Sony Alpha A580
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Sony’s A580 slots in-between the A390 and the full-frame A850 in the Alpha D-SLR range and can be bought body-only then twinned with the versatile 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for £984.
With a 16.2Mp sensor, the Sony Alpha A580 offers a high resolution. As with all Sony APS-C D-SLRs, there’s a 1.5x crop factor, so the 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens offers a 35mm focal length equivalent of 24-157.5mm, giving it a wide angle setting. It boasts a class-leading 15-point AF system with three cross-type sensors for fast and accurate focusing, but its 3in, 921k-dot screen is slightly let down by the lack of vari-angle architecture. Instead it’s a two-way tilt screen that also doesn’t sit flush with the body and protrudes by 6mm. It allows you to compose from low and high angles, however it can’t flip out to the side and doesn’t feel quite as refined in use. Sony’s Sweep Panorama function is accessed from the mode dial and to support it there are eight
For a mid-price D-SLR, the A580 can shoot very quickly, with a maximum burst speed of 7fps in Speed Priority mode. Both RAW and JPEG formats are supported in this mode and we managed to rattle out 20 RAW files at 7fps before the buffer was filled - very impressive! This number increased to 42 frames at 7fps when Fine JPEG was selected and overall we found little to fault with the shooting performance.
For videographers, full HD video (1920x1080) is recorded at 50i (or 25fps) in the AVCHD format and a stereo mic port is featured too, although an active AF system is not. This isn’t all bad news though, as the whirrs the lens produces when it’s focusing would easily be picked up by the built-in mic and would be quite noticeable on playback.
The A580 offers continuous Live View coverage with Phase-detect AF which means it’s quick at locking-on subjects when Live View is deployed, however the screen feed is a tad grainy and isn’t as sharp or clear as its rivals.
The Fn button at the rear lets you change common settings quickly and AF points can be moved hastily using the D-Pad. However we’d prefer the Mode dial to be in easy reach of the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, rather than on the far left-hand side beside the pop-up flash, as using it means swapping hand positons.
The A580’s menu system is broken into six categories and takes time to find what you want and didn’t feel overly intuitive. AF/MF is controlled from the body rather than the lens, with the zoom ring feeling a touch stiff and plasticky when used.
The general feel of the A580 in the hand is good thanks to the chunky handgrip and with it weighing just over 1kg on the scales it’s the heaviest kit here.
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