Sony Alpha a230 review
Review Date : Thu, 1 Oct 2009
Author : WDC Team
Sony A230 has a sleek new look, but is the latest entry-level Sony a tempting offering? The What Digital Camera review of the A230 investigates...
|Pros:||Price, decent noise performance and metering, stylish look|
|Cons:||Poor handling and questionable auto white balance|
Sony A230 was launched at the same time as the mid-range A380 model, this camera heralds a new look for the Sony DSLR range. The previous incarnations have all been slight tweaks on a design that can easily trace its heritage right the way back to the original Minolta Dynax film cameras and more recently the Konica Minolta Dynax digital range that they have evolved from.
The first Sony Alpha cameras may have featured new improved technology inside, but in the exterior they shared much of the old design.
This new model, however, looks like a Sony product; it has sleeker lines and a more curvaceous body that is instantly recognisable as part of the wider brand. So is this new DSLR model anything more than a fashion makeover of Sony's previous entry-level offering? We take a closer look.
Sony Alpha a230 review - Features
The A230 is an update to the existing budget A200 model, and though for the time being it will be sold alongside the A200, it would be fair to call it a replacement. Consequently the feature set of this new model is very familiar. It uses the same 10.2-megapixel APS-C sized CCD sensor as the A200, outputting a 3872 x 2592 image in a choice of .ARW Raw files or JPEGs, which are also available in 5.6MP (2896 x 1936) and 2.5MP (1920 x 1280) sizes, all in Fine or Standard compression. The sensor is mounted on a sensor-shift mechanism for the recently renamed and updated SteadyShot Inside image stabilisation, which promises between 2.5EV and 3.5EV of effect on all lenses. This sensor-shift, along with an anti-static coating, also helps minimise dust build-up in front of the sensor.
Sony claims the BIONZ processor works with the sensor to produce low noise levels and fast data processing. This has allowed the A230 to offer a solid ISO range of 100-3200, which is on a par with the latest budget offerings from other manufacturers.
The metering system is a 40-segment honeycomb pattern and offers a full array of multi-segment, centre-weighted and spot metering options. Exposure compensation of up to +/-2EV is available in 1/3 steps, though there is no exposure lock function for those wishing to recompose after metering.
Focusing is taken care of with a phase-detection TTL system with nine AF points, the centre point being a cross sensor for added sensitivity. The points can be selected individually using Local selection, automatically using the Wide focus area, or just using the centre point with the Spot selection. Focusing can also be set between single shot, continuous, automatic and manual modes.
White balance can be controlled automatically, selected from one of six presets, or via a custom option, which allows you to take a test shot to fix the value. Each preset also allows further adjustment for fine tuning.
Shooting modes have been kept relatively simple on the top dial. There's a full Auto mode, a Program auto, Aperture and Shutter-priority modes, plus six individually selectable scene modes and a ‘no flash' option.
The viewfinder gives you a pretty standard 95% coverage, and also provides dioptre adjustment for spectacle wearers. There is no live view mode on this model so all composition must be done using the ‘traditional' method; and being a budget model it also lacks the recent trend of video capture, making it purely a still image-based DSLR.
The rear LCD screen does have other uses than just image review, though. This 2.7in 230,400-dot screen is also home to all of the shooting information, which can be displayed in purely numerical values or in a graphical format, with a handy sliding diagrams for the aperture and shutter values.
The inbuilt flash unit - housed in a pop-up latch in the top of the camera - delivers a guide number of 10m at ISO 100, and features a decent range of options, including flash compensation, rear sync and high speed sync options. In addition it can also work as a wireless transmitter to fire compatible off-camera flashguns.
As the Alpha range's past may hint at, the lens mount is fully compatible with the full range of Konica, and Konica Minolta Dynax lenses, plus the extensive range of current Sony lenses, making an impressive - if often underestimated - lens collection. The A230 comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM (Smooth Autofocus Motor) lens as standard.