Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W230

In the realm of , the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W230 distinguishes itself from the pack with a beautiful 3-inch LCD screen, a , great in-camera features, and easy-as-pie access to scene modes.

The $200, 12-megapixel W230 is well-constructed and looks sharp, too. It's available in four colors: blue, black, red, and silver. Its 4X optical-zoom Carl Zeiss lens offers a 30mm film equivalent on the wide-angle end, with 120mm on the telephoto end.

One thing I liked about the design, apart from pure aesthetics, was the mode dial on the back of the camera. Rather than having to dive into the on-screen navigation, the dial provides instant access to 10 modes such as Smile Shutter, Intelligent Scene Recognition, Auto, High ISO, and Easy Shooting, which includes basic on-screen primers as to which settings are being selected.

The star of the show on the back of the camera, however, is the 3-inch-diagonal LCD screen: It's very sharp and very bright, and has great resolution. Joining the display on the back of the W230 are the aforementioned mode dial, a playback button, a four-way directional pad for navigating on-screen menus (the pad also doubles as one-press controls for the LCD's brightness, macro mode, flash, and timer), a dedicated menu button, and a home button. That's a lot of controls, but they're spaced nicely and are easy to use, even for big hands.

Also on the back is the zoom control rocker, which you'll either love or hate. The zoom controls work well, but some may prefer the more-traditional ring-around-the-shutter-button kind of control. Whatever your preference, keep in mind that the Cyber-shot DSC-W230, like most other point-and-shoot cameras, can't zoom while in movie mode. (The W230 shoots 640 by 480 MPEG-4 video at 30 fps.)

Pressing the menu button brings up quite a slew of options for a camera in this price range, including exposure settings, two metering modes, seven preset white-balance options, black-and-white and sepia filters, face detection, and ISO adjustments up to 3200. These menu selections are contextual, as well: depending upon which mode is selected with the mode dial, different adjustment options appear when you press the menu button.