Record mode display
In the mold of previous Alpha (and their forebears), and most contemporary entry-level DSLRs, the A350 uses its main LCD to keep the user abreast of the settings they've chosen. Unlike the A700 or Olympus cameras, there's no option to really interact with this screen - you can't scroll around it to select or change settings. Only changing the shutter speed, aperture or selected autofocus point can change the info screen without navigating away from it.
The information displayed in the simplified mode is generally well chosen. We'd expect most people to decide which screen they prefer, rather than switching back and forth. If that were the case, it would make more sense to select the level of detail in a menu - if anything it's too easy to switch between them using the display button. Because you're not always confronted by the same display, it's not always immediately obvious where the piece of information you wish to check is going to appear. It's a really minor issue but could have made a good idea even better.
|Simplified recording mode display||Detailed recording mode display|
Using the direct access buttons
The loss of the A700's Quick Navi mode means each of the direct access buttons brings up its own settings screen, rather than representing the changes directly on the info screen. Again, this is a wasted opportunity because it's another thing that takes you away from the information screen, preventing it becoming a consistent, familiar part of shooting.
The six functions not given their own direct access buttons are grouped together on a screen accessed using the 'Fn' button on the back of the camera. It's a solution often applied on compact cameras, giving quick access to important setting swithout having to delve into the full menu. On a DSLR it does demand that you take your eye away from the viewfinder, again giving the impression that the A350 is designed around the use of live view, rather than the optical viewfinder.
The parameters reached via the 'Fn' button are those that you're likely to want to change semi-frequently: Flash Mode, Autofocus mode, White Balance, Metering mode, AF Area and Dynamic Range Optimizer.
Record review / Play display
The A350 has four different record review (instant playback) / play displays; Image only, Image & information, Image & histograms (including blinking highlights/shadows) and a hybrid filmstrip/image view (shows last 5 shots as thumbs across the top). Record review will use the last selected play mode display format. During record review you can press the delete button to delete the image or the magnify button for a quick close-up view (useful for checking focus / blur). Note that blinking highlights / shadows are only shown in the histogram display mode (which is a pity).
|Image only||Image and basic information|
|Image, full shooting data and histogram (note there are now RGB and Luminance histograms)||'Film strip' thumbnails + image. Which can severely slow down the camera.|
Press the 'magnify in' button to display the image at the previously used magnification level. Use the controller to scroll around the image, the magnification buttons (AEL and exposure comp.) to zoom, the center button (on the controller) to switch to loupe mode (example below) and the control dial to browse through images while remaining magnified.
|Initial magnification (7.2x)||The zoom in button the magnifies the view up to 14x|
|Press the button in the center of the controller for loupe mode. This allows you to navigate around the image.||You can even use the zoom in and out buttons to expand and contract the area included in the loupe view.|
The play mode menu allows you to select between 4, 9 or 25 thumbnails in index view. You can scroll through the pages using the four-way controller or you can jump from folder to folder (if you have more than one folder created) by pressing the button at its center.
|Four image index view||Nine image index view|
|Twenty five image index view|
Live view AF video clip
Below is a video clip of the A350 auto-focusing (from infinity) in live view. Unlike every other DSLR currently on the market, the A350 is able to perform this without flipping the reflex mirror down (because it's not had to flip it up to display live view). The first time the mirror has to move is when you press the shutter button. This part of the process is very fast.
Unfortunately, this video also includes the delay experienced waiting for the review image to appear. This doesn't prevent you getting the shot but does leave you waiting around, rather a lot. The video ends as the live view image reappears.