Sony Alpha DSLR-A390 review: Sony Alpha DSLR-A390

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Typical Price: £400.00
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Efficient and simple live-view mode; tilting LCD display; decent value for money.

The Bad Awkward handling; plasticky build quality; too similar to the Alpha DSLR-A380.

The Bottom Line The Sony Alpha DSLR-A390 is alright, but it's really just last year's tech after the shallowest of makeovers

6.5 Overall

Why, it's a new digital SLR! Remember those? They're what we all used to buy before those new-fangled hybrid cameras took over the market. The Sony Alpha DSLR-A390 looks good, too, boasting a 14.2-megapixel sensor, Sony's novel 'Quick AF Live View' mechanism and a tilting LCD display. It'll set you back around £400 with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Flotilla of features

It might sit at the budget end of the market, but the A390 packs in plenty of features. In particular, the Quick AF Live View mode deserves closer inspection. Other dSLRs use the main sensor to form the live image on the LCD display, which means flipping up the mirror and opening the shutter for viewing. The A390 does none of this.

Instead, it uses a second, smaller 'viewing' sensor in the pentaprism. It delivers perfectly adequate quality for viewing and doesn't require all that mirror flipping. It's activated by a simple switch on the top of the camera. The main autofocus sensor is still active, so the A390 focuses much faster in live-view mode than other dSLRs -- hence 'Quick AF'.

The A390 delivers great colours and clean, high-contrast images, although the barrel distortion at the 18mm end of the zoom range is pretty wild (click image to enlarge)

It's quick and simple to activate the live-view mode, and it works well. This mode is all the more useful thanks to the tilting, 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD on the back of the camera. Low-level and macro shots are much easier as a result.

The A390 delivers vivid, saturated colours and good exposure accuracy in all sorts of lighting, whereas previous beginner-orientated Sony dSLRs have had a tendency to overexpose, particularly when it comes to backlit shots. If you want to shoot raw files instead of JPEGs, you can use the bundled Image Data Converter SR software to convert them. It's not Photoshop, but it's not bad.

Like other Alpha bodies, the A390 includes Sony's 'SteadyShot Inside' anti-shake system. This moves the sensor to counter camera movement during the exposure and, in theory, should work with all lenses. The only downside is that the image isn't stabilised in the viewfinder, so long-range telephoto shots can still be tricky.

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