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Several camera companies make variants of some of their models that are sold exclusively through particular retail chains. Today's review camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290, is an example of this. It's a variant of the DSC-W270, and is sold in the UK exclusively through the Jessops chain of high-street photographic retailers. It differs from the W270 in only one respect; it has a 3.0-inch 230k LCD monitor in place of the W270's 2.7-inch screen.
I have to confess that I've been a bit remiss in my coverage of Sony's W-series cameras. The last one I reviewed was the W200 two years ago, a good but expensive camera significant as one of the first pocket compacts to feature a 12.1-megapixel sensor. The W290 also has a 12.1MP sensor, but these days this is far from uncommon, and the Sony is competing in quite a crowded market. It also has a 5x zoom Carl Zeiss lens with a wide-angle end equivalent to 28mm, something which is also becoming a more common feature. Direct rivals for the W290 include Canon's impressive Ixus 110 IS and 990 IS compacts, currently selling for £230 and £277 respectively, as well as the just-announced Panasonic DMC-FX60, the Nikon S620 (£200) and Samsung's IT100 (£170). The W290's £200 price point doesn't look too expensive by comparison.
Like all of Sony's compacts the W290 is a good looking camera, and is solidly made. It has a strong aluminium body, and is available in black, blue or silver. The W290 isn't a particularly small or lightweight camera by modern ultra-compact standards. It weighs a substantial 164g including battery and memory card, and the 97.6 x 56.6 x 22.6mm measurements quoted in the spec sheet aren't entirely accurate. They ignore the lens surround, so in fact the camera is 26.5mm thick. I have no idea why so many camera companies do this. It's like saying that I'm 5ft 2in tall, if you don't include my head. It makes no sense at all.
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