Initial Impressions – Sony Alpha SLT A58

I have always wondered why people only consider Nikon and Canon when they are thinking of buying a DSLR camera. I wondered the same when I bought my first entry level DSLR, the Sony Alpha A300, and I wondered the same this time when I updated my shooter to the Sony Alpha SLT A58. As far an entry level DSLRs go, this model from Sony is way ahead of the competition. It definitely packs in quite a lot for a casual shooter like me. A lot more than anything my research turned up in the competition. Since they are not number one, or number two, I guess they try harder. This is clearly visible in the features that this camera provides for use.

The front of the camera has very little to see. Dominated by the lens and the pop up flash. On the left of the picture is the timer light where the hand grip is.

The front of the camera has very little to see. Dominated by the lens and the pop up flash. On the left of the picture is the timer light where the hand grip is.

Over the years I have kept up with the technology Sony was using in their new cameras. The Translucent Mirror technology. I always found it interesting. The A58 features the same and also a number of other useful features. Briefly, the Translucent Mirror Technology works with a mirror that reflects as well as lets through light from the lens so that it doesn’t have to move out of the way every time the shutter is released. This allows for faster shot taking and faster autofocusing.

My initial impressions are very positive and I am extremely happy with this purchase. The camera came with 2 lenses. A new 18-55 SAM II kit lens which claims to have a quieter focusing servo and a standard SAM 55-200 telephoto lens. This is also a kit telephoto lens and therefore nothing to really write home about. Apart from the camera body and the 2 lenses, in the box were the usual knick knacks like the infolithium battery and the battery charger, the shoulder strap and 3 different power cables to keep you covered anywhere in the world. The deal also included an 8gb SD card and a camera bag. Although the first thing that I bought were a 16gb Class 10 SD card and a remote.

On first inspection, the camera is a lot lighter than my current A300, which was heavy even in its hay day. The Sony entry level DSLR was made a lot lighter with the models that came subsequently. It is almost exactly the same shape as the A300 and also has a similar, although not the same, tilting LCD screen. That is where the similarities stop. The arrangement of the dials and the buttons are very different and I had to fiddle around a bit to get the right flow. However, all the functions and the menus are very familiar and there was no time lost in understanding what did what.

Thankfully the external pop-up flash extends out a very good distance above the body. In the A300 this was a real problem as the flash barely came up half of the distance that it does in the A58. This was due to the “innovative” live view that was implemented in the A300 and related models. I won’t miss that for sure. The translucent mirror takes care of that.

The ports on the camera are also some of the usual, nothing is missing from what I can see. For some time I was worried that the camera doesn’t have a dedicated remote port. However, I was bale to research that Sony is now using a new “Multi” USB port that also acts as the remote port. The flash shoe has also been changed to a single contact one from the A300’s 4 pin one for which I have yet to see an accessory available. I can now at least think of getting an external flash to complete the kit, so to speak.

This is not a new camera but is still the entry level camera that Sony is going with. They are now investing heavily in mirror-less cameras. However, they have committed to add more lenses and bodies to the Alpha range.

There are a few new things that I am still trying out. The first is video recording. I didn’t have that in my earlier camera and this is something that I really have to play with. Initial results, I now understand why all these filmmakers are shooting videos with DSLRs. I used to be dependent on my phone camera for videos earlier but now that can stay in my pocket.

The other thing is the EVF or the Electronic View Finder. This model and the previous one did away with the standard viewfinder and replaced it with an electronic one. The EVF is a high resolution OLED display inside the eyepiece. I am still getting used to the split second delay in getting the image after I hold the camera up to my eyes. Although being able to see the composition changes immediately in the EVF itself is a boon. Also, the image preview after taking a shot pops up in the EVF as well, saving time and making it quicker to take the next shot. I don’t see this as a downside at all, but it will take a little getting used to.

This is the view of the LCD with almost everythign on. The same is replicated in the Electronic View Finder as well.

This is the view of the LCD with almost everythign on. The same is replicated in the Electronic View Finder as well.

Another change is a plastic lens mount as compared to all the previous metal ones. It doesn’t seem to be making any difference to any of my 4 lenses although I wonder on the long term durability of it. We shall see.

That’s it for this initial review. I will put up other posts with specific features going forward.

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