Sony Alpha 350 Launched!

The Sony Alpha 350 with Quick AF Live View!

After going around and testing Live View on digital SLR cameras from different brands, I could say that the 14.2 megapixel A350 (and its little brother the 10.2 megapixel A300) gives the best ‘version’ of Live View possible – you turn on Live View, you half-press to autofocus (which you can see in Live View) and you full-press to shoot.

(Picture stolen from
A Pentamirror Tilt Mechanism makes this all possible, by tilting a mirror so the image from the lens goes into a separate Live View sensor instead of the viewfinder.

Stay Focused

With any other brand, you either press the AF On button to focus using the AF sensors (requiring the Live View to go off) or you press the AF On button to focus using the sensor (requiring a very long time to focus, unlike a SLR is supposed to be.)

Also, the A350 is the only implementation that allows continuous auto-focus in Live View! However, it comes at a penalty of 2 FPS in Live View instead of 2.5 FPS on the A350 and 3 FPS on the A300.

Screen It!

In terms of screen, the articulating swivel screen on the A350 really helps – it’s a 2.7″ 320×240 LCD screen. It is a tie between that and the Olympus E-3, which has a 2.5″ 320×240 LCD screen which can swivel out to the front to shoot self-portraits. Then again, there’s also the Nikon D300/D3 with a 3″ 640×480 LCD screen but this cannot swivel.

Keep It Warm And Chill

This is a minor and yet major feature which many brands neglected – Live View to show changing of Kelvin White Balance. That is, you can tweak Kelvin White Balance while looking at the Live View screen at the same time.

With the Pentax K20D and Canon 40D, you cannot see it at the same time; it’s in a menu.

On the Olympus E-3, you can, but it’s tricky to get there, and the menu blocks your view.

With the Sony A350 however, the Kelvin setting is displayed on the left while you dial through the temperature, to help you get the color you want.

I have not tried this on a Nikon D300 but I’d expect Nikon to have thought of this. I cannot find any literature on the Internet that says if it can or can’t. Isn’t this a cool feature?

(You also get to see the exposure, so you can compensate exposure accordingly if the camera decided to expose darker or brighter.)

Refresh Rate

I’ll be honest – in dim light, the A350’s Live View appears to have a lower refresh rate than in bright conditions. Side-by-side with the Olympus E-3, the E-3 was slightly faster… and the 40D was smoother, but not exactly super responsive either. However, it’s understandable that the A350 has a tiny sensor hidden up in the viewfinder…

This, and the 320×240 LCD, are the only downsides I can really find to the A350. I’d be okay with a 320×240 screen if I hadn’t been so used to the 3″ 640×480 LCD of my Sony A700.

Smart Teleconverter

The Smart Teleconverter, a new feature, and a new button on the A350, gives you either 1.4x or 2x cropping off the center of the image. This drops your resolution from 14.2 megapixels to 7 megapixels or 3.5 megapixels… but it keeps the brightness.

Therefore, I can foresee myself using this at a concert, shooting the action overhead a tall stage, with a 50mm F1.4 and 2x Smart Teleconverter to give me a 3x crop factor or 150mm F1.4 equivalent. Yes, there’d be no light loss, and the shutter speed would stay the same, unlike a physical, optical teleconverter!

The Price Is Nice

Seriously. RM2999 Recommended Retail Price with the Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT kit lens.

The 10.2 megapixel Sony A200 with 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT kit lens goes for RM1999, if you’re not convinced.

(And yes, this is not a sponsored post – I registered as media and am responsible to give media coverage. I would put this in Xfresh, God bless you if you remember me from there, is a bit out-of-scope already. 🙁 In fact, technical articles on my blog get more views than back over there.)

Enough With The Features Already!

So I went for the Sony Alpha 350 launch at Sime Darby Convention Center, April 2nd 2008.

It was a scorching day, and Dynamic Range Optimizer Level 5 on the A700 helped quite a bit with this. The slight halo around the building was my fault, I tried to dodge it in Photoshop carelessly.

1/5th of a second at 17mm. Hail Super SteadyShot!

Naoi Sudo, Managing Director of Sony Malaysia, shot with the Sony Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 with my Kenko 2x teleconverter, for a 280mm F3.5 ISO1600 1/160s exposure.

George Wong, yo! Shot with the Minolta 50mm F1.4 with my 2x teleconverter, for 105mm F3.5 ISO1600 1/125s exposure.

Spot the Alpha!

Displays in the dark – yes you might’ve read it right on the right – free “Basic Photography with Alpha” Sony workshops. You get to win stuff, too!

Displays in the light, with some familiar faces.

This is how they displayed the A350 – with a Sony Handicam pointed at it! You can see the output on the screen on the wall on the left.


And finally, what we’d been waiting to see – something new and unreleased in Malaysia! The Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 SSM. (Note that the hood is borrowed from the Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8, which vignettes from 35mm and wider.) The Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM’s hood does not vignette no matter what, but this might be different on full-frame.

I won’t post any samples from the lens though, as it’s a pre-production unit and won’t reflect on the final lens you can buy. However, I can say that this is the fastest-feeling, snappiest SSM lens I’ve tried so far – the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM, like other motorized teles from Canon and Nikon, don’t feel that responsive as a screw-driven lens. It’s also helped by the wide range of the lens. At 24mm F2.8, it was scorchingly sharp! Depending on subject distance too, 70mm was crisp.

Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX ultra wide-angle lens (left) and Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 SSM (right).

It was not as big and fat as some made it out to be – just chunky like a wide-angle lens, but with a solid shell. Kinda like the Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8, but lighter… somewhat like the Minolta 28-70mm F2.8 G lens. It added a AF/MF switch, a first for any Sony lens.

(Picture for another future blog entry.)

The Minolta 28-70mm F2.8 G in comparison, was slow-focusing (faster on the A700 but not superb) and had a minimum focusing distance of 85 cm. It had internal zoom and internal focus. More on that in a later blog entry!

The Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 SSM was very fast, with a minimum focusing distance of 34 cm for a maximum 1:4 magnification. Without a doubt, way preferred to ye olde Minolta. The only drawback would be the extending zoom… but it does look kinda cute, y’know.

Oh, and of course, there were Sony 300mm F2.8 G SSM lenses perched outside. I compared it to the Minolta 200mm F2.8 G HS APO (which I christened The White Torchlight, a lightweight 790 gram wonder… but that’s another blog entry.) The 300mm F2.8 meanwhile is 2310 grams.

Guess that trashcan!

8 thoughts on “Sony Alpha 350 Launched!

  1. KJ Post author

    fuiyoh.. now alpha making alpha trash cans as well? hahaha =P

    dang.. i didn’t manage to go.. sob.. WANA try the 24-70!

    Jasemaine.. so far.. for entry level cameras the A200 and the A350 is the best entry level DSLR’s a A350 is needed if u want to discover the fun in Live View.. NO not in the Canon 40d live view.. but a Sony @350 live view..

  2. Albert Ng Post author

    The A350 is great for the fun Quick AF Live View; the A200 is great for the price. In Sg. Wang/Low Yat it can go much cheaper, and still have the Sony warranty.

    Yes, you can add on Sony/Minolta/Tamron/Sigma lenses in the future. Shops may not carry ready stock but they can be ordered and gotten in the week itself. 🙂

  3. hanafinoor Post author

    Albert, you are really an inspiration, the knowledge you have makes you like a walking bible of photography. Great man.
    Always keen to see your post in LYN.
    I am thinking to upgrade to A700 soon.

  4. percy Post author

    i thought the a350 wont be launch so soon so i get mine a200 twins lens kit last month at low yat..they sale me at 2300 c/w 2X 2gb cf card, screen protector, 2X uv filter…i seems cant find the step down ring 55-52mm whole sgwang and low yat..

  5. Albert Ng Post author

    percylo: You need to order it from one of the old-timer shops. If not you need to go to International Camera or Foto Selangor in Pertama Complex… or Digicolor, Mutiara Complex, Jalan Ipoh.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *