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on 5 August 2009
To all first time DSLR buyers and even the lower end enthusiasts, Sony was given the chance to answer your prayers. Building on the strengths of the a350, which I will be comparing this camera to, the a380 tries to make its mark as the new kid on the block. Other than the obvious physical changes, it seems that Sony have revamped many of the core features of the old series (dare I say it), with a complete overhaul of the user interface to boost its appeal to the photography novice, while attempting to keep the more advanced features up to scratch with its Nikon/Canon/Olympus competitors.

Out of the box the a380 is almost 100 grams lighter than the a350, resembling the light-weight build quality you would find on the Nikon D90 for example. However it is important to mention now that practically none of the selling points of the camera are a drastic shift from the a350. In the reviews I had read prior to pre-ordering, I saw the quick AF in live view mode, a tilting screen and the same 14.2MP CCD. In some ways it was like reading the same reviews again. What makes the a380 250 pounds more expensive then? As previously mentioned, the layout is much better on the outside; the function and trash buttons have been shifted inwards and the ISO and drive mode buttons have been condensed into the thumb pad. This touching up makes the camera a lot neater and definitely more stylish, but do photographers really spend their money on looks over functionality?

When inserting the memory card for the first time I immediately noticed a slight difference. Instead of having to use a CF/SD adapter as with the a350, the a380 features both slots with a handy toggle selector depending on which one you want to use. The menu is fantastic. New interactive graphics make changing settings much easier; even with DSLRs it's sometimes hard to tell whether you've got the right settings until you've taken the picture. However the new display helps you get it perfect first time.

Image wise, I am very concerned. An improvement to the ISO performance as well as image sharpness was expected however not delivered. I have only owned the camera for a day but I have taken a lot of pictures and fiddled with the settings extensively and I honestly feel that no improvement has been made whatsoever after uploading.

The 100 gram slim down does no favours for the new alpha. I enjoyed the bulky, albeit creaky build of the a350, and the shed in weight has resulted in a shed of build quality. On paper, it looks more stylish with its pillowed exterior, however in the flesh it feels tackier; I utterly dislike the lackluster top plate. Moreover, the new hand grip is inadequate and fiddly to use.

Overall I question the worth of buying this camera over the a350. For the price, I don't feel I have gained anything new. Trading in my a350 in the name of photography may have been a mistake and I regret not waiting for the price to drop as it is essentially the same camera with a bit of cheap makeup thrown all over it. I'm sure the price will drop significantly over time but if you are looking for a great DSLR now, save yourself the £250 and go for the a350 instead.
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on 17 April 2010
This is my first DSLR camera and I looked into lots of options before buying at a very good price (approx £410).

So far I love it - picture quality is excellent and it's extremely easy to use, including the software provided. Although I've a basic understanding of all the functions this is still the first SLR I've owned and the display makes things so clear and simple I'm confident taking good pics in any situation. e.g. when changing aperture/shutter speed you've got a picture guide to show which setting is right for the scenario and it couldn't be clearer.

There are a lot of good independent reviews on youtube for most good cameras including this one. I'd originally been slightly sceptical about a sony lens as they've arguably not got the pedigree as some other brands, but these concerns were appeased by what the reviewers and "experts" were saying.

The pop-out display was what made me buy this one in the end and it is quite useful - more so than expected. If they could create one that can move left and right as well as up and down then it would be even better!

In short it's a top camera in my opinion. As a beginner it caters for all my needs and I couldn't be happier!
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on 19 November 2009
I am a huge photography enthusiast and I have been trading beginner DSLRs for a while now. I first started with the A350, then made the HUGE mistake of exchanging it for the somewhat laughable A380 (probably due to my own lack of patience for a new model to come along), and I have now settled on what I believe to be `the one'. After what seemed to be a failed attempt at an across-the-board revamp of the alpha line, Sony have now pushed the boat out to the horizon and created something very special.

The A550, with its increased size over the A380, feels like a return to normality, almost like an upgrade to a better A350, only this time competing with the enthusiast range offered by the likes of Nikon and Olympus. With the sweet exception of the new MF check live view system, the core features of the Alpha remain largely untouched. First and foremost, the 14.2MP CCD has finally been updated to the increasingly popular APS-C CMOS. However, I must point out some key differences between the two. Traditionally, CCDs are more powerful and are capable of producing much higher quality images. The CMOS is much more efficient when it comes to collecting the image data due to the presence of `collector' transistors across the chip (the CCD only collects at one corner). However, this makes them less sensitive as photons hit some of these transistors instead of the photodiodes, thus making them more susceptible to noise. My guess would be that Sony, amongst others, opted for greater processing speed and the fact that the CMOS consumes up to one hundred times less power.

The next areas of interest are the display and the shooting modes. Sony seem to have ditched their previous attempts at a rework of the user interface, opting for a new, more practical approach (I point a jovial finger at the ability to change the colour scheme on the A380). The modes are intuitively laid out on-screen, advising the user on which conditions best suite each mode. Moreover, the resolution has been increased from 230K to 921K dots. The A550 now offers 5fps shooting in live view and 7fps when using the viewfinder. This is a major improvement over the 3.5fps available on the older A350 model. As previously mentioned, the system uses considerably less power than its predecessors. Not only this, but the battery has been upgraded to allow 1000 shots with the viewfinder. This almost entirely eliminates the need for carrying a spare battery, albeit prudent.

Structure-wise, the camera feels as sturdy as its features promise. Much like the A350 rivalling the D60, the A550 competes against the D90. One feature that makes Alphas unique from the rest is that the cheaper models borrow a lot from their older sisters in terms of their functionality. The A550 really does create an air of professionalism about it: The sensor resolution, the continuous shooting, the fast autofocus and the new MF check live view. The last feature needs some clarification; Independent of what mode the user is on, the mirror does not stay up, rather it reflexes as per usual as the shutter takes a snapshot of the subject (as opposed to a truly live preview).

Unlike the A380, the A550 has actually improved in terms of the quality of the images it produces. Setting aside the fact that there is yet to be a video mode featured across the Alpha range, various features have been updated. Compared to the A380's ISO100-3200, the A550 has a range of ISO200-12,800 (I suspect that a setting of ISO100 isn't required due to the presence of the already less sensitive CMOS chip). Super Steady Shot Inside remains one of Sony's crown jewels. The introduction of High Dynamic Range (HDR) means that photos can be taken with several exposure settings at once, then superimposed on each other accordingly to produce the optimal tonal range. The live view system is still class-leading, with the brilliant tilt mechanism nested in the pentaprism allowing live view without the need to move the mirror and eradicating any subsequent lag. The viewfinder seems to be one of the last remaining vestiges of the A350 that let the camera down. Sony still hasn't redesigned the viewfinder and it remains pokey and inadequate. Noise levels in the images seem (perhaps surprisingly?) to have improved, with a huge step up in quality during poorly lit conditions.

It could be said that the A550 is to the A380 as Windows 7 is to Windows Vista; this is how Sony wanted it, and they certainly seem to have achieved it. With the exception of a few relatively minor setbacks such as the non-essential video mode and the viewfinder, as well as the ever bony handgrip, there is grandeur in the A550, setting it far apart from many other similarly priced cameras in the market. This Alpha breaks into the enthusiast's court with its very impressive features and usability. Whether you have been snapping for a while, or you are a beginner seeking to plunge into something big straight away, the A550 is the camera for you.

N.B. I wish to point out, in retrospect, that this review is not a comparison of the A380 DSLR, since it is a lower model.
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on 11 September 2009
We tried this camera but decided on the cheaper 10MP version (the A330) and as far as we are concerned, the A330 has much better image quality

This should have come as no great surprise really because I also felt that this also applied to the A300 vs the A350 (the previous generation), if you were happy with the image quality of the A350 then fine, but the A330 in my opinion is cleaner, sharper and produces more consumer friendly punchy images from the camera.

I can see no reason to recommend this camera over the cheaper A330 as it has an identical featureset and offers nothing extra, other than on paper...more resolution, but I cant really say that I can see that either

I happen to really like the design, menus and operation of this camera, and the live view implementation from Sony is brilliant...the best of any of the DSLR manufacturers and if the A330 did not exist, then I might even say it was a decent camera, but whilst this camera is just reasonable, the A330 is great in my opinion

So bottom line is A330 is great, A380 is the same camera but with inferior image quality....so simple, save yourself some money and get the A330 instead, I have reviewed the A330 as well if you are interested

So I give this one an "average" rating
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on 9 April 2010
On retirement in 2000 I disposed of my Canon EOS and Bronica equipment and reverted to a Ricoh GR which in time was replaced by a number of small digital cameras, I had few regrets. Two months ago a friend showed me his newly purchased Sony Alpha A380L DSLR Camera, I was smitten and immediately purchased one. I had no experience of other makers products nor made any comparisons. The 380 felt absolutely `right' in my hands and I quickly mastered the controls, something I never achieved with smaller digi cameras. Whilst I am perfectly satisfied with this camera I fully appreciate this review may not be a lot of help to others. I would however, suggest that you should handle one prior to purchase.
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on 2 December 2009
Wheras with the A230/A330/A380, the A330 is the standout model....I would be hard pressed to say which of the two A5xx models I prefer, they are both really good, but in the end, I opted for this one...the A550....and very good it is too

The A550 is a bigger camera than the A330 (my other Alpha), but is somewhat smaller than the A700, personally I think the A550 is just right, having a comfortable grip and the option of a vertical grip if required, this camera is well suited to big photoshoots...and its really fast, the A550 will blast out 7 frames per second using the optical viewfinder and even in live view mode will shoot at 5 frames per second, now that is fast enough for me.

The A550 has a really excellent LCD, which is even better than the already good LCD on the A500, very bright and clear with high resolution, and as with other Alphas the LCD is articulated allowing shooting at angles that could not be attempted with an Optical viewfinder (such as overhead for example)....Now you may read elsewhere that the optical viewfinder is poor.....well that all depends on what you are used to....because of the unique Sony Live view system, which is widely accepted to be the best implemented of any manufacturer, this does compromise the size of the optical viewfinder somewhat....but dont beleive reports about the viewfinder being really bad...its not, it is just a little smaller than some other cams, but still pretty good, I find the viewfinder to be perfectly acceptable , and the upside is that you get an excellent live view system.....quick definition of Live-view....LV is the ability to frame your shot on the LCD as you can with a compact or a digicam, previous DSLRs have not had this ability, instead you could only use the viewfinder to shoot....Sony allow you to choose to use the LCD or the optical viewfinder by flicking a switch, and in this respect, the camera can be used in a manner much more like a bridge/compact camera, if that is what you are used to.

Battery life, particularly if you use the optical viewfinder is outstanding....literally hundreds and hundreds of shots...I havent counted, but I would estimate between 500-1000, and even in Live view mode, the battery just seems to last forever, there is also an optional vertical grip that takes extra batteries for extended shooting....but I cant imagine ever needing it really...it does give the camera a purposeful Pro feel though

Kit lens is excellent (18-55) this is a big improvement on the previous 18-70 kit lens (which I didnt like), this new lens is standard with all the new Alpha kits....and it is a worthy offering that is a keeper ...its a really respectable lens...no complaints

Twin memory card slots for SD and Sony Memory stick...there is a little switch inside the cover that swaps cards, I like this, it gives you a backup card slot, and also the ability to seperate your shots on to different cards, recently, at a wedding, my friend borrowed the camera half way through a shoot, I flicked the swich, all his shots went on to the memory stick, all mine were on the SD card...I then just gave him the memory stick....just a small thing, but I like it.

No complaints whatever about the image quality, all modern DSLRs are good now, this camera is no exception with very good high ISO results (low light) and even in dull conditions, if you need to use really fast shutter speeds, you can safely jack up the ISO to 1800 or more and use super fast shutter speeds with great results...I cant imagine many people having any issues with the photo quality

OK....only problem is, I am struggling to think of any negatives....but I have to put some just for the sake of balance.....no video (not really a negative, but some other cameras have it), Optical viewfinder smaller than some competing cameras...but the Live View is by far the best....so that cancels out in my opinion...and thats it !!.....the best APS-C Alpha so far ?......hmmmmmm....yes I think so, well the A500 is also great..but this one just has the edge
All in All....thoroughly recommended by me
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on 27 June 2011
I owned a Sony Digital camera, until recently, when some piece of filth broke into my house and stole it, along with all the gadgets, which were in the bag. I replaced it with a Sony A380L, good choice. Its an upgrade (or so I understand), but so much easier to use. Very good.
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on 6 June 2013
I owned an alpha 200 and managed to damage it, but I have a lot of lenses and needed to upgrade. this was within my budget and it was delivered within 3 days
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