Sony DSLR-A560 Review

 
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Sony A560 Performance


Timing and Performance

Average to very good speed for a consumer digital SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~0.7 second

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

Shutdown

1.5 seconds

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

Buffer clearing time

10 seconds *
after 19 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
11 seconds *
after 7 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 times are a bit slow side, but reasonable for a consumer model.

 

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

~0.5 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to Play

~1.0 second

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

Display
recorded image

~0.7 second

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

Mode switching was about average for a consumer SLR.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus
Single Area (center) AF

0.295 second

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

Full Autofocus
Wide Area AF

0.307 second

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

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF, Flash enabled

0.392 second

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

Pre-focused

0.083 second

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

Continuous AF
0.293 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
0.290 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
Quick AF
Live View mode
0.196 second

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

Focus Check
Phase-detect AF
Live View mode
0.629 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with 18-55mm kit lens).

Focus Check
Contrast-detect AF
Live View mode
1.711 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with 18-55mm kit lens).

Looking at the Sony A560's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed was a little slower than average for a consumer model when using the optical viewfinder. The A560 required about 0.295 second for full AF using the center focus point. This increased slightly to 0.307 second in wide-area AF mode. Enabling the flash raised the lag to 0.392 second, as the flash metering preflashes add some delay. Continuous autofocus mode lag time was 0.293 second and manual focus was only slightly faster at about 0.290 second. When prefocused, shutter lag dropped to 0.083 second, which is quite fast.

The nice thing about Sony's "Quick AF" Live View implementation is that shutter lag in Live View mode is just as fast as when using the optical viewfinder (we measured 0.196 second for single-area full AF lag, which is actually quite a bit faster). This is because the second image sensor located in the A560'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 A560'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 Quick AF Live View viewfinder display.

The Sony A560's new Focus Check AF mode produced lags similar to other SLR manufacturers' Live View modes, at about 0.63s for phase-detect mode, and 1.7 seconds for contrast-detect, both using the kit lens.

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
0.58 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.57 second

Time per shot, averaged over 11 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW + JPEG

0.58 second

Time per shot, averaged over 8 shots.

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 Hi mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.20 second (5.00 frames per second);
19 frames total;
10 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 19 shots, then slows to an average of 0.60s or 1.68 fps.
Speed Priority
Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.14 second (7.10 frames per second);
13 frames total;
7 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 13 shots, then slows to an average of 0.59s or 1.69 fps.

Speed Priority
Continuous mode
RAW

0.14 second (7.14 frames per second);
7 frames total;
8 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 7 shots, then slows to an average of 1.11s or 0.90 fps.

Speed Priority
Continuous mode
RAW +
JPEG

0.14 second (7.14 frames per second);
7 frames total;
11 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 7 shots, then slows to an average of 1.58s or 0.63 fps.

Flash recycling

3.3 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 sluggish for an SLR, at 0.58 second per frame for large/fine JPEGs or RAW+ JPEG files, and 0.57 second for RAW frames. Continuous mode speeds were quite good for a consumer SLR (especially given the large files), at 5 frames-per-second for large/fine JPEGs. Speed Priority mode was exceptionally fast for a consumer model, at about 7.1 frames per second, though autofocus and exposure is locked at the first frame of a burst in that mode.

JPEG buffer depth in Continuous Hi mode was pretty good for a consumer model, at 19 frames with a fast card. You'll likely do better, as our target for this test is difficult to compress. Buffer depths were quite limited in Speed Priority mode, at 13 large/fine JPEGs, 7 RAW and 7 RAW + JPEG frames, which means bursts are pretty short at 7.1 frames per second. The flash took 3.3 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is good.

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

16,095 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 very fast; definitely fast enough that you will likely not feel the need for a card reader.

Bottom line, the Sony Alpha 560 is faster than the average consumer SLR when it comes to Live View autofocus (in "Quick AF" mode) and burst speeds, but is average in most other respects.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Excellent battery life for a lithium-ion powered SLR.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Optical Viewfinder,
(CIPA standard)
1,050
Live View LCD,
(CIPA standard)
560

The Sony Alpha 560 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Battery life is a well above average when using the optical viewfinder, and quite good in Live View mode. Still, 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 A560 accepts SD cards including SDHC and SDXC types, or Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards. No card is included with the camera.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
1GB SD Memory Card
Fine Normal
RAW
RAW
+
JPEG
4,592 x 3,056
Images
(Avg size)
163
6.3 MB
230
4.4 MB
66
15.3 MB
47
21.7 MB
Approx.
Comp.
7:1 10:1 1.4:1 -
3,344 x 2,224
Images
(Avg size)
259
4.0 MB
355
2.9 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
6:1 8:1 - -
2,288x 1,520
Images
(Avg size)
406
2.5 MB
506
2.0 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
4:1 5:1 - -

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.)

 

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