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Sony shakes up the digital camera scene with an ultracompact that won't.
As the latest addition to its T series, Sony's Cyber Shot DSC-T9 continues the tradition of ultra-compact, eye-catching cameras. Although not known for their groundbreaking innovation, the DSC-T9 adds new functionality as well as style -- unlike the DSC-T3 which improved the DSC-T1's looks and not much else.
Measuring 89.7mm by 54.9mm by 20.6mm and weighing 159 grams, the T9 is compact but rather chunky compared to earlier models in the T series. Available in matt black or brushed stainless steel, it also looks remarkably similar to the T5 (available in silver or red only). The built-in lens is protected by a sliding cover which also turns the power on when opened (and off when closed). Buttons are laid out neatly along the right-hand side of the camera's back -- the only real estate not taken up by the comparatively large LCD. The usual 4-way navigational buttons are surrounded by the 'delete' button (for quick disposal of unwanted shots), the 'slideshow' button (see Features) and Menu button (used to access the software options). Protruding from the right hand side of the body is an eyehook to attach a wrist strap which we felt deflected from the camera's streamlined design, especially since we did not receive a strap with our review model.
The DSC-T9 boasts a 2.5-inch LCD -- a size that is quickly becoming a standard feature on compact models, but still looks quite impressive given the miniscule size of this Sony snapshot shooter. The 6-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom are on par with other cameras in its class, as are the selection of scene modes (10 choices including Twilight, Fireworks, High-speed shutter and Landscape).
Accommodating the Memory Stick Duo and PRO Duo storage types, the DSC-T9 also includes an impressive 58MB of internal memory, a generous amount compared to the 16MB or so usually built into compact models. Using the highest resolution, this allows for approximately 19 shots. Sony's sleek design usually impresses enough to be slightly forgiving when it comes to performance -- especially image quality -- so it's a nice improvement to see image stabilisation added to the T9 -- a first for the T series.
Another innovation is the slideshow function, accessible by a dedicated button to the right of the 4-way navigation and complete with transitions and background audio.
We were impressed with the T9's improved image quality and stabilisation although we still wound up with more blurry pictures than we'd like. The burst mode performed well, as did the night shot -- providing clearer pictures than we expected from such a narrow lens (35mm-film-equivalent range of 38mm to 114mm, aperture of f/3.5 to f/4.3).
The sliding lens cover proved quite convenient, though a "lock" or "hold" switch would be useful to stop the camera turning on when inside a bag or pocket.
Video quality is decent -- once again, especially given the size of the unit, and audio was captured quite well. While recording or playing a slideshow, the navigational buttons double as volume controls. The output of the background music was rather tinny -- though we aren't sure if this was due to the quality of the preload tracks or the speaker (probably the latter).
Overall, the T9 packs a lot of punch into a tiny package, and despite a few quirks with the design we found it to be a very attractive and easy to use snapshot -- but definitely for happy snaps and casual users only.