Sony pushes its Cyber-shot W-series forward by inches, not miles, with the DSC-W90. This 8-megapixel point-and-shoot camera offers a higher resolution than its predecessor, the Cyber-shot DSC-W80, but otherwise doesn't change much of anything.
From the outside, the W90 looks almost indistinguishable from its 7-megapixel little brother. Its slim metal body measures less than 0.9 inch thick and weighs only 5.3 ounces with battery and Memory Stick Duo. Unfortunately, just like the W80, its small, flat buttons can feel uncomfortable to large-thumbed users.
Along with the same design, the W90 shares a nearly identical feature set with the W80. The 8-megapixel camera uses a 35mm-105mm equivalent, f/2.8-5.2 lens, giving it a standard 3x zoom range. Its 2.5-inch LCD screen isn't huge by today's standards, but it offers a decent view and leaves enough room on the camera for an optical viewfinder. Despite being part of Sony's budget line, the W90 incorporates a 9-point autofocus system and a face detection mode, both useful when your subject is not in the center of the frame. The W90 also includes 31 megabytes of internal memory, enough to hold a few dozen photos or about a minute and a half of fair-quality VGA footage. Invest in a Memory Stick Duo to get any shooting longevity out of this camera.
As with the W80, a generous suite of onboard retouching options help offset the W90's cookie-cutter feature set. Once you've taken a picture, you can crop it, rotate it (in 90-degree increments), or remove red eyes from portraits taken with the camera's flash. It even offers a handful of picture effects, like soft focus, fisheye, and cross filter. Most of these retouches feel more like gimmicks than actual useful features, but they can still be fun to play with.
In our lab tests, the W90 fared similar to the W80, with a quicker shutter but otherwise slightly slower performance. After a 1.7-second wait from power-on to first shot, the W90 could capture a new picture every 1.3 seconds with the onboard flash disabled. With the flash turned on, that wait more than doubled to 3 seconds. That's slower than we like to see, even for a budget point-and-shoot. The shutter lagged a scant 0.4 second with our high-contrast target, and a respectable 1.1 seconds with our low-contrast target. In burst mode, the camera captured 15 full-resolution shots in 7.4 seconds for an average rate of 2 frames per second.