It’s tricky to decide whether the Sony DSC-S90 is a budget digital camera or a mid-range model. The specification is relatively lowly with a 4.1-megapixel sensor that results in photos with a maximum resolution of 2,304 x 1,768 pixels. It also has a 3x optical zoom and 6x digital zoom.
There’s nothing too exciting there, although the 2.5-inch LCD display is nice and big, and it’s worth mentioning that you can get the DSC-S80 for £20 less which gets you exactly the same camera with a smaller 2-inch screen.
Sony has installed 32MB of internal memory so it’s not strictly necessary to plug a Memory Stick into the media slot, but realistically most of us want the ability to shoot more than 16 pictures in one session so you’d best budget for some more storage.
The DSC-S90 is powered by a pair of AA Ni-MH batteries, for which Sony supplies a charger, which adds a fair amount of weight and also a certain amount of bulk. The camera isn’t exactly heavy at 262g ready to shoot but many compact digital cameras are in the 150-200g range, and in many respects the Sony resembles a compact film camera rather than a slinky digital camera. If we had to pick one word to describe its look and feel it would be ‘chubby’ or, perhaps, ‘comfortable’.
We found it quite easy to come to terms with the DSC-S90 as the controls are logical and well located and the on-screen display shows you which of the dozen settings you have chosen on the rotary selector, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
The flash has a fixed strength, which is quite usual, but the flash is too bright so you often have to decide to take a picture that is too dark if you don’t want the subject of your portrait to end up squinting. Staying with the flash, we expected to find that the red-eye option would be controlled by the flash button but instead you have to dive in to the set-up menu to turn it on and off which seems unnecessarily complicated.
Our final annoyance is the proprietary USB port that Sony has chosen to use. It’s not a big deal but for goodness’ sake don’t lose or damage the Sony cable or you’ll be in deep trouble.
Considering our complaints about the flash it didn’t come as a big surprise to find that portraits taken indoors were closer to happy snaps than fine photography and in this respect the DSC-S90 is a budget camera. Close-up shots taken with Macro were lovely and clear, but the best pictures were taken outdoors, and we were happy both with the sharpness of the pictures and also with the colour reproduction, which gave a very authentic feel to the photos.
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