Sony Alpha 350 hands-on

Finally, the Sony Alpha 350 hits our shores!

This is the first Sony Alpha digital SLR with Live View, and Quick AF Live View, which focuses much faster without a lot of mirrors flapping or slow focusing like competitors. It works just like a digital camera would!

More on the difference here.

Note the Live View/OVF switch – it goes back and forth very, very fast, like it was entirely mechanical. This is unlike the Live View found on Canon and Nikon, which are hidden in dials or menus somewhere.

With my Minolta 70-210mm F4 “beercan” lens. The 2.7″ screen tilts up and then outwards.

Smart Teleconverter! It gets its own button to the right of the AEL button – it cycles between no crop, 1.4x crop and 2x crop. It does not matter if you’ve picked Small, Medium or Large – at 1.4x the camera always sets itself to Medium, and at 2x the camera always sets itself to Small.

This might confuse some people who choose Small, and then set Smart Teleconverter to 1.4x and find that the resolution is forced to Medium!

Also, oddly, you would think that you should get 100% coverage of the viewfinder when using the Smart Teleconverter instead of the usual 95%… but having framed with the Smart Teleconverter and then shot, the extra 5% comes in the picture.

It is also understandable why the Smart Teleconverter only goes up to 2x – the spherical matte surface of the A350 isn’t fine enough to show detail beyond that. However, after shooting, the image is a lot sharper and clearer than it is when looking at Live View with the Smart Teleconverter.

Logically, since the Live View sensor is looking at the viewfinder on your behalf, you do see the AF points on screen always. Also, when using the Smart Teleconverter, the AF points enlarge! Oddly, you can’t select focusing mode. I don’t know what mode it becomes though.

It can fold up quiiite high, though sadly, not sideways. Nevertheless this makes for a much sturdier screen.

Telephoto lenses held up with one hand will show that the Live View isn’t the fastest refreshing thing on the planet. You can actually see motion blur trails on the screen (which won’t appear in the picture.) However, put both hands on the camera and it looks alright again.

You could probably stick some notes in here, heh.

I forgot to check if Creative Styles, White Balance and Exposure Compensation show in Live View, though.

The Drive and ISO button feel easier to press than the Sony A200. I’m not sure because I didn’t have one to compare it with.

Speaking of Drive, the A350 does 2.5 frames per second (FPS), the A300 does 3 FPS, and the A700 does 3/5 FPS. However, in Live View, the FPS lowers considerably to about 1.5. Hey, at least it can do continuous AF!

Added 12:25pm: Another thing – I found the A350 viewfinder to be reasonably bright despite the lower magnification. Still very, very usable.

Also, the difference in 2.5 FPS and 3 FPS is minimal; you would not be able to tell the difference just by hearing it… unless you play the drums.

19 thoughts on “Sony Alpha 350 hands-on

  1. flysheep Post author

    This is informative. The Live view looks cool!

    i think A200 and A350 have exactly the same body other than extra buttons, so should feel the same. however have to put side by side to make sure.

  2. Kiril Karaatanasov Post author

    What functionality does the LV offer other then framing picture on the screen.

    Live Histogram?

    Zoom? What zoom factor? What is the quality of zoom?

    Indicators of underexposed/overexposed areas?


  3. Albert Ng Post author

    flysheep: Apparently, the rubber grip is slightly different; the A350 does not have an extra nub on it. The top buttons are better but the front dial is still a bit small (the battery grip has a bigger front dial.)

    saifulrizan: If you have the budget, the A350 will give you much greater creativity options when shooting at extreme angles, which I forsee you will be doing. Thus, you are a "A350 kinda guy".

    macdude: Yeah maaan!

  4. missorangedepp Post author

    how come i never see alberto the weird wacky monkey online anymore? hmm? *pout and wonder* mish u la indomee

  5. Albert Ng Post author

    Frank: My initial test of burst mode in Live View was with a CF card; I did not time the FPS then.

    Without the CF card, the Live View also did the fading thing. I found it to be about 1.5 FPS.

  6. Albert Ng Post author

    percy: The A350 with 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT kit lens is RM2999 recommended retail price. Expect a camera shop to give 10% discount for the street price.

    Kiril: I have not tested whether overexposed/underexposed areas, WB and EV compensation show on the screen. I will update accordingly.

    Yes, there is a Live Histogram, you can see it in the bottom-left corner of the screen on the second last picture.

    The Smart Teleconverter, when viewed, isn’t that great quality, as it enlarges the view of the viewfinder along with the coarse pattern of the viewfinder. However, this is not the actual picture that is taken by the main sensor. After shooting, it previews, and you can immediately see it sharpen up greatly.

  7. ShaolinTiger Post author

    Hey Nikon had full frame for ages now and you still don’t have RSS – sort it out 😛

  8. Albert Ng Post author

    I don’t even have time to code, at the rate I’m going through my blog entries, but rest assured that when I have a clear head to code, it will be done. 😀

  9. Frank Post author

    Congratulations for your new camera.

    In liveview during continuous shooting, does the LCD goes black all the time, or do you see enough to follow someone walking?



  10. Frank Post author

    Albert, you have reported: "Telephoto lenses held up with one hand will show that the Live View isn’t the fastest refreshing thing on the planet. You can actually see motion blur trails on the screen (which won’t appear in the picture.) However, put both hands on the camera and it looks alright again."

    This is really bizarre. Why would the way you hold the camera affects the refresh rate? May be I misunderstood what you mean.

  11. Albert Ng Post author

    Frank: I did not get the camera. I have an A700.

    Yes, the LCD fades quickly black and fades on again. You will see enough to keep tracking but I didn’t get to test it in a challenging situation with a longer lens that isolates and shows tracking properly.

    At 1.5 FPS or so… it feels like I am firing a huge plasma cannon. Slow yes, but enjoyable.

  12. Frank Post author

    Albert: Thanks for your reply.

    Regarding the LCD fading to black and back on, can I ask you another question: Did you had a memory card inserted when you were doing this continuous shooting?

  13. Albert Ng Post author

    To be fair to the A350, I didn’t know whether the Live View sensor had a low framerate because it seemed okay in normal usage. However, with maximum shake (one hand, tele) you see motion streaks.

    Or maybe, the LV sensor has a low maximum ISO, added with the light loss from the viewfinder screen, would cause the shutter speed of the sensor to be slower than the refresh rate. This was easy with one such shot from the beercan at F4.5 1/80s ISO1600 – supposing the LV sensor has a base of ISO200, its shutter speed would be 1/10s. When the lens is wide open (during framing) its speed should be 1/13s… minus the dimming of the viewfinder of say 1 stop, for a shutter speed of 1/6s. Because the shutter speed is slower than what is needed to maintain say 30 FPS, it will look choppy.

  14. cyberdroxxx Post author

    Emm……to get or not to get… looks cool like the A200 but not as solid as the A100 or A700. RM2999? I was expecting one grand K less than that price. Whew….add i/3 more could get the A700. Ermm..

  15. Albert Ng Post author

    C’mon man, the A200 is supposed to be RM1999. An A350 would rightfully command the RM2999 price tag.

    But yes, the A350 is more solid-feeling than the A200. Different texture on the top plate, different feel on the grip.

    Do I feel that the A350’s Live View outweighs a smaller viewfinder? DEFINITELY. Live preview of WB and EV, and the Smart Teleconverter, make it another wonder.


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