Sony A58 Review

 
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Sony A58 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • New 20.1-megapixel sensor delivers excellent (and upgraded) resolution
  • Capable of very large prints
  • Above average exposure accuracy
  • JPEG engine does a very good job at reducing noise at high ISOs
  • Good dynamic range
  • Full-time phase-detect AF
  • Excellent autofocus speeds
  • Very fast prefocused shutter lag
  • Useful multi-frame modes (Handheld Twilight, HDR, Multi-frame NR, Sweep Panorama)
  • DRO works well when dealing with high-contrast scenes
  • Lots of optional in-camera lens corrections (distortion, CA, shading)
  • Very good video quality, with Full HD 1080p recording at 60i/24p
  • Movie mode allows for Program, Priority, or Manual exposure settings
  • External mic input
  • Multi Terminal
  • Crisp and bright high-resolution OLED viewfinder
  • Accurate EVF and LCD monitor coverage
  • Multi Interface hot shoe allows for external flashes and other accessories
  • Built-in flash supports wireless mode
  • Good flash range and recycling time
  • Very good battery life, particularly for an EVF-equipped camera
  • Plastic lens mount may not be as durable as metal
  • Video downgraded somewhat to max. 60i/24p frame rate at Full 1080p HD resolution
  • Reduced burst shooting rate of only five frames per second maximum at full resolution, down from a reported eight fps on the A57
  • Mediocre kit lens with high barrel distortion at wide angle, and soft corners
  • EVF instead of optical viewfinder may be a turnoff for some
  • Downgraded LCD no longer fully articulating
  • Support for IR remote dropped (but a new wired remote is supported)
  • Some aliasing artifacts (when used with very sharp lenses)
  • RAW files are a little noisier than competing models at high ISOs
  • Sluggish startup and mode switching
  • Shallow buffers (though common in entry-level models)
  • Narrow flash coverage
  • Autofocus can struggle in low light
  • User manual not very detailed

 

Sony created its entry-level A58 DSLR by taking its well-regarded predecessors, the entry-level A37 and enthusiast-geared A57, adding some significant tech upgrades -- most notably its new 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor -- and then making just a few compromises to deliver the new model at a price point that's a full $200 lower than the A57. In doing so, the A58 effectively replaces both previous models (which have been discontinued). But does the camera split the difference and sit somewhere in the middle of these two cameras, or does it outshine them both?

Well, in terms of JPEG image quality, it's clear that the Sony A58 has taken a huge step forward. The higher-resolution sensor helps it deliver stunning photo quality that's sharper and more detailed than its predecessors'. In fact, the A58's images stack up well against those from much more expensive, enthusiast-level DSLRs. You can even get excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100 and 200 from the camera, a finding that truly surprised us. Other big steps forward include a bright-and-clear, 1.44M-dot Organic LED viewfinder, the addition of Sony's proprietary Multi Interface hot shoe, and improved battery life.

Otherwise, the A58 borrows a lot of its tech from the A57, including the 15-point continuous AF system (with three cross-type points) which allows the DSLR to autofocus quite quickly and accurately in most situations. The physical design and size of the two cameras remain roughly the same. So does the control layout, save for a few minor differences.

One of the biggest changes, however, is that the A58 uses a plastic lens mount rather than a metal one. And while people may be turned off by this -- with the fear that the material may be flimsier and more breakable -- it must be noted that many manufacturers successfully employ plastic mounts on lenses these days. It's a calculated risk on Sony's part, and we're going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one until we see how the plastic mount on the A58 lasts over time.

Other sacrifices made on the A58 include the lack of a 60p frame rate while recording Full 1080p HD, as was available on the A57. Despite that, the A58 still is a very good movie maker, offering 60i/24p frame rates and overall video quality that surpasses most of its entry-level rivals.

The increased 20.1-megapixel resolution on the new model also has a downside, as the same BIONZ processor featured on the A57 now only delivers a maximum speed of five frames per second in continuous burst mode, and the image buffer is also correspondingly more shallow.

It's a challenge to weigh the pros and cons of the Sony A58, especially since it's not an across-the-board step up from the A57. However, we think the advances in image quality make the camera a tremendous value for beginners. In fact, we believe the A58 produces arguably the best straight-from-the-camera photos across the board -- including in low light, high ISO situations -- of any entry-level DSLR we've tested to date. With the A58, Sony has once again served notice to Canon and Nikon that it's a force to be reckoned with in the DSLR arena. If that doesn't make the camera a Dave's Pick, then we don't know what does.

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Sony A58

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