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Sony Alpha A230: Specification
- Resolution: 10.2Mp
- Sensor size: 23.6X15.8mm
- Sensor type: CCD
- Image size: 3872X2592
- Aspect ratio: 3:2
- Focus system: TTL phase detection system
- Focus points: 9 with centre cross sensor
- Crop factor: 1.5x
- Lens mount: Konica Minolta/Sony A mount
- File type: JPEG, RAW
- Sensitivity: ISO100-3200 equivalent
- Focus types: Continuous, single, automatic, manual
- Metering system: 40-segment honeycomb-pattern SPC
- Metering types: Multi, centre weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
- Shutter speed: 30sec-1/4000sec & bulb
- Frames per second: 2.5fps
- Flash: Built-in (guide no. 10 at ISO100), hotshoe
- Flash metering: ADI / Pre-flash TTL flash metering
- Flash sync speed: 1/160sec
- Image stabilisation: Steadyshot Inside
- Integrated cleaning: Double anti dust system (anti-static coating and CCD shift mechanism)
- Live view: No
- Viewfinder: Fixed eye level system with roof mirror type
- Monitor: 2.7in Clear photo LCD Plus, 230,400dots ( 76,800px)
- Media type: Memory Stick Pro Duo, Pro-HG Duo, Pro-HG Duo HX, SD/SDHC
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: InfoLithium battery
- Size: 128x97x67.5m
- Weight: 450g
The command dial is set into the body making the camera smoother and more flush when viewed straight on.
The back is as simplistic as the rest of the camera in terms of layout.
A large expanse of space cries out for a button or two.
Sony appear to be showing a certain degree of maturity with the release of their new equipment and not just in the DSLR arena. At a recent showcase of Sony equipment ePHOTOzine got to see other items that could help with your entire family's photographic needs. The HS-1 Homeshare hub is a 1Tb (terabyte) storage device for everything such as videos and photos. It can then be watched on the television by using your remote control.
The interesting thing about this is it doesn't just take Sony products because you can link any brand camera or camcorder to it as well as it accepting multiple memory cards, not just Sony Memorystick. They've transited this ideology to the DSLRs by making the A230 a dual slot camera. It takes Secure Digital as well as Memorystick. “It's the first Sony capture device to take SD” confirmed Paul Genge, Technical Field Sales Manager for Sony UK, “The dual slot isn't automatic though, you have to switch between the two.” A small switch in the camera slot area chooses between the memory cards and if you choose the wrong one, the camera will flag that it has no card inserted.
Sony are very excited about the new models as they're the first DSLRs to have no design input from KonicaMinolta. It's extremely apparent in the design as the fluid design smooths out the bumpy, ruggedness of the previous models. It's only 9% smaller than the Sony Alpha A200 but looks a lot smaller due to the design such as the grip being chopped off at the top. “It's a design that will help the transition from prosumer compact to DSLR” said Eric Billette, UK DSLR Product Manager “It's lighter, but not much smaller. We've also simplified the GUI to help users who may not know what a shutter speed or aperture does.”
This certainly rings true as the user interface has a cool icon style slider similar to the one found on the Canon EOS 500D. It works by moving an indicator along a slider with icons at either side. The shutter speed has a still person at one end and a moving person at the other. This shows that a higher shutter speed is better for fast moving objects and slower ones for slow or still objects. The aperture slider has the same basis but has a person with a mountain in the background. At the wider aperture the mountain is blurred while at the narrow aperture, it's sharp like the person. It's designed to help you learn how the apertures and shutter speeds work which is a great idea.
The sliding icons help with developing understanding of how apertures and shutter speeds work.
Help screens also help you every step of the way explaining modes and features in good detail including giving an example of when the mode might be useful. This feature can also be switched off in the menu system when you've learned the ins and outs of the camera. When you're reading a help screen, it indicates for you to press ok when you're finished.
Now, the problem I can see is that there isn't an ok button on the camera. It's actually the AF button in the centre of the navigation pad or the shutter release but this isn't explained. While I understand that and the vast majority also understand it, this could lead to confusion in a small minority who aren't used to this type of command execution.
To aid the compatibility of the cameras with everything else in your home, the A230 is Bravia compliant so you can link the camera directly to a Bravia television and control the playback functions with your remote control.
A large command dial sits on the left shoulder which is set into the camera so can only be moved at the edge. The Minolta hotshoe remains sitting behind the built-in flash which is higher than previous models to help reduce red eye. A new small flash has also been introduced for use on any model but is aimed more at users of the A230. It has a guide number of 20, TTL and direct or bounce options. Switching it on is performed by flicking it up.
The flash sits higher to help avoid red-eye and SAM can be seen on the lens front.
The card door slides open in true Sony fashion. It uncovers the dual slot and activation switch.
One extra logo present is SAM (Smooth Autofocus Mode) which can be seen on the lens. These are a new type of lenses which have the electronic focusing system inside the lens instead of the camera body making them faster and not needing the connecting lug on the lens mount which has a distinct similarity to a screwdriver and screw head. The lug and connector has remained on the mount to work with the vast back catalogue of KonicaMinolta lenses that are compatible with the A230.
Sony Alpha A230: Build and handling
Despite the different design appearing more organic, it still sits in the hands nicely with all the controls falling nicely in place. Of course that's if you're right handed. 'Lefties' will still have the same problem they've always had with DSLR design and to rub salt into the wounds, Sony have added an accessory to the Alpha range which aids one handed shooting as long as you use your right hand.
Build quality is as good as you can expect from an entry level camera but it doesn't 'look' anything less than the A380. It's easy to fall into a trap of making it look like it's made of cost saving materials but hurrah for Sony, they haven't done with this.
I like the dual slot idea, it helps with the transition from compact to DSLR as most compacts take SD these days. It also shows Sony's willingness to accept that different companies exist. They joined the DLNA (Digital Lifestyle Network Alliance) which creates an open standard. The idea being that if you already have some DLNA gear, seeing the same symbol can give you confidence that you're going to get full compatibility.
Sony Alpha A230: Performance
ePHOTOzine went to see Sony in London where they showed the A230. I managed to get away with it and take a few shots. The colours of the red brick and pale blue sign have come out nicely although I think the camera has under exposed by a fraction, maybe a third of a stop. It's not unappealing to look at and it's something I often do to saturate colours a little anyway.
I shot the wooden door in the three main metering modes available on the Alpha A230. In spot metering, the walls are vastly over exposed due to the camera ignoring them and only concentrating on the tiny percentage in the middle of the frame. There's little difference in centre-weighted and pattern metering but I think there's a little extra detail in the pale patch of wall on the right.
Aspect ratio at 3:2 which is the default setting.
Converting to wide screen doesn't give a wider field of view but lessens the top and bottom meaning I have to think of extra things to write in the space below.
Back in the studio with the unit and the colour test chart shows that in JPEG, the Sony Alpha A230 has an overly saturated primary blue. Red is a strong contender, as is yellow. The earth brown and forest green colours show a promising result in landscape shots but the skin tone is a little disappointing. There's colour showing in the pale pastels and I like the balance of the mono tones.
Primary colours have come out nicely as have the earthier colours.Skin tone is a little pale but other tiles look good.
A little underexposed from the landscape mode although the sun was behind clouds at the time. However it wasn't a dull day.
There's a good amount of detail in the foreground and the letters on the balance beam are legible. I used the kit lens set to 50mm for this shot to see if I got any fringing and none is visible even on the high contrast areas such as the trees overlapping the sky.
Sony Alpha A230: Noise test
Sony make their own sensors and supply them to other manufacturers such as Nikon. The noise test images start to get more rough and grainy at ISO400 although it's by no means a problem and it's not until ISO1600 that detail starts to drop from the petals while coloured patches start to become more invasive to the grey card.
ISO3200 is the maximum setting and I think Sony have played a good card capping it there. I don't think the noise reduction systems would be able to cope with the next setting as the sharp lines dividing the black, grey and white boxes are broken up due to disfiguration caused by noise.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
The ISO3200 test.
DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.
Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Sony Alpha A230.
Sony Alpha A230: Verdict
For an entry level model, the Sony Alpha A230 looks pretty good and performs well. I love the UI giving as little masterclass as you use it. It will probably be more subliminal but if it teaches the user more about photography then surely that can ony be a good thing?
It's styled nicely and is smaller and lighter than the previous model, the Sony Alpha A200. While the smoother, more fluid design isn't my personal cup of tea, I can see the appeal to users who like their equipment to be ultra modern.
For users who want to move up from a prosumer or superzoom bridge compact but don't want a huge camera hanging from their necks, this is a perfect solution.
Sony Alpha A230: Plus points
Dual slot SD/SDHC & MS
Easier GUI (Graphical User Interface)
Minimalist design to prevent confusion
Sony Alpha A230: Minus points
No OK button despite being asked to use it
No live view
The Sony Alpha A230 costs around £443.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Sony Alpha A230 & 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DT lens