Sony A550 Review
Sony's approach to the DSLR market has been an interesting one to watch - the first generation of the A2XX/3XX family was a three-camera assault on a market that most manufacturers had tried to address with a single model. Sony instead created three cameras that placed greater emphasis on attracting new users across from compact cameras (whether that be through price or what was, at the time, the most seamless, compact-like live view system on the market), rather than simply stripping down their higher-end models. With the recent refresh of that range, its cameras have moved even further towards a compact-user friendly interpretation of what an entry-level offering should look like - with the predictable result that the A230, A330 and A380 have prompted disappointment and even derision from the company's DSLR fan base.
However, the launch of the A500 and A550 make it clear not only that Sony wasn't aiming for existing DSLR users with its 2XX / 3XX series but also that it intends to break the entry level market down into more segments than any other manufacturer has before tried. So now, in the sub $900 market, Sony offers five DSLRs - the price conscious A230, the simplified A330 and A380 live view cameras and the A500 /A550 for the more experienced DSLR user.
As such the A5XX series cameras regain a couple of the features lost from the most recent 2 and 3-series models - so the 'fives' feature the larger 11.8Wh FM500H batteries used in previous Alphas and include Auto Exposure Lock buttons. There is also a wider selection of external buttons for giving fast access to a variety of shooting settings such as drive mode, ISO and D-Range, freeing up the four-way controller for AF-point selection.
The return of two-mode live view
The most notable feature of the new cameras, however, is the inclusion of a second live view mode. The A500 and A550 still sport a small secondary sensor in their viewfinders 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 without any autofocus at all (Sony dubs this mode 'MF Check Live View')
|Live view||Optical Viewfinder||MF 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 new MF Check mode does not direct any light to the AF sensor at the bottom of the camera and hence is manual focus only (the A550 cannot use its main imaging sensor for contrast-detection AF).|
The other changes are also quite striking - the 3.0 inch LCDs (in a lovely high resolution incarnation on the A550), are better articulated than on the A330 and A380 and both 5-series cameras are based around CMOS, rather than the CCD technology of the 330 and 380.
A550 vs A500
As we've seen before with Sony the 500 series is actually made up of two very similar models; the camera on review here (Alpha 550) and its cut-down brother, the Alpha 500. The most important differences is the sensor - the A550 gets you an extra couple of megapixels - and the screen (the A550's has three times the resolution), but there's a few others to justify the $200 price gap:
- Sensor resolution (A550: 14.2MP, A500: 12.3 MP)
- LCD screen (A550: 3.0", 920k dots, A500: 3.0", 230k dots)
- Only the A550 offers the 'speed priority' 7fps shooting option (A500 max 5fps)
- A550 has a larger buffer (14 raw frames vs 3)
For the most part the first section of this review applies equally to the A550 and A500, though we'd expect the A500's image quality to be significantly different.
The A550 represents a new category of camera for Sony and the specification makes it look like the company is aiming fairly squarely for Canon's 500D and Nikon's D5000, pitching a little above both in terms of most specifications.
- 14.2 mp CMOS Exmor sensor
- Manual Focus Check Live View using the main imaging sensor
- 5fps in optical viewfinder mode (7fps with focus and exposure locked)
- New user interface
- HDR mode that combines multiple exposures
- 5-level manually selectable Dynamic Range Optimization
- Screen articulates up or down by 90 degrees
- Increased battery life (1,000 shots when using the viewfinder)
Sadly, the much asked-for depth-of-field preview and mirror lock-up options have not returned. In both live view modes, the lens aperture is kept wide-open until the shot is taken, giving no representation of depth-of-field. And, although the mirror could theoretically be kept in the 'up' position, the new MF Check live view system still flips the mirror down and up again just as the shot is being taken, even when combined with self-timer.
|The A550 is distinctly larger than the A380 - in fact it's much more similar in size to the A350, to the point that, with all its upgrades, it might appeal as a step up for A350 owners.|
|The 5-series cameras are substantially smaller than the A900 and A850.|
- 15 Photographic tests (DR)
- 16 Photographic tests (DR)
- 17 Photographic tests
- 18 Compared to
- 19 Compared to (JPEG)
- 20 Compared to (JPEG)
- 21 Compared to (RAW)
- 22 Compared to (RAW)
- 23 Compared to (Higher ISO)
- 24 Compared to (Resolution)
- 25 Compared to (Resolution)
- 26 Kit Lens test
- 27 Conclusion
- 28 Samples
Dec 9, 2009
Aug 27, 2009
Dec 5, 2012
Dec 7, 2012
|Nectar Dancing by Lensmate|
from A Big Year - birds
|Sad clown by PEB|
|Mtl Gen X 2015 DP by MarioSS|
from - Gen X - (In Full Colours+ Border)
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has a the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.
Adobe just released version 2015.12 of Lightroom CC, adding support for several new cameras and lenses, and baking in several important bug fixes while they were at it.
In this interview, Chiara Marinai, photo editor for VanityFair.com, explains exactly what she looks for in new photographers and photo submissions. Take notes.