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Compared to...

Up until now, most camera companies have offered a single 'entry-level' model aimed mainly at first-time DSLR buyers. This way of approaching the market dates back to the first Canon Rebel (300D), which did away with heavy-duty construction and prism viewfinder and offered a carefully limited feature set to prevent it cannibalizing sales of the more expensive models. Until recently, ignoring the instances of older models remaining in the catalogues while stocks run down, this approach has been taken by the other manufacturers.

Sony clearly believes that there are potential DSLR shoppers who buy based on price (A200), those that shop for features (A350), and bargain hunters who want a balance of the two (A300). There are hints that this finer segmentation of the entry-level market will continue but, at the moment, there are few directly comparable cameras on sale.

The most direct competitor is Canon's high-pixel-count 450D which offers stronger specifications in the traditional DSLR areas but doesn't offer the convenience of the A350's live view system. Other than that, we're seeing what happens if you step up a price-level to the enthusiast/semi-pro level of the Pentax K20D, which offers much more advanced construction but at a greater cost. Finally we look at what the A350 offers, in image quality terms, over its cheaper sibling, the A200 (which almost certainly shares a sensor with the similarly priced Pentax K200D and Nikon D60).

Positives versus the competition

  • Phase-detect autofocus without mirror flap
  • Tilting screen
  • Built-in sensor-shift stabilization (over the EOS 450D and D60)
  • Detailed battery status display (as percentage)
  • Supplied IR remote control
  • High specification for the price

Negatives versus the competition

  • Small viewfinder
  • Live view doesn't allow fine focusing
  • No depth of field preview, even in Live view
  • Live view brightness fixed to exposure (tricky in low light)
  • No top panel status LCD (requires use of battery-sapping rear LCD for status)
 

Sony DSLR-A350

Canon EOS 450D

Pentax K20D

Sony DSLR-A200

Price (Body only)
(With kit lens)

$810 / �450
$900 / £480 [check]
$800 / £450
$850 / £500 [check]
$1200 / £725
£800 [check]

$600 / £300 [check]
Construction • Plastic • Plastic
• Metal frame
• Sealed openings
• Plastic
Dust removal • Sensor-shift shake
• Anti-static coating
• Sensor-shift shake
• Anti-static coating
• Sensor-shift shake
• Anti-static coating
• Sensor-shift shake
• Anti-static coating
Sensor type CCD CMOS CMOS CCD
Sensor size 23.6 x 15.8 mm 22.2 x 14.8 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
Pixel density (MP/cm²) 4.00 3.77 4.14 2.90
Image Stabilization Built-in sensor shift Lenses only Built-in sensor shift Built-in sensor shift
Effective pixels 14.2 million 12.2 million 14.6 million 10.2 million
Aspect ratio 3:2 3:2 3:2 3:2
FOV crop 1.5x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x
Image size 4592 x 3056 4272 x 2848 4672 x 3104 3872 x 2592
Live View • Yes
• No view zoom
• AF without mirror flip
• Yes
• Up to 10x magnify
• Mirror flip AF
• Different modes

• Yes
• Up to 1:1 pixel view
• Mirror flip AF

• No
Lens support • Sony Alpha
• Minolta A-type
• Canon EF / EF-S • Pentax KAF mount • Sony Alpha
• Minolta A-type
File formats

• JPEG
• RAW (ARW)

• JPEG
• RAW (CR2)

• JPEG
• RAW (PEF)
• DNG

• JPEG
• RAW (ARW)

Auto focus • 9 point
• 1 cross-type
• 0 to 18 EV
• Eye-start AF option
• 9 point
• 1 cross-type
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• Eye-start AF option
• 11 point
• 9 cross-type
• -1 to 18 EV
• 9 point
• 1 cross-type
• 0 to 18 EV
• Eye-start AF option
AF illuminator Flash strobe Flash strobe Flash strobe Flash strobe
AF adjustment No No Yes, body and up to 20 lenses No
Metering sensor 40 segment 35 zone 16 segment 40 zone
Metering range 2 to 20 EV 1 to 20 EV 0 to 21 EV 2 to 20 EV
Metering modes Multi-segment, CWA, Spot Evaluative, Partial, Spot, CWA Multi-segment, CWA, Spot Multi-segment, CWA, Spot
Exp. comp. +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 3.0 EV (In 0.5 EV) +/- 2.0 EV
Exp. comp. EV steps 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV
Manual EV steps 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV
Sensitivity range (boost setting) 100 - 3200 100 - 1600 100 - 3200 (6400) 100 - 3200
Auto ISO adjust No No Yes, Max and Min No
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4000 sec 30 - 1/4000 sec 30 - 1/4000 sec 30 - 1/4000 sec
Continuous rate (high) 2.5 fps (2 fps in Live view) • 3.5 fps
• 53 JPEG/Fine frames
• 6 RAW frames
• 3.0 fps
• 38 JPEG/Fine frames
• 14 RAW frames
• 3.0 fps
• Unlimited JPEG
• 6 RAW frames
White balance • 6 presets (with adj)
• Color temp (K)
• Manual
• 6 presets (with adj)
• Color temp (K)
• Manual
• 8 presets (with adj)
• Color temp (K)
• Manual
• 6 presets (with adj)
• Color temp (K)
• Manual
Image parameters • 8 presets
• Saturation +/- 3
• Contrast +/- 3
• Sharpness +/- 3

• 6 presets
• 3 User defined
• Sharpness 0-7
• Contrast +/- 4
• Saturation +/- 4
• Color tone +/- 4

• 6 presets
• Saturation +/- 4
• Hue +/- 4
• Contrast +/- 4
• Sharpness +/- 4
• 8 presets
• Saturation +/- 3
• Contrast +/- 3
• Sharpness +/- 3
Noise reduction control 3 levels 1 additional level 4 levels 4 levels
DR extension mode DRO (2 modes) Highlight Tone Priority DRange DRO (2 modes)
Built-in flash • Electronic pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
• Electronic pop-up
• Guide no. 13 (ISO 100)
• Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 13 (ISO 100)
• Electronic pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
External flash • Hot-shoe
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe • Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• Wireless flash
Flash sync speed 1/160 sec 1/200 sec 1/180 sec 1/160 sec
Delete in record review Yes Yes Yes Yes
Storage • CF (inc. UDMA) • SD (Inc SDHC) • SD (Inc SDHC) • CF (inc. UDMA)
Viewfinder • Pentamirror
• 95% coverage
• 0.74 x magnification
• Pentamirror
• 95% coverage
• 0.87x magnification

• Pentaprism
• 95% coverage
• 0.95x magnification

• Pentamirror
• 95% coverage
• 0.83 x magnification
LCD monitor • 2.7" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 2.7" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 2.7" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
LCD articulation Yes, 45° down, 90° up No No No
Top panel LCD No No Yes No
Vertical grip Yes, VG-B30AM Yes, BG-E5 Yes, BG-2 Yes, VG-B30AM
Other features   • Custom 'My Menu' • Color tunable LCD
• Weather sealing
• Program jump btn.
 
Dimensions 132 x 99 x 75 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
142 x 101 x 70 mm
(5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in)
132 x 99 x 75 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 2.8 in)
Weight (inc batt) 664 g (1.5 lb) 522 g (1.2 lb) 804 g (1.8 lb) 614 g (1.4 lb)
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