- Review Price: £449.99
Sony’s campaign to cut itself a bigger share of the lucrative digital SLR market continues to gather pace. We reviewed the flagship Alpha A700, a 12-megapixel professional model in November of last year, and in February we took a look at the Alpha A200, the 10-megapixel entry-level model currently priced at £300 with an 18-70mm lens. There were two more models launched in March of this year, the Jessops-exclusive Alpha A300, currently £399.99 including an 18-70mm lens, and today’s review camera, the Alpha A350.
With a sensor resolution of 14.2-megapixels, the A350 occupies a relatively new band in the digital SLR market, along with the 14.6-megapixel, £800 Pentax K20D. Neither market leaders Canon nor second-placed Nikon has anything that directly competes in this band, which must be helping with Sony’s stated intent to overtake Nikon and put a serious dent in Canon’s seemingly unassailable lead. The A350 is currently priced at a very competitive £449.99 body-only, £499.99 with an 18-70mm zoom lens, or £649.99 as a two-lens kit with the addition of a 55-200mm zoom. Nikon’s closest competitor is the D80, currently £499 body only or £639.99 with an 18-70mm lens, but the D80 is only 10 megapixels. Olympus offers the E-520 for £499.99 body-only or £549.99 with a Four-Thirds system 14-42mm lens, but again it is only 10 megapixels. Canon has a slightly closer match in the shape of the popular 12.2-megapixel EOS 450D (review coming soon) at £459.99 body only or £499.99 with an 18-55mm lens.
Of course sensor resolution isn’t the only criteria by which a camera should be judged, and the A350 has another important feature that sets it apart from the competition. Sony was a relatively late adopter of live monitor view for its digital SLRs, and both the A700 and A200 lack this feature. However the A350 not only has live view, it also has a two-way tilting 2.7-inch 230k monitor and, more importantly, a fast nine-point TTL phase-detection autofocus system available in live view mode. Competitor DSLRs that offer live view have either simpler and slower contrast-detection AF systems when in live view mode, or have to temporarily flip the reflex mirror down to use their phase-detection AF systems. Sony’s solution is faster, more effective and much more useful, enabling full autofocus function in live view mode.