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Sony Alpha A380L review

Ben Pitt
2 Jan 2010
Sony Alpha A380L
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
460
inc VAT

A few welcome touches, but the 14-megapixel resolution does more to damage image quality than improve it compared with the similar A330.

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Specifications

23.5x15.7mm 14.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 700g

The A380 is in danger of getting lost in Sony's digital SLR line up, which includes six models at under £1,000. It's very similar to the A330 but has a 14- rather than a 10-megapixel sensor.

The HDMI output is a major attraction. We never use analogue AV outputs on digital cameras because the quality is so poor, but HDMI is far superior. Sony's implementation is better than most, allowing you to control the camera's slideshow function with the TV's remote control. Slideshow playback over HDMI is at 1,920x1,080 pixels, taking advantage of a Full HD TV's resolution. The HDMI socket can also stream live view previews, but only at a 720x576 resolution.

With a body-only price that pitches it against Canon's EOS 500D and Nikon's D5000, it's disappointing that the A380 has no video capture, as is the case with all Sony DSLRs. Another disappointment is the relative lack of physical controls. There are no dedicated buttons for white balance or autofocus point, and there's no exposure lock function at all. An Fn button brings up a menu of six photographic options including autofocus, white balance and metering area, but adjusting these settings requires more button pushes than on other cameras. Most worrying of all is the shape of the handgrip. For reasons that we can't fathom, it's around half the height of the camera. The sloped top edge made the camera feel as if it would slip out of our hand.

The quoted 2.5fps continuous speed is nothing to get excited about. We measured 2.3fps in our tests, which continued until the card was full for JPEGs and fell to 1.2fps after 12 shots in RAW mode. With no focus-assist lamp, autofocus was often slow in dim light. However, as with other Sony SLRs, the A380 has a trick up its sleeve to improve its perceived performance. A sensor just below the viewfinder detects when the camera is raised to the eye, and this not only switches off the LCD screen but also instigates the autofocus. As a result, autofocus often gave the impression of being instantaneous. The only downside is that the camera often attempted to focus as we tried to remove the lens cap, sending the cap spinning in our grasp, and forcing us to remember to remove it before switching on.

The A380 failed to impress in our image quality tests. Subtle textures in brightly lit shots were a little vague compared with those from the best cameras at this price. The difference was usually insignificant but it's interesting to note that this 14-megapixel camera captured no more detail than its 10-megapixel sibling, the A330. Meanwhile, high-ISO shots taken in low light lacked detail, even compared with the A330, and suffered from blotchy noise in shaded areas. With such a long list of reservations, we can't find any justification for recommending this camera.

Basic Specifications

Rating**
CCD effective megapixels14.0 megapixels
CCD size23.5x15.7mm
Viewfinderoptical TTL
LCD screen size2.7in
LCD screen resolution230,400 pixels
Optical zoom3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent27-82.5mm
Image stabilisationoptical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution4,592x3,056
Maximum movie resolutionN/A
Movie frame rate at max qualityN/A
File formatsJPEG, RAW

Physical

Memory slotSDHC, Memory Stick Pro Duo
Mermory suppliednone
Battery type6.8V 870mAh Li-ion
Battery Life (tested)500 shots
ConnectivityUSB, mini HDMI, DC in
Body materialplastic
AccessoriesUSB cable, neck strap
Weight700g
Size97x128x71mm

Buying Information

Price£460
Supplier
Detailswww.sony.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed30 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/3.5 to f/22 (wide), f/5.6 to f/36 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution)100 to 3200
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 6 presets, manual
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, dynamic range, colour space
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus25cm
Auto-focus modes9-point
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket

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