Sony Alpha a500 review

Review Date : Fri, 29 Jan 2010

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Sony Alpha a500 product shot front angle
Sony Alpha a500 product shot front angle Sony Alpha a500 product shot rear screen tilt angle Sony Alpha a500 product shot rear screen flat Sony Alpha a500 product shot top panel Sony Alpha a500 product shot front facing

The Sony a500 is the a550's similar cousin, but does what it offers warrant its place in the Alpha range? The What Digital Camera Sony a500 review...

Pros: Long battery life, tilt LCD, AF live view, all-black finish
Cons: Value vs a550, noisy AF with kit lens, dual card access, no video

As part of its plans for world domination of DSLR sales, Sony has assured its place in the market not only by delivering quality, but delivering en masse too. With the sturdily built Alpha A700 now out of production, the A500 and A550 are the next-closest offerings from the Sony camp. But with the two models released simultaneously, what exactly separates the a500 from the a550? The What Digital Camera Sony Alpha a500 review takes a look...

Sony Alpha a500 vs a550 review

The A500 is the younger brother of the A550. 
As such it's not quite as ‘mature', and a number of features differ, making it the more low-spec of the two. The sensor is a less resolute 12.3MP that offers a smaller maximum output size. However, the very same APS-C sized CMOS technology and BIONZ engine is used to full effect as per the A550. The LCD on the A500's rear still follows the A550's tilt mechanism, but is a lower resolution 230k-dot affair - more like the resolution found on compact cameras. Continuous shooting doesn't include the ‘Speed Priority' of the A550, although the 
A500 is still capable of the same 5fps burst mode, or 4fps in live view. The main difference, though, is that the buffer is not able to process as much information as quickly, with less than half the capacity meaning you'll likely find burst shooting clogs up the camera quicker. All these differences would make sense for a more entry-level purchaser with a tighter budget, but - and it's really quite the big but on this occasion - the street prices aren't really all that far apart.


Sony Alpha a500 vs a550 comparison table


Sony Alpha a550

Sony Alpha a500


£600 kit (approx)

£530 kit (approx)




Output Size

4592 x 3056

4272 x 2848

LCD Screen

3in, 921k-dot tilt-angle

3in, 230K-dot tilt-angle

Battery Life

480 shots

520 shots


599g approx

597g approx


The street price between the A500 and A550 kit options only differs by up to about £100. They’re very similar pieces of kit, and the small amount of extra money needed for the A550 from many retailers seems to render the A500 a touch outclassed. As a standalone camera the A500 is certainly a good bit of kit, but it’s tough to justify its presence in the market, especially considering the new a450's recent appearance. What Sony could have done with is a tougher-bodied, beefed-up version of the A550, rather than the subtle step down that is the a500 - though that's likely to come later this year in the form of the A700 replacement.

Digital SLR Reviews

Price as reviewed



Design 17/20
Image Quality 17/20
Performance 17/20
Value 17/20
Features 16/20
Overall Score 84%

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