Sony DSLR-A450 review
Sony's range of DSLRs has ballooned of late to include a bewildering range of entry- and intermediate-level models, yet the replacement for the semi-pro A700 is so long overdue as to have practically missed a generation when compared with its rivals. Be that as it may, the A450 is the latest mid-range addition, sitting between the 14.2-megapixel A380 and the more expensive 12.3-megapixel A500.
Passing up the A380's CCD-based sensor, the A450 adopts the 14.2-megapixel Cmos sensor used in the upper-mid range A550 and inherits the same larger body style, albeit without the pull-out 3in LCD. Instead, by today's standards, the A450 has a rather small-looking fixed 2.7in 230,000-pixel panel. However, the inclusion of the A550's Cmos sensor means sensitivity runs from a high base ISO200 up to an eye-watering ISO12800. Also tempting is the claimed maximum burst of 7fps; a feature of cameras costing at least twice the price.
The larger body style is a bonus, and the A450's handgrip is substantial and well-shaped. The A450 also features the larger FM500H battery, accounting for around double the number of shots of the A380. We like the layout at the rear, most of the buttons fall naturally to hand.
Those on the top aren't quite so accessible; they're placed too far back to be reached by the busy shutter-finger, and it's tempting to use either the thumb clumsily or pull your fingers way from the grip. Equipped with just the one command dial, it has been placed within a few millimetres of the new on/off switch, surrounding the shutter release, for which it's easily mistaken in a hurry. Not only that, but it's deeply recessed. Most DSLRs have a program shift mode, you would normally nudge the command dial to alter the settings, but it's absent in the A450. Also lacking is a top plate LCD.
The rear monitor doubles as a data panel, but try as you might, the A450 won't let you select any of the settings directly using the Quick Navi screen of previous models. Instead, the Function menu is used for everyday features, but with icons at the edge of the screen to select, it's not as slick as it could be. However, it works well using the Live Preview mode, which provides a largely unobstructed view.
Although not boasting the real-estate of some models, it's not a bad screen, and has good colour, though the lowly resolution can't match the detail of the 920,000-pixel panels. It's more noticeable when using the novel MF Check Live View mode. There's a neat 7/14x magnification option to absolutely nail focus, but there's no AF let alone video. Another short-coming is the deliberate switching off of the in-body image stabilisation option, making Live View unsuitable for hand-held use in all but the brightest of light. Also surprising is the absence of mirror lock-up, which is essential for high magnification macro work.
Despite lacking the bulky flip-out screen, the optical viewfinder still sits several millimetres behind the panel, presumably due to the increased depth required for the SteadyShot Inside feature. Although this impacts negatively on the viewfinder ergonomics, it wouldn't be much of an issue if the A450 had a higher eye point.
Unfortunately, you have to get your eye as close as possible before you can see all four corners of the screen. It's reasonably bright though, and the nine-point AF system seems reliable and fast, at least with the new DT 18-55mm f/3.5-5.s Sam lens supplied for review. Build quality isn't particularly inspiring, but neither are rival offerings. The zoom action, for instance, on our sample was particularly coarse.