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The new Sony Alpha digital SLR camera features a lighter and slimmer body for easy handling, has an improved user interface, 14.2 megapixel resolution and other features that make it worth a second look.


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The A350 is a compact, 14.2-megapixel camera that brings a lot of simple, yet innovative ideas to its existing Alpha family. It comes with a ‘Live View’ system that uses the LCD to frame photos on the LCD without any sacrifice to the focusing speed. This feature is perhaps one of the best features we have seen so far as it allows a user, particularly those who have shifted from point-and-shoot cameras, to make full use of the LCD (instead of looking at the eyepiece) to set up the shot and view it immediately.

The camera is still compatible with any Konica Minolta lenses and/or Sony lenses, giving it an added versatility in making that ‘shot’ possible. 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 all your photos, and can be transferred to any computer via USB connection.

The A350 has undergone significant cosmetic changes (in comparison to its siblings). The Mode dial, Live View/OVF switch, Drive button, ISO button, Shutter button, and control dial can be found on top of the unit, while the Menu button, Display button, Delete button, Playback button, Function button, Enter/Spot AF button, four-way directional button, SteadyShot switch, and 2.7-inch LCD screen can be found at the back of the unit. Users can find a remote terminal and DC-In terminal on the unit’s left side, whist the Video Out/USB terminal can be found beside the memory card slot.

 


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Performance:

Placing the camera on ‘Auto’ may be the way to go for first time DSLR users, but we suggest users to read the manual to get an ‘idea’ of what the different shooting modes are and experiment with the advanced features of the Alpha 350 in order to fully appreciate the power of this camera.

Besides the Auto and No Flash mode, the unit comes with 10 other modes to choose from. 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) for intermediate and professional photographers who want more control.

The Live View function, combined with the unit’s 2.7-inch LCD screen that can be tilted, allowed us to take those ‘difficult’ high and low shots. The Super SteadyShot function helped in taking sharp and blur-free shots, most especially at slow shutter speeds, although we still recommend users to purchase and use a tripod for steadier shots. The Super SteadyShot technology is built into the camera, so users can change the lens and still have a blur-free shot.

 


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The various shooting modes provided us with great shots, but we have found the camera to still have problems focusing (especially in fast-paced sporting events). Images taken between ISO 100 and 400 had minimal noise and sharp images with plenty of detail. Users also have the option of taking and saving shots in RAW, RAW + JPEG, or JPEG formats by going to the Quality settings of the 350. RAW files look better than its JPEG counterpart but takes up a lot of space, which may cause problems for users who have limited storage space.

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.

The Alpha 350 is aimed at ‘step-up’ digital photographers and costs $1,399 for the Alpha 350 body, $1,549 for the Alpha 350 with a single lens kit, or $1,699 for the A350 with a twin lens kit.

Conclusion:

We highly recommend the A350 for its new features, versatility, form factor, as well as its new Live View function with adjustable LCD screen. Sony has just made it even easier for point-and-shoot camera owners to move to a DSLR camera, with the promise of providing them with better looking shots without the fuss. Just remember to fully experiment with the camera (or take photography lessons) for you to get the most out of your purchase.

See page over for full product specifications and overall rating.

 

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 Optimiser: 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): Approx. 130.8 x 98.5 x 74.7mm

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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: Price may turn potential buyers (especially first time DSLR users) off
Conclusion: A DSLR camera that has a couple of point-and-shoot features in its sleeve.

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