Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T99 review
1/2.3in 14.1-megapixel sensor, 4.0x zoom (25-100mm equivalent), 105g
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.
The touchscreen controls are responsive and sensibly laid out. The widescreen shape leaves black margins to the left and right of the preview image but this space is used to good effect with customisable buttons for the most-often used controls. Touch-for-spot focus is included, although it doesn’t track moving subjects.
Sony’s excellent Sweep Panorama mode lets the user capture a panoramic image simply by slowly rotating the camera. There’s also a Soft Skin mode, which applied a horrific airbrushed effect to faces. Other recent Sony innovations are conspicuously absent. The WX5 and TX9, launched at the same time, offer a 3D version of Sweep Panorama, but that’s not included here. Nor is Anti Motion Blur, which on other recent Sony compact cameras superimposes multiple exposures to reduce noise. Video capture is limited to 720p, whereas 1080i is increasingly common in the Sony line-up. Video quality was generally impressive but noise was a problem in most conditions and wide-angle clips exhibited heavy barrel distortion – something that’s corrected digitally for photos but not videos.
The camera was quick to switch on and to focus but pictures took almost two seconds to appear on the screen after capture. This contributed to a shot-to-shot time of 3.5 seconds – almost twice what we’d expect. Continuous mode started enthusiastically at 1.4fps but slowed almost immediately to 0.5fps. Image previews ran behind by three shots in continuous mode, which made attempting to adjust the composition extremely confusing.
Lacklustre performance was matched by mediocre image quality. Photos were plagued by image noise, which manifested itself as multicoloured blotches in darker parts of photos and smeared details due to aggressive noise reduction in brighter areas. These problems were visible when shooting outdoors and fairly catastrophic in indoor photos. Take a look at our sample shots in our gallery
The Panasonic FS10 costs around £100 and produced far sharper, smoother photos. We also found that the autofocus assist lamp was so bright that it annoyed our subjects in indoor portraits. Automatic exposures were well judged, though, and skin tones looked natural under artificial light. Colours were rich in brightly lit conditions but become under-saturated as the ISO speed rose.
The T99 is typical of the current crop of mid-price ultra-compact cameras. £200 is far from mid-price, though. The touchscreen has clearly bumped up the price, but image quality and performance have been left far behind.