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Sony Alpha A230 - Sony Alpha A230

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

The A230 shares its new body shape with Sony's other recently-launched lower-spec models the A330 and the A380. It's sleeker, lighter and slightly more compact than the previous body shape as exemplified by the Alpha A350. It's an attractive enough design and the build quality and finish are certainly up to a decent standard, however it feels a lot less substantial than the Pentax K-m or the Nikon D3000, and some parts of the body feel distinctly hollow. I'm also not too keen on the new shape of the handgrip. It's too skinny to grip comfortably, and the position of the shutter button on top of the body is comparatively awkward.

Even by entry-level standards the A230 is a very simple camera, less complex in fact than some high-end compacts. This means that the controls are also very simple and easy to understand, so its target demographic of first-time users and those graduating from a point-and-shoot camera will have an easy learning curve. There are separate buttons for exposure compensation, ISO, drive mode and flash mode, which is always good to see. The main mode dial has program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure like all DSLRs, but also has half a dozed scene programs as well as full auto and a "flash off" mode.

Other frequently used options are controlled via a simple six-panel shooting menu activated by the function button. These include autofocus mode and area, metering mode, the Dynamic Range Optimizer (sic) feature, white balance and the Creative Styles options. This consists of seven tone pre-sets, all of which can be customised for contrast, saturation and sharpness. All of these have helpful explanatory notes which pop up after a couple of seconds. This doesn't leave many vital functions for the main menu apart from image size, aspect ratio and quality, which includes standard and fine JPEG options, as well as Raw and Raw + JPEG.

The 2.7-inch 230k monitor is a bit small and low-res by recent DSLR standards, and its shiny plastic cover is very reflective in bright sunlight, but since the A230 has no live view mode the monitor is only used for the menu and image review, so this doesn't really matter too much. The viewfinder on the other hand is excellent, far better than the otherwise very similar A330. It has a large bright screen, clearly marked AF points and a good easy to read data display.

smc8788

September 18, 2009, 2:50 am

This may seem hypocritical given my earlier comments on the subject, but I really wish Sony would sort out their image processing to reduce the high ISO noise, and make the noise reduction less intrusive. Nikon managed it using the same sensor in the D60, so why can't Sony? I know they're new to the DSLR world, but it was probably one of the the biggest criticisms laid against the older entry level range (although the A700 fared much better), so it's something I thought they would have addressed for these models, even though they appear to be little more than a cosmetic facelift of the old models (and a poor one at that - I hate the new grip as well).

Noodles

September 18, 2009, 5:11 am

With every review slating the grip on these new Sonys, I actually popped into my local Currys to see what the fuss is all about. It really is that bad, no matter how I positioned my hand, the camera was either tipping forward precariously and digging into my fingers, or falling back with me having to stretch my index finger just to reach the shutter button. This was with the cheapo lightweight kit lens mounted, you will simply not be able to upgrade to a heavier or larger lens, unless you want the handling to get even more "interesting".





Of course, Sony is not expecting the target market of this camera to hang it off a 70-400mm, but it is a bit disappointing for those who would maybe want to expand their system in the future.





The £100 price hike over the A200 isn't great either, but I suppose that camera was only ever priced that low so Sony could claim the "cheapest DSLR" crown against the D40. Now with every other manufacturer raising the prices of their entry level cameras by around the same amount, it would have been commercially silly for Sony not to join in too..

renegade1988

September 18, 2009, 5:12 am

The image quality seems to be a stepback from the A200, even with the new better kit lense. I was expecting a lot better than just a facelift!

Noodles

September 18, 2009, 5:29 am

@renegade: Image quality really isn't too important for this camera. It is aimed squarely at people upgrading from megapixel stuffed compacts, not us pixel peepers. As long as it performs better then your average 12MP point and shoot, then it has done it's job.

Netjock

September 18, 2009, 3:34 pm

Basically the review is saying the same thing as with all of the updated range: better lens not the camera.





I brought the A300 for £329 at Jessops just when the new updated range came out and I realise it looked better but not technically superior at an inflated price. Also managed to pic up a 70-300 tamron lens for £129.





Argos has a dual lens A200 kit (std + 70-200) I saw the other day for £350 (or there abouts), that is a BARGAIN compared to this.

lensmann

September 19, 2009, 12:25 am

@smc8788: Early reports are that the A5x0 series dramatically improves high ISO noise. I'm looking forward to seeing it reviewed.

Des Waples

September 19, 2009, 8:36 am

I went into the local store here and agree about comments about the grip. It's uncomfortable and awkward in the extreme. Anyone coming from a compact couldn't be happy with this grip. I realize they took it off the old Minolta Maxxum 5 series however I would be interested in seeing the sales figures for these models as they realized the error of their ways and and changed to a more "conventional" grip in the next model Maxxum 7.


This new grip could well see Sony slipping from their no.3 ranking behind Nikon.

MrGodfrey

September 19, 2009, 4:57 pm

Des - I'm just being pedantic here, but the Maxxum/Dynax 7 wasn't the successor to the 5; it was a higher-end model. The 5 was designed primarily to be very compact, while the 7 provided much more control and was significantly larger and heavier. That's why the grip was different.

Stewart

September 20, 2009, 10:42 pm

@Noodles


Very patronising. There's no reason why someone buying their first DSLR should not expect decent image quality. The camera should be judged alongside its peers and most if not all DSLRs (including entry level) are capable of excellent results....and first time DSLR buyers should be treated should be treated as someone who is interested enough in image quality and photography to want a DSLR.

Noodles

September 21, 2009, 6:01 am

@Stewart: Rubbish, everyone knows this camera takes perfectly fine pictures. I was merely stating the point that this camera was not designed for the serious amateur, who will blow up the files 200% on their colour calibrated monitors and bemoan the fact it isn't as sharp or as smooth at ISO 3200 as X/Y/Z brands of camera, that cost far, far more.





You may have noticed all the tourists walking around Central London with these entry level DSLRs, all with the plastic kit lens attached and pop up flash firmly raised. are they "Interested enough in image quality"? I don't think so! Digital SLR's are no longer purely a photographic tool, they have become just another gadget for the masses, much like an Ipod or mobile phone.





Sony is catering for this need by introducing this new class of stripped out and simplified cameras, with a cheap to produce, older design sensor that of course can not match the levels of todays latest and greatest £1500+ beasts.

John Rich

September 27, 2009, 7:20 am

Noodles, calm down dear, it's just a...well, camera. I firmly believe that everyone taking a photo is interested in the final quality of that image, but that some will settle for what others might call lower quality imaging, some do not. I really hope that anyone buying any kind of DSLR is attempting to produce good quality pics, any Sony DSLY is capable of these if the camera is handled and set with care, surely that goes for any camera, including the £1500+ brigade.


And lets all thank the mass purchase of DSLRs as it's this that's keeping prices keen.


Let's keep our eye on the ball, it's pictures that count, not cameras.

damo

December 23, 2009, 5:17 pm

As someone actually looking to move into SLR from point-n-shoot, I can say wholeheartedly that this concept is a failure. To take the 'step up' by effectively doubling your outlay but not actually providing what is a very basic option these days - VIDEO, is rather naive...especially if Sony would like to sell a few more memory cards! About 99% of point n shoot buyers consider the video performance when purchasing their snappit.....so may well consider the lack of it here. This will probably end up as a spare cam for more serious users for when they go out yomping across rugged rain-soaked terrain or at family do's where potential for damage is rather high. Or maybe I'm wrong and the target market lose interest in video when they move up...?

Charlie

March 14, 2010, 2:07 am

I completely agree with Stewart. I am only young so simply cannot afford to buy an expensive dslr. I have won numerous photography competitions with a budget £50 camera - it's not the camera, it's how you use it.

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