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Sony Alpha A500 review




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Sony Alpha A500
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  • Sony Alpha A500
  • alpha DSLR-A500 Digital SLR Camera - 12.3 Megapixel - 7.6 cm 3" Colour LCD - Black


Our Score:


In theory the consumer digital SLR market is split between five manufacturers, but in practice it's always been a two horse race. Canon and Nikon control nearly 80 percent of the market between them, with Canon firmly in the lead taking somewhere in the region of 43 percent of unit sales and Nikon trailing slightly on about 35 percent. Until fairly recently the remaining 20 percent was split more or less evenly between Olympus and Pentax, but Panasonic's successful G-series of mirrorless system cameras now accounts for about three percent of sales, while Sony has leapfrogged its way into third place with a growing share of around 11 percent of the market.

This is the result of a well planned and very successful strategy of launching the right models at the right time, frequently trumping the market leaders on vital selling points such as sensor resolution, live monitor view, in-camera image stabilisation and more importantly price. Sony has also seen the advantage of fielding a wide and varied range of models at different price points. The Alpha range now consists of eight cameras ranging from the £300 A230 to the £1800 full-frame A900.

Take this new Alpha A500 for example. It's one of a trio of new mid-range Sony Alpha models, sitting in between the more powerful and more expensive A550 and the cheaper but simpler A450. It is competing directly with the Canon EOS 500D (£590 inc. lens) and the Nikon D5000 (£550 inc. lens), but manages to be cheaper than both while offering a tempting range of features and impressive performance figures. It is aimed at the experienced DSLR user who is upgrading from an entry-level model and is looking for more features and versatility.


February 21, 2010, 1:35 pm

I will not buy another Sony DSLR until Sony improve their product features and service support, I have a Sony Alpha 200 for over 2 years and it takes exceptional photos, but this camera lacks several important features which can easily be fix by frimware updates and Sony refused to do so. Things like: less aggressive JPEG noise reductions,Increased Bracketing exposures, Reduced JPEG compression, Mirror lockup, longer that 30 Seconds exposure, and auto bracket to be able to take 5 shots -2, -1, 0, +1, +2(.7 is too small ). I know - it would be highly unlikely that Sony will do any firmware updates at all for the A200, so I might as well buy another DSLR.

I want to upgrade my DSLR camera to a pro model like the A700 but with HD Videos and use the A200 for back up.

I was hoping that the new 500 series will be the replacement for the A700 with video, but it is just another disappointment form Sony. The 500 series does have some nice features, but it falls behind the other competitors in terms of major features such as: depth of field preview, Program Shift, Mirror Lock-up, better menu layouts, and HD Movie modes. I don't know how difficult it could be to included HD Video in Sony DSLRs, Canon(T1I) and Nikon(D5000) did it, and they can do it for less than $800 US.

The high price tag and lack of Customers Support is another reason that I want to give up Sony all together.


February 21, 2010, 8:14 pm

I have the same problem with Nikon.

My D90 (fantastic camera) has never had an update! Even though its widely known to have quite a few glitches.

Plus what really bugs me is the cheaper Nikon cameras like the D60 have features like the stop motion that the D90 doesn't even have!

The feeling I get from Sony & Nikon is they have no regard in supporting their products unless;

1).There is a serous problem that will damage their reputation.

2). Its their high end cameras and they want to keep there rich buyers sweet.

Yeah sorry I am ranting.................er...............go Sony yay!!!!!

Stephen 11

February 21, 2010, 11:31 pm

I agree, why is that camera manufactures don't regularly offer firmware updates for their various products? Maybe they think they are forcing us to buy NEW products rather than simply improving their current ones. I think it's bad business practice. I own a Sony A700 that I bought around five months ago (switched from Nikon). It will be very interesting to see what Sony replaces the A700 with.


February 22, 2010, 12:53 am

Okay I'm sorry but this is a ridiculous conversation. Are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that a manufacturer should add functionality to a product that you've already bought, necessitating further development and testing costs and basically gutting their upgrade market? You bought a product knowing what it could do and what the performance was, if you weren't happy with that then WHY BUY THE PRODUCT!

Worse, this is a DSLR we're talking about, the last thing you should be worried about is the body. The tech in this sector is improving in leaps and bounds but it doesn't suddenly make your existing body useless. If you're buying a DSLR then the bulk of your money should be going into optics, not the body. My humble D40 is still going strong and can produce results just as good as my new D90 with a bit of effort. When I look at the cameras that have replaced the D40 there's NOTHING there that I require to take better pictures, in fact in some ways I prefer my little 6MP trooper (especially ergonomics) over any of the newer models. Only upgrade when a) there's a quantum leap in real performance over what you've got or b) you can afford to step up a level. Oh, and c) when you NEED the improved performance to take pictures you can't already do.


February 22, 2010, 3:00 am

An interesting review. I currently shoot Sony - I started with it because I'd inherited a collection of beautiful Minolta A-mount lenses that would cost several fortunes to acquire in another mount. I can't say I'm displeased. To be perfectly honest, while I agree that the absence of features such as MLU and the annoyingly small range for AEB is somewhat irking, my photography has a very long way to go before their absence actually starts affecting the quality of pictures I take. The in-camera IS, on the other hand, is something I find indispensible.


February 22, 2010, 5:09 am

BOFH_UK, I fine your words are full of contradictions, obviously you don't even own an Sony DSLR, so how can you make any judgements base on your only experiences with Nikon.

What I found ridiculous about your comments is that:

A) have a Nikon D40 that you are more than happy with - your won words: (My humble D40 is still going strong and can produce results just as good as my new D90 with a bit of effort. When I look at the cameras that have replaced the D40 there's NOTHING there that I require to take better pictures, in fact in some ways I prefer my little 6MP trooper) but you still buy a D90, so if you are soo happy with your D40 why did you wasted your money on the D90.

B)From your own word:(you can afford to step up a level) - If I can afford to step up a level like you said I wouldn't buy a medi yoga Nikon D90, I would just buy "A BETTER LENS" like someone told me. LOL. (or by a Nikon D3X - if you ave $9000.00US)

C)Humm... "NEED the improved performance to take pictures you can't already do..."

Well! Isn't that the reason why we all buy new things. We buy new items base on the assumptions that we "NEED" it or it's going to "IMPROVE" the quality.

Doesn't every new camera that comes fits that category, Thinks about it - isn't that the definition of a new product? Newer features, Faster performance, better quality etc...

What I am talking about is my personal experiences with Sony and have you ever try to communicate with Sony? and if you do, did you ever get any postive feed backs from them?

I have over 30 years of photography experience and I am TALKING ABOUT "CONCRETE EXPERIENCES" dealing with camera companies - Canon and Olympus are they two best companies when it comes to customers service and firmware updates.

I want to give Sony a try because I still have some old but great Minolta lens that I kept from the Minolta days.

And according to your statement:"Are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that a manufacturer should add functionality to a product that you've already bought, necessitating further development and testing costs and basically gutting their upgrade market?"

Well, yes thats call "GOOD CUSTOMER SUPPORT".

Canon and Olympus had been doing it for years, and they are still providing the necessary and important supports to keep their existing customers. - "WHY" - The top companies understand the fundamental of Marketing and how to improve customer relationship that other company like Sony had over looked.

BOFH_UK, my word of advice to you is that don't be so quick to judge and respect the opinions of others.


February 22, 2010, 2:52 pm

I second Money.

1-Technology improves quickly, and if this technology can be included via firmware update to a rather new product such as Nikon D90 so as not to render it "old", so be it!

2-The profit, for cameras and else, comes from accessories. If I am willing to buy a $700 lens for my Nikon and DUMP the kit lens that came with it then why isn't Nikon (or Sony) willing to fix glitches in the camera body that I may not have been aware of when I bought it? Answer me mister BOF.


February 22, 2010, 3:04 pm

Thus far I've seen about 8 reviews of the A500 and with exception of WDC's very biased and blinkered review, every review praises the A500, in some it's put up against very high end d-slr's and faired very well.

I bought my A500 before Christmas and love it, it easily beats my previous alpha's (A100,A200 & A300) on performance and IQ, and if you look at the latest budget alpha range(A380 etc), it walks all over them as well, on handling alone.

It's faster than the Nikon D90 has a better live view system than the D90, and if you're a telephoto fan with a bit of a shake a D90 and Vr Lens will set you back over £1000, the A500 won't, in fact I managed to get a new A500 and new Tamron 70-300 for under £560 in december, 1/2 the price of a D90 and Vr lens, go figure ??.

The D5000 the A500's nearest competition is slow, again needs expensive vr lenses and Nikon does'nt even do a battery grip for it.

The A500's by no means perfect, jpeg settings have to be tweaked in order to get bright & sharp photo's, it has no mlu or dof, and horror of horrors it has no video mode (the end is nigh :-). It's a camera, just like the Alpha A900, q1) how many users of dslrs with video actually use it? 2)why not use a camcorder, which has a far longer zoom; x30, & has the ability to record HOURS of video. If you're recording with your over hyped D90 can you also take a money shot at the same time ?.

In Short the A500 and it's bigger brother the A550(roughly £100 dearer)are BOTH great value for money d-slr's, especially if you compare the competition, who can't even compete with the A500's 4fps in live view, and Sony's own A380, which recently was just £40 cheaper than the A500.


February 22, 2010, 6:52 pm

Money, half the features you demand via firmware update are those I wouldn't necessarily expect to see in an entry level body. The competition may well have some of those features, but what percentage of the target market for the A2xx/A3xx would actually use them? I'd wager that a beginner would benefit far more from features such as in-body stabilisation and class leading live view than they would mirror lockup, DOF preview or 5-shot bracketing.

I agree with BOFH_UK (who is perfectly entitled to comment, even if he doesn't own a Sony Alpha). If you have 30 years of photography experience (what do you mean by that anyway?), I'm confused why you would buy an entry-level DSLR which is clearly targeted at beginners, why you would buy a camera with missing features you deem as important, and why you would assume those missing features would be "fixed" with a firmware update. It sounds like you simply made a careless purchasing decision more than anything else.


February 22, 2010, 7:48 pm

? Is'nt this supposed to be comments about the A500 and trusted's review ?

Firmware fixes do occur now and then, I'm certainly not expecting any to come for my A500, I know the A700 recieved a few and the latest made it even better...

DOF & MLU were on the original Alpha (A100) and it seems very strange that it's not on either the A500 or A550, being on my 4th Alpha I'd have to say that An A500's just as easy to pick up and use as the A300 i had was, however I was'nt new to d-slr's and for a newbie there is a lot to get to grips with; e.g how many newbies know what hdr photography is all about and how beneficial MF Check LV is when shooting macro, to name but two.

As a newbie all i ever wanted to do was take cracking photo's so even IS would'nt be a factor, look at the Nikon D40, a 6mp no frills d-slr and then look at what it produced, even the D60 struggled to beat it and that had a vr lens and anti-dust..

The Review (above) and comments are about the A500, a camera which can do 5fps among other things, firmware = don't care, anyone that does obviously bought the wrong camera, dof & mlu; yes the A50O/A550 should have it. A good buy for a Newbie, probably not but given the platry price difference between an A380 and an A500 what makes more sense long term ?.


February 22, 2010, 9:12 pm

It's a Sony; if you look through the viewfinder the camera will install a rootkit in your brain.


February 23, 2010, 3:30 am

Both my 1Ds mark II and 5D have been well supported by Canon.

With Canon, you feel like you're dealing with a photographic company, from lenses to body to battery. I guess with Sony the experience is akin to an electronics giant.

BOF_UK is right in one respect - much of the performance for the vast majority of uers is in the quality of your glass. Providing you're good enough to take advantage of it that is. Sweeping statements though such as there's nothing to replace my D40 are off the mark. Technology has moved on, and whilst BOFH might be able to achieve the same picture in 9 out of 10 situations with a D40, it will be more time consuming, lower resolution and have more image noise than most more modern cameras.

DLSR ownership requires a commitment to get the best out of it. Spending £1,000 more doesn't mean your photos will suddenly become exponentially better. But good photographers will take advantage of better kit and get superior results.

I appear to have started to ramble.


February 23, 2010, 1:52 pm

""Both my 1Ds mark II and 5D have been well supported by Canon"".

At over £1500 for the 5d alone I would hope so too, Sony are improving all the time, more and more lenses are coming out and more importantly the pricing is more realistic, lenses like the 50mm prime F/1.8 have excellent reviews and is on a par with Canon & Nikon's 50mm primes, not only in price but in IQ..

What suprises me is that Nikon and Canon have been around for years and yet Nikon don't even produce a battery grip for the D3000 or D5000, whereas Sony produces one for every one of it's current range, my battery grip's always attached, so not only is my A500 immeadiatly better at Portraits than a D5000 but because of the 2nd battery, battery life is doubled, other than Photographic equip Nikon don't do anything else (make gr8 tv's or ps3's etc), so I'd have thought they'd have done everything photographic ???.

Canon's; I've always been a fan of the 40d/50d series but other than that there ain't a single Canon i like, and if you take Canon's 500D it can't even beat the A500's burst rate in live view mode, & be honest how many "Canon" fans thought the 50D was'nt actually any better than the 40D ?

Sony's very 1st dslr (A100) was a camera i hated, it was slow, clunky & noise control was poor and yet it gave the D40x and 400d cameras from long establised company's a wake up call, funnily enough IS enabled kit lenses suddenly appeared etc?.

Canon's ace is the lens Catalogue, but be honest how many of these are really good and affordable, a 50d and a 1/2 decent kit lens will set you back ?.

I totally agree with Greg that it's the person and not the Camera that makes the difference, put a Canon A480 into a pro photog's hands and he'd get better shots than i would with a high end d-slr.

It takes time to get the best out of a camera and sadly I've yet to find a decent model specific camera guide that helped.


February 23, 2010, 4:51 pm

@Money: Have you seen the A700 replacement concept Sony was showing off over the weekend? That's going to be released later this year, and sounds like just what you're looking for in terms of HD video.


February 23, 2010, 8:42 pm

DaveG makes a good point about the 50mm f/1.8. To add to that, Sony users have an advantage in that all primes (and every other lens, of course) are automatically stabilised, as stabilisation is in-body, so a Sony user should theoretically get a higher percentage of usable shots when taken in low light.


February 23, 2010, 9:39 pm

@Metalex: The in-body stabilisation really does work miracles. When I last shot SLRs in the late 1980s, I would have laughed in the face of anybody who told me it'd be possible to take handheld shots with a 400mm lens at f8. I can now do precisely that with my Minolta 100-400 APO on my A300. I appreciate the point that it's not so critical for pros, semi-pros and top-notch amateurs, but for folks like me it makes a world of difference to our results.

Des Waples

February 27, 2010, 9:25 am

Lensmann can you put up the link for the A700 replacement plse

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