Never before has SLR photography been so easy, so carefree, or so much fun. With the shooting ease and fast response of Quick AF Live View, the α380 and α330 make it easier than ever to enjoy the power and performance of digital SLR photography. And don’t worry if you’ve never used an SLR before. Assistance is built right into the camera, with a new on-screen Help Guide and Graphic Display to help you capture the images of beauty you’ve always wanted.
Sony’s 14.2 megapixels a380 features Quick AF Live View for responsive ‘freestyle’ shooting that keeps pace with what’s happening around you. This unique Sony system combines the benefits of live image preview with speedy and accurate autofocus, even with moving subjects. Now even brighter for a clear view when you’re framing shots in daylight, the 2.7-inch LCD screen tilts up or down over an extended angle range, increasing options for comfortable shooting in any position.
Imaging quality is superb, thanks to the APS-C sized CCD sensor working in harmony with the BIONZ image processing engine found on other a cameras. You’ll enjoy flawless, detail-packed pictures with low noise, even when you’re shooting handheld. The powerful BIONZ processor is also key to the new cameras’ speedy responses, allowing continuous shooting at up to 2.5 fps (2 fps in Live View mode). A new self-timer drive mode grabs a quick burst of 3 or 5 frames, cutting the chances of spoiled portraits and groups shots when someone blinks at the wrong moment.
Good For: Compact camera upgraders looking for a simple DSLR
Not so good for: More serious photographers or for use in low light
Aside from its unique high-speed live view mode the Alpha 380 simply can’t compete with the best of its peers in this fiercely competitive sector. Handling isn’t great, nor is low light performance, and unless you find one very cheap indeed, it’s best avoided.
If you shoot mainly at base ISO, in live view and Auto mode the Sony DSLR-A380 is worth a closer look. For everyone else the camera can only become a consideration if its price drops significantly. At the Sony’s price point there are currently several better alternatives available.
When Sony announced the Alpha A380 (and its lower-end counterparts the A330 and A230), it wasn’t hard to understand why many enthusiasts were disappointed. Most have become accustomed to new cameras featuring more powerful specifications such as higher resolutions, quicker shooting and bigger, more detailed screens, not to mention the adoption of gadgetry like movie modes.
With the A380 though Sony completely avoided that route, instead opting to keep essentially the same electronics as the earlier A350, and simply house them in a redesigned body with a revamped user interface. Sure, there’s a switch from Compact Flash to SD / Memory Stick Duo and a new HDMI port, but in terms of major specifications, there’s little change.
As such the A380 is certainly not an upgrade for owners of the previous Alpha generation. Anyone with an A200, A300 or A350 looking for an upgrade would be better-served looking at the higher-end A700 or waiting for Sony’s much-rumoured ‘A5xx’ or ‘A8xx’ ranges. Enthusiasts who value the latest specifications and gadgets will also do better looking elsewhere, and as discussed above, there’s certainly several compelling rivals for the same, or even less money.
But that’s not to say the A380 is a failure. Sony’s done its homework and is squarely targeting its revamped A3xx range at DSLR beginners. In order to appeal to these buyers, it’s gone for a much less intimidating user interface and a distinctive body design, and while we weren’t personally fond of the latter, it certainly stands out among the competition.
The target audience are also unlikely to be overly concerned by the below average performance at high ISOs, relatively slow continuous shooting and technical limitations of the Live View system; indeed they’re much more likely to be bothered by the lack of video recording. But ultimately many will be won over by the easy user interface, fuss-free Live View experience and fairly unique styling. Brand-loyalty is also not to be underestimated, especially where Sony is concerned.
So while the A380 is a disappointment for enthusiasts, it can be recommended as a first DSLR for absolute beginners so long as they get on with the ergonomics and don’t need video. Like its predecessor though, you’ll need a decent lens to really exploit its high resolution, such as the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm. If you’re intending to stick with the kit lens, you should seriously consider the cheaper Alpha A330 which is identical other than its lower 10.2 Megapixel resolution – fit both bodies with their kit lenses and you’re unlikely to notice a great deal of difference in real-life.