In my books Sony has been the most innovative camera company in the past year. They created a great premium compact in the RX100, pushed the limits of affordable DSLRs with the SLT-A77 and bought full frame sensors to a smaller chassis with the RX1. The success of Sony’s series has also been due to its entry-level DSLR the SLT-A58. Here is what sets it apart from its competition.
Design: The A58 looks like any other DSLR, but it it’s rare to find an optical viewfinder in an entry level camera off this sort. The controls are very similar to what you would find in a Canon or Nikon. However there are some differences. For instance, the viewfinder does not have an eye sensor and you have to manually switch from one to the other. You don’t usually think of zoom in a DSLR, but this one gives you the option of a digital zoom in case you want to compose with better clarity. This also helps while you preview pictures on the LCD. The camera is by no means heavy and has just the kind of weight you need to ensure a steady shot.
PERFORMANCE: The SLT-A58 is aimed at people looking to buy their first advanced camera. So this one does a good job by providing a mix of complex as well as simple features. For those who might feel a bit intimidated by the DSLR, the camera gives you Sony’s popular Superior Auto and Intelligent Auto functions where the camera will take care of all the settings. But then this is not what you buy a DSLR for. The fun of having a camera of this sort is the ability to tweak all the parameters. So the camera has all the manual settings you will want, accessible from a menu ring on the left and controlled with another ring under the trigger.
Overall, the A58 is very easy to use. The only issue I had was with the OLED viewfinder which does not always give a true preview. In low light, the preview is very grainy, and can put you off from committing to the shot. But if you do, the final results are not that bad. So you need to understand the viewfinder to get a grip on this camera. Plus, for beginners the True-Finder, as Sony calls it, gives a good idea of how the results can change when you play with shutter speed or aperture.
What I liked the most, however, was the fast auto-focus capabilities. You can shift focus from a kite in the sky to the hand of the person flying it in milliseconds. And this is true even while you are shooting video. In fact, the continuous auto-focus while shooting video ensure a clear image all the time, but you will need something to lock the focus on. For instance, while trying to shoot a thunderstorm with AF, the camera was locking on to any light source.
The burst mode is really fast too,though it won’t go beyond 8 shots per second. There are also a lot of effects and scenes to play with like in point-and-shoot cameras, again something that might interest some amateurs.
Whatever mode you use, the A58 can throw up some stunners if you have the eye for photography. The 20.1MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor can give you the sort of images that can awe your friends and family. I used it with a 18-55 SAM II kit lens and was very happy with the results, especially the ones I shot indoors.
Verdict: The SLT-A58 is a good entry-level DSLR option, especially for those upgrading from a Sony compact. The A58 is slightly more expensive than other entry-level cameras, but gives you more bang for the buck in terms of video abilities. Definitely worth consideration if you are out looking for your first DSLR.
Price: Rs 45,990
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