Sony DSLR-A290 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Alpha i Initial Test

Sony A290 Performance


Timing and Performance

Very good to below average speed for a consumer digital SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~0.5 second

Time it takes for camera to turn on and take a shot.

Shutdown

~2.1 seconds

How long it takes to turn off. (Slightly slow, due to dust-removal sensor shake on shutdown.)

Buffer clearing time

6 seconds *
after 18 L/F JPEGs

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't shut down until the buffer is cleared.

8 seconds *
after 7 RAW frames
9 seconds *
after 4 RAW + JPEG frames

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB SDHC memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times.

Startup time was about average for an SLR, but shutdown was a little slow (probably due to sensor cleaning). Buffer clearing time depends on the image size and quality, burst length and how fast the card can be written to. Clearing times were pretty good for an entry-level SLR.

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

~0.4 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to Play

~1.1 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.1 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching was pretty fast for a consumer SLR, though switching from Record to Play immediately after capture was a bit on the slow side.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus
Single Area (center) AF

0.198 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime).

Full Autofocus
Wide Area AF

0.200 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime).

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF, Flash enabled

0.215 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime), Auto Flash enabled.

Pre-focused

0.107 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.200 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
0.182 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "pre-focused."

Looking at the Sony A290's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed was somewhat faster than average for a consumer SLR. The A290 required about 0.198 second for full AF using the center focus point. This increased slightly to 0.200 second in wide-area AF mode. Enabling the flash raised the lag to 0.215 second, still quite fast. Continuous autofocus mode lag time was 0.200 second and manual focus was only slightly faster at about 0.182 second. When prefocused, shutter lag dropped to 0.107 second.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.

Cycle Time (shot-to-shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.50 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots; 4 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.46 second

Time per shot, averaged over 5 shots, then slows to 1.20 seconds for subsequent shots; 6 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW + JPEG

1.09 seconds

1.09 seconds for 7 shots, then slows to 1.73 seconds for subsequent shots; 6 seconds to clear.

Early shutter
penalty?

No
(Yes when buffer is full)

Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.42 second (2.36 frames per second);
18 frames total;
6 seconds to clear
Averaged over 18 shots, then slows to an average of 0.63 second or 1.58 fps for subsequent shots.

Continuous mode
RAW

0.42 second (2.38 frames per second);
7 frames total;
8 seconds to clear

Averaged over 7 shots, then slows to an average of 1.13 seconds or 0.88 fps for subsequent shots.

Continuous mode
RAW +
JPEG

0.44 second (2.26 frames per second);
4 frames total;
9 seconds to clear

Averaged over 4 shots, then slows to an average of 1.66 seconds or 0.60 fps for subsequent shots.

Flash recycling

3.7 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB SDHC memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and other settings such as DRO or NR can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times were about average for a consumer SLR at 0.50 seconds per frame for large/fine JPEGs and 0.46 second for RAW frames, but slow for RAW + JPEG frames at 1.09 seconds. Continuous mode speeds were a little slow for an SLR these days, ranging from about 2.3 to 2.4 frames-per-second depending on the image quality. Buffer depths were about average for an entry-level model at 18 JPEG frames, 7 RAW frames and 4 RAW + JPEG frames. The flash took 3.7 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is also about average.

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

9,611 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, download speeds were quite fast.

Bottom line, the Alpha 290 is a very responsive camera when it comes to autofocus and mode switching, but slower than average in continuous mode. It should be fine for most family shots, but you're very likely to notice the slower shooting speed with sports subjects.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Slightly below average battery life for a lithium-ion design.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Optical Viewfinder,
(CIPA standard)
500

The Sony Alpha 290 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Since its battery life is a bit below average even when using the optical viewfinder (though not bad for a compact, entry-level model), we recommend you pick up a spare battery and keep it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on either a fresh set of disposable batteries or a fully-charged rechargeable battery as appropriate), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Sony Alpha A290 accepts SD/SDHC or Memory Stick Duo memory cards, and no card is included with the camera.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal
RAW
RAW
+
JPEG
4,592 x 3,056
Images
(Avg size)
199
5.1 MB
277
3.7 MB
45
22.7 MB
36
28.0 MB
Approx.
Comp.
8:1 11:1 0.9:1 -
3,408 x 2,272
Images
(Avg size)
265
3.9 MB
362
2.8 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
6:1 8:1 - -
2,288x 1,520
Images
(Avg size)
462
2.2 MB
588
1.7 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 6:1 - -

We strongly recommend buying either a large capacity SDHC, or a large capacity Memory Stick Pro Duo card, at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4-8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

Sony DSLR-A290

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