of two seconds. Nudging back and forwards more gently results in the zoom taking incremental baby steps, though it's hard to be particularly precise in this manner.
Start recording video with a press of the shutter release button - there's no on-screen 'record' button, meaning that you actually have to have video mode selected before filming can commence - and you'll discover the full extent of the optical zoom can be accessed here too, which is a blessing. The screen also loses the black bands from its edges and the full width of the LCD becomes your viewfinder. If you like the aspect ratio when shooting stills can also be altered, from the default 4:3 to 16:9 though inevitably you do lose something in resolution, with either 11 megapixel or two megapixel images being offered in this setting.
Set back from these controls, on the ridge that slopes down toward the backplate LCD, are a built in speaker and the dedicated playback button, as previously mentioned, being narrow and lozenge shaped and therefore requiring fingernail precise activation. Those with larger hands may find the T99 just a little too petite and fiddly, as the on-screen function icons are similarly small as a default.
This being a fully auto point and shoot camera, some of the manually adjustable settings that might have been given their own controls as time-saving shortcuts on enthusiast models - such as being able to access and change ISO settings - are instead located within the main menu options, meaning that it takes a few button presses to find and implement them.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Also included within the menu screen are an additional operational mode - easy mode, which enlarges font and button sizes as well as paring down the adjustable options to flash, self timer and image size - making the camera virtually idiot proof one might say and useful if you're handing it over to someone to take a snap who isn't familiar with it and might otherwise make accidental button presses.
Likewise included on the menu screen and adjustable with a tap of the relevant icon are an exposure compensation slider (+/- 2EV), access to burst and macro settings, along with white balance, focus (multi AF, centre AF or spot) plus metering choices (multi, centre or spot). It's here that face detection options also 'live'. With the default being auto detection, this can be changed to bias a particular face when it is touched on screen and therefore specified, or to bias adults or children in particular. The camera can also be directed to search for a smile and fire the shutter automatically when it finds one via the relevant smiley face icon on the T99's opening screen - which is useful for those self portrait shots. The intensity of the smile to be captured can also be specified, from wry thin smile to open mouthed belly laugh.
Sony has also seen fit to include its dynamic range optimizer ('DRO') settings on the T99 for theoretically more even exposures, which are also manually swappable, with 'standard' being the default, and the other choices being either to switch it off entirely or to go for the more intensely processed 'DRO Plus' option if the former doesn't satisfy.
When the T99 is in playback mode, users are given the opportunity to carry out a limited degree of in-camera retouching (trimming, red eye retouching or in camera sharpening) or 'paint' onto the image if scribbled annotations are your thing. There are also the usual slideshow with music and calendar date options found as standard features of the Sony Cyber-shot range. At each point the screen is quick and nigh instant in its response to each inquistive touch and proud, so users can get to where they want to be quickly and easily.
Moving back to the outer body for a moment, the smooth side flanks of the T99 are devoid of any features entirely, except for a means of attaching a wrist strap at one side. The base meanwhile features an off centre screw thread for the attachment of a tripod, centrally located output port, and shared compartment for battery and card (SD or Memory Stick Pro Duo sharing the same slot) protected by sliding catch.
The provided wafer-slim battery is good for 230 shots from a full charge, which is average for the T99's point and shoot class. But what about the images the T99 provides; are they average in themselves or do they transcend the T99's relatively modest point and shoot aspirations to deliver potential masterpieces for your mantelpiece? Read on to find out.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14.1 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.
At its heart the T99 is a snapshot camera so is obviously not the most sophisticated photographic entity on the market. This translates into slightly flat images straight out of the camera that aren't as sharp as we'd ideally like, with exposure biasing whatever is largest and most prominent in the frame, even with the dynamic range optimizer function enabled on the camera. The result is detail in the foregrounds but washed out backgrounds. Admittedly we were shooting with the camera in the grey depths of winter in the UK rather than under vivid blue skies where a sub £200 snapshot camera would inevitably fair better. The result was that colours were also rather flatter and less warm than we would have hoped for.
Low light performance is similarly unsurprising. Noise creeps in at ISO800 setting and gets progressively worse as we move higher. At ISO1600, whilst we aren't getting a badly gritty appearance, we are losing edge detail, and at top whack ISO3200 setting we are getting a distinctly dotty look that causes the images to begin to resemble Pontilist/Impressionist paintings.
The T99 then does seem biased slightly more towards the style end of the spectrum than substance, but should nevertheless reward those with low expectations looking for usable results with minimal fuss.
There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sony CyberShot DSC-T99. 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 and ideally benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-T99 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-T99 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm 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.
The flash settings on the Sony CyberShot DSC-T99 are Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash, with a Red-eye Reduction option in the Main menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)
Forced Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)
Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (100mm)
Forced Flash - Telephoto (100mm)
And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Forced Flash setting or the Red-Eye Correction option caused any red-eye.
|Forced Flash (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Sony CyberShot DSC-T99's maximum shutter speed is 2 seconds, which is not good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/3rd second at ISO 400.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
Sweep Panorama Mode
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and now even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.
This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine 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 video from the Sony CyberShot DSC-T99 camera at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 21 second movie is 15.4Mb in size.
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Lens Cover Open
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Rear of the Camera / Record Menu
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
So is it time to approach the desk of your local camera emporium and utter the phrase 'make mine a T99'? If you're looking for an easy to use and very dinky digital compact with a smattering of style and a cherry pick of the latest technological must haves (3D shooting aside, look to the TX9 or WX5 for that), then you could certainly do worse.
The flip side of the coin is inevitably that in spending a little bit more you could also do a lot better - but 'twas ever thus.
It is capable of delivering fair results and is far from the worst of the cameras hovering round the £100 mark, but a small form factor, lens and sensor inevitably doesn't delver results on a par with what photo enthusiasts will be expecting if stepping down from a mid range model or DSLR for occasional snapshots. Spending a little bit more on something else pocket-sized in the Sony range, such as the DSC-WX5 mentioned, might be a better bet if you fall into that category.
Still, if a camera that's slim and portable is near top of your list of priorities - over and above pin sharp image quality - then the T99, along with competitors in Nikon's CoolPix S5100, fits the bill as an affordable option for occasional snapping.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4|
Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 from around the web.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 digital camera replaces the company's previous TX1 model, and is based around a 14.1 megapixel Sony Super HAD CCD image sensor with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar-branded 4x optical zoom lens. The Sony T99's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 25mm wide-angle to a moderate 100mm telephoto (or 27 - 108mm in 16:9 aspect ratio mode).
Read the full review »
Sony knows how to make a good looking camera. As with all of its T-series models, the T99’s lens sits behind a sliding panel that doubles as a power switch. For reasons we can’t quite explain, this design is immensely satisfying. The back of the camera is filled by a 3in touchscreen, and the overall effect is one of sleek, understated sophistication. The downside is that there’s not much to hold onto. We found that fingers sometimes crept in front of the lens as we did our best to grip its curved shell.
Read the full review »
|Precision Digital Zoom||Approx. 8x (Total)|
|Smart Zoom||up to 27x (with VGA)|
|Focal Length (f= mm)||4.43-17.7|
|Focal Length (f=35mm conversion)||25-100|
|Macro (cm)||iAuto(W:Approx.1cm(0.39'') to Infinity, T:Approx.50cm(1.64') to Infinity) / Program Auto(W:Approx.8cm(0.26') to Infinity, T:Approx.50cm(1.64') to Infinity)|
|Filter Diameter (mm)||NO|
|Conversion Lens compatibility||NO|
|Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Lens||YES|
|CCD Type||Super HAD CCD|
|Size (Inches)||1/2.3 type(7.76mm)|
|Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels)||Approx. 14.1|
|Intelligent Sweep Panorama||NO|
|Underwater Sweep Panorama||YES (Housing Off/On)|
|3D Sweep Panorama||NO|
|Clear RAW NR||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Multi Point)||9 points(Under Face Undetected)|
|Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Spot)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot)||YES(Touch)|
|Focus Preset (m)||NO|
|Aperture Auto Mode||YES|
|Aperture Priority Mode||NO|
|Aperture Manual Mode||NO|
|Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec)||iAuto(2" - 1/1.600) / Program Auto(1" - 1/1.600)|
|NR Slow Shutter||1 / 3sec or slower|
|Hand Shake Alert||YES|
|Exposure Control||+/- 2.0EV, 1/ 3 EV step|
|White Balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set|
|Automatic White Balance (Under water)||YES|
|Light Metering (Multi Pattern)||YES|
|Light Metering (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Light Metering (Spot)||YES|
|ISO Sensitivity (REI)||Auto / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200|
|Scene Selection||9 modes (Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Twilight using a tripod / Backlight / Backlight Portrait / Landscape / Macro / Portrait / Close Focus)|
|AF Illuminator||Auto / Off|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Distance limitations using Flash (m)||ISO Auto: Approx.0.08-Approx.2.8m(Approx.0.26'-Approx.9.18')(W) / Approx.0.5-Approx.2.3m(Approx.1.64'-Approx.7.54')(T), ISO3200: up to Approx.5.6m(Approx18.4')(W) / Approx.4.6m(Approx15.1')(T)|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|Super SteadyShot capability||NO|
|Optical SteadyShot capability||YES|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|LCD Screen Size||7.5cm / 3.0"|
|LCD Total Dots Number||230.400|
|LCD Monitor Type||TFT|
|Auto Bright Monitoring||YES|
|Recording Media||Memory Stick™ Duo(still only), Memory Stick PRO Duo™(Mark2 only for movie). Memory Stick PRO Duo™ High Speed (Still only and no Speed Advantage), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ (No Speed Advantage)|
|Recording Media-II||SD Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), SDHC/SDXC Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), Internal memory (32MB)|
|DCF (Design rule for Camera File System)||YES|
|DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)||YES|
|Burst Mode (shots)||Approx. 0.69 fps(2 shots*4)|
|Burst Interval (approximately sec)||Approx. 0.69 sec.(2 shots*4)|
|Still Image size (14 Mega 4320 x 3240)||YES|
|Still Image size (13 Mega 4224 x 3168)||NO|
|Still Image size (12 Mega 4000 x 3000)||NO|
|Still Image size (10 Mega 3648 x 2736)||YES|
|Still Image size (9.0 Mega, 3456 x 2592)||NO|
|Still Image size (8.0 Mega, 3264 x 2448)||NO|
|Still Image size (7.2 Mega 3072 x 2304)||NO|
|Still Image size (5.0 Mega, 2592 x 1944)||YES|
|Still Image size (3.1 Mega, 2048 x 1536)||NO|
|Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4320 x 2432)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4000 x 2248)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode, 4000 x 2672)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3648 x 2432)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3456 x 2304)||NO|
|2D Panorama||7.152 x 1.080(265deg) / 4.912 x 1.080(182deg) / 4.912 x 1.920(182deg) / 3.424 x 1.920(127deg)|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Fine Approx.9Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps)||YES|
|Moving Image Size (320x240 30fps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1920 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.17Mbps(Average bit-rate))||NO|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1440 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.9Mbps(Average bit-rate))||NO|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1440 x 1080 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.12Mbps(Average bit-rate))||NO|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1280 x 720 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.6Mbps(Average bit-rate))||NO|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 640 x 480 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.3Mbps(Average bit-rate))||NO|
|HD (High Definition) Playback||YES|
|Slideshow with Music||YES|
|Cue & Review (MPEG)||YES|
|Index Playback||12 / 28 images (Date / Folder-Still / Folder-Movie)|
|Auto Image Rotation||YES|
|Auto grouping and & Best Picture Recognition||NO|
|Battery Remaining Indicator||YES|
|Exposure Warning Indicator||YES|
|Disk / Memory Stick remaining indicator||YES|
|PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol)||YES|
|Print Image Matching||YES|
|Shop Front Mode||YES|
|Start up time (approximately sec)||1.5|
|Menu Language||English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian|
|Multi use Terminal with HD||Type3 (AV(SD/HD Component*5) / USB / DCIN*5|
|Multi use Terminal||YES|
|USB 2.0 Hi-Speed||YES|
|Battery System||Lithium N|
|Stamina (battery life) with the supplied battery(s) in normal shooting condition||230 shots, 115min (CIPA standard with LCD screen on)|
|Battery for Clock||Manganese-Lithium (MS614SE)|
|Weight (g)||Approx. 105 (3.7oz.)|
|Weight with Accessories (g)||Approx. 121 (4.3oz.)|
|Supplied Software||Picture Motion Browser Ver.5.3(Windows only)|
|Supplied Accessories||Rechargeable Battery Pack(NP-BN1),Battery Charger, Multi Connector Cable (USB, AV), Power Cord, Wrist Strap, Paint Pen, CD-ROM|