Sony DSLR-A580 Exposure
Sony Alpha A580 Exposure Options
The Sony A580 offers all the same exposure options you'd expect in a mid-range SLR camera, plus a few Sony-specific options. Available exposure modes include Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes, with shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, as well as a Bulb setting available in Manual mode only, for longer exposures. The x-sync speed for flash photography is 1/160 second. A fully automatic mode places the camera in control of almost all functions, to try to deliver optimum results under a wide range of conditions. Basic options such as exposure compensation aren't available to the photographer in this mode, but the A580 will still allow you to select from a subset of drive modes and flash modes, lock exposure with the AEL button, focus manually or automatically, and enable or disable the face detection and smile shutter functions. The Sony A580 also offers a number of Scene modes, including Portrait, Sports Action, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night View, Hand-held Twilight, and Night Portrait, all accessed from a shared Scene (SCN) position on the Mode dial. There's also a separate Flash Off mode which merits its own position on the dial, as does a Sweep Panorama mode that captures and stitches a multi-image panorama with a single press of the shutter button. A Multi Frame NR function likewise captures multiple images with a single shutter press, but then merges these into a single exposure with reduced noise. See the Modes and Menus page for more details.
When framing using the Live View or Focus Check LV modes, the Sony A580 offers an optional live histogram function in all operating modes. Located near the bottom right corner of the LCD panel, it's rather small, and offers only a luminance readout rather than a full RGBY histogram, but it's still very useful for ensuring your exposures are correct. Another feature that's rather more common, but still very welcome, is the exposure display, visible both on the LCD for Live View shooting, and in the optical viewfinder's info display, when the camera is in Manual exposure mode. This shows the amount the camera thinks an image will be over- or underexposed within a range of +/-2.0EV, based on the settings you have selected, to help you find the best exposure for the subject. (Beyond the 2.0EV range, arrows on either end of the scale blink to emphasise that the metering system's limit has been reached.) Together, the live histogram and exposure display make it relatively easy to get suitable exposures even when shooting manually.
Sony A580 Face Detection
Sony A580 ISO Range
In Program and Priority modes, but not in Manual mode, an Auto ISO mode is available, and in Auto, Scene, Flash Off, and Sweep Panorama modes, it's the only option. The function is limited to a maximum of ISO 1,600 in all modes.
In addition, the Sony A580 offers a Multi-Frame NR function, which combines multiple shots into a single output image, in a similar manner to the Hand-held Twilight mode. The difference between the two functions is that Multi-Frame NR allows direct control over ISO sensitivity. Multi-Frame NR is available only in the Program, Priority, and Manual modes, and is accessed from the ISO sensitivity dialog. When using Multi-Frame NR, the maximum ISO sensitivity limit is expanded to ISO 25,600 equivalent.
Sony A580 Noise Reduction
A separate Long Shutter noise reduction On / Off setting is available in Program, Priority, and Manual modes, for dark frame subtraction when shooting exposures of one second or longer. If enabled, this approximately doubles the exposure time for each shot, allowing the second dark frame exposure to be captured with the shutter closed.
Sony A580 White Balance Options
In all of the preset white balance modes, you can fine-tune the color by pressing the left / right arrow keys on the four-way controller while in the White Balance menu. Blue / red adjustment is possible within a range of -3 to +3 arbitrary units for all but the fluorescent mode, which offers only a -1 to +2 unit range. In Kelvin white balance mode, there's also a color filter function which offers a magenta - green filter within a fairly wide range of -9 to +9 arbitrary units.
Custom white balance is set by selecting Custom Setup from the white balance menu, and pointing the camera at a neutral white or grey card under the lighting you'll be shooting in, filling a frame in the center of the display with the reference target, then pressing the Shutter button.
In addition, the Sony A580 can bracket white balance using the White Balance Bracketing (BRK WB) option in the Drive Mode menu. For each shutter release, the A580 records three separate image files, varying only the white balance between each image. Two step sizes are available -- 10 mireds when using the BRK WB Lo setting, and 20 mired steps with the BRK WB Hi setting.
Sony A580 Metering Options
By default, you can lock an exposure reading separately from autofocus lock by pressing and holding the AEL button. Alternatively, the AEL button behaviour can be changed so that pressing and releasing the button will set and release the autoexposure lock on subsequent presses.
Sony A580 Exposure Compensation & Bracketing
Sony A580 DRO / HDR
The DRO and HDR modes can't be used together, and each brings its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Since DRO only works from a single shot, it must operate entirely within the dynamic range available from the image sensor, where the HDR mode is able to capture a significantly greater dynamic range than is possible in one shot. Since DRO is effectively amplifying the signal in shadow areas of the image, it also brings increased noise (or increased noise reduction) in the shadows. HDR mode, meanwhile, is suitable only for relatively static subjects, given that it requires multiple exposures. Thanks to microalignment capability, Sony's HDR mode is at least able to deal with the slight changes in framing caused by shooting handheld, but subject motion or camera shake will likely cause unacceptable artifacts in HDR images.
Both DRO and HDR can be disabled altogether if desired, although the default on the A580 is for DRO Auto mode to be left enabled.
Sony A580 Hand-held Twilight
The Sony A580's implementation of Hand-held Twilight does have one important difference from the similar mode found on its point-and-shoot siblings. Where the existing cameras have been able to use an electronic shutter to capture the source images, the A580 must instead rely on its physical shutter. The A580's mirror slap isn't the quietest we've heard, and with six frames captured in a rapid burst, its Hand-held Twilight mode can have bystanders turning around in expectation of seeing a paparazzo in their midst. ;-)
Sony A580 Multi-Frame NR
Sony A580 Sweep Panorama
Again, since there's no electronic shutter to rely on, the mirror slap noise means you won't be catching anybody by surprise, That said, the feature functions pretty well if you've a reasonably steady hand, and your subject matter isn't too close to the camera. If your subject matter is too close to the camera, or your panning isn't smooth and straight, the seams between separate images can become fairly noticeable. Focus and exposure are locked from the first frame of the panorama, so you'll want to pick your starting point carefully. From there, you can pan left, right, up, or down, simply sweeping the camera across your subject matter after pressing the shutter button.
Two panorama sizes are available -- standard, or wide. Standard horizontal panoramas are limited to 15 megapixels, and vertical panoramas to 8.4 megapixels. In Wide mode, horizontal panoramas are 23 megapixels, and vertical panoramas are 12 megapixels. For 3D mode, only horizontal panoramas are possible, with the standard size providing 5.3 megapixel resolution, and the wide size offering 7.7 megapixels. There's also a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel mode designed to match the resolution of a Full HD display, available only for 3D panoramas.
A darkened mask over the left third of the LCD display shows an area of the frame that won't be included in the final output image, and an on-screen message warns you if the Alpha A580 wasn't able to track your panning, prompting you to recapture the panorama. (Depending on how much was captured, the A580 sometimes retains a partial panorama with the uncaptured portion of the image left as a flat grey.)
Sony A580 Drive Modes
In Speed Priority Continuous mode, the Sony A580 boosts its frame rate even further, to a generous seven frames per second, but with an important proviso. Both autofocus and autoexposure are fixed from the first shot in the burst -- so this mode is only useful for subjects under relatively even illumination, and whose distance from the photographer remains within the available depth of field, unless you've the skill required to pull focus manually.
The Self-timer modes offers a choice of either two or ten second timers. Continuous Bracket mode lets you take a sequence of three shots with either 0.3 EV or 0.7 EV exposure variation steps, with the sequence order being to shoot the metered exposure first, followed by the underexposed and overexposed frames. White Balance Bracket captures three images with varied white balance settings, as describe in the white balance section of this page. Finally, Remote Commander mode configures the A580 to capture images as directed by the optional RMT-DSLR1 wireless remote control, which communicates with the camera via an infrared receiver hidden behind a shiny plastic trim piece in the top of the hand grip's front surface.
Sony A580 Creative Styles
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Photo Gallery .
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!