The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 seemed too good to be true when it was announced in February 2009. For less than $250 you get a wide-angle lens with a 5x zoom, 12-megapixel resolution, some of Sony's advanced automatic shooting options, HD video capture, and a 3-inch LCD all packed into a nice-looking body roughly the size of a deck of cards. Sounds pretty great, right? There had to be something wrong.
Well, as with most point-and-shoot cameras of its caliber, the photo quality from the W290 could be a little better and the performance a touch faster. In the end, though, neither was disappointing from this camera (better than expected actually), and if you take into account its attractive price tag, the W290 is tough to beat.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290|
|Dimensions||3.9 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 0.9 inch deep|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.1 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution; Viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 230K dots; No|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.8-8, 28-140mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/MP4 (MPEG-4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and electronic|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 300 shots|
Available in silver, black, blue, and bronze, the W290 doesn't stray from Sony's typical W-series Cyber-shot appearances. It's an attractive camera in a pocketable body, but with some weight to it, so you likely won't forget it's on you. The silver model we tested noticeably retains fingerprints all over the body, something to keep in mind if that sort of thing bugs you. Actually, if there's one minor nitpick with the body design it's that the W290's front has concentric ridges adding a slight texture that improves grip, but unfortunately also traps grease and dirt so your fingerprints are embedded as soon as you touch the camera and they aren't easily wiped off. A lock on the all-too-easily-opened battery/Memory Stick compartment would be nice, too, so I guess that's two minor complaints.
Sony managed to get almost all of the controls on to the back of the camera without making it feel cramped and confusing and while allowing for a secure one-handed grip that doesn't result in accidental button presses or mode dial changes. This is even with a 3-inch LCD on back. There are just three buttons on top: the usual power and shutter-release buttons and a Smile Shutter button for instantly activating Sony's have-smile-will-shoot feature.
Gone from this model is Sony's confusing Home and Menu buttons setup from previous models. That relied on the user remembering which to press to access context-sensitive shooting controls and which got you to the menu for all settings. Now there's just one Menu button giving you access to shooting controls as well as a selection for seeing all settings. What's also nice is the camera's ability to warn you about adjusting certain settings. For example, if you set the W290 to spot meter light you won't be able to turn on Face Detection. The W290 tells you onscreen that Face Detection is not available because of Spot metering being selected. Cameras from other vendors generally make you guess what needs to be shut off in order to turn on a blacked-out option.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent 1, 2, and 3, Incandescent, Flash, Manual|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Easy, Program Auto, Movie, Scenes|
|Focus||9 points, Center-weighted AF, Spot AF, Semi-manual (1.0m, 3.0m, 7.0m, unlimited distance)|
|Metering||Multi, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Color effects||Normal, Vivid, Sepia, Black & White|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||100 photos|