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Performance

The DSLR-A380 does not always feel quite as snappy as some of its direct competitors. There is a very noticeable delay before the review image appears on the LCD after taking a shot and the frame rate in continuous shooting mode is located towards the bottom end of the spectrum in this sector of the market. However, with a fast card you can shoot a large number of RAW files in a burst and the Sony offers arguably the quickest live-view mode in its class with good shot-to-shot times and, thanks to the additional live view sensor, very quick live view AF.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4592 x 3056 JPEG Fine (approx. 6,000 KB per image).

The media used for these tests was a 8 GB Sandisk Extreme III (30mb/s edition) SD card.

Action
Details
Time, secs
(8 GB Sandisk)
Power Off to On *1   0.3
Power Off to Shot   0.4
Shot to shot time (JPEG) Live View 0.8
Shot to shot time (RAW) Live View 0.8
Switch from live view *2   0.8
Power On to Off *3   1.8

*1 This is the time from turning the switch to the 'On' position to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings). If the camera is switched on in live view mode it takes approximately 0.2 sec longer for the live view image to appear.
*2 This is the time from pressing the Live View button to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings).
*3 The A380 performs a sensor-clean before powering off

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F5.6), ISO 100. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 2.4 fps (+/- 0.05 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst (for JPEG there is no limit with a fast card)
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the CF lamp goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images

Timing
8 GB Sandisk
Frame rate 2.4 fps
Number of frames n/a
Write complete 2.5 sec

Burst of RAW images

Timing
8 GB Sandisk
Frame rate 2.4 fps
Number of frames 28
Buffer full rate 1.8 fps
Write complete 6.3 sec

In our tests the A380 delivered 2.4 frames per second in continuous shooting mode which is in line with its predecessor and just short of the specified 2.5 fps. In JPEG mode you can shoot at this rate until you run out of memory, when shooting RAW images the A380 managed an impressive 28 frames before dropping to a slower speed of 1.8 fps. In RAW+JPEG image quality this already happens after 4 frames.

If burst speed is an issue also make sure you disable the Dynamic Range enhancer. With this feature switched on the camera only manages three frames at high speed (JPEG) before it drops to a very slow 0.9 fps.

USB transfer speed

To test the A380's USB speed we transferred approximately 300 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III (30MB/s edition) SD card. With the A380 connected via USB cable the camera acts as a Mass Storage device on your computer. The transfer speed is average but, considering the Sony's rather large image files, an external card reader might be a more convenient solution.

Method
Transfer rate
Sony DSLR-A380 USB 2.0 8.2 MB/sec
Sandisk Extreme III (using built in USB connector) 20.2 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III in USB 2.0 reader 15.3 MB/sec

Autofocus speed / accuracy

The Sony DSLR-A380's Auto Focus performs very well in most situations including low light conditions. The camera indicates focus lock pretty quickly with the new SAM (Smooth Autofocus Motor) kit lenses and more pricey lenses such as the 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 alike. In hardly any of almost 1000 real-life sample shots that were taken during the course of this review was focus accuracy an issue. Focus performance in low light levels offered no reason to complain either. As you would expect AF slows slightly down and might occasionally hunt a little but almost always it will eventually find a focus lock. This is a very good thing in so far as it helps you avoid the sometimes rather irritating AF help flash strobes.

Where the A380's AF is really a class on its own is in live view where it is significantly faster than any of the competitors. Of course the live view AF speed is paid for by the disadvantages that we have described previously in this review such as the lack of live view magnification and only a 90 percent frame coverage.

Battery life

The A380 comes with the new NP-FH50 InfoLITHIUM battery which is tiny in terms of both size and capacity (870mAh). Battery life is quoted as 500 shots (CIPA standard) using the optical viewfinder and 230 shots when live view is used. This is almost 50 percent down from the A350 and makes a spare battery a sensible investment, especially when considering that 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.

Image Stabilizer

The DSLR-A380 features Sony's CCD-based "SteadyShot inside" optical image stabilization which is common across their entire range of digital cameras. A fairly unique feature on the A380 is the shake-indicator in the viewfinder which shows you when, from a camera-shake point of view, it is safe to press the shutter button.

The stabilization test

At a range of shutter speeds a total of twenty hand-held shots were taken of a static scene, ten without stabilization, ten with the activated SteadyShot system. For these tests we used the Sony 18-55mm SAM kit lens at 55 mm to produce a 82.5 mm equiv. FOV. The test chart was approximately 3 m away from the camera. We're looking for how much improvement the two modes offer, not an absolute measurement of 'how low you can go' with the shutter speeds.

The resulting images were then inspected and given a blur score from zero to three where zero represented a very blurred image and three a sharp image with no noticeable blur (see crop examples below). Obviously the amount of blur which is acceptable will depend on your personal taste and the final image size (for instance a '2: Soft' will still look fine as a 4x6 print or in a web gallery). Example crops from these four blur scores can be seen below.

0: Very blurred 1: Blurred
2: Soft 3: Sharp

Hand-held, no stabilization (18-55 mm kit lens, 82.5 mm equiv. FOV)

With the kit lenses 82.5 mm equivalent focal length at the long end we had all sharp and one soft shot at 1/60 sec but the success rate drops pretty quickly as shutter speeds get longer. At 1/15th we still get one 'lucky' sharp shot but also 60% blurry shots. Below that none of the shots are sharp.

Hand-held, with SteadyShot on (18-55 mm kit lens, 82.5 mm equiv. FOV)

With the activated SteadyShot system we can observe an instant and pretty significant improvement. At 1/8 sec we still get 100% usable shots (60% sharp) and even at a shutter speed as slow as 1/2 sec 50% of all images would still be good enough for at least smaller prints. The system gives you a 2-3 EV advantage across all shutter speeds and especially at slow shutter speeds your chances of getting a sharp shot increase dramatically.

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