Sony Alpha 350 digital reflex camera
Sony are betting on the lowest segment of the D-SLR market with no less than three models. The Sony A200, the A300 and the A350 offer the consumer sufficient choice. It also shows that Sony, after a timid start, are willing to conquer the photography market and aim at the top 3. And mind you, this is only the beginning of what is to happen, as Sony already announced at the PMA that they will also be introducing a genuine professional camera. I am sure we will get some more news about this top model as the Photokina approaches. The first few announcements (24 Megapixels!) are indeed promising.
Image speed of the Sony A350
As far as its specifications are concerned the Sony Alpha 350 does not come across as a camera aiming solely at the amateur. Although the frame speed is a tad on the stingy side with 2 frames per second. On the other hand, how often do you actually use the top speed? The 14 Megapixels image sensor and the BIONZ processor have to guarantee perfect pictures with many details. Moreover, you can use Carl Zeiss lenses on the Sony A350. And Carl Zeiss is a brand with a considerable name.
Sony A350 DSLR camera
My first impression of the Sony A350 is an excellent one. It is a pleasant camera, quite well-organized and beautifully designed. On top of that it is a solid camera and with the abundance of accessories in the back of my mind, it is also a camera that could be the start of a long relationship with Sony. As far as operation is concerned, the Sony A350 does not disappoint, even though I had to search sometimes to find exactly what I wanted. I am positive it's a matter of getting used to the camera, however; I find that not every button has a logical spot. I greatly appreciate the fact that many settings are visible in the viewfinder. It makes working with the camera very handy and pleasant.
Folding LCD monitor & Live View
I am also tickled to bits with the LCD monitor on the back of the camera. The high resolution and the fact that you can tilt the monitor make working with the monitor extremely enjoyable and highly functional. The size of 2.7 inch I find sufficient. I don't mind sacrificing the 0.3 inch for the tilting functionality. The latter is mainly meant to facilitate shooting from a high or low position. I noticed that I used Live View more frequently thanks to this function. The absolute benefit of Sony's Live View is that it does not slow things down, which is the case with other D-SLR cameras. Thanks to the second sensor in the prism house. It is a perfect solution and makes Live View suitable for action photography. The auto focus is just as fast as when using it through the viewfinder. Unfortunately Sony did not succeed in obtaining a full view, so you'll get more on the picture than what you see on the monitor, a small disappointment.
Sony Alpha 350 with excellent colour reproduction
Like Canon, Sony produce the sensor as well as the processor in-house which creates high expectations in relation to image quality. I cannot deny that I had extremely high expectations. Up to and including ISO 400 everything is fine and the images turn out excellently. Higher ISO than 400 means that noise increases and becomes rather visible which disappointed me somewhat. Besides that the light meter tends to underexpose which you can compensate in 2/3 step. On the other hand, the colour reproduction is marvellous. I'd advice you to experiment with the DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer), especially when working with high contrasts. You can get more out of the image sensor than what you'd expect at first.
RAW & JPEG photography possibilities
I'd also recommend shooting in RAW. You will get the most out of the camera and you will obtain nicer pictures than the camera allows you in JPEG. Actually a better advice is to always use RAW as standard file format with besides it, JPEG as an easily visible and sharable format. Sony offers excellent support of RAW and includes superb software with full RAW support. You no longer have to depend exclusively on the expensive Adobe Photoshop.
Sony Alpha A350 Test conclusion
You tend to classify the Sony A350 as a semi-pro camera. Not a bad thing, because it shows that the housing and appearance of the camera give you a good feeling, certainly with the Carl Zeiss lens mounted on the camera. However, you have to adjust the expectations coming with these feelings, judge the test results on their true value, and place the camera in the amateur segment. I am convinced that the Sony Alpha 350 will perform wonderfully for the target group. If I may follow up this line of argument as to what Sony will come up with for the higher segment, I think the competition will have to beware. The Sony DSLR-A350 serves as the first appetizer on the Sony menu, and allows us to say it already tastes perfectly!
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"We have had the Sony Alpha 350 for a short period of time in our office and took the camera with us to shoot some sample shots in Amsterdam, location Artis Zoo. At this day it was cloudy with some rain showers and here and there some sun shine, therefore the butterfly garden is one of the best places to shoot some test photos."
Continue to see our Sony Alpha 350 photo gallery.
RAW & JPEG photography
The 14 Megapixels of the Sony DSLR-A350's resolution is considerable. Most certainly when you shoot in RAW you will need an extensive amount of memory. I'd say a card with a minimum of 2GB storage capacity is advisable but I'd prefer even more memory. With JPEG you don't need as much space. Working in RAW has many advantages; for example, it lets you correct the white balance more easily. JPEG always diminishes the quality. Sony deliver an excellent program to convert RAW pictures. And the latest version of Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW (4.4), my favourite, allows you to also work with RAW pictures. The table below shows the amount of pictures that fit onto a 2GB memory card.
Considering 2GB of storage capacity:
14 Megapixels - RAW + JPEG - 4592 x 3056 pixels - 73 pictures
14 Megapixels - RAW - 4592 x 3056 pixels - 90 pictures
14 Megapixels - JPEG - L - Standard - 4592 x 3056 pixels - 396 pictures
14 Megapixels - JPEG - L - Fine - 4592 x 3056 pixels - 552 pictures
(The resolution in 16:9 format and the remaining resolution settings, 3408x2272 and 2288x1520 pixels, in 3:2 as well as in 16:9 format are not included in the camera's manual. Therefore we are unable to mention these.)
USB connection & Card reader
The advantage of a faster memory card is rapid data transfer, providing the computer and the device reading the card are equipped with a fast USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection. If these are not available you might want to purchase a card reader. This handy device needs to be connected to the USB port and is capable of reading a card and writing to it rapidly. The computer will recognize the device as an external hard drive. In addition, you will also save energy.