Sony A500 Review


Max resolution:      4272 x 2848
Low resolution:      4272 x 2400, 3104 x 2072, 3104 x 1744, 2128 x 1416, 2188 x 1192
Image ratio w:h:      3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels:      12.3 million
Sensor photo detectors:      12.9 million
Sensor size:      23.5 x 15.6 mm (3.66 cm²)
Pixel density:      3.4 MP/cm²
Sensor type:      CMOS
Sensor manufacturer:      Sony
ISO rating:      Auto, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800

The Sony A500 marks a return to form for Sony in the mid-range DSLR market after the backwards step of the A330 / A380 models, which although cheaper and lighter suffer from an un-intuitive control layout and poor handgrip.

Live View mode is an area where we didn’t expect too many improvements, but Sony have made several advances that puts their system even further ahead of their main rivals. Face Detection and Smile Shutter may be squarely aimed at beginners, but they are useful technologies for the uninitiated, while the new Manual Focus Check Live View is a real boon to accurate focusing for macro shooting. The A500 makes a great choice for a compact camera user looking to upgrade to the scary world of DSLR photography.

Equally excellent is the A500’s image quality, with the new 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor and improved BIONZ processor combining to produce great looking images all the way up to ISO 3200. The Dynamic Range Optimizer reliably improves shadow detail and highlights, while the new High Dynamic Range Optimiser combines two exposures into one image and produces quite natural HDR images (if you could ever call HDR images ‘natural’).

Our main criticisms of the Sony A500 are what it doesn’t offer, namely a large and bright optical viewfinder and any form of video recording. The first issue is a necessary by-product of the excellent Live View system, which leaves the OVF rather small when compared to other DSLRs, even those with a similarly sized sensor. Manual Focus Check Live View partially alleviates this problem, but is no substitute for a better OVF.

The second issue is also presumably a technical limitation of Sony’s Live View, and one that is even more pressing now that many competitors offer 720p video, and even full 1080p with the recent launch of the Canon EOS 550D / Rebel Ti2. It’s obviously not a problem if you have no interest in using your DSLR for moving images, but Sony must be losing customers lured away by all the excitement surrounding video on a DSLR. With the annual PMA show literally around the corner, it surely can’t be too long before Sony introduce a range of video-capable DSLR cameras…

Despite these shortcomings, there’s no denying that the Sony A500 is a user-friendly DSLR camera that delivers excellent results for both beginners and shutterbugs alike, and is easily worthy of our Highly Recommended award.