Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W690 £149
1st Oct 2012 | 09:00
A slim, smart pocket camera with 10x optical zoom
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W690 was announced in February as part of a trio of stylish and slim compact cameras.
Although it's not quite as slim as the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-WX100, the Sony W690 is no porker, cramming in a 10x optical zoom lens in its 21.7mm deep body. Not only that, it also has a 16 million pixel 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor.
That lens starts at an equivalent focal length of 25mm and rises up to 250mm at the telephoto lens. Unlike some of Sony's other compact cameras, it doesn't feature Clear Zoom technology to digitally boost the zoom capability of the camera.
Other features on this tiny camera include a Bionz processor, face detection, smile shutter and an in-built guide to using the camera.
Pretty squarely targeted at casual users, a number of creative options have been included to attract the Instagram crowd.
First up we have four digital filters, or 'Picture Effects', to use Sony's parlance, such as Toy Camera, Pop Colour and Partial Colour.
Secondly, Sony's Sweep Panorama enables super-wide images to be captured by sweeping the camera across a scene and then stitching the resulting images together in one picture.
There's not a great deal of manual control available on the Sony Cyber-Shot WC90, though a Program mode does give some flexibility.
HD video recording at 720p is available, with minimal control over recording settings. Videos can also be shot in VGA mode, which is more suitable for uploading quick videos straight to the web.
A 230k dot resolution, 3-inch TFT Clear Photo screen can be found on the back of the camera, on which you can watch slideshows of your images accompanied by music that you load into the camera.
Scene Modes including High Sensitivity, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Landscape, Soft Snap and Pet Mode are also available, as is Intelligent Auto for automatically detecting the optimum shooting settings.
Build quality and handling
The Sony Cyber-Shot W690 is very sleek and small, making it the ideal kind of camera for slipping into a pocket or a handbag. It's almost unbelievable that the camera houses a 10x optical zoom lens.
Although there's no finger grip or thumb rest, holding the camera one handed is relatively comfortable, with most of the buttons you might need all within easy reach.
The number of buttons is pretty sparse, on the top of the camera only the on/off button and shutter release can be found. The shutter release feels a little flimsy and it's very easy to accidentally take a picture when trying to half-press to focus.
Unlike some of the other cameras in Sony's range, the zoom is activated via two buttons on the back of the camera rather than with a switch around the shutter release. Zooming in and out across the 10x optical zoom range is quick and smooth.
Also on the back of the camera is a switch that enables changing between standard stills shooting mode, sweep panorama and movie recording. It's great to have a quick way to quickly switch panorama on and off, and we can see this becoming a popular feature for casual photographers who don't want to have to mess around with extensive menu systems.
Other than that, the back of the camera is relatively well laid out, with a four-way directional pad housing the most commonly used settings (such as flash, smile detection and self-timer).
Tapping the Menu button brings up a Quick Menu-style array of options, with the most likely to be needed settings presented. Here you can switch from fully automatic shooting to Program mode, Picture Effect or Scene Mode.
If you need a more extensive menu, to change settings such as shutter sounds, this can be accessed from the bottom of the quick menu. You'll probably rarely need to delve into this, so it's good that it's been kept separate to reduce fuss.
There's not much in the way of manual control on this compact camera, but you can make a few select changes when shooting in Program mode. This can be activated via the quick menu, which will then enable sensitivity (ISO), white balance, focus type and metering mode to be altered manually.
When shooting, the button at the bottom right of the camera brings up an in-camera shooting guide. This is handy for deciphering what the different icons mean, or for discovering which settings you need for different situations. There's also a Troubleshooting option should something go wrong.
Playback of images can be accessed via a dedicated button at the back of the camera. Within playback you can choose to show detailed information about an image, or have it completely unhindered by text. A slideshow can be created, either with music and effects or without. As we said before, you can also upload your own music to the camera.
A few very basic editing options are available via the Playback menu. These are trimming (resize), red-eye removal, or applying sharpening. Each option enables a new image to be saved alongside the old one.
Images from the Sony W690 are generally good, with lots of details and strong colours. Images are also clear and detailed, especially when shooting at the widest angle the lens offers.
The Sony Cyber-Shot W690 offers a 10x optical zoom within its very slim body, giving it a 25-250mm focal length spread. At the very telephoto end of the lens, image quality is retained, although the camera does suffer a little if it's not held completely steady.
Focusing is generally quick and accurate, and with macro focusing available as close as 5cm available, this is a pretty versatile camera.
Occasionally, the camera struggles to lock onto a close subject, and it would have been nice to see the lens able to focus even closer than 5cm for super macros. Switching to macro mode is completely automated, and the camera does a good job of detecting when it was presented with such a scene.
Chromatic aberration appears to be minimal, with only slight incidence of it occurring in areas of sharp contrast when viewed at 100 per cent. At normal printing or web sizes, it's unlikely that it would be noticeable.
In Program mode, three different metering modes are available – Multi, Center and Spot. Multi does a reasonably good job of assessing the light, even in mixed lighting conditions, to provide a good exposure. The same can be said when using the camera in Intelligent Auto mode.
Sweep Panorama is a function that has been on a number of Sony compact cameras for a while now. On the Sony Cyber-Shot W690 this works by creating a video as the camera is swept across a scene, from which the panorama is produced.
The finished image isn't especially high quality, but it's still a fun mode to use and when displaying the images at low resolutions/sizes (such as on social networks) the effect is good.
An increasing number of camera manufacturers are including digital filters to appeal to those looking to get a bit more creative, especially smartphone users accustomed to apps such as Instagram.
On the Sony Cyber-Shot W690 there's not a huge amount of choice, but there is Toy Camera (available in five different variations), Pop Colour, Partial Colour and Soft High Key. It's perhaps a little surprising to see the seemingly ubiquitous Miniature mode (which recreates the effect of a tilt-shift lens) missing, but the other effects are quite fun.
Of course, since the camera doesn't shoot raw files, making the decision to shoot with a filter means there's no way to remove it post-capture.
When shooting at high sensitivities, the camera does a good job of keeping noise down. There is some evidence of smoothing when viewing images at actual pixel size, but generally at ISO 800 and below this is kept to a minimum.
Even at the highest sensitivities, such as ISO 3200, the camera does a reasonable job, and using this is certainly preferable to not being able to get the shot at all.
The 230k dot screen is a bit of disappointment, being difficult to see outdoors, especially in bright light. It also does a poor job of displaying images in playback mode, making them appear slightly out of focus at times, something that's not reflected in the images viewed on a computer screen.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W690, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 80 the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W690 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
Full ISO 80 image
ISO 80, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 100, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
Signal to noise ratio
These results show that images from the Sony Cyber-Shot W690 at lower ISO sensitivities show the same sort of signal to noise ratio as those from the Samsung PL210, Nikon Coolpix S6200 and Canon A4000. At mid-range sensitivities (between ISO 100 and ISO 400), the Sony camera performs better than all but the Nikon, before dipping at higher ISOs to the Samsung's level.
The Sony Cyber-Shot W690's images perform better in terms of dynamic range than the Samsung PL210 and Nikon Coolpix S6200, but sit below results from the Canon A4000, throughout most sensitivity settings. However, at ISO 1600 the Samsung just peaks above the Sony, before returning to a similar score at the next setting up, ISO 3200.
The Sony Cyber-Shot W690 is capable of capturing lots of detail with its 16 million pixels sensor.
A 10x optical zoom is housed in the Sony Cyber-Shot W690's slim body. At the top you can see an image shot at the widest angle (25mm equivalent), while the second image shows the full zoom capability (250mm equivalent).
Colours from the Sony Cyber-Shot W690 are bright and vibrant, without being over the top.
An image created with the Sweep Panorama mode. If you view it at 100% you can see the low resolution of the image.
Focusing is quick and accurate. Although focus points can't be selected manually, the camera does a good job of choosing the most accurate place to focus.
Images shot at the mid-range sensitivities, such as this image shot at ISO 400, show a good level of noise control, without too much evidence of smoothing.
Multi metering does a good job of providing the correct exposure, even in mixed lighting conditions.
Another image that shows the amount of detail captured by the Sony Cyber-Shot W690. Automatic white balance has also performed well here.
Macro focusing is available from as close as 5cm, making it a good option for shooting close-up images.
Partial colour shoots an image in monochrome, with one colour (you can choose from red, green, blue or yellow, highlighted. Here we've selected red.
Toy Camera mode aims to replicate the appearance of a cheap, plastic camera by distorting colours and adding a vignette around the edge of the frame. This is Toy Colour Normal.
Several variations are available on Toy Camera - this is Cool.
Another variation, this is Toy Camera Warm.
Toy Camera Green.
Toy Camera Magenta.
Pop Colour is another Picture Effect, which emphasises colour tones to produce a bold image.
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 80 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
The Sony W690 is a fun little camera that, for the price, offers a fair amount of features, most appealingly the 10x optical zoom.
Cramming such a zoom range into a very slim and stylish body is a real bonus, and there's also some other fun features, such as sweep panorama and Picture Effects, which are likely to appeal to the intended audience for the camera.
Images are crisp, with lots of detail and good colours, which is also pleasing to see.
The slim and stylish Sony Cyber-Shot W690 is a good choice for those looking for a small camera to fit into a pocket or handbag for everyday situations, nights out and holidays.
The screen really lets this camera down, sometimes being unusable in bright light and making played back images appear poorly focused.
The Sony W690 certainly isn't going to set the world alight, but it's a smart choice for those after an inexpensive compact camera.