Based on an identical chassis design to the cheaper A200, the Alpha A350 justifies its asking price with a cutting-edge sensor and worthwhile extra features. First up is that sensor, which produces 14.2 million pixels – the highest resolution in this month’s Labs and among the highest of any DSLR. Sony has the advantage here, since it develops its own sensors.
And, squeezed into the chassis is not only the Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation of the A200, but also an impressive live-view mode. This actually uses a separate sensor, with a prism splitting the light coming through the lens. That means the camera’s standard exposure and fast-focus abilities continue to work. Operating in conjunction with that is the LCD monitor. It hinges out from the back of the body, angling either up or down.
So you can put the A350 in live-view mode and frame shots either over-the-head or at waist height. With the exposure and focus continuing to work just as fast, it makes live-view a useful addition rather than a tickbox to persuade people to give up their digital compacts. The only downside is that the maximum screen magnification in live-view mode is 2x – not nearly high enough for accurate manual focusing.
One negative aspect of the light-splitting trickery and extra sensor is a smaller optical viewfinder. That makes it more difficult to frame your shots and visualise how they’ll turn out. That apart, the features are identical to the A200. That’s a double-edged sword: there’s no significant omission aside from the lack of a depth-of-field preview. The stock lens is the same 18-70mm unit, which while not as sharp as the stock lenses from Nikon and Canon, gives a useful extra zoom range.
So the problem is what you gain for the extra money. While 14.2 megapixels sounds great, the difference in quality between the A350 and A200 is marginal, and with the pixel density on the sensor so high, image noise above ISO 400 is more than we’d like to see.
Ultimately the A350 is defeated by its own sibling. We’d recommend staying with the A200 for out-and-out value, or the Canon 450D for quality.
This Review appeared in the December, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing