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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W690 review:

A pretty average point-and-shoot

Sarah Tew/CNET

A switch on the right side lets you quickly slip from shooting stills to panoramas to HD movie clips and back again. The buttons are tiny but fairly easy to press, though their markings are difficult to see in anything but direct light. What's not good in direct light is the 3-inch LCD. It gets bright, but it's still difficult to see in full sun and off-angle.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W690
Price (MSRP) $179.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.8x2.1x0.9 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 10x, f3.3-5.9, 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 220 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 average for its size, rated at a little more than 200 shots. Using the zoom a lot, shooting video, or really doing anything more than automatic snapshots will shorten the shot count.

The W690'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-W690
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); 4.9 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center, Spot
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 100 shots

The W690 is designed for easy point-and-shoot use, so you won't get a lot of control over your results. The Intelligent Auto scene recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple of options available, like exposure compensation, continuous shooting, 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 11 scene-shooting options, including Beach, Snow, Night Portrait, 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, viewing on a TV from a proper distance, or very small prints.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony added a few of its 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.

Conclusion: Recommended with reservations
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W690 is good considering its features and price. If you have your heart and mind set on buying it, just expect slow performance and to make sure you have a lot of light to get the best photos, especially with the lens zoomed in. In case I didn't make it clear earlier, though, the Sony WX150 is the better buy if you can afford it. Or if you're open to models from other manufacturers, check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7 or Nikon Coolpix S6300, which offer better features and performance for about the same price as or less than the W690.

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