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
Build and handling
Users will find it difficult to notice any external changes from the Alpha 550 to the Alpha 580. The size, weight and button layout of each is almost identical, with the exception of a lone movie record button on the newer model, and ISO and drive mode buttons that have edged closer to the shutter.
This is a more convenient position for index-finger control when using the viewfinder, as there is no need to remove your eye to operate it. The combination of rubber grips and plastic body feels durable, and the Alpha 580 sits nicely in the hand, although users with longer fingers may not find the grip deep enough.
A well-thought-out button layout encourages the use of some key features. The D-range button (through which the HDR mode is accessed) and exposure-compensation buttons are prominently placed just above the rear screen.
The main menu has very little to it, because most of the controls can be accessed through the function button menu. Usefully, all that is needed to get the most out of the camera’s fast frame rate is found here, such as the drive mode (including speed priority), AF area and AF mode.
Using two hinges, the folding screen allows for shooting near to ground level and above head height. It feels solid and durable, but its single-dimensional fold of a little over 90° up and 90° down is restricted to vertical movement. Frustratingly, the two playback modes, one of which is for photos and the other for videos, cannot be mixed. Changing file type playback is achieved via the main menu.
Both the mirror slap from the shutter and the pop-up flash are a little loud and clunky, so discreet shooting is not really possible, particularly during a high-speed burst.
Once a burst has been captured, the new Bionz image processor takes 20 seconds to clear 40 JPEGs, 40 seconds for 19 raw files and 50 seconds for 19 raw + JPEG files, before full shooting performance is regained. Images can be captured on either SD or Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, with twin ports to hold them.