Digital SLR Shootout: Sony Alpha Vs Panasonic Lumix

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Digital SLR’s are hot and vendors like Sony and Panasonic are rolling out a new generation of SLR cameras with built-in LCD viewing. So which DSLR is better: Sony’s Alpha 350 or Panasonic’s Lumix L10? We take a look at both models side-by-side.


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Sony’s Alpha 350 vs Panasonic’s Lumix L10
While the ‘Live View’ function has been introduced a couple of years ago, it is now becoming a feature that users would want to have in their DSLR camera. This function allows a user to either use the optical viewfinder or the LCD screen when composing a shot, making it easier to take difficult angled shots. It can also be an advantage to new DSLR users who are used to the LCD screen of their ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras.

Both the Sony Alpha and the Panasonic Lumix L10 have a small body, a Live View function, an LCD screen that can be moved around, and is compatible with a wide range of lenses. What’s different though is how each camera performs, what additional features it brings to the table, and its overall cost.

 


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Panasonic’s good button layout makes it easier to control
The Sony Alpha 350’s body has a built-in ‘SteadyShot’ that is able to stabilise your shot and gives the user freedom to use any Konica Minolta lenses and/or Sony lens without thinking about blur from camera movement. Panasonic on the other hand, does not have any kind of sensor-shift stabilisation, but instead relies on its lens with optical image stabilisation. It is compatible with any Four Thirds Mount but Panasonic claims that some lenses may not be able to use some L10 functions such as ‘contrast AF, direction detection function, and OIS mode.’

The 350 uses a CompactFlash Type I/II media card or Memory Stick Duo (so long as you have a Memory Stick Duo Adaptor for CompactFlash slot) to store photos, while the L10 uses SD cards with up to 2GB and SDHC cards with 4GB capacity or more.

We had an easier time controlling the Lumix L10 because most of its buttons are located on the right side of the camera. Using only one hand, we were able to access advanced options, change shooting mode, and even review the shots we have taken. The Alpha 350 on the other hand, was a little harder to control as it entails a user to use both hands when adjusting settings.

 


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View from the top:
Top: Panasonic Lumix L10
Bottom: Sony Alpha 350
Performance:

We are advising new DSLR users to read the users manual and experiment with the different shooting modes instead of using ‘Auto’ mode most of the time as this mode will not do justice to your photographs.

The Sony Alpha 350 has 12 shooting modes to choose from. Besides the Auto and No Flash mode, the camera can be adjusted to take portraits, landscapes, macro shots, sports action, sunset, and even night shots. It also comes with advanced modes like P (Program Auto), A (Aperture Priority), S (Shutter Speed Priority), and M (Manual Exposure).

The Panasonic Lumix L10 also has 12 shooting modes to choose from: Automatic, P (Programme AE mode), A (Aperture-priority AE mode), S (Shutter-priority AE mode), M (Manual exposure mode), Custom (Custom mode), SCN (Scene mode), Portrait mode, Scenery mode, Macro mode, Sports mode, and Night portrait mode. The six scene modes have sub-menus that give users more versatility. For example, the portrait mode has four sub-options to choose from (normal portrait, outdoor portrait, indoor portrait, and creative portrait), with the camera giving a short description on what each function does. In addition to the shooting modes, the Lumix L10 also has a ‘Film Mode’ that sets the colour tone of the picture. This mode allows users to change the contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction effect can be changed.

 


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Sony’s LCD screen can be tilted up and down for easier angled shots
Both cameras have LCD screens that can be used for the Live View function (the Alpha has a 2.7-inch screen while the Lumix sports a 2.5-inch screen) but presents it differently. Sony’s LCD screen can only be tilted up and down, but the Lumix LCD screen can be swivelled 270 degrees. Both cameras definitely made it easier for us to take high and low angled shots, but we liked the flexibility of the Lumix LCD.

The Panasonic Lumix comes with a 10.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor that provides ‘high image quality of a CCD sensor and the low power consumption of a CMOS sensor’, while the Sony Alpha 350 uses a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. Both were able to take clear and vivid shots although the Alpha 350 still had focusing issues (especially on fast moving objects). The two cameras can save RAW or JPEG files but it is the Alpha that presents the option of saving photographs in both RAW or JPEG.


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Panasonic’s LCD can be swivelled up to 270 degrees.
Cleaning and Maintenance:

The Alpha 350’s CCD sensor has been treated with an anti-dust coating to minimise static charge build-up and activates an anti-dust vibration function each time the camera is turned on or off, preventing dust particles from settling on the image sensor. However, if dust or debris lands on the sensor, users can activate a ‘cleaning mode’ to life the mirror in front for easy cleaning with the use of a blower.

Like the Sony Alpha, the Lumix L10 comes with a dust reduction system that removes any dust particles that have entered the camera. As soon as a user turns on the camera, the L10’s filter vibrates (Panasonic claims that it vibrates around 30,000 times a second), shaking away any attached dust particles to prevent picture quality deterioration.

 


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Sony Alpha: $1,399 (Body Only), $1,549 (Single lens kit), $1,699 (Twin lens kit)
Conclusion:

Those who have just moved from digital cameras to DSLRs will love the Live View function found on these two DSLR cameras. It makes angled shots a lot easier to take, shows a user exactly how the shot is going to look like, and helps make that ‘perfect’ shot.

We love both cameras for putting a lot of features in a small body as well as its ability to take clear and vivid shots. However, we are recommending Sony’s Alpha 350 over Panasonic’s Lumix L10 because of its price.

For $2,199 (which is the RRP of Panasonic’s L10 kit), users can purchase the Alpha 350 with a twin lens kit ($1,699), a flash ($459), and have a couple of dollars left to spend. This will probably be the better choice for consumers since it is the cheaper option between the two.

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Sony Alpha 350 DSLR Camera | From $1,399 (Body Only) |  | www.sony.com.au
For: Construction and build; Easy to navigate interface; Battery life; Live View function; LCD screen can be tilted; Great SteadyShot function; Automatic flash function; Compatibility with older lenses
Against: Still has problems focusing on fast moving objects; ISO settings could have been higher
Conclusion: A DSLR camera that has a couple of point-and-shoot features in its sleeve.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 DSLR Camera | $2,199 |  | www.panasonic.com.au

For: Build; Easy access to buttons; Live View function; LCD can be swivelled; Easy access to buttons; Compatible with Four Thirds Mount; Great photo output
Against: Underexposed photos (on Auto mode); ISO setting only up to 1600; Price
Conclusion: Could have been well-worth recommending if it weren’t for the expensive price tag

See page over for product specifications.

 


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Sony Alpha 350 Product Specifications:

General
– Lens Used: All Sony lenses, Konica Minolta Maxxum/Dynax Alpha Lenses
– Camera Type: Digital SLR camera with built-in flash and interchangeable lenses

Image Capture
– Sensitivity: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, Lo 80, Hi 200
– Dust reduction: Static-resistant anti-dust coating (Indium Tin Oxide) with Anti-Dust Vibration mechanism
– Aspect ratio: 3:2
– No. of pixels: Total: 14.9 megapixels; Effective: 14.2 megapixels
– Sensor: 23.5 x 15.7mm (APS-C size) interlace scan CCD with primary colour filter

Recording
– D-Range Optimizer: Off, Standard/Advanced
– Delete function: Single, multiple or all frames in a folder / memory card can be deleted. Folders can be deleted in the File Browser.
– Noise reduction: Available at shutter speeds longer than 1 sec
– Image quality modes: Standard, Fine, RAW, RAW+JPEG (fine)
– Colour modes: sRGB, Adobe RGB
– No. of recorded pixels: L (14MP): 4,592 x 3,056; M (7.7MP): 3,408 x 2,272; S (3.5MP): 2,288 x 1,520
– File Format: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG (DCF 2.0 compliant, Exif 2.21 supported)
– A/D conversion: 12 bit
– Format function: FAT 12, 16, 32
– Recording media: Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Compact Flash Type I & II (MicroDrive)

White Balance Settings
Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Colour Temperature/Colour Filter, Custom

Super SteadyShot
– Compensation: Approx. 2.5EV – 3.5EV decrease in shutter speed (varies according to shooting conditions and lens used)
– Display: Indicator inside viewfinder
– System: CCD-shift mechanism

Display
– Other display functions: Enlarged view (maximum zoom : L size -12x, M size – 9x, S size – 6x), overexposure / underexposure warning, slideshow, image orientation (automatic rotation mode on/off)
– Image display modes: Single image (image only, image + information, image + information + histogram), index (4 / 9 / 25 images), tabbed browsing
– Information display: Navigation display functions, enlarged text view, camera orientation adjustment
– LCD monitor: 2.7-inch low temperature polysilicon TFT display, 230,400 total pixels

 

AF System
– Type: TTL phase-detection system
– Eye-start AF: Selectable via main menu
– Main functions: Focus areas selection (wide area / 9-point local frame selection / fixed centre spot focus), predictive focus for moving subjects, auto-tracking focus point, focus lock (by half pressing shutter button or via the spot AF button)
– Focus modes: Single-shot, Automatic, Continuous, Manual
– AF illuminator: Built-in, Flash type, range: 1 – 5m
– Sensitivity range: 0EV to +18EV, ISO 100 equivalent
– Sensor: CCD line sensors (9 points)

AE System
– AE lock: Automatically activated with AF lock, available with AE lock button
– Exposure compensation: +/- 2.0EV (0.3EV/0.7EV steps selectable)
– Metering range: EV2 – EV20 (+4EV to +20EV with spot metering), ISO 100 equivalent with F1.4 lens
– Metering sensor: 40-segment honeycomb-pattern SPC
– Metering type: Direct TTL metering (40- segment honeycomb-pattern metering, multi-segment metering, center-weighted metering, spot metering)
– Scene selector: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night View/ Portrait
– Exposure modes: Program AE (Auto mode / P-Mode, with program shift), aperture-priority AE (A-Mode), shutter-priority AE (S-Mode), manual (M-Mode)

Built-In Flash
– Flash compensation: +/- 2.0EV (0.3EV / 0.7 EV increments)
– Guide no.: GN 12 (in meters at ISO 100)
– Flash modes: Automatic, Fill flash, Rear sync, Slow sync, Red-eye reduction, High-speed sync
– Effective area: 18mm lens coverage equivalent (same focal length)
– Flash metering and control: ADI/ Pre- flash TTL flash metering

Shutter
– Flash sync speed: 1/160 sec.
– Speed range: 1/4000 sec. -30 sec., bulb
– Type: Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter

Viewfinder
– Diopter control: -3.0 to +1.0m-1
– Pentaprism: Quick return mirror
– Type: Fixed eye-level, penta-Dach mirror

Shooting
– Other functions: After-view, depth-of-field preview, zone-matching
– Digital effect control modes: Adjustment functions: 8 modes (standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Evening, Night / Night Portrait, Monochrome, Adobe RGB), contrast, saturation and sharpness settings (+/- 2 steps) are also possible
– Self-timer: 10 sec., 2 sec.
– Continuous shooting limit: JPEG: unlimited (depending on media write speed and capacity), RAW: 4 frames, RAW+JPEG 3 frames
– Continuous shooting rate: Max.2.5 fps with viewfinder, max. 2 fps in live view mode (approx.)
– White balance bracketing: 3 frames, H/L selectable
– Exposure bracketing: Single or continuous shot (3 frames), 0.3EV / 0.7EV increments

Others
Printing output control: Exif Print, Print Image Matching III, PictBridge, DPOF Setting

Power
– Battery performance: Approx. 730 images with viewfinder, approx. 410 images in live view mode (CIPA standard)
– External power source: AC adaptor – ACVQ900AM (optional)
– Power display: 5 levels
– Battery: NPFM500H

Connectivity
– Video output: NTSC / PAL selectable
– Compatible OS: Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP*SP2, Windows Vista, Macintosh Mac OS X (v.10.1.3 and later)
– PC interface: USB2.0 Hi-Speed (mass storage mode / PTP mode)
Size
– Weight: 582g (not including battery or accessories)
– Dimensions (WxHxD): 130.8 x 98.5 x 74.7mm

 


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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10 Specifications:

– Lens Type: LEICA D VARIO -ELMAR / 15 elements in 11 groups (2 aspherical lenses)
– Image Stabiliser: Yes
– Image Stabiliser Operational Modes: MEGA O.I.S.
– Aperture: F3.8-5.6 ASPH
– Auto Focus: Yes
– Focal Length: f= 14-50mm (35mm Equiv.:28-100mm)
– Focusing Area: P / A / S / M / Intelligent AUTO / Motion Picture, TTL Phase difference detection system: 3-point Auto/1 fixed point, left/1 fixed point, centre/ 1 fixed point, right, Contrast AF System: 9-point/Multi point/3-point/1-point/Spot/Face
– Focus Mode: AFS/AFC/MF

– Image Sensor Size (Inches): 4/3 Live MOS sensor
– Total Pixel Count (megapixels): 11.8
– Effective Pixel Count (megapixels): 10.1
– ISO Sensitivity Modes: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, Intelligent ISO (Live View Mode)
– Maximum Sensitivity (ISO Rating): 1600
– LCD Monitor Screen Size (Inches): 2.5
– Auto Angle Detection: No
– View Finder Size (inches): Optical View Finder
– Exposure Modes: Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual

– White Balance Modes: Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White Set 1,2, Colour temperature setting, Flash
– Picture Adjustment Modes / Film Modes: Colour:, Standard/Dynamic/Nature/Smooth/Vibrant/Nostalgic, Black and White:, Standard, Dynamic, Smooth
– Mode Dial/Scene Modes: Macro mode, Sports mode, Portrait mode, Night Portrait mode, Baby mode, Scenery mode, Food mode
– Colour Effect Modes: Black & White
– Image Quality Modes: JPEG, RAW, Fine, Standard
– Built in Flash Modes: Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Forced On/Off, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction

– Compatible Memory Card Type(s):  SD Card, SDHC Card, Multi-Media Card
– Power (Battery): Lithium-ion battery pack (7.2V, 1320mAH)
– Dimensions: 95.5 x 134.5 x 77.5mm
– Weight: 480g

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