As a pared-down version of the Alpha 550, is Sony’s latest DSLR, the Alpha 450, the right choice for enthusiast photographers on a budget? Find out in our Sony Alpha 450 review
With nine AF points, the Alpha 450 utilises the same AF system found in all Sony’s current APS-C-format DSLR cameras. The centre AF point is a cross-type sensor, which means it can autofocus across both the horizontal and vertical axes for more accurate focusing. When using this centre AF point in good light with the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM kit lens, I found the focusing to be fast, snappy and comparable with the equivalent Canon and Nikon cameras.
However, the Alpha 450 struggles a little in low light. On a few occasions it actually seemed to give up, at which point the camera would not let me press the shutter released to take a photograph as the lens wasn’t focused. It was a little frustrating, to say the least.
The problem isn’t helped by the fact that there is no AF Assist illumination in the same way as other manufacturers have adopted it. Rather than employing a powerful LED on the front of the camera to act as an AF assist beam, the Sony Alpha 450 uses its flash bulb to strobe rapidly. While this is fine inasmuch as it does its job, it doesn’t work automatically.
For example, in aperture-priority mode you must first pop the flash up for the AF Assist to work. However, with the flash popped up, the Flash Off menu option becomes disabled, so the flash must be used to take the image. In auto exposure mode, the flash does automatically pop up and the AF Assist facility automatically activates. You also have the option to turn the flash off, but if you do so you cannot then use the AF Assist.
The result is that, if you don’t want your low-light images to use flash, you have three options: either to choose your focus point carefully, focus manually, or use the AF Assist and then hold the focus point by switching to manual focus and then popping the flash back down. None of these options is ideal, and I can’t help but think that a light could have easily been fitted and would most probably use far less battery life than the strobing of the flash bulb.
For me, Sony’s Eye-Start AF is like Marmite: you either love it or hate it. Two sensors under the viewfinder start the autofocus as soon as the viewfinder is held up to the eye. I find it extremely useful when set to centre-point focus and I am shooting moving subjects. However, it is annoying when you are walking along and the eyepiece rubs against your hip, activating the AF and in turn wasting battery life. I tend to leave the Eye-Start AF turned off unless I need it for a specific situation.
Generally, the AF of the Alpha 450 works well in most situations, but it is again a little sluggish when photographing moving objects. I found that in this situation I got the best results in AF-C mode with the Wide AF point setting.