It seems that a 10.0 megapixel point-and-shoot just won't cut it anymore: in their pre-PMA camera announcements, Sony unveiled the Cyber-shot DSC-W230 and DSC-W290 models, both sporting 12.1 megapixel sensors.
Aside from stepping up the resolution, Sony has brought a few tech and interface updates to the entry-level W series with their latest models.
Everything's better in HD
The Cyber-shot W290 will share the same size 3.0 inch LCD as the W230, but will feature a more versatile 5x Carl Zeiss 28-140mm zoom lens. At a slightly higher price point, the W290 packs a few more advanced features including 11 pre-programmed scene modes and slideshow playback with stereo sound.
For the extra cost, users will also get 720p HD movie capture capability. While both the W230 and W290 will feature HD output and slideshow playback, only the W290 gets a boost in recording quality.
Sony will also equip the W290 with integrated Intelligent Auto mode. It's designed to identify particular scene types, like low-light or macro, and automatically adjust settings to capture a better picture. An icon will appear onscreen to indicate which scene has been identified.
According to Sony, Intelligent Auto is different from their traditional auto mode because it doesn't need to be turned on or off. If it really is integrated smoothly, and doesn't become too intrusive, then this should be a nice feature for casual photographers.
Cyber-shot intelligence with recession-friendly pricing
As noted, the more affordable W230 will also feature a large 3.0 inch LCD on the back panel.
This isn't the touch screen of the T-series Cyber-shots, so a mode dial and directional pad will facilitate user interface.
Like the W220, which was announced at this year's CES, the Cyber-shot W230 is equipped with a 4x Carl Zeiss 30-120mm zoom lens. Compared to previous W series models, this is a slightly wider angle lens at 30mm.
Attempting to clean up user interface for its W cameras, Sony has merged the Home and Menu functions into one. They hope to eliminate the redundancy that has been problematic with menu functions of past models.
Both models will also feature Sony's face detection technology; however, the W290 will feature "face priority" technology. Users will be able to select a particular face within a frame and track it from shot to shot. The camera should auto-adjust to make sure the selected face is focused and prioritized above others in the frame.
Pricing and availability
The Cyber-shot W230 will debut at $199; the Cyber-shot W290 will cost $249. Both models should be available in April.