Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Review
The Sony DSLR-A580 is near-identical in terms of design and operation to its predecessor the DSLR-A550, and in terms of image quality very similar to its sister-model the SLT-A55. For this review we have therefore slightly shortened our usual review format, concentrating on the differences to the A550 and A55 respectively. To learn everything about the camera you are interested in, we recommend reading not only this review but also the full reviews of the DSLR-A550 and SLT-A55.
The Sony DSLR-A580 was announced, together with the SLT-A55, in August 2010. In Sony's slightly convoluted DSLR line-up it is firmly located in the mid-level bracket, competing with cameras such as the Canon EOS 600D/Rebel T3i and Nikon D5100.
Both the A580 and the A55 continue Sony's tradition of designing cameras which are 'a bit different' from the rest. This is especially true for the A55 which, with its translucent fixed mirror and electronic viewfinder, can't even technically be called an SLR. The subject of our review though, the DSLR-A580, comes with a moving mirror and is therefore more of a 'traditional' SLR, but its second live view mode still sets it apart from the more conventional competitors. Like its predecessor, the DSLR-A550, the camera uses a small secondary sensor in the viewfinder to provide live view with fast phase-detection AF, but can also utilize the slower but higher-resolution main-sensor live view system used by all other manufacturers, albeit only with very slow contrast-detect AF.
The unusual live view concept is not the only element that the new model has taken over from its predecessor. The A580 body is, apart from some minor changes to the button layout and the color of the top plate (black vs gray), visually indistinguishable from the A550. Inside the body shell it is a different story. The A550 captures its images on the same 16.2MP CMOS sensor that we were pretty impressed with in our SLT-A55 review. With the new sensor the camera also gains a few new features, such as 1080p full-HD video, a sweep-panorama mode and a multi-frame ISO 25600 mode, all of which are available on the A-55 as well.
In essence the DSLR-A580 offers an A55 image pipeline in an A550 body which makes it, at least on paper, an ideal solution for those who like the new Sony 16.2 MP sensor's image output but prefer a more traditional DSLR design with an optical viewfinder over the A55's EVF and translucent mirror.
The two-mode live view
One of the most notable features of the new camera is one that has been taken over from its predecessor - the second live view mode. The A580 sports a small secondary sensor in the viewfinder to provide live view with fast phase-detection AF, but can also utilize the slower but higher-resolution main-sensor live view system used by all other manufacturers. Contrast detect AF is now available in this latter mode which as a consequence is now called 'Focus Check Live View' (as opposed to MF Check Live View).
|Live view||Optical Viewfinder||Focus Check Live view|
|Roll your mouse over the above images to see how the light path is redirected between the viewfinder and live view sensor. With the mirror in the up position, the Focus Check mode does not direct any light to the AF sensor at the bottom of the camera and hence can only focus using the slower contrast-detect method.|
Sony A580 - key specifications
- 16.2MP (effective) APS HD CMOS sensor
- Maximum ISO 12,800 (with a quasi-ISO 25,600 'Multi-frame NR' option)
- 15-point AF system with 3 cross-type AF points
- Contrast-detect AF in focus check live view mode
- Electronic level in LCD with pitch/roll indicator
- Switchable Memory Stick/SD card slots (only one in use at any time)
- Up to 7fps continuous shooting rate
- 1080p AVCHD movie mode with continuous AF
- Hinged 3 inch LCD with 921k dots
- 3D sweep-panorama
- Socket for external microphone
- Face-detection AF (focus via nearest phase-detection AF point)
At the same time as the DSLR-A580 Sony also launched the sister model A560. The only difference between the two models is the imaging sensor. The A560 captures its images on a 14.2 MP CMOS sensor instead of the A580's 16.2 MP.
Foreword / notes
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.
Sony DSLRA580L 580 DSLR Camera
and DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 Lens (Black)
Sony DSLRA580L 580 DSLR Camera
and DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 Lens (Black)
Sony SLT-A58K SLT-A58
with 18-55mm Zoom Lens, 20.1MP DSLR Camera w/ 2.7" LCD Screen (Black) + Sony SAL-552002 DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Lens + Sony 32GB Memory Card + Sony Small System Case + Accessory Kit
Sony Alpha DSLR-A550 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Sony DSLRA580 DSLR Camera Body Only (Black)
Sony Alpha SLT-a35 16 MP Digital SLR
with Translucent Mirror Technology
Sony Alpha SLT-a35 16 MP Digital SLR Kit
with Translucent Mirror Technology and 18-55mm Lens
Sony DSLR NEX7KB 24.3MP Digital SLR Camera & 18-55MM Zoom Lens
+ 55-210mm Nex System Zoom Lens + 16 GB Memory Card + Camera Bag + 3 Foot Mini HDMI Cable + Accessory Kit
Sony Alpha SLT-A77V/Q 24.3MP Digital SLR
with Translucent Mirror Technology with 16-50mm Lens + Sony 32GB SDHC + Sony 55-200 Lens + Sony Case + Sony Remote + Mini HDMI Cable + Replacement Battery Pack + Accessory Kit
Sony DSLR SLTA77V 24.3MP Digital SLR Camera Body
+ 18-250MM High Magnification Alpha Zoom Lens + 32 GB Memory Card + Camera Bag + Accessory Kit
Sony DSLR Alpha CLM-V55 5-inch External LCD Monitor Kit