Most helpful critical review
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Good value, but a step backwards in some ways
on 23 May 2013
I had a chance to use the A58 for a few days so will convey my thoughts on the camera; as a Minolta/Sony user I have quite an investment in the system, and have used a lot of camera bodies from Sony and other makers. I tend to be more on the fussy side v some reviewers, so bear that in mind when reading my reviews. I'll be comparing it directly to the A57 which was the previous model, the information here allows you to make an informed choice about if this camera meets your needs. Like all cameras it can take nice photos.
I'll kick off with my usual pros and cons list.
+ 20mp sensor is decent (but I feel it's not improved v the 16mp CMOS) 4mp isn't much of a step up either in low light or other areas dynamic range.
+ AF is fast, but accuracy was not as good as the A57 I have, could be sample variation or more cost cutting to parts used.
+ Battery life is better than previous SLT Models from Sony, they say 690 odd for the viewfinder and in field use the battery life is quite good and somewhat better than the A57
+ EVF is now an OLED type v the previous model LCD, this removes the "rainbow" effect you got on the LCD EVF's if you moved your eye quickly across the frame. The resolution is the same as the A57's EVF, but it's now quite a bit smaller in size. Still has issues in bright contrasty light as do the other EVF's
+ Auto ISO in M is now available, users were asking for this for some time
+ Bracketing is now a much more respectable 3.0 EV v the previous 0.7 which is way better. (3 frames, but 5 frames at max 0.7. Would be great to have 5 frames at up to 3.0 EV but this is an improvement
+ Kit lens has a quieter (but not silent) SAM motor v the previous 18-55mm, build is better too. Optics looked the same to me as the older kit lens. At 20mp you really need something better here, but it's ok to start you off.
+ Has a new Auto Object Framing, which is similar to the Auto Portrait Framing on previous models. I don't use these features much as I feel they are gimmicky.
+ Supports tethering, but I didn't have a chance to try this (ie remote control from pc to camera) Still seems odd to me that this budget model has this, but Sony's premium A77 doesn't.
+ Has wireless flash and HSS as per all previous Alpha models, and still supports screw driven lenses with the in body motor.
+ Metering is mostly consistent and overall tends to give somewhat more exposure than previous SLT models I've used (not a bad thing) keep an eye in high contrast shooting conditions though
- Plastic lens mount, this is the first time a DSLR has ever had a fully plastic lens mount (only super budget 35mm film bodies had it before) and it is most unwelcome. Other makers have "full metal mounts" and I see no reason for penny pinching here from Sony.
- Build is a step down from the A57 too, rather than the speckled nicer finish Sony have gone for a cheaper/less dense smooth plastic one and it doesn't feel as solid. The body is a bit smaller than the A57, and not as comfortable, but it's "ok" for a budget camera. It won't fall apart, but you can feel they cut the build back a bit.
- The rubber looking rear thumb pad is in actual fact just plastic with a texture on it.
- Tiny buffer of just 6 frames in raw. This compares quite badly with the A57's rather big 20+ raw buffer. I got about 10 frames at 5fps in jpeg fine with a Sandisk Extreme 45mb/s card, that's not really very good and well below the A57 and rival bodies.
- FPS cut down to 5fps for full resolution images and 8 fps for crop v the 8/10fps full res and 12fps on the A57. Sony have lost one appeal point of the SLT design the fps is now just normal and not crazy fast.
- 2.7" LCD is single hinged and resolution is down to 460k dots, that's better than the A37's low res LCD, but it's smaller than the 3" one one the A57 and half the resolution. By no means bad, quite usable - just another step backwards. The previous model has a double hinge too so another area where it's been downgraded. (and you can't turn the LCD in to the body to protect it)
- No IR remote port, and no standard wired remote! The normal wired remote has been used since Minolta days and across Sony's DSLR/SLT range for a while, it's of no use here as there is no port! The IR remote won't work either. The only option is a new remote (and quite expensive too) that fits on in a new multi port on the side (RM-VPR1 is the part you are looking for)
- No level gauge, this has been taken out of the A58 which is a shame as it was quite useful
- Video mode has no 50p option it's now a 50i only (25p is available), 3D panoramic feature removed also.
- Usual annoyances like the nag screens and not being able to use certain modes with raw are still here. Jpeg processing is said to be better, but I didn't notice any significant improvement, again stick to raw to get the best out of the camera. Sony moved the exp comp button to the back (which is fine) but put the zoom button near the shutter, again this button is quite useless if you shoot raw and the limited customisation issues on the A57 are still here too.
On a side note the Multi Interface Hot shoe, is a proprietary hot shoe based on the Standard ISO shoe. However Sony have added front contacts to the hot shoe, and an off central sync port (other makers have one exactly in the middle) this means some standard ISO hot shoe accessories (like radio triggers) might not fit fully as the front contacts are "in the way". This is a mixed moved IMO, and will mean that most A mount compatible flashes need an adaptor to work with these new hot shoe cameras. So bear that in mind if you have other Alpha/Minolta models around. There is now some third party support for the new shoe (Metz have a few models and Sigma have updated the shoe on some, double check though some stocks might have the older shoe)
So overall we have (mostly) a cut down A57, with a model number that suggests it's an update! To be fair there are some improvements here, better bracketing, new OLED EVF, Auto ISO in M. But countered with some downsides too, lower fps, smaller lower res LCD, plastic mount, no IR or wired remote, much smaller buffer. It feels like Sony really cut too many corners on this model. 3 steps forward and 5 backwards. If you can hunt around and find an A57/65 that might prove a better longer term bet. Whilst I was ok using the camera, I found the A57 overall a better rounded and more capable camera, and would not replace it with this model.
Really it's more an A38 than an A58. With a big price drop over time it might be worth a look as an inexpensive second body/back up (maybe at £250 odd).
The price is falling on this model not quite to the £250 level but not far off, at that price it's a reasonable buy but a bit of a shame a few corners were cut (esp buffer size which renders the fast fps rather redundant) and I'm not a fan of plastic lens mounts. Still if you are looking for a bargain A mount body this is a bit more appealing now.
Plan on getting something a bit better than the 18-55mm kit lens it's not going to get you anywhere near the advertised 20mp of the camera ok for a first lens but you'll need something sharper if you grow into this later on. Not a bad super budget offering in a lot of ways if you're not too fussed about some of the weaker areas.