Sony Alpha A380 digital SLR camera

A mid-range DSLR for enthusiastic amateurs

  • Review
  • Specs
  • Images
  • User Reviews
  • Buy Now
Sony Alpha A380
  • Sony Alpha A380
  • Sony Alpha A380

Pros

  • Good image quality in optimal settings, plenty of inbuilt features, user-friendly interface

Cons

  • Cheap plastic body, slightly overpriced, no video/movie mode

Bottom Line

The Sony Alpha A380 delivers evenly exposed images with natural colours when left on its default settings. There are further pre-optimised Creative Style settings for those who prefer the more vivid look. We weren't convinced, however, that the supplied kit lens made the best of the sensor's high pixel count, with detail softer than we expected. Couple this with disappointment about the plastic build and lack of video and Sony gets a 'good, but could do better' this time around.

Would you buy this?

Thinking about upgrading from a compact to a digital SLR for the first time, or simply want a relatively lightweight and compact model as a backup? Though Canon and Nikon have long dominated the world of digital SLRs, Sony is fast gaining ground as a viable alternative.

The 14.2-megapixel Sony Alpha A380 digital SLR camera does battle with its competitors' similarly priced and pitched Canon 500D and Nikon D5000 cameras, although it omits those two models' HD video functionality. Neither bottom-of-the-range DSLR nor semi-professional tool, the Sony Alpha A380 is aimed squarely at family users and enthusiastic amateurs; the electronics manufacturer delivering a fairly compact model that is at once easy to use yet feature packed.

Chunky controls, well-labelled buttons and a comfortably lightweight body ensure that the Sony Alpha A380 digital camera will appear less threatening to anyone picking up a more ‘serious' camera for the first time. However, despite the overall feeling of robustness, the plastic nature of the finish is an initial disappointment. It's not quite what we expected from a camera retailing for a suggested $1799, though that figure does include an 18-55mm zoom lens that we'd recommend absolute beginners plumping for. For $1499 you can get just the camera alone.

Unusually for a DSLR, the Sony Alpha A380 features a tilting LCD screen at the rear that can be angled up or down, for either low or high angle shooting, a feature shared with its D5000 rival. Unfortunately for Sony, the Nikon has the edge by virtue of the greater flexibility of its own screen, which can also rotate left or right, and fold inwards to the body for added protection. By contrast, while welcome as a useful extra, the Sony Alpha A380's screen can't help feel a bit stiff and awkward.

On a positive note, the Sony Alpha A380's LCD displays a graphical interface showing key shooting information, and, as the user tabs through the features on display, an on-screen guide explains, by way of a brief text ‘speech bubble', what the different settings do. Thus, this is a camera that you can familiarise yourself with without constant recourse to the manual — and such help can be deactivated via the menu system once experience grows.

The info display also cleverly flips 90 degrees if the DSLR is turned on its side in order to shoot portrait fashion, while an eye-level sensor switches it off if the optical viewfinder directly above is in use. Additionally, the camera will automatically determine focus for the user when it detects their eye is level with the viewfinder, so the shutter release is ready to be fired immediately. Fast, responsive and reliable appears to be the Sony Alpha A380's mantra.

Its Live View feature — where the rear screen can be used for shot composition as you would on a compact camera — is also impressive as an alternative to the slightly murky optical viewfinder above. And, with a single press of the ‘AF' button at the rear, in this mode the Sony Alpha A380 will continue to automatically determine focus for the user if required.

Inevitably, constant use of the LCD use sucks up power, delivering just 230 images from a full charge of the Sony Alpha A380's battery as opposed to 500 shots if using the viewfinder instead. Standard JPEG, better quality Raw, or a combination of both file formats are written to either Sony's own Memory Stick media or the more widely used SD or SDHC. There are slots for both; with a sliding switch to specify which one you want to record to, as the camera doesn't automatically choose.

Along with the innovative, Sony has also included some odd features on its flagship consumer model. A case in point is the dedicated button for a ‘smart teleconverter' that digitally crops into an image when your own lens won't stretch that far. Since this is utilising only a portion of the image, overall resolution inevitably drops. Strange, as the Sony Alpha A380's otherwise higher-than-average resolution is surely one of its greatest selling points. Incorporating some form of video capture, Full HD or otherwise, might have been a better bet by way of an additional attention grabber.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Be the first to comment.

Post new comment

Users posting comments agree to the PC World comments policy.

Login or register to link comments to your user profile, or you may also post a comment without being logged in.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?