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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  • steveChance - Tuesday, April 29, 2008 - link

    [please disregard this post if this topic has been covered already in the readers' comments as I have not read all twelve pages of them]

    I find it odd that you would test cameras using printed matter as sample subject. Like digital images printed matter (esp. 4-color process) has its own errors that will (IMHO) negatively effect the photographic results.

    Use a loupe to view at the actual item shown in the crops...
  • jcbenten - Friday, April 25, 2008 - link

    Nice article. I presume I have come across this with all the corrections. I look forward to comparisons to the XSi, K200, and A300. I am "attempting" to purchase my first (D)SLR and I continue to out think myself. Your A350 crops came out much better than I anticipated. Maybe there is still life in the CCD.
  • punchkin - Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - link

    ... before performing another "comparison".
  • cputeq - Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - link

    You should also consider the text of the review before making snide comments.

    The review indicated all camera white balance settings were set to Tungsten. If one camera or another has a warmer look than another, that's the "fault" of the camera.

    The issue of the image comparisons was noise, not color accuracy.
  • Zak - Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - link

    I'm not saying the review was bad or good, I can't care less for SONY's cameras, and I don't want to put down your efforts, but I think AnandTech is losing focus. Please return to your roots: computer stuff and leave the camera reviews to other established camera review sites that don't do computer stuff review;) When I come here I want to read about about computer stuff. If I want to read about cameras I go to DP Review, Steve's Cams, Digital Camera Resource, Fred Miranda, The Imaging Reource just to name a few. Honestly, I see at least 50% drop in number of interesting articles on AT. Oh, and the same goes for game reviews. XBox game reviews on AT? Please…

  • MKFAGAN - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    I was wondering why everyone is down playing the in camera zoom feature this is huge..The way I see it I have a 50mm 1.4 which is actually a 70mm with the 1.6 crop I press the button to get 1.4x zoom this gives me a 98 1.4 lens I press it again I get 2x zoom so I get a 140mm 1.4 thats huge It is like having 3 prime lenses in 1 so what if I lose a few MP This is big could you imagine a 135mm 2.8 with crop factor 216mm 2.8 press the button to 2x zoom I have a 432mm 2.8 this is a huge feature
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - link

    The auto-teleconverter is convenient, but it is really just a crop of the 14.2 megapixel image. You can do that by croppping images from any digital camera. I was also disappointed that the auto teleconverter does not work in Live View mode.

    In fact, there is no real zoom mode in Live View to assist in focusing, as I learned the hard way in trying to set critical focus for the resolution/noise crops. The tiny viewfinder and no zoom in LV made accurate manual focusing a real chore. While Sony's Live View is the fastest and most convenient LV we have tested, both the Pentax K20D and Olympus E-3 allow you to select an area to enlarge in LV and then magnify it (7X, 10X) for manual focusing - which does work real-time on both cameras. That made manual focusing MUCH easier for the test series on those two cameras.
  • haplo602 - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    Briliant Wesley ... THIS is that kind of information that should have been in the review !!!

    That's also what I meant in my earlier post. Camera handling and the little quirks that either get in the way or aid in actual shooting.

    Maybe I missed the part in the review, but I do not recall you mentioning the auto-teleconverter. Also the LV limitation on focusing (coupled with the horrible viewfinder) are a critical point that should have been in the review.
  • retired hiker - Monday, April 7, 2008 - link

    I have a problem with the title of your review. Tell me how I can Live View at 14.2MP. Certainly the tiny display on the camera can't give me that resolution.
  • krakman - Saturday, April 5, 2008 - link

    also they sell fer around 30$ on amazon.

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