UPDATED: New full-size image downloads are included for the Sony A350, Canon 5D and Pentax K20D at a constant f4.0 at all ISO settings. Crops on page 6 are now actual pixels with no size reduction and were extracted from the updated images.

When Sony secured victory for Blu-ray a couple of months ago, it was difficult not to reflect on the Betamax vs. VHS battle that Sony lost many years ago. Those around at the time will remember that Betamax was the superior format but VHS won with licensing, availability, and lower prices. The Blu-ray victory was quite a contrast - this time being promoted by Sony who secured the exclusives they needed to assure Blu-ray the winner. As with VHS, however, it appears in the short term that the inferior format won again as Sony is only now introducing features to Blu-ray playback that were introduced with HD DVD almost two years ago. Those who review technology often see less capable technologies win based on dollars thrown into promoting a product and buying distribution channels.

Why does this matter in the Digital SLR market? It doesn't as far as DSLR reviews are concerned, but it does put into perspective the fact that Sony is a massive player in the electronics arena, and Sony plays (and pays) to win. When Sony absorbed Minolta it wasn't long until the A100 launched the 10MP (megapixel) wars, even though the A100 was in reality a Minolta 5D upgraded with the new Sony sensor. Great things were expected after this first foray, but it took Sony quite a while to begin putting their stamp on the DSLR market.

Last October the A700 prosumer Sony launched with a new 12.2MP CMOS sensor and 5FPS burst speed in a rugged magnesium semi-pro body. The A700 is still based on the Minolta 7D digital SLR but it is more "Sony" than the A100. This was followed at January CES with the A200 update to the A100 - now targeted at a street price of $599 with a kit lens. A month later at PMA, Sony surprised the market with two more entry level digital SLR cameras that feature what we found to arguably be the best Live View in any SLR.

No one else in the DSLR market has introduced so many new cameras in such a short period of time. There are now Sony entry models at $599, $699, $799, and $899. The A700 is $1399 to $1499, and Sony isn't finished yet. A new Pro level 24.6MP full-frame (presumably to be called the A900) will launch later this year. New Sony DSLR cameras are everywhere, and to their credit, Sony has found ways to differentiate the three entry models.


The A200 shipped about a month ago, and today we are taking a first look at the top entry-level Sony called the A350. It is the only entry-level SLR with a huge 14.2MP sensor, but unlike most recent DSLR sensor introductions, this one is CCD and not CMOS. The A350/A300 are also the only entry DSLR cameras with a tilt LCD. This is coupled with fast AF Live View, which moves that feature to a full-time view alternative with fast auto focusing. Most of the recent DSLR cameras feature Live View that was pioneered by Olympus, but Sony takes the feature from checklist novelty to a truly useful viewing alternative. This makes the transition easier for point-and-shoot users accustomed to Live View composing with the LCD screen.

Current Sony Lineup
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  • Deadtrees - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    When it comes to measurebaters, I know what you're talking about. However, it's not the case here. You are not saying that comparing images taken with different aperture values and exposure times aren't visible in real life, are you?

    As said before, what people are demading aren't quite huge here. It's as simple as taking pictures in possible same conditions. People aren't demanding to remove all variances. People are demanding the reviwer to follow just basic rules. Really, think about it. What kind of a reviwer tests cameras using AUTO mode unless it's done so for the sake of it? Even worse, what kind of a reviewer compares resolution of the camera when the aperture value is all different on a such a shallow /f lens?

    BTW, where did that "If its not Canon/Nikon, its not a camera" come from? Last time I checked, nobody here put down A350 or K20 because they aren't Nikon/Canon cameras. In fact, people put down the review as it was done such, if not less, an amateur level.

    When people are pointing the obvious, don't water it down by saying that they're just being measurebators and Nikon/Canon fanbois. It only helps the ego of the person not the review; What people here care about is the quality of the review, not the ego of the "PRO" photographer reviewer.
    Reply
  • Maxington - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    If you take a look, I was one of the first few people who commented on the different apertures throwing the test, which was brought up days before 50 other comments jumped on the bandwagon, and was fixed swiftly. Wesley also acknowledged all the CONSTRUCTIVE criticism civilly and took it onboard to improve his review, it wasn't until people starting on about stuff like varying ISO standards and default settings between camera brands that he became mildly irate. You can't seriously say that level of bitching isn't measurebation for this sort of review.

    Crap like that never ends. If you judge on jpeg quality, the settings between cameras becomes a variable. If you judge on RAW, the converter used becomes a variable, and the level of NR that in some cameras can't be disabled.

    He made some mistakes in his first review, and fixed them. Very few of the later comments were valid, but people keep harping on.

    Last time I checked, I said OTHER REVIEW SITES are often biased towards Canon/Nikon.
    Reply
  • Deadtrees - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    The test methods the reviewer used would be the call for 'measurebators' as it measurs the difference between cameras; You can expect someone to not measure when the review itself is based on measurement. How can you do a camera review without being a measurebator in the first place? www.luminous-landscape.com would be the answer. If he's a "PRO" photographer who doesn't know much about measuring cameras as witnessed, he should just write up reviews Luminous-landspace way. That'd be the perfect solution.

    You see, the problem we have here is how he's setup a testing system that's got too many variables. People didn't demand him to to varible free, people demanded him to be get rid of ridicoulous varibles. He did manage to fix some of the problems yet some remains. I suggested that he mention and explain it if he's doing it for some purposes. As you probably know why, a reviwer shouldn't just throw out images and compare them without letting the people know about crucial settings being different.

    About the Canon/Nikon comment.
    I was mostly refering to the reviwer's reply although it was directed to someone else:

    "You could just stop the pain, stop reading, and move on to comfortable sites where Canon and Nikon always top the performance charts and always win every award"

    Now, isn't it just silly when the reviwer gets all personal saying stuffs like that when he's the one who created this chaos?



    Reply
  • brian_riendeau - Thursday, April 03, 2008 - link

    Now would probably be a good time to stop writing prosumer DSLR articles. This whole thing is littered with inaccuracies and just plain incoherent information. Reading this really reminds me of when I interview people for jobs they are not qualified for, and they just break down and start tossing out buzzwords. I got no problem with AT publishing some SLR articles, but they at least have to make sense. Heck, you did not even compare the Sony against the compatable Nikon and Canon models. Why the hell would you use a 5D? The 5D is in a completely different class, and the Pentax has such a small share of the market. This is basically a slap in the face to anyone who is a camera enthusiast. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    How rude of me to compare ISO noise of a 12.2 megapixel “low-end Pro” full-frame 5D to a pedestrian 14.2 megapixel APS-C Sony and a “tiny market share” 14.6 megapixel APS-C Pentax. I suspect a comparison to an APS-C Nikon D300, which at $1799 is very close in actual price today to a 5D, would probably be OK. Or can I only compare the Sony A350 to current 10-meapixel APS-C Canon and Nikon models priced below $899?

    You really don’t have to put up with this sacrilege. You could just stop the pain, stop reading, and move on to comfortable sites where Canon and Nikon always top the performance charts and always win every award.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    How rude of me to compare ISO noise of a 12.2 megapixel “low-end Pro” full-frame 5D to a pedestrian 14.2 megapixel APS-C Sony and a “tiny market share” 14.6 megapixel APS-C Pentax. I suspect a comparison to an APS-C Nikon D300, which at $1799 is very close in actual price today to a 5D, would probably be OK. Or can I only compare the Sony A350 to current 10-meapixel APS-C Canon and Nikon models priced below $899?
    You really don’t have to put up with this sacrilege. You could just stop reading and move on to comfortable sites where Canon and Nikon always stop the performance charts and always win every award.
    Reply
  • Deadtrees - Thursday, April 03, 2008 - link

    Of course I knew what you were talking about when you mentioned ISO variance among cameras at the same ISO setting. I am always willing to listen to constructive criticism, but I have little patience with comments that are self-serving grandiosity. I have made a living as a PRO photographer - have you?

    You should also mention that almost every NEW camera that has been tested for ISO speed variation is today largely correct in the reported ISO. I am aware of the issue but its importance today is low and not that signigficant to our intended audience. The biggest offender was Canon, and their newer cameras are now testing correct as well. I doubt, however, that your real goal was to share information. It sounds from your tone that your goal was to belittle rather than educate or provide constructive criticism..

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    As another person has already pointed out, your being professional photographer doesn't make you a decent reviewer. I do have friends who are professional landscape/wedding/sports photographers but they don't know much about cameras than I do.
    They know it,I know it and we know our boundries: They don't write thoughtless reviews on major review sites and I don't claim my pictures are decent because I know well about cameras in terms of mechanics. It's the same case when it comes to many subjects. A good racer wouldn't argue with mechaics by saying 'I have made a living as a PRO racer - have you?' A good progammer wouldn't try to argue with hardware geeks by saying 'I have made a living as a PRO programmer - have you?'
    As you can see, I hope, it's just silly to come out with that logic even if we're all in elementry school.

    You claim that you knew what I was talking about when I mentioned ISO level being different on certain cameras. Maybe you did and I do hope you did. However, when I mentioned it, you came with some weird answers; you said it'd be fine as you have updated the firmware to the latest version. If you knew it, why did you have to come out with such a nonsense answer?

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    I don't know everything, but you haven't mentioned one thing that I don't understand, so please get off your soap box. We have stated many times that we have no desire to mirror dpreview. They are a terrific site for photo information and in-depth reviews. I have read and enjoyed them for years, but they are not everyone's cup of tea. Most of our readers are intimidated with the info at the dedicated old school photo sites and they have asked us to provide reliable information at a lower level. That is our intention.

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    As I've already said, I don't expect you to know everything. I just want you to know very basic stuffs. No, I don't want you write Dpreview levels of reviews. I just want you to write reviews that are not thoughtless. I don't know why you're making it sound that I expected too much of you. As I said, I just expect the camera review at least half of the level of another Anandtech articles done by other guys. You see, you remind me of this kid who yelled out loud that he doesn't want to be Einstien when I only told him that 1+1 isn't 11.
    BTW, how can you possibly claim "provide reliable information" when you keep used thoughless testing methods? Using different aperture values on different cameras then talking about resolution? Uploading ISO 800 images claming it's the ISO 1600 imgages? Using Bright mode and high contrat/saturation settings on K20D when other cameras were set at standard mode?

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    I also briefly discussed the impact of noise reduction in the review and I am keenly aware of the ongoing discussion about the impact of noise reduction schemes on image detail. I also am aware the K10D is best RAW and the noise reduction algorithm is poor, but that is from my experience with the camera. I might add that the K20D behaves differently - from experience - but you don't know that yet because while I have done a first hands-on look at the K20D, the major photo sites haven't posted any real reviews of the K20D yet.

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    What makes you think I woudn't know? Because "major photo sites haven't posted any real reviews?" How Silly that is.

    First of all, There're two ways of NR fuctioning on K20(Might have been fixed as users demanded firmware solution to get by it): When the shutter speed is longer than 0.3 sec, or ISO is higher than 800. This means when the shutter speed is lower than 0.3 sec or if ISO is lower than 800, the NR would be off. Now this is crucial because there have been reviews where the thoughtless reviewers thought they did a fair test not realizing this, thus coming out with a result that made K10D to look like it's got less noise. However, K20D provides images with more noise with greater details.

    In addition, K20D has somewhat hidden fucntions such as 'fine sharpness' mode which provides better sharpness/detail solutions yet it's put deep in the menu as it increases the noise.

    Oh and K20D uses Samsung sensor that has a utilizes wider photons thus providing less noise without the much help from a software noise algorithms.

    BTW, how can you say that K10D has poor noise algorithms when you said this about A 350? "The good news about the sensor is that output is very clean and noise remains low up to ISO 1600"
    If A350 high ISO images look good to you, K10D should be the same if not better.
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    Yes, we made errors in this first real DSLR review, but we have worked diligently to correct them. I have just posted the crops and full images for the reshoot with the Sony A350, so all images are now consistent in shooting conditions and they can be fairly compared. I think you will find what I concluded in my initial review can now be more clearly seen in the crops and full images.

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    True that there were many errors yet you made a same error. Check out the exposure time of K20D and 5D.
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    We are obviously too basic for your tastes and I wouldn't want your head to hurt with the drivel you see here. By all means continue to get the information you need from the current established photo sites. We are aiming to provide reliable information to a wider cross-section of users and we will not likely satisfy the level of detail you seek.
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    Again, I do want GOOD basic reviews. I do not expect you to write in-depth reviews. The problem is that your reviews are not even fair even in the basic level. As pointed out by many others, you reviews are not only less than basic but also very misleading when you test iamges using all different aperture values with mixed in-camera image settings. I and some others who have basic knowledge could point out the terrible mistakes you committed but those "wider cross-section of users" woudn't be able to do so. That's what concerns me.

    Don't take it personal. I never said you're stupid. It's your review that is stupid and as you're not a stupid person, the review written by you shouldn't be stupid. Stop making "honest mistakes" and work on it so it can be "reliable." Those stupid "honest mistakes shoud stop here. After all, this is not your blog, it's Anandtech.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, April 03, 2008 - link

    I did not "commit the same error" in the reshoot. I used aperture priority and manual focus as I stated in the article. I did not intend to use, nor did I use the same manual exposure settings on the various cameras. Reply
  • Deadtrees - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    If that's the case, as I said, you should've stated how using AV mode on ISO resulted different exposures and the possbile reason why it was so. Not doing so just falls into the same category of mistakes you've made. Think about it. 1 sec. vs 1.5 sec of exposure difference is quite huge; it is something readers should know and reviewers ought to inform. Without knowing it, the point of comparing ISO noise level tests loses much of its meaning.

    In addition, you really need to explain why you used bright mode along with high contrast/shrpenss settings on K20D when all the cameras had their default settings. What's your "intension"? Was it just one of those your "honest mistakes"?

    Again, if you intend to use some weird and all mixed methods testing cameras, let the readers know about it. I really don't think you're on the payroll of some companies but the "honest mistakes" you've made were testing methods done by reviwers who were on it.

    You see, what you've done is like comparing CPUs with same GPU so that reders would think it's the set setup yet one GPU is underclocked. Given that, of course, one CPU will look worse than the other as the tests were not fair. And you know what you've done is even worse than that scenario. Stop coming out with excuses like "honest mistakes" and "intension" that doesn't make sense.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    Bright mode appears to be the default mode on the K20D. I did not "tweak" or adjust saturation or contrast on the K20D. In Bright mode Contrast is +1 and Sharpness is +1. The choices are Bright, Natural (with -1 Sharpness), Portrait (all at default but not the default mode), Landscape, Vibrant (another all at default mode) and B&W. None of the custom modes really do very much as the greatest variation is +/-1 in the modes with a potential adjustment range of each value of +/-4. The camera was reset prior to shooting the images to set default values.

    I have checked the "hidden" settings in the Fn 'Custom Image' menu and see nothing out of the ordinary, but I do see the EXIF details you mention. I will check with Pentax to get a better understanding of how the 20D controls these parameters.
    Reply

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