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Sony Alpha DSLR-A230

Quick take of Sony Alpha DSLR-A230.

Sony announced its three new entry-level dSLRs for 2009, the Alpha DLSR-A230, A330, and A380, which replace the A200, A300, and A350 ,respectively. The products preserve Sony's three-tier strategy for its low-end SLRs. The cheap A230 differs from the slightly-less-cheap A330 by the viewfinder and the tiltable LCD, plus the A330 will be available in brown. But perhaps most notably, these models have dual-memory slots, one of which takes SDHC cards and the other Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Duo.

In its price class, the A230 bumps up against the Canon EOS Rebel XS (rumors have it in line to be replaced in June) and the very popular Nikon D60. Given Sony's emphasis on size, it's odd that the A230 is actually slightly bigger than the competition. But otherwise, it offers some strong attractions: a slightly larger LCD and possibly better autofocus system, albeit at the expense of continuous-shooting speed.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 Canon EOS Rebel XS Nikon D60
Sensor 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CMOS 10-megapixel CCD
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 1,600 ISO 100 - ISO 1,600/ISO 3,200 (expanded)
Viewfinder 95 percent coverage
0.83x magnification
95 percent coverage
0.81x magnification
95 percent coverage
0.80x magnification
LCD 2.7-inch fixed 2.5-inch fixed 2.5-inch fixed
Live View No Yes No
Video No No No
Continuous shooting 2.5fps 3 fps 3 fps
Autofocus 9 points 7 points 3 points
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 5.0x3.8x2.7 5.0x3.8x2.4 5.0x3.7x2.5
ounces; add about 1.8 ounces for battery and card
15.9 15.9 16.1
Price $549 (with 18-55mm lens)
$749 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)
$599.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $599.95 (with 18-55mm lens)
Sony Electronics

Sony's research shows that most users stepping up to these classes of dSLRs are looking for better photo quality and performance, but want to retain the simplicity of the point-and-shoot experience. (A premise I agree with.) Of course, there's always the green Auto mode on every dSLR, but the big challenge is moving people from that to using many of the features that make dSLRs a lot better than their old snapshot cameras. For instance, Canon has its Creative Auto mode, described in the review of the EOS 50D. With these cameras, Sony has added online guides to describe the different features, and provides more contextual displays for the settings, like shutter speed and aperture.

The A230 will be available in July.