Sony Cybershot DSC-W290 full review

If you're looking for fun in-camera extras and editing tools in a point-and-shoot digital camera, the Sony Cybershot DSC-W290 is a great option.

A wide-angle lens, a sharp 3in LCD screen, and a 720p HD movie mode also add to its overall appeal, but we have seen better image quality from similarly priced cameras in 2009.

The 12Mp Cybershot DSC-W290 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.

Overall image quality was rated as Good, according to jury evaluations. The Sony Cybershot DSC-W290 fared well in terms of overall exposure in our tests, but image sharpness and distortion were shortcomings.

In informal hands-on tests, we found that the Sony Cybershot DSC-W290 takes good high-ISO shots in low light, although noise is visible at ISO 3200 and ISO 1600 - not enough to ruin the shots, however.

The Sony Cybershot DSC-W290 also takes about a second or more to save photos at high-ISO, low-light settings. During hands-on tests, it also became evident that the Cybershot W290's optical image stabilisation is effective with a small level of shake, but struggled to take a sharp image when the camera was shaken more vigorously.

The Sony Cybershot DSC-W290 has only 10 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.

As usual with Sony cameras, the camera settings are easily accessible via a mode dial on the back of the Sony Cybershot DSC-W290, and the user interface is helped by the excellent and intuitive on-screen menus.

What's more, this model has a dedicated "Smile Shutter" button on the top of the camera (next to the shutter button); this lets you quickly turn on the Sony Cybershot DSC-W290's smile-triggered shutter feature. Smile Shutter automatically takes a picture once the subject smiles, and you can even adjust the sensitivity of the smile trigger in the camera.

The smile-triggered shutter is pretty commonplace among point-and-shoots these days, but a few features in the Sony Cybershot DSC-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 colour in your photos while turning the rest of the image black and white; and apply a "retro" effect that mimics a pinhole camera.

But by far the weirdest - and the most fun - in-camera feature is the "Happy Faces" mode, which lets you add a fake smile to underwhelmed photo subjects.

The advantage to adding these effects after your shots are taken is that you preserve the original image.

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