Sony DSLR-A580 Review

 
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Sony A580 Performance


Timing and Performance

Average to very good speed for a consumer digital SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~0.8 second

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

Shutdown

~0.6 second

How long it takes to turn off.

Buffer clearing time

19 seconds *
after 50 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.

24 seconds *
after 20 RAW frames
35 seconds *
after 19 RAW + L/F 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 a little slower than average for an SLR, but shutdown time was pretty good. Buffer clearing times were on the slow side, but reasonable given the deep buffers and large files.

 

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), Optical Viewfinder

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

0.306 second

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

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF,
Flash enabled

0.414 second

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

Pre-focused

0.084 second

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

Continuous AF
0.298 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."
Shutter Response (Lag Time), Live View
Full Autofocus
Single Area AF
Quick AF
0.193 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 prime).

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF
Quick AF, 
Flash enabled
0.508 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 prime), Auto Flash (ADI mode) enabled.

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF
Focus Check
Phase-detect AF
0.618 second

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

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF
Focus Check
Phase-detect AF
Flash enabled
0.850 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 prime), Auto Flash (ADI mode) enabled.

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF
Focus Check
Contrast-detect AF
1.691 seconds

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with 18-55mm kit lens as AF was not available with the Sigma lens in Focus Check mode).

Pre-focused

0.090 second

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

Looking at the Sony A580's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed is a little slower than average for a consumer model when using the optical viewfinder. The A580 required 0.295 second for full AF using the center focus point. This increased slightly to 0.306 second in wide-area AF mode. Enabling the flash raised the lag to 0.414 second, as the flash metering preflashes add some delay. Continuous autofocus mode lag time was 0.298 second and manual focus was only slightly faster at about 0.192 second. When prefocused, shutter lag dropped to 0.084 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 0.193 second for single-area full AF lag, which is actually quite a bit faster). This is because the second image sensor located in the A580's viewfinder housing alleviates the need for the additional mirror flips required by most other phase-detect Live View implementations. As noted in previous Sony SLR reviews, though, the downside of this type of Live View implementation is lower accuracy for the Quick AF Live View viewfinder display.  Enabling the flash in "Quick AF" Live View more than doubled the lag to 0.508 seconds.

The Sony A580's Focus Check Live View AF mode produced lags similar to other SLR manufacturers' Live View modes, at about 0.62 second for phase-detect mode, 0.85 second for phase-detect with flash, and 1.7 seconds for contrast-detect AF. Prefocused shutter lag in Live View was still pretty quick, at 0.090 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
0.60 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.60 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
RAW + L/F JPEG

0.64 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 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 Lo mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.33 second (2.99 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
8 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 20 shots with no signs of slowing down.
Continuous Hi mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.20 second (5.01 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
12 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 20 shots with no signs of slowing down.
Continuous Hi mode
RAW
0.20 second (5.01 frames per second);
21 frames total;
23 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 21 shots, then slows to an average of 1.26s or 0.80 fps when buffer is full.
Continuous Hi mode
RAW + L/F JPEG
0.20 second (5.01 frames per second);
20 frames total;
34 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 20 shots, then slows to an average of 1.87s or 0.54 fps when buffer is full.
Speed Priority
Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.14 second (7.12 frames per second);
32 frames total;
19 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 32 shots.

Speed Priority
Continuous mode
RAW

0.14 second (7.12 frames per second);
20 frames total;
24 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 20 shots, then slows to an average of 1.25s or 0.80 fps.

Speed Priority
Continuous mode
RAW + L/F JPEG

0.14 second (7.11 frames per second);
19 frames total;
35 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 19 shots, then slows to an average of 1.94s or 0.52 fps.

Flash recycling

3.6 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 a an SLR, at 0.60 second per frame for large/fine JPEGs or RAW files, and 0.64 second for RAW+L/F JPEG frames. Continuous mode speeds were quite good for a consumer SLR (especially given the large files), at 5 frames-per-second for any quality. 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.

Buffer depths in Continuous Hi mode are very good for a consumer model, at well over 20 frames for L/F JPEGs, 21 frames for RAW and 20 RAW + L/F JPEGs frames with a fast card. Buffer depths are also very good in Speed Priority mode, at 32 L/F JPEG, 20 RAW and 19 RAW + L/F JPEG frames. The flash took 3.6 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is not bad.

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

15,356 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 very fast; definitely fast enough that you will likely not feel the need for a card reader.

Bottom line, the Sony Alpha 580 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. Buffer depths are very good, though buffer clearing can take a long time because of deep buffers and large files.

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 580 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 A580 accepts SD cards including SDHC and SDXC types, or Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards. No card is included with the camera. Sony recommends SD cards with at least Class 4 speed grade or Mark2 type MSPro Duo cards for shooting HD movies.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
1GB SD Memory Card
Fine Normal
RAW
RAW
+
JPEG
4,912 x 3,264
Images
(Avg size)
111
9.1 MB
159
6.4 MB
44
23.2 MB
30
33.5 MB
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 8:1 1:1 -
3,568 x 2,368
Images
(Avg size)
181
5.6 MB
253
4.0 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 6:1 - -
2,448 x 1,624
Images
(Avg size)
286
3.6 MB
365
2.8 MB
- -
Approx.
Comp.
3:1 4:1 - -

We strongly recommend buying either a large capacity SDHC, or a large capacity Memory Stick Pro Duo card, at least a 4GB card, preferably a 8-16GB 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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