Sony DSLR-A350 Review
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Sony A350 Exposure
The Sony A350 offers very good exposure control, with fairly fine-grained adjustment of image attributes like sharpness, contrast, and color saturation, as well as extensive White Balance offerings. The Exposure Mode dial on the top panel selects the main shooting mode, offering Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program AE (Program Shift), Full Auto, Flash Off, and six Scene settings.
Sony A350 Exposure Modes
In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure, except for flash, zoom, and focus; but rather uniquely you can actually adjust every setting in the Function menu, including Flash, Autofocus, White balance, Metering, AF area, and Dynamic Range Optimization modes.
The Flash Off mode operates just like Auto, but disables the flash regardless of the lighting conditions.
Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of the exposure, while you have control over all other exposure options. While in Program AE mode, you can rotate the control dial with or without holding the Exposure Compensation button to scroll through a range of equivalent exposure settings. Thus, you can bias your exposure toward a faster shutter speed or greater depth of field as circumstances dictate.
Aperture Priority mode lets you select the lens aperture setting, while the camera selects the most appropriate corresponding shutter speed.
In Shutter Priority mode, the user selects the shutter speed, from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, while the camera chooses the best corresponding aperture setting.
Switching to Manual mode gives you control over both shutter speed and aperture, with a Bulb setting available for longer exposures. Exposure time in Bulb mode is determined by how long you hold down the Shutter button. There doesn't appear to be any limit to the duration of Bulb exposures, but it appears that the dark-frame subtraction will only compensate for exposures up to 30 seconds long. (I strongly recommend use of the optional wired remote in Bulb mode, as the pressure of your finger on the Shutter button is bound to jiggle the camera somewhat, blurring the image.)
Sony A350 Scene Modes
The six Scene modes include Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, and Night Portrait/Night View. Each optimizes the camera's exposure, white balance, and image processing systems for the particular program. Portrait biases toward wider apertures to defocus the background while capturing warm, soft skin tones. Sports Action maximizes shutter speeds with Continuous Autofocus and Continuous Advance Drive modes. Landscape produces sharp, colorful shots of outdoor scenery. Sunset handles the rich warm palettes of sunsets. The Macro setting boosts color in smaller subjects, and Night Portrait balances ambient light with the flash; turning off the flash enters Night View mode, which maintains a dark background when presented with night scenery.
Sony A350 Metering Modes
The Sony A350 offers three metering modes: Multi-segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot. The default metering mode takes readings throughout the image to determine exposure. Center-Weighted gives precedence to the center of the image while reading the whole frame. Spot metering options are also available via the Metering Mode dial on the rear panel. Spot metering, useful for high-contrast subjects, bases the exposure reading on the very center of the image, letting you set the exposure based on a small portion of your subject. You can also lock an exposure reading by pressing the AE Lock button on the back panel. Halfway pressing the Shutter button also locks exposure and focus, but only in autofocus mode.
Sony A350 ISO Range, Noise Reduction, and Exposure Compensation
The Sony A350's light sensitivity can be set to ISO equivalents of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600 or 3,200, or it can be left in Auto mode for the camera to adjust as it sees fit.
A Noise Reduction option is available both for longer exposures and higher ISO settings, and greatly reduces the amount of image noise that would otherwise result.
Exposure compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments by turning the Control dial while pressing the Exposure Compensation button, which displays the scale and setting on the LCD monitor. Two Auto Exposure Bracketing options are available. Bracket: Continuous snaps three shots in rapid succession if you hold down the shutter, varying the exposure between each in steps of 0.3 or 0.7 EV units. If you only shoot one shot in this mode, it keeps shooting just the unmodified shot, which is great when you only want to bracket occasionally. Bracket: Single takes one shot per shutter squeeze at each setting, separated by either 0.3 or 0.7 EV.
Sony A350 White Balance Options
The Sony A350 offers convenient control over white balance, color rendition, and tonal range. You adjust white balance through the Function menu, which offers Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Color Temperature or Custom settings. Auto lets the camera choose the white balance itself. Within the preset modes, you can also fine tune the white balance by pressing the right and left arrow keys. Custom allows you to calibrate the camera to a specific lighting situation by pointing to a white or neutral object. Color Temperature lets you select a specific color temperature in degrees Kelvin. You can apply color filters to really tune your white balance between green and magenta bias. There's also a White Balance Bracketing mode, with options of High and Low adjustment. With each frame captured, three shots are saved with three different white balance settings.
Sony A350 Creative Style Menu
The Creative Style menu option under the Record menu offers a selection of presets for varying subjects, including Standard (faithful color reproduction), Vivid (increased contrast and sharpness), Portrait (optimized skin tones), Landscape (optimized daytime outdoor scenery), Night View (optimized for nighttime scenery without flash), Sunset (optimized landscapes at dusk or dawn), Black & White, and Adobe RGB. Within each preset, you can manually adjust the image contrast, saturation, and sharpness in five steps from -2 to +2 arbitrary units.
Sony A350 Drive Modes
The Sony A350's Drive Mode button on the top panel accesses a range of shooting modes, including Single Frame Advance, Continuous Advance, 10-second, and Two-second Self-timer modes, Continuous Advance Bracketing, Single Frame Bracketing, and White Balance Bracketing. The first two bracketing modes access the camera's Auto Exposure Bracketing system. In Continuous Advance mode, the Sony A350 captures a rapid series of images, with a maximum frame rate of 2.44 frames per second (in our tests). White Balance Bracketing saves a series of images for each shot taken with bracketed white balance values.
The shorter, two-second self-timer mode delay is very handy when you need to prop the camera on something to take a photo in dim lighting, and don't want the pressure of your finger on the shutter button to jiggle the camera. The 10-second delay is long enough that you can run around to get into the photo yourself. An LED lamp on the front of the A350 blinks and the camera beeps as the 10-second Self-Timer is counting down, the blink and beeps becoming faster in the last few seconds.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
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Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.