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Sony A390 Review

To my considerable delight, we now find ourselves surrounded by a multiplicity of options when facing a choice of camera, especially in the interchangeable lens division.

You want it small? Go for the Micro Four Thirds models or Sony’s NEX duo or Samsung’s clever NX… and it appears Canon will soon dive into this pond too!

However the true DSLR territory is not forgotten either. The Sony A390 model ticks many boxes and hits the market at a gang-busting price too!

Sony A390 1.jpg

Sony A390 Features

For what it’s worth, the A390 is user-friendly or, even more specifically, beginner-friendly: there’s a simple on/off lever; beneath it is the control dial to vary lens and shutter setting; then a clearly labeled switch takes you from Live View to the optical finder; the mode dial gives you the options of auto, Program AE, aperture or shutter priority plus manual; there are six scene modes directly selectable on the same dial; then, unusually, here also is a forced flash off position.

At the back, next to the swing and tilt LCD screen (love it!) is the usual four way rocker. Aside from a menu button, that’s about it.

To augment the few external controls the viewfinder menu will expand your options to alter image size and quality, LCD brightness and some other minor matters. And that’s about it.
The optical finder screen display continues the trend and shows a graphic rendering of the effects of zoom position, lens aperture and shutter speed. What a fantastic aid for a newbie photo-person.

The camera is enjoyably fuss-free, although I must admit I was initially out-foxed after loading an SD into the side compartment and then found I also had to kick a little switch to tell the camera I was using an SD and not a Memory Stick. Strange.


This shot was taken at ISO 400, f7.1 with the zoom at 20mm; shutter speed 1/25 second.

The CCD will capture 14.2 megapixels at a maximum 4592×3056 pixels — or as a 39x26cm print. No movie capture but there is an HDMI output so you can run a slide show on your digital tele.

Another attraction for those who wish to extend their lens arsenal is the SteadyShot image stabilisation system that relies on a moving image sensor to steady your shots, so avoiding the need for this function to be built into the lens.

Finally, there is a 2.5 fps continuous speed setting, which will appeal to those who shoot sports, kids or other unpredictable action.

Sony A390 ISO Tests

Sony A390 ISO 100 f5.6 1:8 sec.jpg

At ISO 100 we’re looking sweet: beautiful detailed quality.

Sony A390 ISO 800 f5.6 1:60 sec.jpg

At ISO 800, still looking good, although with a tiny mount of noise creeping in.

Sony A390 ISO 1600 f5.6 1:125 sec.jpg

ISO 1600: still a great picture, resolution and gradation still good but noise is increased.

Sony A390 ISO 3200 f5.6 1:250 sec.jpg

ISO 3200: still OK quality but noise is now very noticeable. Useable in low light situations.

It’s worth noting that A390 sensor has approximately 15x the surface area of the 10mm sensors commonly used in compact cameras. Hence the excellent high ISO performance.

Startup Time

Real quick: hit the power and start shooting immediately. This is a major strength of a DSLR system.


Blurr 9.jpg

Handheld shot of blurr: ISO 400: f18: 1.5 second. Contrast increased in Photoshop Levels.

Image quality overall: Excellent colour and definition. Surprisingly good for the price.
Why you would buy the A390: you’re a first-timer in DSLR-land.
Why you wouldn’t: you like lots of bells ‘n’ whistles and buttons to fiddle with; you want to shoot HD movies.

Sony A390 Specifications

Image Sensor: 14.2 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi segment, centre-weighted metering and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 23.5×15.7mm CCD.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 1:5x.
Compatible lenses: Sony alpha, Minolta and Konica Minolta AF lenses.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual, scene modes.
Shutter Speed: Bulb, 30 to 1/4000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/160 sec.
Memory: Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo/HG Duo HX/SD/SDHC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4592×3056, 4592×2576, 3408×2272, 3408×1920, 2288×1520, 2288×1280.
Viewfinders: Optical pentamirror, 6.9cm LCD (230,400 pixels).
File Formats: RAW, RAW+JPEG.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 128.1×97.1×83.5 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 549 g (inc battery).
Price: Single lens: Get a price on the Sony A390 DSLRA390L DSLR at Amazon (currently 25% off).

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Barrie Smith

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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