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Sony springs a couple new Cyber-shot W models for Spring

The Cyber-shot W290, at least, looks like it might potentially be a decent basic mainstream camera.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290
The W290 comes in a rather subdued palette of colors. Sony Electronics

Joining the lower-middle middle-class W220 that Sony announced at CES are the $199 middle middle-class W230 and $249 upper-middle middle-class W290. (Sorry folks, but I'm running out of ways to describe midpriced cameras.) While the W230 only differs from the W220 by $10 and LCD size--it's 3 inches vs. 2.7--the W290 has the same resolution and LCD as the W230 but with a significantly more flexible lens and better movie capture capabilities.

In fact, based on the specifications the W290 sounds like a better deal than the W300. It's about $80 less (including Sony recent price drop on the W300 by $20). And though it's only 12 megapixels compared with the W300's 13.6, that's a pretty trivial difference compared with the nontrivial advantage the W290's 3-inch LCD, wide-angle 5x 28-140mm-equivalent lens, and 30fps 720p MPEG-4 movie capture offer over the W300's 2.7-incher, narrow angle 3x zoom lens, and VGA video. The W290 also includes Sony's latest automatic scene- and face-detection technologies, and doesn't include the hideously annoying and confusing Home menu anymore. If it's not abysmally slow and doesn't produce terrible photos, I think the W290 might be a mainstream contender for 2009. We'll get one, get going, and get back to you when it's available later this spring.