Sony Cyber-shot W290 review
Review Date : Sun, 27 Sep 2009
Author : Cliff Smith
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 is a variant of the W270 sold in the UK exclusively from Jessops. It differs from the W270 in that it has a 3in 230k LCD monitor instead of the W270’s 2.7in screen. The What Digital Camera Sony W290 review...
|Pros:||Build quality, performance, low-light ability|
|Cons:||Slight image noise problems|
Sony Cyber-shot W290 review
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 is a variant of the DSC-W270 sold in the UK exclusively through Jessops. It differs from the W270 in that it has a 3.0in 230k LCD monitor instead of the W270's 2.7in screen.
The W290 has a 12.1MP sensor and a 5x zoom Carl Zeiss lens with a wideangle end equivalent to 28mm. Direct competitors include the Canon Ixus 110 IS (£210), the new Panasonic DMC-FX60 (£230) and the Nikon CoolPix S620 (£200). The W290's £185 price is good value by comparison.
The W290 has a solidly made aluminium body, and is available in black, blue or silver. It weighs 164g including battery and memory card, and measures 97.6 x 56.6 x 22.6mm, which is quite bulky for an ultra-compact. Even so the three-inch monitor screen doesn't leave much room on the back for the controls, which are a bit fiddly.
The W290 has a battery of automatic features that make shooting very simple, but it doesn't offer much creative control. Shooting modes include Intelligent Auto, with optical image stabilisation, advanced face detection, automatic redeye correction, auto white balance and ISO, Dynamic Range Optimisation and automatic scene recognition. Program auto mode provides more menu options, and Easy mode even fewer, while 10 Scene Mode programs cover more unusual shooting conditions.
The W290 has a good video mode, shooting in 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps. It starts recording very quickly, saving files in MPEG4 format, but the optical zoom cannot be used while recording and audio is mono only. Both the video and audio quality are excellent for a compact camera.
The W290's built-in flash is also very good, with excellent coverage and easily surpassing its claimed three-metre range. Close range metering is excellent, and the recycle time after a full-power shot is approximately seven seconds.
Start-up time is just over 1.5 seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 1.6 seconds, which is nice and fast. In continuous shooting mode it can maintain nearly two frames a second, which is exceptional performance.
The advanced nine-zone autofocus system works well in virtually any lighting conditions, and is especially good in low light. It has a quick and very bright AF assist lamp with a range of at least four metres.
Image quality is mostly very good. The Carl Zeiss lens is excellent, while exposure metering and focusing are both reliably accurate. The Dynamic Range Optimiser (DRO) feature works well, providing good shadow detail and few burned-out highlights.
The only image quality problem the W290 does have is a faint grain of image noise right across the image even at the minimum sensitivity setting of ISO 80. It does reduce the level of fine detail slightly, but it doesn't really get any worse until ISO 800, and it's only at ISO 1600 that detail is lost in the darker areas of the frame. Even shots at the maximum ISO 3200 still retain good colour reproduction.
Image quality may not be perfect, but the fantastic low-light ability, excellent build quality, lightning-fast performance and the additional versatility of the 5x wide zoom and HD video recording make this camera outstanding value for money.