The Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (priced from $799) is a midrange digital SLR, whose
biggest claim to fame is "live view" on its tilting 2.7" LCD, with
super-fast autofocus speeds. The A350 also features a whopping 14.2 Megapixel
sensor, Alpha lens mount, image stabilization, dust reduction, full manual
controls, and the performance and expandability that you'd expect from a D-SLR.
The A350's little brother -- the A300 -- is nearly identical, with the main
difference being its lower resolution 10.2 Megapixel sensor.
Sony has quite a few entry-level to midrange D-SLRs, which
can be a bit confusing to a new user. I put together the table below to help
clear things up:
|List price (with one
||11-point center dual
||0.83X / 95%
||0.74X / 95%
||0.74X / 95%
||0.90X / 95%
||100 - 3200
||100 - 3200
||100 - 3200
||100 - 6400
|Burst rate (LV off)
|D-Range Optimizer options
|PC control available
|Remote shutter options
|Memory card slots
||CF + MS Duo
|Battery grip supported
|Dimensions (W x H x
||5.3 x 3.8 x 2.9 in.
||5.1 x 3.9 x 2.9 in.
||5.1 x 3.9 x 2.9 in.
||5.6 x 4.3 x 3.3 in.
Either that cleared things up for you, or now you're really confused.
Ready to learn about the Alpha DSLR-A350? The keep reading,
our review starts right now!
Due to the similarities between the two cameras, I will
be reusing portions of the DSLR-A200 review here. The lens displayed in the product photos is optional.
in the Box?
The DSLR-A350 is sold in three kits. You can buy it body-only
($799), with an 18 - 70 mm lens ($899), or with that lens plus a 55
- 200 mm one for $1099. Here's what you'll find in the box for all of those:
- The 14.2 effective Megapixel DSLR-A350 camera body
- F3.5 - 5.6, 18 - 70 mm Sony lens [DSLR-A350K and DSLR-A350X
- F4.0 - 5.6, 55 - 200 mm Sony lens [DSLR-A350X
- NP-FM500H lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- Eyepiece cover
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- Video cable
- CD-ROM featuring
Picture Motion Browser, Image Data Converter, and Image Data Lightbox software
- Fold-out Quick Start Guide + 167 page camera manual (printed)
My A350 review unit didn't come with either of the available
kit lenses, but I have used the 18-70 before. It's not the greatest lens, with
a cheap, plastic feel, and it produces images with noticeable softness in the
corners. I am yet to try the 55 - 200. If you have any other Minolta/Sony A-mount
lenses laying around, they'll work just fine with the A350.
Digital SLRs never come with a memory card, so unless you
have a CompactFlash card laying around, you'll need to
buy one. The A350 supports both Type I and the thicker Type II CompactFlash
cards, and I'd recommend 2GB as a good starter size. Spending the extra money
on a "high speed" memory card is definitely a good idea on D-SLRs.
If you want the fastest card money can buy, then you can pick up a "UDMA" CompactFlash
card, which offers write speeds of 45MB/sec.
The DSLR-A350 uses Sony's NP-FM500H InfoLithium rechargeable
battery. With a whopping 11.8 Wh of energy in its plastic shell, you should
expect great battery life from the camera. Thankfully, Sony delivers just that:
||Battery life, live view
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi **
|Olympus E-520 */**
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 */**
|Pentax K200D */**
||2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 */**
* Built-in image stabilization
** Live view support
Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer
As you can see, the A350's battery life is best-in-class.
Don't expect those kinds of numbers if you're using live view mode, though
-- Sony estimates that you'll get 410 shots per charge in that case. One nice
thing about the InfoLithium battery is that it can tell you exactly how much
battery life you have left.
I should point out a few issues regarding the proprietary
batteries used by the A350 and cameras like it. First, they're really expensive
-- an extra one will set you back at
least $50. Second, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when
the rechargeable dies, as you could with an AA-based camera (and the only one available is the Pentax K200D). Some cameras can use AA batteries via their optional battery grips, but the
A350 isn't one of them.
Photo courtesy of Sony Electronics
Speaking of battery grips, above you can see the optional
VG-B30AM grip. This grip, which is priced
takes two NP-FM500H batteries, allowing you to take nearly 1500 shots -- nice!
The grip also has extra buttons and dials for when you're shooting in the portrait
When it's time to charge the NP-FM500H
battery, you can just pop it into the included charger.
It takes a while to fill up this powerful battery,
with a typical charge requiring around 175 minutes.
This isn't one of those battery chargers that plugs
directly into the wall -- you must use a power cable.
Being a digital SLR, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that
the DSLR-A350 supports plenty of accessories. Here's a summary of what's
||The A350 supports all Konica Minolta and Sony
lenses that use the Alpha mount
|You'll get more flash power and less chance
of redeye with an external flash.
|Sync terminal adapter
||Hot shoe to flash sync port adapter
|Macro twin flash kit
||For taking close-up flash photos
||For looking through the viewfinder from above
|Wired remote control
|Basically a shutter release button on a cable.
The S1 has a short cable, while the L1's is quite long (5 meters)
||Get double the battery life and a comfortable
|AC adapter / Dual battery charger
||Power your camera without draining your batteries;
can also charge two batteries (though not simultaneously)
|Soft carrying case
|Soft and leather cases for the camera and a
||Includes a canvas camera bag and extra battery
|* Prices were accurate at time of publication
The nice thing about digital
SLRs is that if you can think of an accessory, it probably exists!
Picture Motion Browser for Windows
Sony includes several software products with the A350. The first one is Picture Motion Browser, and it's for Windows only. PMB can be used for acquiring photos from the camera, organizing them, and performing basic editing tasks.
Photos can be viewed in the traditional thumbnail view, or you can jump to photos taken on a certain day in calendar view. Whichever view you're using, you can print photos, e-mail them, or burn them to a CD or DVD. Photos can also be quickly rotated, and a slideshow features is also available.
Edit screen in Picture Motion Browser
Editing options are fairly limited in Picture Motion Browser. Tools include auto enhancement, brightness, saturation, and sharpness adjustment, redeye reduction, and cropping. You can also adjust the tone curve, or print the date on your photo.
While Picture Motion Browser can view RAW files, you can't actually do anything with them. For that, you'll want to fire up one of the following programs.
Image Data Converter SR
Image Data Converter SR 2.0 is your main RAW editing application. It works on both Mac and Windows, and it seemed relatively quick at performing edits. If you can imagine an image property to edit, chances are that IDC can do it. Some of the highlights include D-Range Optimizer adjustment, noise reduction, tone curves, and staples like white balance and exposure. A "version stack" option lets you go back in time through your various adjustments. Users can also save processing formulas, which can be applied to other images with the click of your mouse. Finally, there's a one-push "send to Photoshop" button, which exports the file to TIFF format and opens it up in Adobe's photo editor.
Speaking of Photoshop, you can open up the A350's RAW files if you're using version 4.4.1 or greater of the Camera Raw plug-in.
Image Data Lightbox SR
A related program is known as Image Data Lightbox SR. This is an image browser that lets you select up to four images and view them zoomed in and side-by-side so you can compare details. The "synchronous" option moves the images you're comparing at the same time, which can be quite handy.
Oh, and if you have no idea what RAW is, I'll tell
you. In a nutshell, RAW files contain unprocessed image data direct from the
camera's sensor. You'll need to process them on your computer before you can
do anything else with them, but this process allows you to adjust things like
white balance, exposure, and noise reduction, without reducing the quality
of the original image. It's almost like taking the photo again. The downsides
to RAW include the much larger file sizes (which means longer write times,
and smaller bursts) and the post-processing requirement.
One feature not supported on the A350 is remote camera control. You'll have to shell out the big bucks for the top-of-the-line DSLR-A700 for that feature.
Sony includes a fold-out Quick Start guide as well as a full
printed manual with the DSLR-A350. The main manual is fairly easy to read,
with a good layout and a minimal amount of fine print, though it doesn't go
into as much detail as I would've liked. The documentation for the software
I just described is installed onto your computer's hard drive.
From most angles, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 looks identical
to the entry-level DSLR-A200. The major difference between the A200 and the
A300/A350 twins is the LCD -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. The A350 may
be fairly inexpensive, but you'd never know it when you pick up the camera
-- it's very solid. It's not what I'd call a "small" D-SLR, and that's fine
by me. The camera has a good-sized, rubberized right hand grip, so you can
hold it with confidence.
As D-SLRs go, the DSLR-A350 doesn't have too many buttons.
Everything is logically laid out, so you don't need to read the manual in order
to figure out the camera. My only complaint in this department is that there's
only one command dial -- adjusting manual exposure settings is a lot easier
when you have two.
With that out of the way, we can take a look at how the A350
compares to other D-SLRs in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi
||5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 in.
||46.5 cu in.
||475 g |
||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
||46.3 cu in.
||495 g |
||5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
||52.5 cu in.
||475 g |
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10
||5.3 x 3.8 x 3.1 in.
||62.4 cu in.
||480 g |
||5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in.
||55.8 cu in.
||630 g |
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A350
||5.1 x 3.9 x 2.9 in.
||57.7 cu in.
||582 g |