The Sony a500 is the a550's similar cousin, but does what it offers warrant its place in the Alpha range? The What Digital Camera Sony a500 review...

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Sony Alpha a500

Overall score:84%
Image Quality:85%


  • Long battery life, tilt LCD, AF live view, all-black finish


  • Value vs a550, noisy AF with kit lens, dual card access, no video


Sony Alpha a500 Review


Price as reviewed:


As part of its plans for world domination of DSLR sales, Sony has assured its place in the market not only by delivering quality, but delivering en masse too. With the sturdily built Alpha A700 now out of production, the A500 and A550 are the next-closest offerings from the Sony camp. But with the two models released simultaneously, what exactly separates the a500 from the a550? The What Digital Camera Sony Alpha a500 review takes a look…

Sony Alpha a500 vs a550 review

The A500 is the younger brother of the A550. 
As such it’s not quite as ‘mature’, and a number of features differ, making it the more low-spec of the two. The sensor is a less resolute 12.3MP that offers a smaller maximum output size. However, the very same APS-C sized CMOS technology and BIONZ engine is used to full effect as per the A550. The LCD on the A500’s rear still follows the A550’s tilt mechanism, but is a lower resolution 230k-dot affair – more like the resolution found on compact cameras. Continuous shooting doesn’t include the ‘Speed Priority’ of the A550, although the 
A500 is still capable of the same 5fps burst mode, or 4fps in live view. The main difference, though, is that the buffer is not able to process as much information as quickly, with less than half the capacity meaning you’ll likely find burst shooting clogs up the camera quicker. All these differences would make sense for a more entry-level purchaser with a tighter budget, but – and it’s really quite the big but on this occasion – the street prices aren’t really all that far apart.


Sony Alpha a500 vs a550 comparison table

Sony Alpha a550


Sony Alpha a500


Price £600 kit (approx) £530 kit (approx)
Sensor 14.2MP 12.3MP
Output Size 4592 x 3056 4272 x 2848
LCD Screen 3in, 921k-dot tilt-angle 3in, 230K-dot tilt-angle
Battery Life 480 shots 520 shots
Weight 599g approx 597g approx


The street price between the A500 and A550 kit options only differs by up to about £100. They’re very similar pieces of kit, and the small amount of extra money needed for the A550 from many retailers seems to render the A500 a touch outclassed. As a standalone camera the A500 is certainly a good bit of kit, but it’s tough to justify its presence in the market, especially considering the new a450's recent appearance. What Sony could have done with is a tougher-bodied, beefed-up version of the A550, rather than the subtle step down that is the a500 - though that's likely to come later this year in the form of the A700 replacement.


AF Points:9-points with cross sensor
PC Socket:No
Max Flash Sync:1/160th sec
DoF Prview:No
Built-in Flash:Yes, GN 12 @ ISO 100
Colour Temp Control:2,500-9,900K
White Balance Bracket:Yes, 3 frames, selectable 2 steps
Dust Reduction:Yes
Focusing Modes:Single Shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF, Manual Focus
Exposure Comp:1/3 Step +/-2EV
Colour Space:sRGB, Adobe RGB
Weight:597g approx
Built-in Image Stabilisation:Yes, sensor-shift SteadyShot INSIDE
Movie Mode:No
Dimensions:137 x 104 x 84mm
Live Mode:Yes, with Quick AF live view
Power:NP-FM500H li-ion battery
Connectivity:HDMI, USB 2.0
Memory Card:SD / SDHC and Memory Stick (not for simultaneous use however)
Field of View:95%
Viewfinder Type:Fixed eye-level, penta-Dach-mirror
Metering System:40-segment honeycomb-pattern SPC
Drive Mode:5fps max, 4fps live view
White Balance:Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / Flash / Manual / Natural Color Filter / Custom
Compression:Fine / Standard Jpeg
Exposure Modes:PASM, Night Portrait, Sunset, Sports Action, Macro, Landscape, Portrait, Auto
File Format:Raw (ARW), Jpeg, Raw + Jpeg
Shutter Speeds:30-1/4000th sec
Lens Mount:Sony A-mount
Focal Length Mag:1.5x
LCD:3in, 230k-dot tilt-angle
Output Size:4272 x 2848
Sensor:12.3MP CMOS