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LCD Monitor

The A380 features a 2.7 inch LCD screen with a fairly standard resolution of 230,400 dots. The screen is of the tilting kind which makes it useful for over-head or waist-level shooting. However, as movement is only possible on one axis this only works as long as you are shooting your images in landscape orientation. Due to the tilt construction the screen is, even when completely retracted, slightly protruding from the camera body, and this can make it difficult to get your eye sufficiently close to the viewfinder especially if you are wearing glasses. The image is generally clear but in live view mode the screen's refresh rate appears to be pretty low, and the image can get quite noisy in low light.

Camera settings display

Like all cameras in its class the A380 does not have a status LCD on its top plate and uses the rear LCD as an information panel. There are two display types available, you switch between them by pressing the DISP button. The graphic display shows a graphical representation of shutter speed and aperture, while the standard display is limited to numbers and the usual symbols, and offers some additional information such as white balance, creative style, focus mode and D-Range optimizer settings.

Unfortunately on the A380 you cannot 'enter' the status screen and change any of the settings like you can on most of its direct competitors (and for that matter the Alpha 700). To change any of the settings that are displayed on the status LCD you have to either use the hard buttons, the function menu or the main menu.

  1. Exposure Mode
  2. Shutter Speed
  3. Aperture
  4. Exposure compensation
  5. SteadyShot
  6. Battery level
  7. Flash mode
  8. Image quality
  9. Bracketing
  1. Image size
  2. D-Range optimizer
  3. Memory card slot
  4. Remaining shots
  5. Sensitivity (ISO)
  6. AF area mode
  7. Creative style
  8. White balance

Viewfinder

The A380's viewfinder is identical to its predecessor's and to be honest it's one of the worst optical DSLR viewfinders we've seen for a long time (since the A350 to be precise). Due to the Quick-AF live view's additional sensor in the prism the A380 comes with the smallest viewfinder we've ever seen on an APS-C camera. An internal shutter closes the viewfinder when live view mode is engaged.

Another problem is that the articulated LCD protrudes some distance from the back of the camera, making it virtually impossible to get your eye close to the viewfinder without first filing down your nose. This is particularly problematic for wearers of glasses who will find it difficult to see any of the shooting information that's displayed in the finder.


Viewfinder view

In the viewfinder you can see the markings representing the position of the autofocus points. There are also guides denoting the limits of a 16:9 aspect-ratio image. But while the A350 viewfinder had a circle showing the limits of the spot metering area, on the A380 this has now gone.

Viewfinder size

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. Hence the A380's quoted figure of 0.74x magnification ends up as 0.49x when compared to a full-frame, 24x36mm sensor camera.

The diagram below shows the relative size of the viewfinders of the A380, E-620 and Canon EOS 500D, alongside, for reference, the EOS-1Ds Mark III (currently the biggest viewfinder on the DSLR market).

The A380's viewfinder offers the same 0.74x magnification as the A350. It's the smallest viewfinder of an APS-C camera currently on the market and, due to the protruding tilt-screen, difficult to work with, especially if you are wearing glasses.

Viewfinder crop

Most cameras at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. In common with most of its competitors the A380 only shows 95% (vertically and horizontally) of the frame.

The A380 viewfinder offers 95% frame coverage.

Battery / Battery Compartment

The A380 comes with the BC-VH1 charger and the 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 likely to get in real-world situations.

Memory Card Compartment and Connections

On the side left side of the camera, behind a sliding cover, you'll find the A380's memory card slots and connectors. The A380 now uses SD cards for image storage and surprisingly the Memory Stick, which had been omitted on the A350, makes an unlikely comeback on the A380 as well. There is a small switch for selecting the card format that you would like to use.

The USB and HDMI out (for connecting the camera to a HD television) connectors are located behind the same plastic door. The connector for the optional external power adapter is located on the other side on the camera.

Note that there is no video out connector on the A380, the only way of getting your images onto a TV screen is by connecting the camera to a HD-TV via an HDMI cable. So forget about showing your images to your gran on her trusty CRT TV set.

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