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Compared to Alpha 380

On this page we describe in what areas the Sony DSLR-A390 and its predecessor the DSLR A380 are identical and where the differences lie. If a particular aspect of the camera goes unmentioned, you should assume that it is exactly the same as its predecessor in whatever regard (such as continuous shooting performance, for example). Reading this article plus our in-depth Sony DSLR-A380 review will give you all the information about the Sony A390 that you'd expect from a full dpreview DSLR review.

Visually the Sony A390 and A380 are similar, but not quite identical. In fact, the only differences between the two cameras are ergonomic. That said, they remain extremely close in terms of design and they are almost exactly the same size.

Key differences

A new hand grip and rearranged top-plate are the only distinguishing features of the A390 compared to the A380, but the new grip is a major change, and a very welcome one. The uncomfortably thin, short hand grip of the A380 is replaced by a chunkier, more conventional grip, and the shutter release and control dial have shifted to more sensible positions, too. We have to say though that the original A350 is still the most comfortable of the 300-series to hold and use.

From the front, the family resemblance of the Alpha 300-series is clear, although the A-380 is the odd one out, with its minimized hand grip and silver plastic top plate. The Alpha 390 is much closer to the original 350 in terms of its design and appearance, although some of the silver trimming from the A380 has survived in the new model.
From the top it is clear just how much of a redesign the A380 was compared to the A350. The A390 reverts to a more A350-esque arrangement of the shutter release and control dial, although the bulbous hand grip of the first model is (in our opinion at least) still more comfortable to hold.

Viewfinder

The A390's viewfinder is identical to that of the A380. This is a shame, since it means that it has one of the least pleasant viewfinders of any DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The A390 comes alive when the camera is switched into Live View mode, at which point the optical viewfinder is masked off (shown here on the right) and the LCD screen takes over. The rubber eyecup of the A390 protrudes very slightly further out than the A380, which makes the new camera fractionally more pleasant to use in OVF mode.

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 a 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'. As you can see, the A390's viewfinder (red line) is fractionally smaller than the Canon EOS 550D. For comparison we've also included the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III which has the currently largest viewfinder of all DSLRs on the market.

The A390's viewfinder isn't much smaller than the Canon EOS 550D, but it is less pleasant to use, being dimmer and less contrasty than we'd like.

Viewfinder crop

As you can see, the A390 doesn't show 100% of the captured image area through its optical viewfinder. A coverage of 95% is low for modern DSLRs, although the penalty in coverage may mean very little in normal use except that the occasional tree branch or piece of trash might appear in your images without you noticing it when you pressed the shutter.

Sony DSLR-A390: 95% viewfinder.
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