As the title says.. I FINALLY got a Digital SLR camera, this was another piece of equipment along with the video camera which my friends just couldn't understand why I didn't already have one. Well it's very easy actually, I was waiting for something that gives me the Live View experience which normal Digital Cameras are able to give me. Due to the nature of how an SLR camera works, there wasn't a perfect implementation of Live View in a Digital SLR that was acceptable for me.
The one which I had most experience with was the Live View mode of my friend's Nikon D300, it worked.. you saw on screen what the sensor was seeing. Until you hold the shutter button halfway down and try to focus, at that point Live View is stopped as the auto focus mechanism needs to see the image. This might be acceptable to a seasoned photographer who might just use Live View as a framing aid, but if I let my wife handle the camera she'd probably go WTF? when that happens and then stop taking pictures of me and WZ.
So.. which camera is it that managed to convince me that while it gives me the quality and performance of an DSLR it is still able to give me Live View that's just as good on a consumer point and shoot camera?
It's the Sony A350. It's Live View feature is almost as good as a consumer digital camera's. Here's a little video of it in action.
Compared to the only other DSLR Live View I've seen on the Nikon D300, this is fantastic! On the D300 using Live View slows down your focus time because of the time it takes for the focus mechanism to come online while you're using Live View. But on the A350, using Live View doesn't bring about any real disadvantages other than.. well.. shorter battery life :P
How does this work? Well you can read up on the theory on a real camera review site, the point has been beaten to death all over the net already. Here's a link to save you the time to run the search. It's ALMOST as good as a consumer digital camera's Live View because it doesn't show you the EXACT image that the sensor will capture due to the way it works (again.. read the link for the details)
I'm not a seasoned photographer so I can't actually provide a review on how good the camera is.. how's the lens quality, etc. etc. So I'm going to approach it from the point of a new user entering the SLR world.
The A350 doesn't feel too heavy, but it doesn't feel cheap too so you won't feel like you bought a toy when you hold it in your hands. The kit lens supplied has these specifications.
I asked a friend about what the numbers mean but I've forgotten already, but if you're an SLR user this is probably something you want to know.
The mode dial shows the market segment that the A350 is target for.
To quote my friend "The camera has an AUTO mode, it's an entry level camera" Other than the usual P, A, S, M modes (if you have to ask what does that mean, read a photography site! ;)) There are presets for a number of scenarios, again this is meant to help people who don't have a good understanding of how to control the camera's aperture and shuttle speed.
Another neat trick of the A350 is that the display tilts.
It can tilt upwards 90 degrees and roughly 15 degrees downward. My friend says that this is VERY useful indeed. But he also comments that tilt mechanism cause the screen to bulge out a bit and thus it's a bit harder to press your eye on the viewfinder cause your nose hits the screen first.
You might have noticed that I've been constantly referring to comments made by my friend, well that's the thing. I knew I am not the best person to talk about the camera. But my friend as a seasoned photographer who has been taking photos for a while is. My idea was to record his comments on video and post it here, that's when he chickened out.
Since I wasn't taking notes I'll just dump a summary of his comments. I'm sure he'll correct me if I got anything wrong.
The build quality is nice and the camera feels good when you hold it. The camera's performance is not too bad for an entry level DSLR. The Live View is EXTREMELY COOL! The tilting screen is useful but if only it tilted horizontally as well. It's a bit too small for his hands, but the additional vertical grip would change that. It's a nice camera for people who are starting out with DSLR photography but given the availability and cost of the lenses and accessories it's likely that they'll graduate to other manufacturer's cameras.
For me, I bought the camera because even though I wanted the fast performance and quality of a DSLR I wasn't willing to give up the Live View of a consumer digital camera. It's an added plus that in AUTO mode the camera can be used by my wife (who says "Why the heck would I be taking photos with this heavy thing?") when necessary.
That said.. I need to highlight a few qualms I have with the camera. first of which is...
It comes with a NON MINI-A USB port!!! Yes.. it's unlikely I'd be using this at all.. but it would have make me feel safe in the knowledge that all I need is a standard USB cable to transfer files if I forgotten the reader.
The 2nd is that in the plethora of advertisements that came with the camera was this..
Not only is the site NOT what it's supposed to be it seems like the people now sitting at that domain don't really have very good intentions at all!!
Lastly.. SONY DIDN'T GIVE ME A POWER CABLE IN MY BOX!!! Yes, they gave me a charger, but they didn't give me the wire that leads from the charger to the 2 pin plug.. gheeezzz! Luckily I had a spare lying around!
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