The A300 is not quite the entry-level model in Sony's dSLR line-up — in order of rank there's the baby A200, then the A300, and at the top of this particular family tree, the A350. The A300 and A350 are identical, apart from megapixel count (the A300 has 10.2 rather than 14.2) which results in the A350 taking fewer frames per second than the A300.
With three models in the entry-level alpha range to choose from, competition amongst them is stiff enough without even considering other competitors like the Canon 450D and the . We thought the A200 was a good basic dSLR, and the A350 was a bit too expensive for what it was, so does the A300 strike the perfect middle ground?
Certainly, the A300 is not an unattractive model to look at; a black curved body, streamlined buttons flush with the surrounds, and a smooth finish all contribute to this aura of simplicity. Everything is within easy reach — the playback and menu buttons flank the left side of the 2.7-inch LCD screen, and the control wheel sits on the right.
Really, the only noticeable difference between the Sony and many other entry-level dSLRs is the tilting LCD screen at the back of the unit. Popping out from the body on a plastic hinge, the screen can tilt up and down, 130 degrees and 40 degrees respectively. It's an incredibly useful feature for those photographers who shoot in tricky situations, such as overhead or down low, and need to be able to compose their shots without being on the same level as the camera.
There are effectively two sensors on the A300 — one "normal" imaging sensor, for processing the image, and a dedicated live view sensor. Though this is very useful for making the live view system incredibly fast, especially when auto focusing, it's also a problem because the LCD screen in live view will only see around 90 per cent of the final frame.
As seems to be the way with a lot of entry-level dSLRs, kit lenses come in spades. Sony has chosen to package the A300 with two — a more everyday 18-70mm f3.5/5.6 and a telephoto 55-200mm f4/5.6. The 18-70mm is the pick of the two because it delivers clearer photos than its zoomier cousin, but it's still not as fast as we would have liked. The 55-200mm, well the less said the better. It's clunky, clumsy and feels cheap, we say stay away!
Sony's Super Steadyshot technology (which is just a fancy way of saying image stabilisation) is built into the camera, as opposed to the lens, which is one key advantage that the Sony range has over the dSLR competition, with the exception of the Olympus range.