Does Sony's latest DSLR offer anything new over the previous A380 model? The What Digital Camera Sony A390 review investigates...

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Sony Alpha a390

Overall score:85%
Image Quality:85%


  • Live View, help guide, improved grip over previous design


  • No AF-assist lamp, small screen, no new technology over the previous a380 model


Sony Alpha a390 Review


Price as reviewed:


Image Quality & Value

Sony A390 review – Image Quality

Sony DSLR-A390 review – Tone & Exposure

When set to the Wide AF area exposure can vary fairly wildly depending on the content of the frame. While photographing churches, even a dominance of around 80% in the frame left them slightly underexposed with overexposed sky – not the best of either world really. A -0.3-0.7EV adjustment was commonplace for such scenarios. However, when shooting single-shade subjects, such as the white pillars of an old building, there was the tendency for slight overall overexposure. Such response to shooting isn’t ideal and took some getting used to, plus isn’t helped by the screen’s reflective qualities which make assessing exposure by eye trickier. When images do come good the tonal range is good assuming an accurate exposure.

 Sony Alpha a390 review sample image

Sony a390 review sample image – click for full size gallery

D-Range Optimiser, with Standard or Advanced settings, boosts the brightness of shadow areas (the advanced option selectively breaks the image up into areas for individual automated adjustment) to some success. This simplified system is preferred to the previous DRO 1-5 range as the higher end could often over-work an image.

Sony a390 DSLR review – RAW/JPEG

The difference between Raw and JPEG files is fairly negligible at first glance, with the JPEG files appearing more sharpened more than their Raw counterparts. Noise reduction is impressive too, though for those wanting the utmost control the flexibility of the unprocessed, i.e. noisier, Raw file allows for pin-point adjustment.

The provided Image Data Converter software deals with Raw conversion if you have no other appropriate software on your computer. Providing control over all the usual noise, white balance, exposure and similar settings, the software allows users with no prior Raw processing experience to successfully get to grips with it.

Sony a390 review – Colour & White Balance

Auto White Balance deals with most scenes well, though there can be a lean towards either cool blue or warm magenta tones depending on subject – on occasion a subtle sway towards both. Consistency between ISO settings is good and colours in general are a realistic interpretation that don’t push colour to unrealistic levels.

 Sony Alpha a390 review sample image

Sony DSLR-A390 review sample image – click for full size gallery

Should boosting or manipulating colour be your aim then six in-camera Creative Style options provide the ability to change contrast, saturation and sharpness, or select from the ‘Vivid’, ‘Portrait’, ‘Landscape’, ‘Night’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Black & White’ presets.

a390 review – ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise

The densely populated 14.2MP sensor copes relatively well in terms of image noise, though does show more grain and colour noise than some less-populated mid-level cameras. ISO settings are usable throughout the range which is a definite positive and overall results are good at any given setting. The higher the ISO the less definition of detail there is, but this is as anticipated due to image noise reduction.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A390 review – Sharpness & Detail

The A390’s standard lens provides good results, though its with the use of other lenses from the family that best results can be obtained. There is some chromatic aberration (purple fringing) where bright areas meet high contrast edges, though not dramatically so to affect the overall picture quality.

Sony Alpha a390 review – Value

The basic A390 kit can be picked up for around £400 which pits it ever so slightly above the asking price of similar competitor models. However, the A390 has a fairly hefty features list including live view and that tilt-angle screen that less expensive models often fail to carry. On balance it’s a well positioned price point to make the Sony a serious consideration against its rivals.

  1. 1. Sony Alpha A390 review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality & Value
  5. 5. Verdict
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