3.5 star rating

Sony Alpha DSLR-A380 Review

$699.00
Pros: Good balance of shadow detail and highlights ; Simple user interface ; Articulating LCD ; Dual memory card slots;
Cons: No HD movie recording ; Relatively slow burst shooting rate ; Noisy operation;
The Verdict: This DSLR offers a beginner-friendly interface and pleasing, accurate colors.

REVIEW

SPECIFICATIONS

With the Alpha DSLR-A380, Sony takes a lot of the complaints users have about digital DSLRs—and Sony cameras in general—and tries to offer compelling reasons for them to jump on its bandwagon. This compact camera is smaller and easier to use than newbies might expect a DSLR to be while still offering excellent colors and backlight correction. It even accepts SD Cards, which is a relatively new trick for Sony cameras. Before you buy this $699 camera, though, consider that similarly priced or even less expensive DSLRs offer HD movie recording, while others offer speeds better suited for shooting fast-moving subjects.

Article Continued Below

Design

The 1.6-pound A380 (5.0 x 3.8 x 2.8 inches) is similar in size to the Nikon D3000 (5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 inches), but weighs 0.2 ounces less. And while it’s a bit heavier than the Canon EOS Rebel T1i, the A380’s dense, more substantial feel may appeal to enthusiasts.

On top of the A380 is a mode dial, along with a switch for moving between Live View mode and the optical viewfinder. On the back of the camera and next to the 2.7-inch (230,400-pixel) LCD are function, exposure, delete, playback, and menu buttons, along with a five-way navigational pad. We love the LCD’s built-in accelerometer, which quickly re-orients photos and menus as you rotate the camera in your hand. All in all, the layout of buttons looks more streamlined than the Canon T1i.

Like the Nikon D5000, the A380 has an articulating LCD, meaning you can pop it out and rotate it 135 degrees upward or 55 degrees downward (the D5000’s most oblique angle is 170 degrees). This comes in handy when you’re shooting at tricky angles, such as holding the camera above you. Of course, this means shooting in Live View mode—something we don’t recommend unless you find yourself in such as a situation where using the viewfinder is impossible. As you’d expect, the camera is slow to focus in Live View mode, and its shot-to-shot speeds drag.

Two more notes about the A380’s design: one, it has HDMI output, which would be more useful if the camera shot HD video. Secondly, whereas Sony cameras used to accept only Memory Stick storage, the A380 has two slots—one for Memory Stick Cards and another for SD Cards. When you open the slot that covers these cards, you’ll see a switch that instructs the camera which one to read.

User Interface

The A380’s beginner-friendly user interface has illustrations that help novices understand how their changes to the settings will affect the photo quality. For instance, the shutter speed is shown on a spectrum, with an icon of a stationary person at one end and a moving subject at the other. For depth of field, there’s a blurred icon at one end of the spectrum, and a sharp, clear icon at the other. The only other feature we’d like to see Sony add is a navigational dial, so that users could adjust settings such as aperture in manual mode on the fly.

Image Quality

In several ways, the $699 A380’s image quality is comparable to the $799 Canon EOS Rebel T1i’s captures. Like the T1i, its colors are accurate, but more saturated than photos we’ve seen from such Nikon cameras as the D3000 or D5000. In Macro shots, its nine-point Autofocusing sensor captures lots of fine detail in the foreground, while softly blurring what’s in the background.

The A380 holds its own when it comes to harshly lit situations. The camera did a good job of bringing out shadow details without overexposing the background. As mentioned above, however, you don’t get HD movie recording, something even the $599 Pentax K-x offers.

Speed and Battery Life

Our photos of moving subjects were less sharp on the A380 than similar shots captured with the T1i and D3000. That could be because this DSLR shoots at 2.5 frames per second, while the T1i shoots up to 3.4 fps and the Nikon D5000 up to 4.0 fps. While its brisk shot-to-shot speeds feel typical, the Nikon D3000 and D5000 have faster startup times. On top of that, the A380 operates noisily.

The A380’s rechargeable lithium ion battery is rated for up to 500 shots. Like the Nikon D3000 and Canon T1i, it lasted through a few busy days at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, where we were taking lots of photos with the flash on.

Verdict

The $699 Sony Alpha DSLR-A380 is an intuitive, inexpensive DSLR that also happens to take good photos. However, other similarly priced cameras (such as the $599 Pentax K-x) can shoot HD video and are generally faster. Don’t want to shoot video? The Nikon D3000 ($549) is an even better deal. When it comes to ease of use, however, the A380 leads the pack.

Tags: Sony Alpha DSLR-A380, Sony Alpha A380, Sony Alpha, Digital SLR Cameras, Digital Cameras, reviews, Digital Cameras and Camcorders

Technical Specifications
Sony Alpha DSLR-A380
http://www.sonystyle.com


Megapixel14.2
Zoom
Still Image FormatJPEG; RAW; RAW JPEG
Camera TypeDigital SLR
Battery TypeRechargable
Internal Memory
Digital Camera LCD Size2.7 inches (230,400 pixels)
Size5.0 x 3.8 x 2.8 inches
Weight1.6 pounds
FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE