Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 review

Price when reviewed

There are few digital compacts on the market that offer better value than the Sony W290. Chunkier than the super-svelte Canon Ixus compacts or Nikon’s S640, it’s nonetheless perfectly pocketable at 96 x 27 x 57mm (WDH), and the build quality is solid indeed. The larger body also allows for a 3in screen on the back as well as a conventional four-way control pad alongside.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 review

As a result, it’s a very easy-to-use camera: 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.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290

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 £200 inc VAT. And for those reasons it’s a very good buy.


Image quality 5

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 12.1mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 5x
Camera maximum resolution 4000 x 3000

Weight and dimensions

Dimensions 98 x 23 x 57mm (WDH)


Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f3.8 - f5.2
Camera minimum focus distance 0.01m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 28
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 140
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/1,600
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 2s
Bulb exposure mode? no
RAW recording mode? no
Exposure compensation range +/- 2EV
ISO range 80 - 3200
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? no
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? no
Aperture priority mode? no
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 1.8fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type Memory Stick Duo
Viewfinder coverage N/A
LCD resolution 230k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Alloy
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type Proprietary USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? no
Software supplied Picture Motion Browser 4.2.02

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