The Sony A290: the perfect DSLR for those on a small budget? The What Digital Camera Sony A290 review tests it out...
Sony Alpha A290 review – Image Quality
Sony A290 review – Tone and Exposure
Overall, we found the A290’s image quality to be very good. Exposure metering tends to err on the side of underexposure, which is generally preferable to overexposure as shadow areas are easier to reclaim than blown highlights – especially when images have been recorded in lossless Raw format rather than compressed JPEG files.
Sony A290 review – Colour and White Balance
Used on its Standard colour setting, colour can a bit flat. To add a bit more punch and immediacy to images, the A290 offers a range of Creative Styles that can be accessed via the Fn button. These allow the user to dial in bespoke contrast, saturation and sharpness settings. Once tweaked, these settings are stored as presents that can be easily switched between as circumstances dictate.
Sony A290 review – Raw vs JPEG
The A290 uses the Sony .ARW file format for Raw files. Compared side by side, unprocessed Raw images shot at lower sensitivities come out slightly softer and with less contrast than their processed JPEG counterparts. At higher ISOs, Raw images also display more visible noise than JPEGs. Of course, there is significantly more scope to use post-processing software to sharpen and reduce noise in Raw images than with JPEG images.
Sony A290 review – ISO Sensitivity and Image Noise
At lower sensitivity settings of up to ISO 400 noise is well controlled with little visible effect on image quality, even when viewed at 100%. From ISO 400 image noise does become more visible with noticeable image degradation from ISO 1600 onwards.
Sony A290 review – Sharpness and Detail
At 14.2MP the A290 is able to resolve plenty of detail, which allows for creative cropping of images at the post-production stage with no obvious loss in quality. Although a bit lightweight and plasticy, we were also fairly impressed with the performance of the bundled 18-55mm kit lens. Used at an f/8 setting, sharpness and detail remain consistent throughout the frame, with no obvious loss of sharpness towards the edges. Likewise, chromatic aberrations – usually visible as purple fringing on the edge of high-contrast borders – are also kept to a minimum.