Battery / Battery Compartment
All the current Alpha range now use the NP-FM500H InfoLITHIUM. The battery is charged in around 175 minutes (235 minutes for a 'full charge') using the supplied charger. Battery life is quoted as 730 shots (using the CIPA standard) using the optical viewfinder and a more modest 410 shots when live view is used. In the past we've found that CIPA figures, although comparable between cameras, tend to over-estimate the number of shots you're get in real-world situations. The live view figure is better than we were expecting, given the size of the display screen. Probably helped by the A350 only having to power a small sensor in Live view mode.
Compact Flash Compartment
The A350 has a single Compact Flash slot - few will mourn the passing of the Memory Stick Duo as an option for the SLR user (though you can of course get a CF-MS Duo adaptor if you are heavily invested in the format). The card compartment door is located on the right side of the camera and forms part of the hard grip. This compartment is also home to a tiny usb connector that is responsible for outputting image files or as an video signal so that they can be viewed on a TV.
Connections / Accessory shoe
The rest of the A350's connectors are gathered together on the left side of the camera (looking from the rear) under a well-fitting but not hugely secure-feeling rubber flap. There's a connection for a wired remote control and a power connection. On the top of the camera there's a Minolta-style hotshoe for adding a flashgun. Sony and several third-party manufacturers make use of this mount so it's no concern that it's not the more standard style used elsewhere.
On the right-hand shoulder of the camera, alongside an ever-useful ISO button, is the live view/optical viewfinder switch. This use of a switch, rather than a button, is key to what sets the camera apart from every other DSLR with a live view mode. The significance is that you could leave the swtich set to live view and it will activate every time you turn the camera on: it's not a mode that you might occasionally engage using a button or a menu option, it's a totally different way of the camera that you may want to use every time you turn the camera on.
On the bottom of the camera you'll find the metal tripod socket which is aligned exactly with the center line of the lens. Although there's no rubber foot there is plenty of 'real estate' available for a stable location on a tripod mount.
The A350 has rather small pop-up flash but it offers the same 12m range (at ISO 100) as the majority of cameras in its class. The flash doubles as an autofocus illuminator which strobes to assist focusing in low light. It's effective but not exactly discreet and is not exactly ideal for taking pictures of people as the strobing effect is quite unpleasant to have pointed at you.
As its name suggests, the Alpha 350 is built around the Sony Alpha mount (the slightly more colorful though functionally identical variant of the Konica Minolta mount). As usual there is a red indicator dot for aligning the lens and lock by rotating clockwise. Just like other Minolta AF SLR's the camera goes through a priming process when a len is attached by spinning the focus motor connector to ensure it has connected correctly to the lens. This mount supports either body-driven focus or lenses with built-in focus motors.
Oddly, power needs to be turned on in order to switch between AF and MF modes but, more annoyingly, the camera will reset the focus on the camera when it's turned on, even in manual focus mode. This is worth remembering when working on a tripod - all your careful focusing will need to be re-done if you make the mistake of turning the camera off.
Box Contents (body only)
- Sony Alpha A350 digital SLR body
- NP-FM500H Lithium-Ion battery
- Battery charger (full charge time approx. 235 minutes)
- Eyepiece cup
- Body cap
- Shoulder strap
- Video and USB cables
- Software CD-ROM
- Manual, Warranty