Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W290 handles a big zoom with strong image results

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Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W290 handles a big zoom with strong image results

First on our list for January sales are digital cameras, and few offer better value than the Sony W290. Chunkier than the super-svelte Canons or Nikon S640, it's nonetheless perfectly pocketable at 96 x 27 x 57mm (WDH), and the build quality is solid indeed.

The larger body allows for a 3in screen on the back as well as a conventional four-way control pad alongside.

As a result, it's easy to use: no-one who picks up this camera will be foxed by the controls. The Carl Zeiss lens sports a true 28mm wide-angle setting, which is good to see in a camera at this price. There's a decent 5x zoom range too.

The W series has been Sony's best-value camera range for several years now. It used to be hamstrung a little by rechargeable AA batteries, but these days you get a proper rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. In fact, the only feature it's lacking is optical image stabilisation.

The pixel rating of modern cameras is all but irrelevant, but the W290 has the requisite astronomical 12.1 megapixels: enough to print your shots on the side of a bus if you so wished and still barely see any jaggies.

And if you're feeling confident enough to take the camera off fully automatic mode, you get a reasonable amount of manual control in Program mode, letting you choose metering mode (including spot metering), exposure compensation and focus area.

At the other end of the scale, in fully automatic mode you get facial recognition and smile detection. These are nothing new in the latest cameras, but the W290 has something that makes the best use of them: next to the normal shutter button is a dedicated smile-shutter button, which means the feature might actually get used rather than languish unseen in the menus forever.

Press it and the camera automatically takes the shot when it detects your subject is grinning. We found it works almost every time, as long as the smile in question is directly facing you.

Downsides include the fact that Sony continues to cling doggedly to the Memory Stick format, although prices are closer to SD memory than they used to be. There's also a totally proprietary cable and connector that combines USB and video connections in one unwieldy bundle.

It isn't a spectacular tour de force, but the W290 gives a good zoom range, wide-angle lens, lovely big screen and good quality for well below $300. Add in the fact that nobody is ever disappointed about receiving something with a Sony badge on the front, and you have a great cheap camera.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290
5 6
Verdict
A great-value Cyber-shot that no-one would regret buying
Performance
Features & Design
Value for money
Overall
Recommended
Specs
$250
• Price: 250 • Camera type: Compact • Megapixels: 12.1 • Manufacturer: Sony • Supplier: Sony
This review appeared in the February, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
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