The 12-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 ($250 as of 7/10/2009) has a 5X optical-zoom Carl Zeiss lens, starting at 28mm on the wide-angle end to 140mm on the telephoto end. It’s a bit thicker than many competing point-and-shoots, but still pocketable: about 4 inches wide, 2.5 inches high, and an inch deep.
The W290 has only ten scene modes, which is a low count compared with competitors in its price range, but that also means it’s bloat-free: You get all the essential and often-used modes, such as high ISO, Landscape, Snow, Fireworks, and Soft Focus. The smile-triggered shutter is pretty commonplace among point-and-shoots these days, but a few features in the W290 set it apart from other pocket cameras.
First and foremost is the range of creative image-editing features you get in this camera. Instead of applying “live” effects to your photos, many of these features can be applied after you take your shots: You can add fish-eye effects, radial blur, or red-eye correction, isolate one color in your photos while turning the rest of the image black and white and apply a “retro” effect that mimics a pinhole camera. On the bottom of the camera is the A/V-out port for transferring photos and movies to your PC, unfortunately, it’s a proprietary connector on the camera’s side of things, so you can’t swap in a mini-USB or micro-USB cable for that task. Another downside is the plastic battery door on the bottom of the camera–it feels as if it could snap off way too easily. Besides the battery itself, this compartment holds another proprietary item: a Memory Stick storage slot. (You don’t get a Memory Stick card with the camera).
The Cyber-shot W290 may not have the sharpest image quality in its price range, but casual photographers looking for a big display, ease of use, and good battery life will likely be pleased with it. Those looking for fun in-camera features and editing tools will be delighted.