With its touchscreen and slim, stylish body, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 certainly has more flair than your average point-and-shoot compact camera. But, at around £150, it's slightly more expensive than your average compact too. Does the T99 justify its cost?
We have to hand it to Sony. Every so often the company comes up with a great-looking product, and the T99 is one of them. Small, slim and satisfyingly metallic, the T99 comes in a selection of colours (silver, black, pink, green and purple). On the front, a brushed-aluminium panel slides down to reveal the lens and flash. Opening and closing the panel also switches the unit on and off.
The rear of the unit is almost all touchscreen -- 3 inches of it, in fact. Indeed, there's a distinct lack of buttons to spoil the sleek look of the device. There's only a highly discrete zoom rocker, shutter and power button along the top right-hand edge of the case.
In practice, we found the touch controls to be pretty usable and fairly responsive. There's no fancy pinching or swiping here -- it's mostly just a question of straightforward finger jabs. The screen displays a number of the most useful options at all times, and a customisable quick-menu screen can be used to gain fast access to features that you make frequent use of.
There's one problem, though. It's very easy to accidentally touch the on-screen soft buttons while you're taking a shot. It's also almost inevitable that you'll end up -- as we did many times -- inadvertently tapping the mode options button with your thumb. We usually did it when we'd just lined up the perfect shot.
This isn't helped by the fact that the T99 is small and somewhat slippery to hold. There simply isn't any obvious way to grip the device without making contact with the touchscreen.
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Besides its appearance and touchscreen, the T99 is like many other cameras in its class. Its 14.1-megapixel resolution and 4x optical zoom, for example, are par for the course, although the majority of similarly specified compacts can be purchased for far less than the T99's asking price. There's a small amount of internal memory available but you'll need to invest in a separate memory card in the long run. The T99 is compatible with both Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD media.
The camera is well suited to beginners. Its intelligent-auto mode can be relied upon to adjust settings depending on shooting conditions, while its low-light sensitivity and anti-wobble technology help to produce some decent indoor shots, while cutting back on blurring at the same time.
Most point-and-shoot mod cons are present and correct, including face-detection, smile-detection and tap-to-focus features. One of the T99's more interesting features is its ability to automatically take panorama shots. The 'Sweep Panorama' mode allows you to press the shutter and then pan the camera horizontally. The device takes multiple shots as you pan and these are automatically stitched together.
High-definition video recording is possible but only at a 720p resolution. Additionally, there's no HDMI port, and only a standard-definition AV cable is supplied, so there's no obvious way of connecting the camera directly to a television in order to display your HD footage.
In terms of image quality, the T99's performance is more or less what you might expect from a camera of its type. Detail is fairly good -- certainly good enough for standard printing -- if a little soft. Colours are strong and, by and large, pretty accurate, especially if you're using the device outdoors and in good light.
You may, however, notice some fringing around the edges of high-contrast subjects and some noise in areas of solid colour. Also, the T99 can suffer from some very obvious lens distortion, particularly at the wide end of the zoom. We found ourselves standing further back and zooming into our subject to correct this, which isn't ideal.
Indoors, it's possible to take pretty decent photos with a suppressed flash, although noise quickly creeps in when there's a lack of natural light.
Performance-wise, you could probably do much worse than the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99. But, for the same price, you could also do much better. The T99 doesn't represent brilliant value for money but, if you value touch controls and a sleek design, you may be happy to cough up the extra cash for this otherwise rather average compact camera.
Edited by Charles Kloet