Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: July 23, 2009

Last Updated: November 9, 2009

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 ($250) is an ultra-compact camera featuring a 12 Megapixel CCD, 5X wide-angle zoom lens, image stabilization, a 3-inch LCD, HD movie recording, and more. It has two siblings -- the DSC-W220 and W230 -- and the chart below illustrates what differentiates these models:



DSC-W230 DSC-W290
Average price (when review was written) $177 $188 $243
Resolution 12.1 MP 12.1 MP 12.1 MP
Optical zoom 4X 4X 5X
Lens max. aperture F2.8 - F5.8 F2.8 - F5.2 F3.3 - F5.2
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 30 - 120 mm 30 - 120 mm 28 - 140 mm
LCD size 2.7" 3.0" 3.0"
LCD resolution 230,000 230,400 230,400
Movie mode max resolution 640 x 480 (30 fps) 640 x 480 (30 fps) 1280 x 720 (30 fps)
Movie mode max recording time (at highest resolution) 25 mins 25 mins 29 mins
Internal memory 15 MB 15 MB 11 MB
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
370 shots 350 shots 300 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
Weight 118 g 127 g 145 g
Available colors Silver, black, pink, blue Silver, black, red, blue Silver, black, blue, bronze

The DSC-W290 finds itself among some pretty tough competition -- there are some great ultra-compact cameras out there. How does it compare? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Cyber-shot DSC-W290 has a rather uninspiring bundle. Inside its box, you'll find:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-W290 camera
  • NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser software, Cyber-shot handbook and Step-up Guide
  • 58 page basic manual (printed) plus 145 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's recent cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-W290 has built-in memory instead of having a memory card included in the box. The W290 has a paltry 11MB of onboard memory, which holds just two photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a memory card, and fast. The DSC-W290 supports Memory Stick Duo cards (groan), and I'd recommend starting out with a 2GB card at the very least.

The W290 uses the familiar NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery for power. This battery has 3.4 Wh of energy, which is about average for a camera in this class. The W290 also supports the NP-FG1 battery, which has the same amount of juice, but adds InfoLithium technology, which allows the camera to provide a minute-by-minute countdown of battery life. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect from the DSC-W290:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SD960 IS * 200 shots NB-4L
Casio Exilim EX-FC100 * 300 shots NP-40
Fuji FinePix J250 150 shots NP-45
GE E1255W 200 shots DS5370
Kodak EasyShare M380 310 shots KLIC-7003
Nikon Coolpix S620 250 shots EN-EL12
Olympus Stylus 7000 150 shots LI-42B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25 330 shots DMW-BCF10
Samsung SL820 * 280 shots SLB-10A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 * 300 shots NP-BG1

* HD movie recording

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

While it doesn't post best-in-class numbers, the DSC-290 is still a good 20% above the group average.

I should point out a few things about the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the W290 and every other camera in the table above. Proprietary batteries tend to be more expensive than their AA counterparts, with a spare NP-FG1 costing at least $27. In addition, should that battery run out of juice, you can pick up an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day.

When you're ready to charge the W290's battery, just pop it into the included charger. And then you might want to find something else to do for the next five hours or so, as that's how long it can take to charge the battery. If you want a faster charger, Sony would be happy to sell you one.

And on that note, here's the list of accessories available for the DSC-W290:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Telephoto conversion lens VCL-D2046 From $76 Doubles the telephoto end of the lens, making it 280 mm. Requires conversion lens adapter below.
Wide-angle conversion lens VCL-D0746 From $65 Reduces the wide end of the lens by 0.75X, to 21 mm. Requires conversion lens adapter below.
Conversion lens adapter VAD-WG ?? Allows the use of conversion lenses and also 46 mm filters (I think)
Marine pack MPK-WEB $230 Lets you take the camera up to 40 meters (132 feet) underwater
Sports pack SPK-WB From $70 A less serious underwater case, lets you go 3 meters (10 feet) underwater
Aqty pack APK-WB From $53 A basic underwater case that's waterproof to 1.5 meters (5 feet)
Ring light HVL-RLS From $73 Effective lighting for macro photography
HD output cable VMC-MHC2 $37 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
Multi-use terminal cable VMC-MD2 $35 Very similar to the included USB + A/V cable, except it adds support for the optional AC adapter
AC adapter AC-LS5K From $35

Power the camera without draining your battery; requires the multi-use terminal cable above

Compact battery charger BC-TRG $44 Charge your battery in a third of the time as the bundled charger
Accessory kit ACC-CMFG From $43 Includes an extra battery charger, a USB memory card reader, and a soft carrying case
GPS unit GPS-CS3KA $110 Lets you easily add location data to your photos
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

I threw the conversion lenses and their adapter in there, but you're going to have a heck of a time finding them, at least in the USA. The camera clearly supports them, but Sony USA doesn't even acknowledge their existence. I should add that Sony makes about a million different cases for the W290, in all colors.

PMB Launcher

Sony includes version 4 of their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-W290. This software remains Windows-only, so Mac users will have to use something else (iPhoto works just fine). The first part of the software you'll probably encounter is PMB Launcher, which is the gateway to all of PMB's functions. Here you can import photos, upload them to popular photo/video sharing sites, burn a CD or DVD, or just jump right into the photo browser.

Picture Motion Browser 4

Speaking of which, above you can see the actual Picture Motion Browser software. On the main screen you'll find the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos in a calendar format, as well. You can sort photos by date, whether they contain people, smiles, or scenery, by label, and more. From here you can also e-mail, print, or upload your photos to sharing sites; a slideshow option is also available.

Editing in Picture Motion Browser

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to the edit screen. The tools here include auto correction, brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, redeye removal, and trimming (cropping). You can even adjust the tone curve, with wasn't available on earlier versions of PMB. If you want to print the date on your photos, you can do that as well.

The final piece of software included with the W290 is Music Transfer. This allows you to copy MP3s or CD audio to the camera to use as background music for slideshows. Don't expect great audio quality, though.

The documentation for the DSC-W290 comes in two parts, and that's not necessarily good news. Inside the box you'll find a printed "basic" manual, which is enough to get you started. If you want more detail, you'll have to open up the Cyber-shot Handbook, which is on an included CD-ROM disc (urgh). The manuals are about average in terms of user-friendliness.. Documentation for the software is installed onto your computer.