Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H90 review: Good for what it is -- no more, no less

Design and features
The overall design of the H90 is nice and simple. Most people familiar with digital cameras should be able to use it out of the box, but there is a full user manual embedded in the camera for quick reference whenever you want. The body is a bit chunky, but will still fit in a jacket pocket.

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The buttons are tiny but fairly easy to press, though their markings are difficult to see in anything but direct light. The screen is large and bright, making it easy to see in bright conditions (you might still struggle in direct sun, though). There's a textured grip on the front and an indentation on back for your thumb.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H90
Price (MSRP) $249.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.1x2.4x1.3 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.8 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 16x, f3.3-5.9, 24-384mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,280x720 pixels at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 290 shots
Battery charged in camera No; external charger included
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC; Memory Stick Pro Duo
Bundled software PlayMemories Home (Windows); Music Transfer (Windows, Mac)

For connecting to a computer or TV, the camera has a Micro-USB port on the bottom of the camera. A USB cable is included, but connecting directly to a display requires the purchase of a USB/AV cable.

The memory card slot and battery compartment are protected by a lockable door, which you'll have to open regularly to remove the battery for charging. Battery life is pretty good for its size, rated at 290 shots. Using the zoom a lot, shooting video, or really doing anything more than automatic snapshots will shorten the shot count.

The H90's card slot can take an SD card or Memory Stick. Though internal memory is limited, it does host a small piece of software for quickly uploading photos and movies to sharing sites when the camera is connected to a Windows computer.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H90
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, White Fluorescent Lighting, Natural White Fluorescent, Day White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Manual
Recording modes Easy, Intelligent Auto, Program, Sweep Panorama, Picture Effect, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)
Macro 1.9 inches (Wide); 3.9 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center, Spot
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 100 shots

The H90's shooting modes offer more control over results than an average point-and-shoot, but the bulk of its options are automatic. The Intelligent Auto scene recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple of options available, like exposure and setting face detection priorities. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text.

There are 12 scene-shooting options, including Beach, Snow, Twilight, Pet, and High Sensitivity for low-light shooting without a flash. The camera also has a version of Sony's Sweep Panorama feature that allows you to quickly and easily take panoramic shots horizontally or vertically. Though fun, the results are just on par with a screen capture from a video clip. Consider them for Web use only, viewing on a TV from a proper distance, or very small prints.

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For more control there's a Program Auto mode so you can adjust ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering, and exposure values, as well as control the amount of Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization used for rescuing shadow detail. Also available in Program are a few of Sony's Picture Effects for those who are addicted to playing with various photo apps or just want to experiment. Options include Toy Camera (with different hues to pick from), Pop Color, Partial Color (turns everything monochrome except for a selected color), and Soft High-key.

There is a full manual option for control over aperture and shutter speed. It's limited to two aperture settings each at the wide and telephoto ends (using a neutral density filter); f3.3 and f8 for wide and f5.9 and f14 for telephoto with a few more stops available through the zoom range. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/1,600 to 30 seconds. Again, it's more than you get on most point-and-shoots, so I'm not complaining; just don't buy this expecting a lot of control.

Also worth mentioning is that the H90 has exposure bracketing that will take three photos, one at the exposure you select and then two more at plus and minus 0.3EV, 0.7EV, or 1.0EV. It doesn't do this terribly fast, though, so you may want to use a tripod and only with still subjects.

Conclusion: Recommended with reservations
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H90 is fine for what it is. If you're doing a lot of shooting indoors and out, need fast performance, and will be regularly using it for movie clips, I'd save up and go with the HX10V or consider the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 or Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. But, those just looking for a long lens in a compact body for casual snapshots, it's sufficient -- especially if you can get it for less than $200.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 16 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Super HAD CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 16.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (Steady Shot with Active Mode)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"
About The Author

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.