The 14-megapixel Sony Alpha A350 is a mid-range enthusiasts digital SLR that offers an innovative new approach to live view with the aid of a tilting LCD rear screen.
Image Quality And Value
Generally High Standard
The standard of images from the A350 is generally very high. Even when the camera may struggle, features such as the Dynamic Range Optimiser and adjusting parameters of white balance presets make tweaks easy to carry out.
Raw and JPEG Comparison
Straight from the camera, the standard of JPEGs is satisfactory. Sharpness is good, but even without any processing certain Raw images showed a little more detail than their converted JPEG counterparts. Traces of vignetting and noise still remain, but colour and tonality are accurately handled and colours given a slight boost where necessary.
The camera’s metering system generally proved itself reliable in a variety of conditions. This was particularly noticeable in images with large areas of sky and clouds, where the camera consistently delivered detailed and noise-free shadow areas.
Noise is well controlled. ISO 400 is where detail begins to be compromised but even at the highest settings, it’s only an even-textured chroma noise that shows and one that can be easily removed in post-production. The lack of luminance noise is impressive. Noise is most visible in the midtones, while the high-ISO noise reduction is fairly gentle, smoothing out only the coarsest chroma noise and retaining adequate sharpness. Long exposure noise reduction shows noticeable softening of edge sharpness, but contrary to my expectations, at all sensitivities and with noise reduction both on and off, it’s extremely difficult to tell noise levels apart from those of the A200.
Tone And Contrast
The Dynamic Range Optimiser makes a noticeable difference in lifting overall contrast and bringing out detail and is recommended in such situations, especially when shooting in overcast conditions. Colour and tonality are otherwise very good.
Colour and White Balance
The Auto White Balance is generally accurate, and only seemed to struggle when faced with a mix of tungsten and daylight lighting, delivering a rather cold result. A quick adjustment of the preset tungsten values warmed images up to the correct level.
Sharpness and Detail
There are no complaints with sharpness. In comparison with Raw images, JPEGs appear sharpened to just the right level, with no visible artefacts such as halos.
Value for Money
The A350 performs well in its own right, but whether it’s good value for money depends on if you envisage using the live view, or need the resolution of its full 14 megapixels. Otherwise, the similarly specified Sony Alpha A300 and Sony Alpha A200 may be worth a look, with both being cheaper alternatives. Even so, at this price the model is something of a unique offering, with no other model currently offering its blend of 14MP sensor, autofocusenabled live view and tilting LCD screen.