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
|Hot Air Balloons Over Bagan by User9320321874|
|Blue mood by darub|
from Fixed lens shootout.
|Yellow Warbler by LeeS|
from A Big Year - birds
|Waiting for the Parade by tcoker1103|
from - La Vida Loca - (Black and White Street Photography+ A Border)
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not known as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you know where to look. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.