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Quick Review

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 Digital Camera

Sony DSC-T9 Camera QuickLook
Review Date
2/2/2006
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Very Good, 6.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
11x17s, or 8x10s with heavy cropping
Availability
 Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
$449.99

Introduction

Sony T9 Review Links
Overview
Specifications
Design
Operation
Test Results
Conclusion

Sony cameras offer excellent features and performance, good build quality and great picture quality. Sony currently offers no fewer than nine distinct lines of cameras, spanning an incredible range of features, price, and performance. In their "Compact" line, they've now added a new six-megapixel model that builds on the success of the preceding T-models, and adds a new Steady Shot mode to counter camera shake. With a 3x optical zoom lens, compact design, and very generous 2.5-inch LCD screen, the new Sony DSC-T9 is about the thickness of a ladies' compact and very pocket friendly. Automatic exposure control offers point-and-shoot ease, with a handful of scene modes for more difficult shooting situations.

 

Camera Overview

Modeled in the same sleek style as preceding Sony Cyber-shot T-series models, the DSC-T9 is ultra thin and compact, like a small makeup case. The camera's thin profile is chic and attractive, with smooth panels and very few protrusions. A horizontal sliding lens cover is a unique twist on the typical lens cover design, and doubles as a finger rest when open. The T9 has a vertical lens design with a folded optic, which eliminates any lens protrusion on the front panel. With its diminutive size, the Sony DSC-T9 is definitely pocket friendly and travel-worthy. The biggest feature on the Sony T9 is its large, 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, which takes up most of the camera's rear panel. Though small, and ultimately a point-and-shoot style digital camera, the Sony DSC-T9 doesn't skimp on features, offering a 3x optical zoom lens with a range of focus options, a 6.0-megapixel CCD for high-resolution images, Steady shot image stabilization, and a host of preset shooting modes and exposure options.

The Sony T9 is equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x, 6.3-19.0mm lens, equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. (A fairly standard zoom range, going from an average wide angle to a good telephoto.) Normal focus ranges from approximately 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity, with a Macro setting that lets you get within 3.1 inches (8 centimeters) when the lens is zoomed to its wide angle position. A Magnifying Glass scene mode (described below) gets even closer, focusing as close as one centimeter (though it also uses digital zoom to enlarge detail). In addition to automatic focus control, the Sony T9 offers a range of fixed focus settings through the Record menu, as well as Center AF, Spot AF, and Multi AF focus area options. (Spot AF reads from the very center of the frame, and Center AF from a larger area at the center.) Through the camera's Setup menu, you can also select Single or Monitoring AF modes. (Monitoring mode adjusts focus continuously.) An AF illuminator lamp on the front of the camera helps focus at low light levels, a very handy feature I wish more digicam manufacturers would add to their cameras. In addition to the camera's 3x optical zoom, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 offers a maximum of 2x Precision Digital Zoom. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom does an excellent job of minimizing loss of quality. There's also an option to use Sony's Smart Zoom digital zoom up to 4x, which enlarges images with less distortion than the traditional digital zoom (not available at the max resolution setting). Still, true optical zoom is always preferable for the best quality, as digital zoom simply enlarges the center portion of the CCD, resulting in lower resolution and softer detail. Also built into the T9 is Sony's Steady Shot technology, which reduces blurring caused by slight camera movement. The 2.5-inch LCD monitor is the only viewfinder, and the generous size definitely helps with framing. The informative display reports a variety of camera settings (including aperture and shutter speed when the Shutter button is halfway pressed), and features a live histogram display in both Playback and Record modes. The Sony T9's Display button also controls the LCD backlight, offering bright and normal display options.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the Sony DSC-T9, great for novices and casual users looking for simplicity. However, a range of preset Scene modes is available, as well as a handful of adjustable exposure options. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on (as does the sliding lens cover), and a Mode switch selects between Playback, Record, and Movie modes. Within Record mode, you can select Automatic, Program AE, Magnifying Glass, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Soft Snap, Landscape, High Speed Shutter, Beach, Snow, and Fireworks exposure modes. The Automatic setting takes away all user control, with the exception of flash, macro, and resolution. Program AE mode keeps exposure control automatic, but you now have control over all other exposure variables. Both Twilight modes optimize the camera for low-light shooting by allowing shutter times as long as two seconds, while Soft Snap mode enhances skin tones and softens the subject slightly for flattering portraits. Landscape mode sets the camera up for shooting broad vistas. Snow mode enhances saturation to prevent loss of color in bright white snowscapes, while Beach mode ensures that blue tones are recorded accurately in lakeside or seaside photos. Fireworks mode preserves color by using a slower shutter speed to capture the full display. High Speed Shutter mode is best for moving subjects, and uses faster shutter speeds to freeze action, while Candle mode preserves color in candlelight and soft incandescent lighting. Finally, Magnifying Glass mode magnifies the subject on the LCD display up to 3x (a separate function from Macro mode), focusing on subjects as close as one centimeter. However, keep in mind that this mode also employs the digital zoom function, which may degrade image quality slightly.

Although the Sony DSC-T9 controls aperture and shutter speed, it does report both settings on the LCD information display, so you have an idea of what the exposure will be. By default, the camera uses a Multi metering system to determine the exposure, which takes readings from throughout the frame. However, Spot and Center metering modes are also available through the Record menu. You can increase or decrease the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV), and sensitivity is adjustable to 80, 100, 200, 400, or 640, with an Auto setting as well. When shooting at slower shutter speeds or higher ISO settings, the Sony T9 automatically enables a Noise Reduction system to eliminate excess image noise. The Sony T9 offers Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Picture Effects setting that lets you record images in black and white or sepia monotones. White Balance options include an Auto setting, as well as Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, and Flash modes. In Full Auto, Program, and Magnifying Glass mode only Auto and Flash white balance settings are available. The DSC-T9's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync modes.

In Movie exposure mode, the Cybershot T9 captures either 640 x 480-, or 160 x 112-pixel resolution moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available storage space. At the 640 x 480 setting, you can choose between Standard and Fine quality options. Standard records at 16 frames per second, while Fine records at 30 frames per second and requires the Memory Stick PRO Duo media. Through a Record menu option, the Sony T9 also offers a Multi Burst mode, which captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames per second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (This is a useful tool for analyzing golf and tennis swings.) The same menu option also offers Exposure Bracketing and Burst options. Exposure Bracketing mode captures a series of three images at different exposure settings, and you can set the exposure variance step size. Burst mode works like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera, capturing a maximum of nine images in quick succession at the highest resolution. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the Sony T9 actually takes the picture, giving the photographer time to run around and get into the picture.

The Sony DSC-T9 stores images on its 58MB internal memory, or on Sony Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards, available separately in capacities as large as 2GB. Since the camera doesn't come with a Memory Stick, I'd recommend purchasing a larger capacity card so you don't miss any shots. New to the T9 is an expanded slide show option in Playback mode, which lets you load music onto the camera to accompany slide shows, as well as choose slide show styles (such as Nostalgic, for example). For power, the Sony T9 uses a single NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery pack, which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary charger. An included multi-use USB / A/V cable comes with the camera, and connects the camera either to a computer or television. A software CD is loaded with Sony's Picture Package and Music Transfer software (for slide show accompaniment) and USB drivers, for downloading and organizing images.

Basic Features

  • 6.0-megapixel CCD.
  • 2.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 3x zoom lens, equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum aperture of f/3.5 - f/4.3, depending on lens zoom position.
  • As much as 2x Precision Digital Zoom, and as much as 4x Smart Zoom.
  • Automatic and Program exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to two seconds.
  • Built-in flash with four modes.
  • 58MB internal memory.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo image storage (card not included).
  • USB / A/V combo cable included for connection to television or computer.
  • Power supplied by rechargeable NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery (battery and charger supplied).
  • Picture Package, Music Transfer, and Cyber-shot application software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • MPEG VX Movie mode.
  • Steady Shot vibration reduction mode.
  • Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Magnifying, Soft Snap, Landscape, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, High Speed Shutter, Candle, and preset scene modes.
  • Picture Effects menu with Black-and-White and Sepia color options.
  • Macro (close-up) lens setting.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six modes.
  • Burst, Multi Burst, and Auto Exposure Bracketing record modes.
  • Multi-Pattern, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with four ISO equivalents (80, 100, 200, 400, 640) and an Auto setting.
  • Five-area Multi-Point auto focus with Spot and Center AF modes, and AF illuminator.
  • Single and Monitoring AF modes.
  • Automatic Noise Reduction for longer exposures.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • PictBridge, PRINT Image Matching III, and Exif Print compatible.

Recommendation

The T9 really isn't terribly different from past T-series offerings, though it does feature a larger CCD, Steady Shot, and a new music feature that lets you load music from a computer to accompany slide shows. It's build is also more solid, with a higher quality feel than recent T-series cameras. The Sony T9's 3x Carl Zeiss zoom lens, large LCD monitor, and 6.0-megapixel CCD are excellent features as well, as are the camera's available Scene exposure modes and handful of creative effects options. The T9 looks like another excellent offering from Sony, definitely aimed at mobile consumers who want a digital camera they can stash in a pocket and go (all the while still able to capture great pictures).

 

Design

Small and very compact, the Sony DSC-T9 is slight variation on a theme to the already sleek and stylish T-series of the Sony Cyber-shot line. The horizontal lens cover slides up and down, protecting the T9's vertically-oriented lens and keeping the front panel smooth and very pocket friendly. Measuring 3.56 x 2.19 x 0.81 inches (90 x 55 x 21 millimeters), the Sony T9 will definitely fit into shirt pockets and tiny evening bags. Though it sports an all-metal body, the T9 is still light, at just 5.5 ounces (157 grams) with battery and memory card.

The front of the T9 is nearly flat, except for a slight protrusion from the sliding lens cover. (The lens cover acts as a power switch as well, though the camera does feature a separate Power button.) Because the lens design is all-internal, it doesn't telescope outward when the Sony T9 is powered on. Instead, the lens lines up vertically inside the camera, using a mirror to reflect the view. This also makes the camera quick on the draw, as you don't have to wait on the lens to telescope into position before you can shoot. Also beneath the lens cover are the flash and self-timer / AF illuminator lamp. There isn't much of a handgrip on the Sony T9, though the lens cover's bottom edge acts as a small ledge for fingers to grasp.

The right side of the Sony T9 features a small eyelet for attaching the wrist strap and the battery / media compartment. The shiny silver door slides down before opening outward, and reveals the battery and Memory Stick Duo slot.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless.

The T9's top panel is also fairly smooth, with hardly any protrusions from the few controls. The Shutter button dominates the right corner, with the small Steady Shot button on its right. On the left of the Shutter button are the Power button and small microphone. Angled down from the top panel toward the rear of the Sony T9 is the sliding Mode switch.

The remaining few camera controls are on the back panel, along with the very large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor. A set of raised bumps provides a slight thumb grip. A zoom control is in the top right corner, with the Five-way Arrow pad next to the lower right corner of the LCD monitor. The Display, Menu, and Resolution / Erase buttons line up down the right side of the LCD monitor. There's also a tiny speaker, tucked on the left side of the LCD monitor, and a Slide Show button in the lower right corner.

The Sony DSC-T9 has a flat bottom panel, which holds the USB / A/V connector jack and a metal tripod mount.

 

Camera Operation

The Sony T9's user interface is straightforward, with a layout that's simple to navigate. The Sony T9 has only a few external controls, as most of the exposure options are accessed through the LCD menu system. The camera's Five-way Arrow pad keys serve multiple functions, and you can quickly change the camera mode via the Mode switch on the top panel. The arrow keys of the Five-way pad scroll through menu selections, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. The menu system is so simple and intuitive I think even novice users will be able to become completely familiar with it in half an hour or less.

Record Mode Display: The Sony DSC-T9's LCD monitor reports a fair amount of camera information in Record mode, including the battery level and approximate operating time left, image resolution and quality, exposure mode, flash mode, autofocus mode, and any other basic settings. A set of focus brackets is in the center of the frame. A half-press of the Shutter button adds the shutter speed and aperture settings to the Sony T9's display. The Display button cycles through a range of display modes, enabling a histogram, as well as eliminating the information overlay (with the exception of the focus brackets and mode). You can also choose between bright and normal LCD display options.

Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, the LCD monitor reports basic information such as the image resolution, battery level and time, folder number, image series number, file name, and the date and time the image was captured. Pressing the Display button enables an brighter display, an expanded information display with basic exposure information and a small histogram. You can also cancel the information display entirely, by pressing the Display button a fourth time.


 

External Controls


Sliding Lens Cover
: Stretching across the width of the T9's front panel, this cover slides up and down to reveal or conceal the lens. Though the camera has a Power button, this sliding cover also controls the camera's power.


Steady Shot Button
: Located on the very far right side of the camera's top panel, this button enables Steady Shot mode, which minimizes blurring from slight camera movement.


Shutter Button
: Just left of the Sony T9's Steady Shot button, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power Button
: To the left of the Shutter button, this button turns the camera on and off.


Mode Switch
: This switch is actually angled downward toward the rear panel, though the indicator icons line up above it on the top panel. The following options are available:

  • Playback: Replays captured still images and movie files, with options for image management and printing.
  • Record: Places the camera in still Record mode, with a handful of preset scenes and Auto and Program AE modes available.
  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, for as long as the memory card has space.


Zoom Rocker Button
: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, this rocker switch controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode.

In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images and accesses the index display mode as well as a detailed information display. (The "T" side zooms in, the "W" side zooms out. Zooming out from the normal-sized single image view brings up an index display of tiny "thumbnail" images.)


Display Button
: Adjacent to the upper right corner of the LCD display, this button controls the LCD monitor's display mode. In both Record and Playback modes, the button cycles through the image and information displays.


Menu Button
: Below the Display button, this button displays or dismisses the settings menu in any Record mode or in Playback mode.


Image Size / Erase Button: Adjacent to the lower left corner of the LCD monitor, this button activates the Image Size setting in any Record mode. In any still image mode, resolution options of 6M (2,816 x 2,112 pixels); 3:2 (2,816 x 1,872 pixels); 3M (2,048 x 1,536 pixels); 1M (1,280 x 960 pixels); VGA E-Mail (640 x 480 pixels); and 16:9 HDTV (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) are available. Movie mode options include 640 x 480 (Standard), 640 x 480 (Fine), and 160 x 120 pixels. (The 640 x 480 Fine option is only available when using the Memory Stick PRO Duo media format.)

In Playback mode, this button pulls up the single erase menu, letting you delete the currently displayed image. Pressing this button in Index display mode gives you the option of deleting all files in the folder.


Five-way Controller
: In the lower right corner of the Sony T9's rear panel, this five button control pad features four arrow keys and a center "OK" button. The arrow keys navigate through any settings menu, and the OK button confirms menu selections.

In Record mode, the up arrow controls flash mode, cycling through Auto, Forced, Suppressed, and Slow-Sync modes. The down arrow activates the Self-Timer option, while the right arrow controls the Macro mode. The left arrow calls up a quick review of the most recently-captured image.

In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card, while the up and down arrows control playback volume. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys move around within the enlarged view.


Slide Show Button
: In Playback mode, pressing this button enables a slide show playback of all the captured files on the internal memory or memory card, complete with music; a fairly impressive spectacle. A second press of the button cancels the show.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In this mode, the Sony DSC-T9 captures standard still images, controlling aperture and shutter speed. Pressing the Menu button displays the Record settings menu, with options varying depending on the exposure mode selected:

  • Camera: Offers Automatic, Program AE, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, High Speed Shutter, Candle, and Magnifying Glass exposure modes. The mode selected dictates which of the following options are available. Program mode offers all of the following.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF, Spot AF, or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • Metering: Sets the metering mode to either Spot, Center, or Multi metering.
  • White Balance: Sets the color balance to Auto, or adjusts for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, or Flash light sources.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 80, 100, 200, 400, or 640 ISO equivalents.

  • Picture Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine or Standard.
  • REC Mode: Changes the recording mode to Normal, Burst, Exposure Bracketing, or Multi Burst modes.
  • Bracket Step: (Only available if Exposure Bracketing is selected above.) Sets the level of exposure variation for Auto Exposure Bracketing shots. Step sizes include 1.0, 0.7, or 0.3 EV.
  • Interval: (Only available in Multi Burst mode.) Specifies the shutter interval for Multi Burst mode. Options are 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30.
  • Flash Level: Adjusts the flash intensity to Normal, Low, or High.
  • Picture Effects: Applies either Black and White or Sepia color effects.

  • Saturation: Adjusts the overall color saturation, with High, Normal, and Low options.
  • Contrast: Controls the level of contrast in images, with options for High, Normal, and Low.
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening. Options are High, Normal, and Low.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. When playing back movie files, you can also opt for "frame-by-frame" playback, which plays back the movie file slowly, several frames at a time. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Folder: Selects the folder of images to be played back.
  • Protect: Write-protects the current image, or removes protection.
  • DPOF: Marks the current image for printing on a DPOF device, or removes the print mark.
  • Print: Enables direct printing to a connected device.
  • Slide: Enables a slide show of all images captured on the Memory Stick Duo. You can control the interval between each image, the range of images to be played back, and whether or not the slide show repeats. You can also choose an effect and music.
  • Resize: Resizes the current image to one of the available resolution sizes.

  • Rotate: Rotates the current image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Divide: Divides movie files into segments, providing a very basic editing tool you can use to "trim" your movies to just the portion you want to keep.

Movie Mode: Records short movie clips with sound, for as long as the Memory Stick has available space. The LCD menu system offers the following options:

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Focus: Changes the focus area to Multi AF, Spot AF, or Center AF, or selects from a range of fixed focus settings (0.5, 1.0, 3.0, or 7.0 meters, or Infinity).
  • Metering: Sets the metering mode to either Spot, Center, or Multi metering.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the color balance for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Picture Effects: Applies either Black and White or Sepia color effects.

Set-Up Mode: The following four-page Set-Up menu is available in Playback, Record, and Movie modes, as an extension of the LCD menu:

  • Camera 1:
    • AF Mode: Sets the autofocus to Single or Monitor modes. (Monitor mode automatically adjusts the focus before the Shutter button is pressed or held halfway.)
    • Digital Zoom: Enables Smart Zoom or Precision Digital Zoom, or turns digital zoom off entirely.
    • Date/Time: Controls the date and time display, options are Day & Time, Date, or Off.
    • Red-Eye Reduction: Enables the Red-Eye Reduction flash (which will fire with all flash modes), or turns it off.
    • AF Illuminator: Puts the AF Illuminator into Auto mode, or simply turns it off.
    • Auto Review: Activates the Auto Review function, which automatically displays the most recently captured image post-capture.

  • Camera 2:
    • Enlarged Icon: If activated, this option temporarily enlarges the icon display in the LCD monitor whenever flash mode, macro mode, etc. is adjusted.
    • Steady Shot: Puts the Steady Shot function into Continuous or Shooting mode. If in Continuous mode, Steady Shot is constantly operating once enabled. Shooting mode means that Steady Shot functions only when the Shutter button is halfway pressed.

  • Internal Memory Tool
    • Format: Formats the internal memory, erasing all files (even protected ones).

  • Memory Stick Tool
    • Format: Formats the Memory Stick DUO card, if inserted, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • Create Rec. Folder: Creates a new folder for recording images.
    • Change Rec. Folder: Changes the folder that images are recorded to.
    • Copy: Copies all images from the internal memory to the Memory Stick.

  • Setup 1
    • Download Music: Lets you download music from a computer, for playback during the slide show function.
    • Format Music: Formats the music file for a slide show, in case the file has been corrupted. Format Music will erase all music files, so that you can re-download.
    • Beep: Controls the camera's beep sound, setting it to Shutter, On, or Off.
    • Language: Offers a selection of languages for menu display.
    • Initialize: Resets the camera to its default settings.

  • Setup 2
    • File Number: Sets file numbering to Series or Reset. The Series option continues numbering files from one memory card to the next, while Reset starts over with each new memory card.
    • USB Connect: Places the USB connection into PictBridge, PTP, Mass Storage, or Auto modes. (In Auto mode, the camera recognizes the type of device it is connected to and sets up communication automatically.)
    • Video Out: Specifies the camera's Video Out signal as NTSC or PAL.
    • Clock Set: Sets the camera's internal clock.

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

In the Box

The Sony DSC-T9 ships with the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • USB / A/V combo cable.
  • NP-FT1 Info-Lithium battery pack and charger.
  • Software CD.
  • Instruction manual and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo. (Memory Stick PRO versions can handle high-res movie data and give faster download times.) This should be used for all current Sony cameras.
  • Additional NP-FT1 battery pack.
  • Small camera case.

 

Test Results

We ran the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 through our usual battery of tests, and have summarized our findings here. To see the full set of our test images, with explanations of what to look for in them, see the Sony DSC-T9 Sample Pictures page. For a complete listing of all our test and "gallery" shots, go to the Thumbnails page.

A collection of more random, pictorial images can be found in the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony DSC-T9 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Lens

Zoom
A typical 3x optical zoom range, with good performance.

38mm
114mm
Digital Zoom

The Sony T9 zooms over the equivalent of a 38-114mm range, fairly typical for its class. Though a little soft at wide angle, with some mild coma distortion in the trees, the T9's lens still performs well, and the camera's sharpening algorithms seem to clean things up a bit. The 4x digital zoom takes it out to 12x total with the usual loss of quality associated with digital zoom.

Macro
A small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Flash exposes fairly well, but flash illumination is uneven up close.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Sony DSC-T9's macro setting performs well, capturing an average minimum area of 2.98 x 2.24 inches (76 x 57 millimeters). Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners and left and right edges. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) The flash throttles down pretty well, but its light doesn't reach the two left corners of the frame. (Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the T9.)

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion, higher than average pincushion.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The Sony T9's 0.7% barrel distortion at wide angle is slightly less than average among the cameras I've tested. At the telephoto end, the T9's 0.6% pincushion is actually a good bit higher than average.

Barrel distortion at 38mm is 0.7%
Pincushion at 114mm is 0.6%

Chromatic aberration
High at wide angle, very little at telephoto.

Wide: moderate and bright, top left Tele: low and dull at top right

Chromatic aberration is moderate at wide angle, showing about 4-5 pixels of fairly bright coloration on either side of the target lines, but decreases at telephoto focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
Some softening in the left and right corners of the frame, strongest effect in the lower left corner at both wide angle and telephoto.

Wide: chromatic aberration and coma show
up most significantly in the lower left
Wide: center shot is slightly soft
Tele: chromatic aberration and coma show
up again in the lower left
Tele: center shot is also slightly soft

The Sony DSC-T9 produced soft corners in a few shots, the lower left corner being the softest at both wide angle and telephoto focal lengths. Compare the center shots above right, which technically should be the sharpest the camera can produce, to the shots at left, which represent the softest corners of the frame. While noticeably soft (not to mention distorted from the camera's barrel and pincushion distortion), the amount of softening here is less than we see in many subcompact camera models.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Pronounced warm cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, though slightly better performance with Incandescent. Slightly more than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.3 EV Incandescent WB +1.3 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was a bit warm and orange in Auto white balance mode, though the Incandescent setting did a bit better, and was probably within an acceptable range. The Sony T9 required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, a bit more than average for this shot. At that level, the bright highlights on the white shirt are a little hot, but one step down in exposure left the rest of the image too dark. The warm cast results in a purplish tint in the blue flowers, and overall color is fairly dark. (A very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Fairly good color balance, though a hint warm. High contrast limits shadow and highlight detail.

Auto White Balance, +0.3 EV Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure, but with strong, blown out highlights in direct sunlight, and very deep shadows with limited detail. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digital cameras

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
See Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 Photo Gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,250 - 1,300 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,300 lines per picture height vertically, though to about 1,250 lines horizontally, with extinction at around 1,900. (The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,500 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to 1,250 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,300 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images, with blurring of fine detail from noise suppression.

Decent contrast, but slightly soft for a Sony digital camera. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Sony DSC-T9's images are slightly soft overall, escaping any strong over-sharpening or edge enhancement on the camera's part. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows this, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing only limited detail, even though individual lighter strands are quite visible against darker background areas in the uncropped image. (The level of detail loss shown here isn't at all obvious on prints 8x10 inches or smaller though.)

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, very high noise that blurs detail at the higher settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
   
ISO 400 ISO 640   

The Sony DSC-T9's lower ISO settings produced moderate noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the darker areas. Noise level increases with the ISO setting, resulting in stronger blurring, especially at ISO 400 and 640. Noise pixels are also quite bright at the highest ISO settings, altering the appearance of the overall color. Under fairly bright lighting, ISO 400 shots are soft but acceptable when printed at 8x10 inches. Under the more difficult incandescent lighting of this shot though, the really aren't usable at sizes above 5x7 inches, and are rough-looking even there. ISO 640 shots are really only usable for 4x6 inch snapshot prints.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but very high contrast and limited shadow detail. Limited low-light performance, barely capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Sony DSC-T9 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with blown highlights and deep shadows. Noise suppression is visible in both shadows and highlights as well, contributing to the loss of detail, made more severe in these areas. At the default exposure, the overall image is slightly dark, even with the super-bright highlights. I chose the +0.3 EV exposure because of the brighter overall appearance, but that lost an awful lot of highlight detail. The Sony T9 does have a contrast adjustment that can help in situations like this, but I found that it produced very unnatural-looking color-saturation breaks in Marti's skin tones, so can't recommend it for shots with people in them. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
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0.67 lux
ISO
80
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Mode
(ISO
80)
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Low light:
Our low light testing revealed significant limitations in the lens and sensor's ability to gather and process light, meaning you'll likely need the flash for shots starting around twilight. With a maximum shutter speed of two seconds (in Night Mode only), I'd expect slightly better performance at the one foot-candle light level (about the equivalent of average city street lighting at night). The target is visible here, but still a little dark. Color balance was a little pink with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked well enough relative to the T9's exposure range, able to focus on the subject down to just about the 1/4 foot-candle light level (about 1/4 as bright as city street lighting) unassisted. With the AF assist lamp on, the AF system worked very well down to the lowest light level. The DSC-T9 should just be able to capture good-looking shots under typical city street lighting at night.

Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly dark overall color, though some oversaturation in the reds and blues.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Sony DSC-T9 actually left yellow and cyan hues with no saturation boost, but cranked up the brightness of reds and greens quite a lot. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The T9 rendered skin tones just about right, only slightly on the warm side.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Sony DSC-T9 performed quite well, producing almost perfect hue accuracy across the entire spectrum.

See Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 Photo Gallery images

Viewfinder

Coverage
Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.

38mm eq., LCD monitor 114mm eq., LCD monitor

The T9's LCD monitor showed about 100% frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 99% frame accuracy at telephoto (our standard measurement lines were just out of frame in the final shot at full telephoto).

Flash

Coverage and Range
The T9's small flash has a limited range, produces a slight blue cast in combination with typical incandescent room lighting. Our standard shots needed the "High" flash setting to produce good exposures.

38mm equivalent 114mm equivalent
Normal Flash, High Intensity Slow-Sync Flash, High Intensity

Flash coverage was just slightly uneven at wide angle but very low at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the T9 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring the camera's High Intensity flash adjustment to get bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash setting produced slightly brighter and more even results at the same High Intensity setting, though with a stronger orange cast from the room lighting.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
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Even at eight feet, our closest test range, flash intensity was quite low, and decreased from there.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, good color, sharp 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft to very soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, great at 4x6. ISO 640 is really only usable at 4x6 inches.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Sony T9, we found that it had plenty of resolution to make very good-looking 11x14 prints. At high ISO levels, noise becomes quite prominent, depending somewhat on the lighting. Outdoor shots (that is, ones with reasonably good light) at ISO 400 will probably be acceptable to most consumers when printed at 8x10 inches. When you move indoors under incandescent lighting though, the noise increases pretty dramatically, making the images only usable at sizes of 5x7 inches and below. ISO 640 is unfortunately only good for 4x6 or smaller snapshot prints.

The DSC-T9's images showed good color, with good saturation but natural-looking skin tones. Reds and greens were quite bright, some foliage colors looking a bit too bright for our personal tastes, but probably appealing to a majority of consumers.

Timing and Performance

Sony DSC-T9 Timing
Good speed for a subcompact consumer camera, very fast shutter response.

Startup/Shutdown:
Power On to first shot
1.6 seconds
Shutter response (Lag Time):
Full Autofocus Wide
0.38 second
Full Autofocus Tele
0.46 second
Prefocused
0.013 second
Cycle time (shot to shot)
Normal large/fine JPEG
1.44 seconds
Flash recycling
5 seconds
Continuous mode
0.77 second
1.3 frames/second
(7 large/fine frames)
Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
3,360 KBytes/sec

The T9's performance is pretty good, with a fairly fast startup time and very fast shutter response. The lag time of 0.38 second at wide angle is quite fast, and the telephoto shutter lag is still only 0.46 second. If you "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure, it's exceptionally fast, with a shutter delay of only 0.013 second, among the fastest on the market. Shot to shot cycle times are pretty good as well, at about 1.44 seconds for large/fine JPEGs. Continuous-mode speed is slightly slow however, at a bit over one frame/second, for up to seven shots in succession. The flash takes about five seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, a little slow, but in line with the performance of other subcompact camera models. Downloads to the computer are extremely fast, at 3.3 megabytes per second (as long as your computer has a USB 2.0 High Speed connection).

See full Picky Details page.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Excellent battery life for a subcompact.

Operating Mode
Battery Life
Still-image capture mode
LCD on
121 minutes
Image playback
LCD on
192 minutes
Movie capture mode
LCD on
86 minutes

The Sony DSC-T9 uses a Sony NP-FT1 3.6V 2.4Wh LiIon battery for power. We were unable to test the actual battery drain, but we've found Sony's own InfoLITHIUM system reports battery runtime estimates with pretty good accuracy, so we've filled in what the camera says it expects after a full charge. 121 minutes of capture time for the Sony T9 is excellent considering the super-compact body and tiny battery size.

Storage
No card is included with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9, although it accepts Sony Memory Stick Duo and Duo PRO memory cards; 58MB RAM is built into the camera.

Image Capacity with
58 MB Internal Memory
Fine Normal
2,816 x 2,112 Images 19 35
File Size 3.2MB 1.7MB
2,048 x 1,536 Images 37 66
File Size 1.6MB 929K
1,280 x 960 Images 90 163
File Size 688K 378K
640 x 480
Images 360 901
File Size 172K 69K

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo. (Memory Stick PRO versions can handle high-res movie data and give faster download times. The Duo-type Memory Sticks are a very small size, much smaller than standard Memory Sticks. - Be sure to get the correct type to fit this camera!) We recommend at least a 128MB card, preferably a 256MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings and for recording short movies.

See full Picky Details page.

 

Pro: Con:
  • Ultra-slim form factor, literally shirt-pocket sized
  • Excellent build and good heft
  • Rich feature set for a subcompact
  • Optical Image Stabilization, very unusual in a camera as small as the T9
  • Excellent shutter response, much faster than average autofocus performance
  • Good shot to shot speed for a subcompact, good buffer depth (7 large/fine frames)
  • Good color, better than average accuracy, bright and vibrant without being overdone (strong greens are a bit much though)
  • Big, beautiful LCD screen, very usable in full sun
  • Best slideshow function we've seen, complete with cool wipes and music
  • Excellent video capability (with sound), remarkable for such a tiny camera
  • Good, bright AF-Assist lamp
  • Good movie mode
  • Fast USB 2.0 computer connection
  • A good lens, but pincushion distortion is higher than average
  • No grip to speak of
  • No charging dock included
  • Must remove battery to charge
  • Special, proprietary cable required to offload images
  • Pro Duo card format is expensive
  • No full manual mode
  • Poor low-light performance due to short maximum shutter times
  • Very weak flash (very common with subcompact cameras)
  • Slightly warm overall color balance

 

Conclusion

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Arguably the best model yet in Sony's diminutive Cyber-shot "T" series, the Cybershot T9 delivers good picture quality and a great feature set in a rugged, super-compact all-metal body. The 6.0-megapixel CCD is an nice feature in a camera this small, and the large LCD monitor is quite impressive as well. The T9 showed good image quality, with good color, and high resolution. Its image sharpness and noise levels aren't quite up to the level of the best full-sized 6.0-megapixel cameras out there, but they're very good for a subcompact model. Relative to competing full-sized digicams, the Sony T9 does have rather limited low-light capability and marginal flash power, but that's to be expected in a camera of this size. The T9's flexible exposure modes and features give the camera the versatility to handle most common shooting situations with aplomb. The camera's light weight and portable size are perfect for travel. New features such as the Steady Shot option and the ability to download music for slide shows are interesting additions to the T-series as well, increasing the T9's value and usefulness. Overall, the Sony Cybershot T9 is an excellent option for busy consumers looking for a tiny digital camera that performs very well as a point-and-shoot. The Sony T9 is an easy Dave's Pick.

 

 

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