Sony DSLR-A380 Review

 
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Sony A380 Performance


Timing and Performance

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

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

0.6 second

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

Shutdown

2.0 seconds

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

Buffer clearing time

5 seconds *
after 20+ 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.

10 seconds *
after 10 RAW frames
12 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 is about average for an SLR, but shutdown is 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 are pretty good for a consumer camera.

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.4 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to Play

1.3 seconds

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

Display
recorded image

0.3 second

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

Mode switching is 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

0.204 second

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

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF, Flash enabled

0.285 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
0.195 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
0.192 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."
Full Autofocus
Single Area  AF
Live View mode
0.196 second

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

Pre-focused
Live View mode

0.107 second

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

Looking at the A380's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed is faster than average for a consumer model. The A380 required about 0.198 second for full AF using the center focus point. This increased slightly to 0.204 second in wide-area AF mode. Enabling the flash raised the lag to 0.285 second, still quite fast. Continuous autofocus mode lag time was 0.195 second and manual focus was only slightly faster at about 0.192 second. When prefocused, shutter lag dropped to 0.107 second.

The nice thing about Sony's Live View implementation is that shutter lag in Live View mode is just as fast as when using the optical viewfinder. (In this case, full AF was slightly faster, at 0.196 second.) This is because the second image sensor located in the A380'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 A380's live preview is located above the mirror, the mirror stays down until the final exposure, exactly as it does in optical viewfinder mode. As noted elsewhere, though, the downside of this type of Live View implementation is lower accuracy for the Live View viewfinder display.

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
0.74 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.67 second

Time per shot, averaged over 9 shots, then slows to 1.29 seconds for subsequent shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW + JPEG

0.66 second

0.66 second for 2 shots, then slows to 2.10 seconds for subsequent shots.

Early shutter
penalty?

YES

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
0.58 second (1.73 frames per second);
50+ frames total;
5 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots. Buffer takes 5 seconds to clear, but seemed to be able to keep up, no matter how many frames we shot. (We stopped at ~50)

Continuous mode
RAW

0.58 second (1.73 frames per second);
10 frames total;
10 seconds to clear

0.58 second for the first 10 frames, then 1.27 seconds (0.79 fps) for subsequent shots.

Continuous mode
RAW +
JPEG

0.58 second (1.73 frames per second);
4 frames total;
12 seconds to clear

0.58 second for the first 4 frames, then 1.99 seconds (0.50 fps) for subsequent shots.

Flash recycling

4.0 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 a little slow for an SLR, at 0.74 seconds per frame for large/fine JPEGs, 0.67 second for RAW and 0.66 second for RAW + JPEG frames. Continuous mode speeds are also quite slow for an SLR these days (but not too surprising given the large files), at about 1.73 frames-per-second for any quality. Buffer depths are pretty good for a consumer model though, with essentially no limit (50+) for JPEG frames with a fast card, 10 RAW frames and 4 RAW + JPEG frames. The flash takes 4 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which isn't bad. As noted earlier, buffer clearing times are pretty fast as well.

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

6,719 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 are quite speedy, although the A380 for some reason tested out with slower download times than the Sony A230 and A330, which we reviewed at roughly the same time.

Bottom line, the Alpha 380 is a very responsive camera when it comes to autofocus, but slower than average in continuous mode. The A380 is very similar in speed to the A230 and A330, except in cycle times where it's slower, due no doubt to its higher resolution and the larger image files that result. 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
Live View LCD,
(CIPA standard)
230

The Sony Alpha 380 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, we recommend you pick up a spare battery and keep it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings. If you plan to use Live View much, you'll definitely want to have a spare battery to bring along.

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 A380 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-A380

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