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Cameras Reviews
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Sony Alpha 350 digital SLR review

£425 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Sony

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5 User Rating: Our users rate this 4 out of 10

Sony's 14.2Mp Alpha 350 is one of the maker’s first to feature Live View using a novel, pull-out 2.7in screen.

After making a rather slow start in the lucrative digital SLR market with the original Alpha 100, Sony has recently announced a flurry of new models. The latest of these is the mid-range Sony Alpha 350, a 14.2Mp model, which is one of the maker’s first to feature Live View using a novel, pull-out 2.7in screen.

Like Sony’s other offerings, the Alpha 350 shares handy features such as built-in antidust and antishake systems, and is compatible with older Minolta AF lenses and some choice optics from Carl Zeiss. Although it’s a good performer considering the price, the 18-70mm starter lens often bundled as a kit lens isn’t the best choice for discerning users.

Our Sony Alpha 350 sample came kitted out with the optically superb Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA DT. It’s the equivalent to a 24-120mm – a particularly handy range – and, with the Alpha 350’s Super SteadyShot (SSS), it benefits from image stabilisation. This lens adds £425 (excluding VAT) to the body-only price; our only slight disappointment with it is that it’s designed for digital APS-C-size sensors. Be aware that it will be of limited use, or maybe of no use at all, when Sony finally announces its long-awaited full-frame model, currently rumoured to be called the Alpha 900.

Live View was omitted from the semi-pro Alpha 700, in spite of rivals offering the option, and now we can understand why. Unlike conventional Live View systems that use the main imaging sensor to display a live preview prior to capture, the Sony Alpha 350 adopts a fairly complex system using secondary CCD in the viewfinder.

Using a tiny lens, the Sony Alpha 350's CCD actually views the image displayed on the optical viewfinder, much like a mini-video system. A mechanical slider on the top-plate drops a mirror in the viewfinder, reflecting the image from the viewfinder screen to the secondary CCD. While this means that you retain the faster focusing phase detection-based wide-area nine-point AF array – complete with an overlaid green target area confirming the active point – the actual viewing area is less than on rival systems.

That’s a real shame, as Live View is often adopted for macro work, where 100 percent viewing can be a real advantage. Nevertheless, the system works well for handheld, day-to-day usage. Indeed, the Sony Alpha 350's operation is faster than rival systems that adopt contrast-detection autofocus using the main imaging sensor.

As the video-feed bypasses the need for mirror lock-up, one of the main rewards is the Sony Alpha 350's absence of rivals’ disconcerting double mirror flap.

It’s of little consequence when using the Sony Alpha 350 bolted to a tripod but, for handheld use, it’s a pleasant surprise. Metering accuracy with Live View is excellent, and both exposure and white balance can be fine tuned in real-time, to good effect.

Sony Alpha 350 Expert Verdict »


Sony Alpha DSLR-A350K with 18-70mm lens reviews verified by Reevoo

Sony Alpha DSLR-A350K with 18-70mm lensScores 9.1 out of 10 based on 135 reviews
14.2MP CCD
2.7in pull-out LCD
ISO100-3,200
CF
USB 2.0
130x98x74mm
582g
  • Build Quality: We give this item 7 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 7 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

On the plus side, Sony's Alpha 350 shows great image quality, an effective antishake system, a good build and a handy pull-out LCD monitor. However, we weren't so impressed with its ergonomics, its poor layout of controls and tunnel-like viewfinder. Live View compromises its conventional use, plus there's a limited range of pricey accessories and lenses.

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