The Sony A290: the perfect DSLR for those on a small budget? The What Digital Camera Sony A290 review tests it out...

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Sony Alpha A290

Overall score:84%
Image Quality:85%


  • Ultra-affordable


  • Limited features


Sony Alpha A290 Review


Price as reviewed:


Design & Performance

Sony Alpha A290 review – Design

The A290 is encased within a lightweight plastic shell. The finger grip is coated with texturised rubber to add extra grip while the plastic top-plate and flash housing alludes to magnesium alloy with its mottled finish. The overall finish, while hardly premium, isn’t bad at all, and is certainly consistent with other DSLRs at this price.

Sony Alpha A290 product image front onThe finger grip is set fairly deep and is comfortably able to accommodate between two and three fingers. There’s also a neat little indent on the back of the camera just where the thumb sits. Between the two, getting a secure grip on the A290 is fairly straightforward. It is even possible, though not always advisable, to shoot one-handed.

The A290’s viewfinder is bright and clear although a bit on the small side. It only offers a 95% field of view, meaning the camera will capture a fraction more than what you actually see through the viewfinder. As with all Sony DSLRs an eye sensor sits just below the viewfinder that automatically turns the rear display off when the camera is lifted to the eye. If, for any reason, this proves annoying then it can be switched off via the in-camera menu.

The A290’s external controls and buttons are kept to a minimum. What is there is well placed and easily reached though. While the Menu button is used to access settings such as Image Quality, Aspect Ratio and Noise Reduction, the Fn button just by the thumb is where the camera’s more immediate and regularly used settings – AF mode, Metering mode and White Balance for example – are found. Each of these benefits from the Help Guide, thereby helping the DSLR newcomer to understand what each of the settings adjusts.

Sony Alpha A290 – Performance


The A290 offers nine autofocus (AF) points, spread evenly within the
centre of the viewfinder. Using the Fn button, it’s possible to switch
between Automatic, Centre and user defined AF points. The central AF
point is the only cross-type sensor (that offers increased sensitivity
in both landscape and portrait orientation), while the other eight use
vertical line sensors. Focusing is therefore more accurate when only the
central AF point is used and the general array of focus points isn’t
especially wide.

Sony Alpha A290 review test sample image WEB

In good light the camera find focus pretty much
instantaneously, and remains quick in situations with less than ideal
light. While there’s no built-in AF Assist light, the A290 can use a
quick burst of flash to help find focus in really poor light (though
this isn’t always preferable as it’s far from discreet).

  1. 1. Sony Alpha A290 review - Features
  2. 2. Design & Performance
  3. 3. Image Quality
  4. 4. Value & Verdict
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