Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90
At a Glance
Sony's $300 4.1-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-S90 is a well-priced point-and-shoot camera that offers many of the features found on its higher-priced sibling, the 7.2-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-W7.
Like the W7, the S90 starts up quickly and boasts a big 2.5-inch LCD display. The large size of the display makes reviewing your pictures enjoyable, and also improves the rudimentary trimming you can do on-camera. The controls of the two cameras are identical: There's a dial on top with seven scene modes, including general modes such as automatic and manual; stored image review; and VGA movie mode. The well-positioned thumbpad gives you quick access to the last picture you took and lets you scroll through flash, macro, self-timer and other settings, but the menus still take a few minutes to get acquainted with. You use the quick-launch button to set image quality, which ranges from VGA to 2304 by 1728, and to delete images when reviewing them.
In our image quality tests, the camera scored slightly below the average for point-and-shoots costing $300 to $400, earning a score of Good. Casual snapshot takers aren't likely to notice details lacking in 4-by-6-inch prints; however, of the 11 point-and-shoots we tested, the S90 earned the lowest score for the sharpness of its images printed at 8 by 10 inches.
If you're looking for a lot of metaphorical handholding as you take your shots, you may be disappointed with having just seven presets (two portrait modes, landscape, evening, beach, snowy or whitish scenes, and candlelit). Presets for backlit subjects and panoramic shots are obviously absent, though when I used the standard automatic settings to photograph a backlit object, I was pleased with the results. On the plus side, you can tweak a few more controls with the S90 than you can with many other point-and-shoot cameras; for example, the manual mode lets you adjust shutter speed, though it limits you to two choices of aperture ranging from f2.8 to f10. The camera gives you some guidance in this mode, comparing your settings to what it considers optimal for the subject.
The S90 offers a 3X optical zoom. There are four presets for white balance, and ISO ranges from 80 to 400. The camera offers center-point or multi-point autofocus, or you can choose one of five distance settings. You can also add lenses and filters to the camera, which is a nice touch for a low-priced point-and-shoot.
The silver plastic case could be lighter, but at 9 ounces with the battery it's not an albatross. Neither is it as sleek as some other models--the right side of the case is thicker to provide an easier grip--but the camera slips painlessly into a shirt pocket. The unit comes with two rechargeable batteries, but takes AA disposables in a pinch. The S90 performed well in our battery tests, lasting 432 shots.
In burst mode, the S90 can take four successive shots at fine resolution, or 30 shots at VGA resolution. By comparison, at VGA resolution the Cyber-shot DSC-W7 can take 100 shots in burst mode. Perhaps most disappointing is the S90's limited shutter speed range. Its slowest speed is 1/8 second, which pretty much precludes tripod-mounted photography; all other cameras in this price range can keep their shutter open for at least 4 seconds. Likewise the S90's maximum speed is 1/1000 second; most other point-and-shoots reach 1/2000 second.
The low-priced S90 offers more manual controls than a typical point-and-shoot, and its large LCD is alluring, but its middling image quality won't impress ambitious shutterbugs.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S90
4.1 megapixels, 2304 by 1728 maximum resolution, 38mm to 113mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.8 to f10 maximum aperture range, shutter speeds from 1/8 second to 1/1000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB connection, 32MB internal memory and Memory Stick slot, rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries, 8.9 ounces, Picture Package 1.6 software. One-year parts and labor warranty, 15-hour daily toll-free support.