Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 review: Sony Alpha DSLR-A300

And the camera itself has a slightly crude feel, partly because of the chunky plastic bodywork and partly from the coarse-sounding startup and autofocus systems. The engineering lash-up used to produce the live view system, meanwhile, leaves the optical viewfinder image slightly smaller and noticeably gloomier.

The price is certainly tempting, but dSLR prices have been dropping generally, and for the same money you can get a Canon EOS 1000D, also with live view, and also with 10 million pixels. The Canon's a slicker camera to use, though admittedly the Sony does produce better pictures and the simpler live view and tilting LCD are a big bonus.

Perhaps the biggest rival for the a300, though, is another Sony. The DSLR-A200 is essentially the same camera with the same controls, the same sensor and the same lens, but without the live view, and it costs around £60 less.

First impressions are that the DSLR-A300 is plasticky, crude and lumpy and lacks the finesse of rival dSLRs. But it grows on you. It proves versatile, effective and rather likeable. And it happens to take great pictures, within the limitations of the basic kit lens -- but you can always change that later for a better one.