The topmost plastic of the 14.2Mp Sony A290 might be slightly mottled to make it look like it's a distant relation to magnesium alloy, but pick it up and it's easy enough to guess where the camera lies in Sony's range – the all-plastic finish is a tad uninspiring. Sony A290 Yet everything falls neatly to hand, and although …
The 18-55mm kit lens shown is a really nice one - massive improvement on the old 18-70 chucked out by Konica Minolta who frankly should have been able to do much better - good to see Sony are putting half-decent glass out with their budget model, and a pity this wasn't commented on in the review.
Bells and Whistles
I've had a Sony DSLR-A200 for a couple of years now. I chose it over the Canon and Nikon competition of the time since Sony seemed to have gone for image quality over bells and whistles. Take a look at dxomark.com to see what I mean. It's a small difference, but a significant one. Some would suggest that Sony are keeping the best sensors for themselves, but processed jpegs are better on the Sony than the Canon or Nikon available at the time I bought my Sony, so it ain't just the sensor but image processing too. I do tend to shoot RAW for serious photography, but when I'm snapping away it's nice to know the processor is doing a good job.
With the 290 I'm a bit concerned that Sony are taking their entry level camera down the bells and whistles route. I'm also concerned they are getting sucked into the megapixel war that everybody else has realised is a dead end.
Oh and @blackworx does anybody actually who knows the first thing about photography actually buy the kit at this price level? Surely anybody who cares about their photography realises that the lens is at least as important as the camera* and chooses their lens as carefully as the body. Kit lenses are designed down to a target price, and that target really is pretty much zero. The manufacturers want the their kit to hit the shelves at as low a price as possible and they know the sort of punter who buys the kit won't realise that their can be a huge difference between the kit lens and a more expensive lens with the same focal length range.
* In the days of film I would have said the order of importance went Lens, Emulsion, Body. These days however in most cases the sensor and body are of a unit so it's harder to split the importance of the lens and the body/sensor.