First Look

WE TAKE AN EXCLUSIVE HANDS-ON LOOK AT SONY'S LATEST TRIO OF DIGITAL SLR MODELS, THE A230, A330, AND A380

After a dearth of releases at this year's big photo shows, the past few months has seen an explosion of new digital SLRs into the market. This month Sony has launched three: the A230 and A380 are upgrades on the existing A200 and A350 models, while the A330 will be an exclusive model sold through Jessops stores.

The A230 sits at the budget end of the market and is designed to be both light and easy to use. It weighs just 450g and is around 2mm smaller in each direction compared with the A200. It features a 10.2-megapixel CCD sensor with an ISO range of 100-3200, a nine-point autofocus system with a centre cross-type sensor and a choice of wide, spot and local area selection. For metering it offers a 40-segment honeycomb pattern with choice of multi-segment, centre-weighted and spot, with exposure compensation of +/-2EV in third of stops, and bracketing in 0.3 or 0.7 increments. The viewfinder offers a 95% coverage and dioptre adjustment, while the LCD screen is 2.7in in size with a 230,400-dot resolution. This is priced on the Sony Style site at £519 with 18-55mm lens.

The A330 will not sit as part of the main Sony Alpha range but will be available exclusively from Jessops. It carries some benefits over the A230 but also shares a lot of its features. It uses the same 10.2-megapixel CCD sensor, with an ISO range of 100-3200. It also has the same nine-point phase detect AF system, and 40-segment honeycomb pattern metering system. Even the 95% field of view from the viewfinder is the same, though it does give a smaller magnification and a greater level of adjustment on the eye dioptre for spectacle wearers. The main benefit this model has is the LCD screen. Though still the same size and resolution as on the A230 (2.7in, 230k dot) it allows a two-way tilt, enabling it to be viewed from much lower and higher angles, and also allows you to compose and focus your shot on the rear screen using the Quick AF live view system. This model will sell for £550 with 18-55mm lens from Jessops.

The most senior and highly specified of the new cameras is the A380. This features a larger

14.2-megapixel CCD sensor - as seen on the A350 - with a 100-3200 ISO range. It shares the same nine-point AF and 40-segment honeycomb metering system with the other two models and, like the A330, has the smaller magnified 95% field of view from the viewfinder. The LCD, like the one on the A330, has a two-way tilt system allowing it to tilt down 55° and up 125°. It also features the Quick AF live view on the 2.7in 230k-dot display, and is priced at £660 for its body only.

All three new models feature Sony's anti-dust system, using an anti-static coating to repel particles and the CCD shift mechanism to shake particles free. The CCD shift mechanism is also used in all three to provide image stabilisation in-camera for a steadier shot, now known as SteadyShot INSIDE. The new models allow two types of storage media to be used: SD/SDHC cards and also MemoryStick Pro Duo cards, allowing increased integration with other Sony products, and all have HDMI outs to directly connect to HD TVs. Finally, the new displays on the LCDs offer a colourful menu, on-screen help, and a shooting display that gives new users a graphical interpretation of the aperture and shutter functions to aid

ABOVE Deputy Editor Mat Gallagher gets his hands on the new models.

See our exclusive hands-on video tour of the new cameras with Sony's product manager online now. Go to www.whatdigitalcamera.com to check it out

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