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Sony Alpha A230 - Sony Alpha A230
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.
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