The Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's smooth Live View handling makes this model worth consideration for anyone graduating from a point-and-shoot camera.

Like competing compact digital SLRs designed for users stepping up from the point-and-shoot realm, the 10.2Mp Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 has Live View functions - but it enjoys an edge over its rivals in that its flexible Live View LCD works in real time.

Priced at around £599, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 doesn't come cheap, but this camera's tilt-screen tricks may make it attractive to stealth shooters and to people who want to capture unique images.

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's 2.7in Live View screen offers optional real-time viewing, so you can compose images using your LCD just as you would with a point-and-shoot camera. A mechanical switch allows you to toggle back and forth between using the Live View LCD or the viewfinder for composing.

Because the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's Live View uses a separate mirror and sensor to transmit what it sees, Live View mode imposes no slowdown on the sensor's handling of the actual images as you shoot. If you prefer to use the traditional viewfinder, though, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's works just fine; its eyecup and diopter comfortably fit my eye.

Thanks to the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's Live View mode, composing shots of subjects at ground level was a breeze, since we didn't have to crouch down onto the ground to look through the viewfinder.

Although both the LCD's quality and Live View won us over, we were a little disappointed to see that it folds out and extends only vertically. The design allowed us to point the lens around a corner periscope-style, but only in that one way. We can imagine how constructing a sturdy, fully swiveling screen might be difficult, but here's hoping that Sony will achieve such a thing in the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's descendent models.

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 is a fairly heavy 582g; still, the camera's ergonomic design gives it a solid and balanced feel in the hand.

If you put your fingers on the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's grip, they won't get in the way of the bundled 18mm-to-70mm lens (f/3.5-5.6, effective 35mm focal length of 27mm to 105mm) or block the pop-up flash. Commonly used settings are accessible from the top of the camera for quick access. Menu controls are available on the back, and all settings are viewable on screen.

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The Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's smooth Live View handling makes this model worth consideration for anyone graduating from a point-and-shoot camera.

We found the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 intuitive to use.

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 offers a 3-frames-per-second burst mode for sports and other fast-moving action, but that mode steps down to 2 frames per second if you use Live View. The camera will also let you get close for macro shots.

It has dial settings for landscape, portraits, and sunsets, and offers in-camera image stabilisation. Several cool pre-shooting, image-enhancement features - including saturation, nighttime, and black-and-white settings - are easily accessible within the menu.

The noise-reduction and dynamic range expansion settings made quite a difference during long exposures at high ISOs (which range from 100 to 3200). That said, we observed a good deal of noise in shots not employing noise reduction; we also noticed some artifacting along high-contrast edges, a bit more than we would like in a high-quality image file. Even so, in the final evaluation of our Test Centre tests, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 earned a score of Superior for its overall image quality, including its excellent flash exposures.

Manual settings are easy to dial up, as are the aperture- and shutter-priority modes. We particularly liked the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's Exposure Shift setting, which novice photographers may find valuable: first, you set what you perceive as a proper exposure, and then, with the shift function, you can make equivalent exposures using different combinations of shutter speeds and apertures.

White-balance settings are similarly simple to adjust and customise via the menu, and the camera will also shoot bracketing for white balance, which allows you to see multiple takes of ambient colour in your shots so you can pick the ones you like best.

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Sony Alpha DSLR-A300: Specs

  • 10.2Mp
  • DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens
  • 3 fps continuous shooting
  • USB 2.0
  • ISO: Auto/100/200/400/800/1600/3200
  • image stailisation
  • 2.7in tiltable TFT screen
  • 130.8x98.5x74.7mm
  • 582g
  • 10.2Mp
  • DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens
  • 3 fps continuous shooting
  • USB 2.0
  • ISO: Auto/100/200/400/800/1600/3200
  • image stailisation
  • 2.7in tiltable TFT screen
  • 130.8x98.5x74.7mm
  • 582g

OUR VERDICT

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A300's smooth Live View handling makes this model worth consideration for anyone graduating from a point-and-shoot camera. That this model offers advanced features in a fun-to-use, uncomplicated form should only make for more photographic joy.

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