With its 14-megapixel CCD, flip-up LCD, sensor-shift image stabilizer, and built-in wireless flash controller, the feature-packed Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 seems like a cornucopia of photographic goodness for the budget shopper. And you wouldn't be far off the mark: there's a lot to like in the A350, and I suspect it will garner its share of fans. Unsurprisingly, however, Sony made some compromises so that the A350 could lay claim to the title of highest-resolution budget dSLR. Sony does offer an almost identical 10-megapixel model, the Alpha DSLR-A300, which lists for about $200 less.
Sony offers the A350 in three packages: body only, a kit with the SAL-1870 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 lens, which we tested, and a dual-lens kit that adds the SAL-55200 55-200mm f4-5.6 model. Those two lenses, plus the 75-300mm SAL-75300, currently comprise Sony's complete entry-level lens lineup. For other inexpensive alternatives you'll have to turn to compatible A-mount Konica Minolta, Sigma, or Tamron offerings.
A bit heavy at 1 pound, 8-plus ounces, the solid A350 has a solid, rubbery grip that's very comfortable to hold, and the extra heft makes it feel more substantial than competitors such as the Canon EOS Rebel XSi. Another positive aspect of the extra weight: it doesn't get overbalanced when using accessories like the HVL-F42AM I tested it with.
Since much of the design matches that of the A200, I have similar complaints about the USB placement as well. The USB connector sits inside the CF card compartment, which means you have to leave the door open while downloading, potentially allowing all sorts of schmutz to get onto the card-slot contacts (and, if you're as accident prone as me, providing a protrusion to hit and hurl the camera to the floor). More important, Sony uses a semiproprietary combo micro USB/audiovisual connector on all its dSLRs, for no reason that I can see other than to force you to buy a cable from them if you lose the bundled one.