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Compared to...

When Sony launched the A380's predecessor, the DSLR-A350, it was arguably the best specified camera in the entry-level segment sporting the highest resolution sensor and an impressive set of features. Today, approximately 18 months later, the DSLR world has inevitably moved on and all of the major manufacturers' current cameras in the 'upper entry-level' bracket of the market come with versatile live view systems with phase and contrast detect AF, a minimum sensor resolution of 12 megapixels, user friendly control screens for viewing and adjusting shooting parameters on the LCD and, in the case of the Canon EOS 500D and Nikon D5000, even HD-video recording capabilities - something that was unheard of on a digital SLR at the beginning of 2008.

While it's not really a surprise that technology keeps moving on at still quite a pace it appears that the Sony contribution the the entry-level segment, at least from a features and specification point of view, hasn't quite managed to keep up with the competition. At first sight the A380 looks like a visually revamped version of the A350, slightly smaller with new body materials and a slightly changed control layout. However, a closer look at the spec-sheet reveals that internally the new model is not only very similar to the predecessor but has even been slightly down-specced. It's smaller and lighter than the A350 but it also comes with fewer external buttons, a weaker flash, no wired remote terminal, no white balance Kelvin option and a smaller but also lower capacity battery.

So how does the A380 stack up against today's direct competitors then? The 14.2 megapixels sensor resolution is still more than competitive but the Sony does not offer the 'Quick control' type user interface that the rivals come with or a video mode as you can find it on the Canon and Nikon. All in all, looking at the comparison table at the bottom of this page, the A380's specification appears a little weak next to its rivals, especially when considering that the Sony is currently the most expensive camera in this group. That said the A380 is also the most recent camera here and its price will almost certainly start dropping soon. It will have to, otherwise it would be quite difficult to see how you would, at least from a features and specifications point of view, choose an A380 over a Canon EOS 500D, Nikon D5000 or Olympus E-620.

Let's start with a quick overview of the cameras that we have included in the image quality comparisons on the following pages:

Camera Kit
price
Live
view
Video LCD Anti
Shake
Sensor
(effective pixels)
Sony DSLR-A380 $850 Yes No 2.7" / 230k pixels In-body 14.2 MP CCD (1.5x crop)
Canon EOS 500D $810 Yes 1080p 3.0" / 920k pixels Lens option 15.1 MP CMOS (1.6x crop)
Nikon D5000 $760 Yes 720p 2.7" / 230k pixels Lens option 12.3 MP CMOS (1.5x crop)
Olympus E-620 $700 Yes No 2.7" / 230k pixels In-body 12.3 MP LiveMOS (2.0x crop)

A380 advantages

  • Phase-detect autofocus in live-view without mirror flap (but only 90% frame coverage and no magnification mean precise framing and manual focusing in live-view is near impossible)
  • Built-in sensor-shift stabilization (over the EOS 500D and D5000)

A380 disadvantages

  • No video-capability
  • No 'Quick control' type on-screen adjustment of shooting parameters
  • Exposure compensation only +/- 2.0 EV (same as Canon)
  • Smallest APS-C viewfinder on the market
  • Auto-ISO limited to ISO400
  • High-ISO noise reduction not user-controllable
  • Slowest frame rate in continuous shooting
  • No depth-of-field preview
  • Lowest capacity battery
 
Sony DSLR-A380

Canon 500D

Nikon D5000

Olympus E-620
Price
(single lens kit)
US: $850 [check price] US: $810 [check price] US: $760 [check price] US: $700 [check price]
Sensor • 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD
• 14.2 million effective pixels
• 14.9 million total pixels

• 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS
• 15.1 million effective pixels
• 15.5 million total pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• 12.9 million total pixels
• 17.3 x 13.0 mm LiveMOS
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• 13.1 million total pixels
Dust reduction • Static-resistant anti-dust coating
• CCD-shift dust reduction mechanism
• Anti-dust materials
• Low pass filter vibration
• Dust reference image
• Low pass filter vibration
• Airflow Control System
• Dust reference image
• Supersonic Wave Filter
Native image size 4592 x 3056
(3:2 ratio)
4752 x 3168
(3:2 ratio)
4288 x 2848
(3:2 ratio)
4032 x 3024
(4:3 ratio)
Video no video capability

1080p @ 20fps
720p @ 30fps
MOV (Video: H.264, Sound: Linear PCM)

720p @ 24 fps
AVI Motion-JPEG, with monaural sound

no video capability
FOV crop 1.5x 1.6x 1.5x 2.0x
Body shake reduction Yes No No Yes
Live view Yes, dedicated live-view sensor in prism, Phase detect AF Yes, Contrast detect (inc Face detection) or Phase detect AF Yes, Contrast detect (inc Face priority) or Phase detect AF Yes, Contrast detect (inc Face detection) or Phase detect AF
Auto focus

• 9-points
• Cross-type at center
• Range: EV 0 to 18 (ISO 100)
• Predictive focus control for moving subjects
• Eye-start AF

• 9 area TTL
• Cross-type F2.8 at center
• Range: -0.5 to +18 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view
• 11 area TTL
• Cross-type at center
• Range: -1 to +19 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view
• 7 area TTL
• Range: -1 to +19 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view
AF illuminator Flash strobe, must be raised Flash strobe, must be raised Built-in lamp Flash strobe, must be raised
Metering sensor • 40 segment pattern
• EV 2 to 20 (Multi-segment / Center-weighted)
• EV 4 to 20 (Spot)
• 35 zone sensor
• 1 - 20 EV working range
• 420 pixel RGB sensor
• 0 - 20 EV working range
• 49 zone sensor
• 1 - 20 EV working range
Metering • Multi-segment
• Center-weighted
• Spot
• Evaluative
• Partial
• Center-weighted average
• 4% spot

• 3D Color Matrix Metering II
• Center-weighted average
• Spot

• Digital ESP
• Center-weighted average
• Spot
• Highlight based spot
• Shadow based spot
Exp. comp. +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 5.0 EV +/- 5.0 EV
Sensitivity • ISO 100 - 3200 • ISO 100 - 3200
(with 6400 and 12800 equiv)

• ISO 200 - 3200
(with 100 and 6400 equiv)

• ISO 100 - 3200
Auto ISO Auto (100-400) Auto (100-1600) User definable maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed Auto (100 - 1600)
High- ISO NR Yes (On/Off) Yes (4 levels) Yes (4 levels) Yes (4 levels)
Continuous
shooting
• Approx 2.5fps (2.0 in Live view)
• Unlimited JPEG/Fine frames
• 6 RAW frames
• 3.4 fps
• 170 JPEG/Fine frames
• 9 RAW frames

• 4 fps
• 67 JPEG/Fine frames
• 11 RAW frames

• 4 fps
• Unlimited JPEG/HQ frames
• 5 RAW frames
White balance • Auto
• Six presets (fine-tunable)
• Manual preset
• Auto
• Eight presets
• Manual preset
• Kelvin temperature
• Fine tunable
• Auto
• Twelve presets
• Manual preset
• Fine tunable
• Auto
• Eight presets
• Manual preset
• Kelvin temperature
• Fine tunable
Viewfinder • Pentamirror
• Eye-relief 19.7 mm
• 95% frame coverage
• Magnification approx. 0.74x
• Spherical Acute Matte focusing screen
• Pentamirror
• Eyepoint 18 mm
• Frame coverage 95%
• Magnification approx 0.87x
• Precision matte screen
• Pentamirror
• Eyepoint 18 mm
• Frame coverage 95%
• Magnification approx 0.78x
• B-type Bright View Clear Matte Mark V
• Pentamirror
• Eyepoint 16 mm
• Frame coverage 95%
• Magnification approx 0.96x
• Lumi-Micron Matte screen
LCD monitor • 2.7 TFT LCD
• 230,400 pixels
• Hinged
• 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots

• 2.7 " TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• Hinged/swivel

• 2.7 " TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• Hinged/swivel
Mirror-lockup No Custom function No (exposure delay mode) Yes, custom 1 - 30 sec
Storage • Memory Stick PRO Duo
• SD / SDHC card
SD/SDHC card SD/SDHC card • Compact Flash card
• xD Picture card
Battery NP-FH50 (6.8 V, 870 mAh) LP-E5 (7.4 V, 1050 mAh) EN-EL9a (7.2 V, 1080 mAh) PS-BLS1 (7.2 V, 1150 mAh)
Vertical grip No BG-E5 (option) No HLD-5 (option)
Software • Picture Motion Browser
• Image Data Lightbox
• Image Data Converter
• Canon DPP
• Canon PhotoStitch
• Canon ZoomBrowser EX
• EOS Utility (Remote Capt.)
• Nikon Transfer
• ViewNX
• Nikon Capture NX (trial)
• Olympus Master 2.0
• Olympus Studio 2.0 (trial)
Dimensions 128 x 97 x 71 mm (5.2 x 3.9 x 2.9 in) 129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
127 x 104 x 80 mm
(5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1 in)
130 x 94 x 60 mm
(5.1 x 3.7 x 2.4 in)
Weight (no batt) 489 g (1.28 lb) 480 g (1.1 lb) 560 g (1.2 lb) 475 g (1.0 lb)
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