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Sony Alpha A230 - Sony Alpha A230

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


The A230's overall performance is adequate for an entry-level camera, but is in fact slower than the A200, and even a little slower than the original A100. In single-shot mode it can shoot just as fast as you can press the button in JPEG mode, although shooting fast in Raw + JPEG mode the buffer fills up after about six or seven shots. In continuous shooting mode it can manage a little over 2fps at fine JPEG quality, and again in Raw + JPEG mode the buffer fills up after six frames. The A230 has no video mode.

The nine-point autofocus system is (as far as I know) the same as the A200 and is very good in most lighting conditions, and quick enough to capture even sudden action. It does falter a little in very low light at longer focal lengths, but even then it will usually focus on the second try. One slight annoyance with low-light shooting is that there is no separate AF assist lamp. Instead the A230 strobes the flash to illuminate the subject, which has a good range but obviously doesn't work if the flash is turned off. To be fair though this is hardly a problem unique to the A230.

In terms of image quality the A230 is, not too surprisingly, almost indistinguishable from the A200, the A330 and indeed the A100. As I reported in my review of the A330, the new Sony 18-55mm kit lens is a big improvement on the old 18-70mm, with much better edge sharpness and virtually zero chromatic aberration. The well-proven sensor and BIONZ processor produce excellent results in most situations, with bright punchy colours, plenty of detail and above average dynamic range even without the DRO feature. Exposure metering is generally accurate, and the built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation allows stable hand-held shooting at shutter speeds as low as 1/10th of a second at 55mm.

Image noise is also roughly the same as the previous 10MP models, in other words unfortunately not too good. Noise is plainly visible from 400 ISO upwards, but remains reasonably well controlled with good colour and a fair amount of detail even at 1600 ISO. It's far from brilliant compared to many other DSLRs, but it's a lot better than most super-zoom or bridge cameras, some of which are more expensive than the A230.


The Sony Alpha A230 is currently the cheapest APS-C digital SLR on the market. It is very basic, and naturally it lacks many of the in bells and whistles such as HD video and live view found on more expensive models, but nonetheless it is a nice easy-to-use camera that is more than capable of taking excellent pictures. Experienced photographers will find it limited, but for first buyers it's excellent value for money.


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).


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..


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


September 20, 2009, 10:42 pm


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.


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.


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...?


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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