Sony A200 vs. Canon XS vs. Olympus E420/E520

All crops are 150x250 pixels, and images were captured at f4, manually focused, on a tripod at the same position. Color balance in all cases was manually set to Tungsten as all images were illuminated with a single tungsten 100W bulb high to the right side of the image. All three entry models are based on a 10MP sensor.

The Olympus E420/E520 uses a smaller 2X multiplier instead of the 1.5X of the Sony A200 and 1.6X of the Canon XS. Therefore a 50mm lens was used for capturing the Canon XS and Sony A200 images and a 35mm Macro lens was used to capture the Olympus images. This was to allow the full-size images, which you can see by clicking on any crop, to represent the same field of view regardless of the multiplier used by the crop-sensor DSLR.

ISO Comparison - Sony A200 vs. Olympus E420/520 vs. Canon XS
ISO Sony A200 Olympus E-520 Canon XS

Click on any of the above image crops for the full image.
Note: Full size images are between 3.2MB and 5.2MB!

It should be apparent that all three entry cameras at ISO 800 are all but equivalent in image noise. However, as we move to ISO 1600, which is the highest value available with Canon XS and Olympus E520, the XS and A200 are very similar in noise but the Olympus E520 is a bit noisier. This is most likely due to the slightly smaller sensor used in Four-Thirds cameras. The A200 is the only model in this class to offer an ISO 3200 option. At ISO 3200 the A200 noise is apparent and it is noisier than the Olympus ISO 1600 option. You will likely find ISO 3200 useful in a pinch or when a small print is all that is required, but these actual pixel crops show the ISO 3200 would not be useful for large prints.

Color balance is something we have complained about on Canon before. All cameras were set to the Tungsten preset, but the Canon idea of Tungsten is very warm under our 100W tungsten light source. The Sony is slightly warm but close to accurate and many will find the Olympus the most accurate color balance at the Tungsten setting. In our estimation either the Sony or Olympus colors are fine but the Canon would require custom adjustment under this light source for more accurate color rendition.

Field Notes Sony A200 vs. Nikon D60 vs. Canon 40D


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  • deathwalker - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link

    Broadway Photo has the A200 kit for $321..great deal. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link">

    good luck with that. Here is what they look like:">

  • AkumaX - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    It's hard to decide which camera to go for the coveted Entry Level DSLR position. Plenty of friends consider Canon or Nikon as the major players, and own either one.

    Having the opportunity to pick up the A200K for $413 shipped/no tax from SonyRewards last June helped factor in that decision. As a person who had zero experience or knowledge of the SLR domain, this was quite a gamble.

    So for the past 4 months, haven taken over 8000 pictures (in RAW), and been to 2 foreign countries, this was definitely worth the investment. The biggest thing Sony has going for them is the backwards compatibility of the Minolta AF lens line.

    I picked up a 50mm f/1.7 + 70-210mm f/4 (the "beercan") off CraigsList, since these seem to be "the" lenses to get. Having researched throughout these past few months about aperture, ISO, crop factor, etc... I'll probably pick up a 28mm f/2.8 also.

    All in all, the Sony A200K offers a lot: 18-70mm kit lens - bigger than the rest, Minolta AF (Maxxum) Lens backwards compatibility, and plenty of alpha-based accessories. This one seems like a winner.

    What am I doing? -->

  • cafmike1 - Monday, April 19, 2010 - link

    I am waiting on the replacement SLR for the Nikon D90 here
    Does anyone know when this thing is going to be announced?
  • Wineohe - Tuesday, October 21, 2008 - link

    Hmm. I'm more critical of the ISO performance of the Sony A200. It just doesn't seem that good above 800. The Nikon and Olympus are decent and the Canon is affected by some softness and chromatic aberrations at all ISO settings, something that I attribute to it's junk lens. Given a better lens it would probably show it's stuff, but this is a budget comparison and that would be unfair. I wish Canon would spend even $3 more on making their cheapo 18-55.

    In general all of these camera packages boarder on being just too much of a compromise. However as I mentioned above the Olympus and the Nikon come close to being acceptable. Frankly I really don't care how many features the camera has if the output is just mediocre. An adequately equipped body with a step up lens is far better advise.
  • Heidfirst - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link

    shoot RAW & pp. Sony's jpeg engine isn't the greatest. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, October 23, 2008 - link

    I'd agree for higher level bodies, but the distinction probably isn't relevant for most consumers at the $500 price point. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link

    The Canon lens used for testing was their excellent 50mm f1.4, so you can't blame the results on a cheapo lens. All of the tests used 50mm f1.4 primes execpt the Olympus where a 35mm macro was used because of the 2x lens factor. ALL these lenses are in the best part of their resolution curves at f/4, which was a requirement.

    Snapshots and regular images published in our reviews do use the kit lens, but not our noise tests.
  • Wineohe - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link

    Oooh, my bad, I missed that. I actually have a 50mm f1.4 that I use occasionally on my 5D. It struggles in low light but otherwise is a fine lens. I was convinced the characteristics were that of poor optic since they seem to exist at low or high gain. Now I'm left scratching my embarrassed head. So much for the XS, it is getting long in the tooth. Reply
  • haplo602 - Tuesday, October 21, 2008 - link

    I think you are using a few features in the A200 that are not even used by the buyers in this price range.

    wireless flash ... I mean come on ... what is the lowest priced Sony external flash that will work with this ? I found the HVL-F42AM as the lowest level model for about 1/2 the price of the A200 kit. No entry level DSRL user will shell out that much money for external flash, they will buy a better body in the first place.

    generaly the people getting into this class DSLRs come from the P&S user group. They will still compose mostly with live view, so number of AF points is irelevant. Anyway what's the performance of the 9 focus points ? Only center one is a cross sensor ? Then the other ones will be a source of frustration for the P&S crowd in most conditions :-)


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