The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9, the latest in Sony's T series of shirt-pocket-size digital cameras, is a great tool whether you're a casual shooter or a more serious photographer. Amateurs will appreciate the camera's ease of use, and discerning photographers will appreciate the 6-megapixel model's above-average image quality and responsive performance.
And while a less-than-wide lens and poor red-eye behaviour will mar some indoor portraits, any user will love the camera's 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen, its thin and attractive body, and its image stabilisation for keeping low-light pictures sharp. The deal is sweetened by 58MB of internal memory.
Clad in black or silver stainless steel and less than 25mm thick, with the dimensions of a credit card, the first thing anyone will notice about the 159g Sony T9 is its sleek styling -- expect to answer plenty of questions from gadget junkies when using this camera.
The camera is well designed from a usage perspective, too, with a simple menu system and limited manual controls to prevent confusion. The only unconventional buttons on the camera, in fact, are one to activate its Super SteadyShot image stabilisation and another that plays an animated slide show, complete with music.
Both stabilisation and slide show are new to the T series with the T9. The stabilisation works mechanically -- sensors detect motion from your hand and compensate by moving elements of the internal lens using tiny motors. While the system doesn't work as well as those in larger cameras we've seen, it does deliver an additional stop or so for handheld shooting, yielding sharp pictures taken at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 second.
The slide show, which has five animation styles and lets you choose from four soundtracks, is great fun. The styles are more than just transitions -- individual pictures are panned and zoomed as if in a film documentary. Four soundtracks come with the camera or can be uploaded from user-supplied MP3s or CDs. The whole show can be viewed in-camera or on a television using the supplied cable.
The only disappointing spec is the T9's lens. With a 35mm-film-equivalent range of 38mm to 114mm and a maximum aperture of f/3.5 to f/4.3, the Carl Zeiss-branded glass is not wide enough for tight indoor shots or expansive landscapes and not fast enough to keep shutter speeds up in even moderate light.
The T9 is a very quick camera, whether you're going through the menu system, reviewing pictures or shooting. It takes only 1.7 seconds to grab a first shot after turning on the power and only 1.3 seconds between successive shots in single-shot mode. Using the flash with red-eye reduction increases that time to 3.4 seconds. Continuous shooting is only fair at about 1.5fps, but shutter lag is impressive at 0.3 seconds.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
||Typical shot-to-shot time||
||Time to first shot||
||Shutter lag (typical)|