Conclusion - Pros

  • Good clean results with excellent color and decent resolution
  • Virtually no purple fringing
  • Good dynamic range
  • Fast focus, generally responsive operation
  • Easy to use and good handling
  • Good movie mode (MPEG)
  • Fairly low noise at ISO 400
  • Excellent battery life (with NiMH)
  • AF illuminator
  • Good flash exposures
  • Big, bright screen
  • Wide range of optional accessories

Conclusion - Cons

  • No aperture or shutter priority mode
  • Results a little soft
  • No manual/custom white balance mode
  • Flash recycle slow unless batteries very fresh, red-eye mode adds long delay
  • Small amount of chromatic aberration - not visible in normal shots
  • Accessing some advanced functions via menus is a bit long-winded
  • Only two aperture settings
  • Limited macro capabilities
  • Some focus problems with nearby subjects, will take a picture without focus confirmed
  • Wide end of the lens not very wide (39mm equiv.)

Overall conclusion

After nine years of reviewing compact digital cameras it's sometimes surprising I can find anything new to say about them. But such has been the pace of development over the last few years that virtually every new model has at least something unique, surprising or seriously improved to mark it out from the crowd. Well things are changing; the market is maturing and the pace of innovation has slowed, to be replaced with fine-tuning and tweaking, and cost and marketing concerns. The Sony S90 - like the Canon PowerShot A520 and a brace of other competitors - offers little that you couldn't expect from a camera two or even three years ago, but it does so at a price point that places it firmly at the 'entry-level' end of the market. And that's all there is to say about it really; this is a camera that does exactly what is advertised, does it very well with the minimum of fuss, and does it without making a serious dent in the bank account. It is an ideal 'first camera' for the kind of user who doesn't want to get too caught up in the business of apertures and shutter speeds, but wants a modicum of control.

There are many 4MP cameras on the market today offering serious competition for the S90 - many of them costing slightly less, many of them boasting a much slicker design. But the Sony has a few things going for it - very fast focus, big screen, manual exposure mode, excellent handling and a very high 'hit-rate', with very few shots ruined by camera errors. The nearest competitor is the Canon PowerShot A520, a camera with better photographic control, metal body and a marginally sharper lens, but without the S90's very fast focus or big bright screen.

Ultimately though, although I found the S90 a much more rewarding camera to use than I ever expected, and I was impressed with the results (given the target market), it simply doesn't tick enough boxes, even though it's a very good all-round performer. It's neither the cheapest, nor is it the most capable camera in its class (and it's certainly not the cutest), and though it does everything it should without any problems it simply doesn't offer anything to make it stand out from the crowd (with the possible exception of that big screen).

Above Average

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