Fortunately one feature that survived the axe is the excellent Bionz image processor, and the A450 does have basically the same performance as the A550. It can start up and take a picture in well under a second, and in single shot mode it can manage slightly more than one frame a second, and keep it up apparently until the memory card is full, which is fast but not exactly ground-shaking. The real performance comes in continuous shooting mode. A450 actually has three continuous shooting modes; a high and low speed standard mode, with autofocus between shots and a maximum speed of 5fps for approximately 30 shots, and a Speed Priority mode, which only focuses for the first shot, but can shoot at a very fast 7fps for approximately 20 shots. Remarkably it can even shoot at this speed in Raw + JPEG mode, although only for seven frames. This is considerably faster than the Nikon D5000, and roughly twice as fast as the Canon EOS 500D.
The A450 has the same nine-point autofocus system, with a cross-shaped centre sensor, as most of the other APS-C cameras in Sony's range. It's proved itself well before, and provides fast and reliable performance in a wide variety of lighting conditions, and is quite effective even in low light. The A450 doesn't have a separate AF assist lamp, but if the flash is popped up it can operate as a very fast strobe to help with focusing in very low light.
At least limiting the camera's features means there's less drain on the battery, and since that battery is a big 1600mAh InfoLithium cell the charge duration is excellent. After approximately two weeks of regular use the battery was still reading as 66 percent full.
Of course the proof of the camera is the image quality, and here the A450 has some mixed results. Overall the quality was very good, with accurate exposure and focusing, good colour and dynamic range and plenty of fine detail, especially in Raw mode shots. On the other side of the equation, the standard 18-55mm kit lens does produce some slight chromatic aberration towards the corners of the frame. There is also some wide-angle barrel distortion, but this is not unexpected. More annoyingly the lens is very prone to flare when shooting into the light, an effect which spoiled several otherwise good shots.
Equally annoying is the A450's noise control. After the superb results from the Sony NEX-5 earlier this week I has understandably high hopes for another 14MP CMOS sensor Sony camera. Unfortunately the results weren't anywhere near as impressive. The camera has an ISO range of 200-12,800, but even as low as 400 ISO noise effect are visible, ans the noise reduction system starts binning detail from 800 ISO. The only way to get the best out of the A450 is to use it in Raw mode all the time, and stick to 200 ISO.
The Sony Alpha A450 is an in-between camera, neither as cheap as the A390 nor as well specified as the A550. It feels like it's been made down to a price rather than up to an aspiration, and the corners that have been cut are exactly where it will lose out to its more expensive but better-equipped competitors. It has outstanding performance, but that alone is not enough to sell it. If you want a Sony DSLR, save up a bit more and get an A500 or A550 instead.