Sony DSLR-A350 Review

 
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Sony A350 Performance


Timing and Performance

The A350's timing performance ranges from below average to slightly above average speed for consumer SLR.

Startup/Shutdown
Power on
to first shot
1.0 second
Time it takes for camera to turn on and take a shot.
Shutdown
2.2 seconds
How long it takes to turn off.
(Timings with 266x CF Card)
Buffer clearing time
Large Fine JPEG
6 seconds
(after 3 LF 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. (*See note about memory card speeds at bottom of cycle time table below.)
Buffer clearing time
Small Basic JPEG
5 seconds
(after 20 SB JPEGs)
Buffer clearing time
RAW
14 seconds
(after 4 RAW frames)
Buffer clearing time
RAW + JPEG
16 seconds
(after 4 RAW + JPEG frames)

Startup and shut-down times are slow. Buffer clearing time depends on the image size and quality, burst length and the speed of memory card used.

 

Mode switching
Play to Record,
first shot
0.5 second
Time until first shot is captured.
Record to Play
1.7 seconds
Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.
Display
recorded image
0.5 second
Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is reasonably fast, except for Record to Play, which is notably slower than average.

 

Shutter response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus
Optical Viewfinder
0.188 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder (all AF timing done with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro lens).
Full Autofocus
Optical Viewfinder, Flash enabled
0.206 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder, with flash enabled.
Full Autofocus
Live View
0.181 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View mode.
Full Autofocus
Live View
Flash enabled
0.288 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View mode.
Prefocused
Optical Viewfinder
0.088 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.
Prefocused
Live View
0.089 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button, using Live View mode.
Continuous AF
Optical Viewfinder
0.189 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
Optical Viewfinder
0.167 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

In terms of the A350's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed is above average for a consumer model. The A350 required about 0.188 second for full AF. Continuous autofocus mode lag time was about the same, and manual focus was only slightly faster at about 0.167 second. When prefocused, shutter lag dropped to 0.088 second.

The big news is that the A350's shutter lag in Live View mode is just as fast as when using the optical viewfinder. This is because the second image sensor located in the A350's viewfinder housing alleviates the need for the additional mirror flips required by most other phase-detect Live View implementations. Other phase-detect systems need to drop the mirror, focus, and raise it again to before taking a shot in Live View mode, or employ a slower contrast-detect autofocus method using the main image sensor. Since the image sensor feeding the A350's live preview is located above the mirror, the mirror stays down until the final exposure, exactly as it does in optical viewfinder mode.

 

Cycle time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.77 second
Time per shot, averaged over 5 shots, 6 seconds to clear.
Single Shot mode
Small Basic JPEG
0.60 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 5 seconds to clear.
Single Shot mode
RAW
0.75 second
Time per shot, averaged over 5 shots, 14 seconds to clear.
Early shutter
penalty?
No
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
0.41 second
(2.44 frames/sec);
3 frames total;
6 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 3 shots. Then slows to about 1.27 seconds per frame or 0.79 fps.
Continuous mode
Small Basic JPEG
0.42 second
(2.39 frames/sec);
11 frames total;
5 second to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 11 shots. Then slows to about 0.70 second or 1.43 fps.
Continuous mode
RAW
0.42 second
(2.38 frames/sec);
4 frames total;
14 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 4 shots. Then slows to about 2.95 seconds or 0.34 fps.
Continuous mode
RAW+ LF JPEG
1.39 seconds
(0.72 frames/sec);
4 frames total;
16 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 4 shots. Then slows to about 4.36 seconds or 0.23 fps.
Flash recycling
2.56 seconds
Flash at maximum output.
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a Kingston 266x Ultimate CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. Settings such as ISO sensitivity can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance, with higher ISOs generally increasing JPEG cycle times and reducing burst performance.

Single-shot cycle time performance is about average for a consumer SLR, at about 0.8 second between shots in large/fine JPEG quality or RAW mode. Buffer depth is quite limited though, at only 5 frames for large/fine JPEGs or RAW files. Continuous mode is a bit slow at only about 2.4 frames per second, and buffer depth was also quite limited at only 3 or 4 frames for large/fine JPEGs or RAW files. (Remember, though, that these are very large, 14-megapixel files, and our test target when doing timing is designed to be difficult to compress to deliver results from a worst-case scenario.) Flash recycling after a full power shot is 2.56 seconds, which is very fast, especially considering how powerful it is.

 

Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
4,599 KBytes/sec
Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-770=USB 2.0 Low;
More than 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were also quite fast, fast enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader.


Bottom line, the Sony A350 is generally a very responsive camera, able to handle average family shots as well as some faster action. Continuous mode is a bit on the slow side, but not surprising considering the 14-megapixel files.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery

Very good battery life when using the optical viewfinder.

Test Conditions
Number of Shots
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard)
730
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
Live View
410

The Sony A350 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 730 shots per charge using the optical viewfinder is above average for an SLR. Not surprisingly, Live View mode is more power thirsty at 410 shots per charge, so we recommend getting a second battery if you plan on using Live View mode often.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of on fully-charged battery, 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 A350 stores its photos on CompactFlash memory cards, and no card is included with the camera. The chart below shows approximately how many images can be stored on a 2GB card at each size/quality setting.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
2GB Memory Card
Fine Normal
RAW
RAW
+
JPEG
4,592 x 3,056
Images
(Avg size)
395
5.2 MB
550
3.7 MB
90
22.7 MB
73
28.0 MB
Approx.
Comp.
8:1 11:1 0.9:1 -
3,408 x 2,272
Images
(Avg size)
526
3.9 MB
719
2.8 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
6:1 8:1 - -
2,288x 1,520
Images
(Avg size)
917
2.2 MB
1,166
1.8 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 6:1 - -

We strongly recommend buying a fast, large-capacity CompactFlash. You should probably consider at least a 2GB card, if not a 4GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, especially if you plan on doing a lot of RAW shooting. (Check the shopping link above, cards are cheap these days, so there's no reason to skimp -- But do consider faster cards for this camera, to reduce buffer clearing times.)

 

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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.

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