The Sony DSC S90 is a straightforward, four megapixel digital camera. It is suitable for anyone who is looking for a standard digital camera with a few extras thrown in. The camera can be used in one of two ways. Firstly the DSC S90 can be used as a simple point and shoot camera where all you have to do is point the camera at the subject and press the shutter button. Secondly it has a limited manual exposure mode that could appeal to the more experienced photographer. This type of camera often appeals to a family where some people are looking for ease of use while other are looking for more advanced features.
96.6 x 64.4 x 40.1mm
The DSC S90 produced an excellent set of test shots. One area that puts this model out in front of other similar models is the quality it manages to produce indoors. Other highlights include close up shots and general outdoor photos.
Running through the test shots in greater detail the outdoor shots produced pleasing results. There were one or two very dark areas where the camera failed to display all the detail, but this is a problem that faces the majority of digital camera. The colours produced were very good too without perhaps quite meeting the colours produced by the very best cameras. The outdoor portrait is pleasing and the only negative point worth noting is a small loss of detail in the lightest areas of the photo around the point where the neck meets the clothes.
The specific test for colour works well too.
Indoors though I was very pleased with the results indeed. The detail shown in the indoor portrait easily surpasses that achieved by most other cameras. The sharpness and clarity of the picture also puts this camera someway above the majority of other models. The picture of bottles is taken in almost complete darkness, yet the DSC S90 again comes up trumps with a well lit and sharply focused effort.
Finally the macro shot it produced is up there with the best too. It is bright and the detail comes out clearly. If you are looking for a camera to take shots for online auctions then this one is worth adding to your shortlist.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
Shutter lag is the time it takes to take each picture. A constant criticism of digital cameras is the delay in between clicking the shutter button, the picture being taken and also the camera being ready to take the next picture. From a pure shutter lag view the DSC S90 took a picture and recorded it in 0.20 seconds. This is a relatively new test, so I feel a degree of caution is called for, but I have to say early indications are that this is a very fast time.
In terms of recycling times I was able to take five pictures in the space of 5.00 seconds. That works out at a rate of 1 second per picture. I am not claiming that this is the most scientific tests, but it should give you an indication of the recycling speed of the camera. This is the fastest time recorded so far. My test is carried out indoors under standard conditions and it is possible that you would see better results outside.
To get started the easiest method is to make sure the camera is in the default automatic shooting mode. In this mode the camera makes all the key decisions relating to the exposure settings. All you need to do is compose your photo and press the shutter button. Supporting the automatic mode is a selection of scene modes. These are preset modes that help the camera to achieve the best possible photo in a number of different scenarios. The preset scene modes available are for Twilight, Twilight Portrait,Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Candle and Snow.
The three times optical zoom is the equivalent of a 39-117mm zoom in 35mm format. This is backed up by a six times digital zoom feature and a ten times smart zoom function. For close up photography there is a macro mode that can focus from up to 10cms away from the subject.
For lining up a shot you can choose from the 2.5" LCD screen or the electronic viewfinder. The LCD screen is also used for reviewing photos you have already taken and accessing the menu system. One point worth noting about the LCD screen is that it is rare to find one this large on this type of digital camera.
There is a built in flash unit to help with shots in lowlight. The maximum range of the flash unit is 3.8m. This reduces to around two and a half meters if you are zooming in on a subject. There are a number of flash settings you can choose from. These are automatic where the camera decides whether or not the flash is required, always on, always off and slow synchro. In case you haven't heard of slow synchro before it is often used at night when you would like the background to be lit as well as the subject. You can also turn on red eye reduction to help improve your portrait shots.
You can shoot movies that are good enough to playback on a television set. The maximum resolution is 640x480, with a top speed of 30 frames per second. Movies can be recorded until the memory card is full.
There are a range of useful indicators that appear on the LCD screen. These cover the amount of power left in the battery, the amount of storage left before the memory card or internal memory becomes full, an exposure warning to help make sure the shot is not too light or dark, plus a histogram that gives you further feedback on the exposure. There is also a handshake alert. This warns you if the camera is not steady enough and the shot could be blurred.
Sony supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the DSC S90 to a computer, television set or a PictBridge compatible printer.
There are also a number of more advanced controls available to you. These include shutter speeds between 30 and 1/2000 seconds, exposure compensation (+/-2.0 EV, 1/3 EV step), white balance (Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent) and ISO equivalents (80, 100, 200, 400).
There are two methods of metering, multi pattern and spot, plus controls that let you change the levels of contrast, sharpness and saturation. There is also a burst mode that lets you take up to four shots at a rate of one shot every 0.7 seconds.
The manual exposure mode does have limitations as there are only two aperture setting to choose from f2.8 and f5.6.
You can also add conversion lenses to the DSC S90 to further increase its capabilities.
Ease of Use
The DSC S90 is fairly easy to use. The control dial covering the mode you wish to use sits on the top of the camera. You use it to select automatic mode, a particular type of scene, movie mode and image review. On the back of the camera you will find buttons controlling zoom, flash, self timer and macro mode. From time to time you will need to access the menu system, but I found it relatively easy to use and well thought out.
You can pick up a Sony DSC S90 for around £178. This compares to around £118 for a Olympus C-480, £120 for a Nikon Coolpix 4600 and £165 for a Canon Powershot A520.
The DSC S90 is a pretty heavy digital camera weighing just over 200g. With this in mind and with dimensions of 96.6 x 64.4 x 40.1mm it is not a camera that you can slip easily into a pocket without noticing. There are some advantages to this though. You can certainly get a good grip on a camera of this size compared to the smaller lightweight type. It is likely to suit someone with larger hands.
It is a fairly typical rectangular shape, with a handy grip on the front to help you hold it steady.
Batteries and Memory Cards
Sony supplies two rechargeable AA batteries and a charger with the DSC S90. In my view this is the ideal type of battery for a digital camera. If you need spare batteries for back up then disposal alkaline AA batteries are easy to get hold of whilst the rechargeable ones that come with the camera help to keep costs down.
There is 32mb of memory built into the camera. Although this is generous in comparison to other brands of digital camera the internal storage is likely to fill up quickly. Therefore it is advisable to add the cost of a high capacity memory card to your budget. Make sure you buy the right type of memory card though as the DSC S90 is only compatible with Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro (NOT Memory Stick Duo). Click here to save money on Memory Sticks.
Points I like:
Good indoor shots
Fast acting - low shutter lag times
Large LCD screen.
Ease of use
Where it is not so hot:
If you are looking for a standard four megapixel digital camera then there is not that many to choose from. The Sony DSC S90 is more expensive than its rivals, but if you can afford it you will be well rewarded by its picture quality. Unlike the vast majority of digital cameras it even performs well indoors. Other points that shouldn't be overlooked are its exceptionally low shutter lag times and the large LCD screen. A screen of this size is very hard to find on this type of camera.
Sony DSC S90 Front View
Sony DSC S90 Back View
Sony DSC S90 Top View