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...
Value & Image Quality
Sony Alpha A230 review – Value for Money
At the budget entry point to the DSLR range it would be foolish to avoid the issue of price.
The previous Sony Alpha A200 was, for a long time, one of the cheapest DSLRs on the market; the A230 (with lens) is currently placed at least £35 cheaper than the Canon 1000D (£390 with lens) and the Nikon D3000 (£450 with lens) entry-level models, making it also highly competitive on price. Against this competition it holds up well and there is nothing it is really missing.
Prices are likely to fluctuate as the camera ages and new ones are added, so bear in mind that should you find the Sony A230 for a cheaper price than the £355 street price at time of testing, you are getting a better deal. Right now though, this is a decent proposition but one with very able competition.
Sony Alpha A230 image quality
Sony A230 Tone and Exposure
The metering system is very proficient in gaining a balanced tonal range and this is clearly seen from the image histograms. Presented with high-contrast scenes, in which it is unable to capture the full range, the metering will slightly underexpose to maintain the greatest amount of tone. By using the D-range optimiser it is also possible to capture more detail in highlight and shadow areas, because the camera will automatically adjust the brightness and contrast of the shot.
Sony A230 White Balance and Colour
For an entry-level model the range of white balance settings on this camera is extensive. Each of the presets has manual adjustments, and there’s also a custom setting. If you leave it set to Auto it performs adequately, though there is a slightly worrying tendency to produce slightly cold results in shady scenes, and even portraits, when using one of the exposure modes from the PASM quartet.
Sony A230 Raw/JPEG
A maximum value of ISO 3200 may not seem like much of a feat these days, but to actually deliver usable results above the ISO 1600 mark is still a rare ability. With all noise-reduction technology turned off there are obvious signs of noise on the A230 at the higher values, with coloured noise creeping into shadow areas and a diminished level of detail. However, the overall image is still pleasing to the naked eye and comparatively impressive for such an ISO value.
Sony A230 Noise and ISO
There is very little visual difference between the Raw and JPEG files straight from the camera, even viewed as an enlargement of a 300 x 300-pixel section. On close examination the JPEG file shows greater fringing but slightly sharper edges thanks to sharpening but the Raw appears slightly brighter – in most cases making this difficult to see. The adjusted Raw file presents a better final result, however, thanks to the non-destructive editing.
Sony A230 Sharpness and Detail
The main limiting factor appears to be in the resolution, with detail surviving down to the pixel. However, there were marked improvements in the sharpness when using the more expensive Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, as opposed to the standard kit Sony 18-55mm SAM lens.
Sony A230 ISO quality
General ISO performance is very good with no significant sign of noise evident until ISO 800, and still fairly light noise at ISO 1600. The highest value of ISO 3200 does show far more chroma noise, though it is not excessive for a camera of this level and, by adding the noise reduction, is able to reduce it extensively, if at slight detriment to the level of detail.