With the focus on Sony’s SLT technology-wielding Alpha 33 and 55 cameras, have we all been passing over a perfectly capable DSLR? Sony offers up the Alpha 580 for your consideration
The Alpha 580 does benefit from a couple of noticeable improvements over its predecessor. It employs a 16.2-million-effective-pixel Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor (the same as that found in the Alpha 55), which is an increase of two million pixels.
The lack of video was a rather obvious omission in the earlier Alpha 550, and Sony has remedied it by introducing HD video into the Alpha 580 for the first time in a conventional Sony Alpha DSLR.
As with the Alpha 55, the Alpha 580 features a new 15-point AF system, with six more points than featured in the Alpha 550, including three of the more sensitive cross-type. As before, users can choose between phase-detection and contrast-detection AF.
One key difference between Sony’s conventional Alpha DSLRs and its SLT cameras is that the former still uses an optical viewfinder. A two-mode live view system in the Alpha 580 includes a focus-check mode, which is useful for previewing exposure and focus. In-camera SteadyShot means there is no need for image stabilisation in the lens, and Sony claims it can offer up to a 4EV decrease in handholdable shutter speeds.
Seven frames per second is clearly a selling point and can be achieved using the speed-priority continuous-drive mode. However, while in this mode both focus and exposure are fixed. To retain AF and exposure control, the high-speed burst drive mode must be used, although this operates at only 5fps when using the viewfinder, and just 3fps when in live view.
Image: Panorama sweep modes are new to the Alpha DSLR range and can add a little extra to your landscapes. Customisable sizes for horizontal panoramas reach up to 12,416×1856 pixels and 7152×1080 pixels in 3D mode
Sweep panorama mode, which appears in Sony’s Cyber-shot and NEX range, has also been introduced here. There is a 3D option available, too, which literally adds another dimension to panoramic photographs. In this mode the exposure is automatic, but it can be fixed satisfactorily by using the auto exposure lock.
Sensitivity can be increased to ISO 25,600 using the multi-frame noise-reduction mode, and both this feature and the handheld twilight scene mode take advantage of the fast frame rate to combine several exposures for low-noise results. The auto HDR mode has also been refined and offers up to a 6EV dynamic range boost.