Hands-on with the Sony a580

Sony a580

Originally slated for a 2011 release, the a580 will be in stores in several weeks. Sporting a 16.2 MP sensor and Full HD video, the camera is a full upgrade from the a550 and a slight step up from the soon-to-be released a560, hands-on review here. The a580 is the latest traditional SLR in Sony’s alpha line.

Extended LCD

The a580 offers the tiltable LCD seen on nearly all of its latest models. The screen itself has 921K dots. Just above it are the standard set of buttons – Menu, Disp, etc. – and a dedicated movie button. The a580 does not feature AF video, as found in the a33 and a55, and its burst capacity peaks at around 7 fps, just under the a55’s 10.

a580 top right view

There’s a switch that slides between the OVF and Live View. The OVF provides 95% coverage, while LV provides 90%. When in LV, the camera redirects the light to a smaller CCD sensor in the optical viewfinder area that gives a live preview while the main sensor still captures the image. The Focus Check LV button, when pressed, switches down to the main sensor, giving the screen 100% coverage. Using this to take the shot, however, will cause about a 1.5 second delay as it has to focus, flip up, take the shot, and flip back down. If you’re a patient shooter, this’ll be of no consequence.

The a580 also features what’s called Eye-start AF. When the user looks into the viewfinder, the camera will instantly autofocus. This is for the benefit of the user who wants a quick shot without having to slightly depress the shutter.

The a580 is marketed as a prosumer camera. It’s a solid choice for anyone looking to upgrade from earlier alpha models, save for the a700 whose successor has yet to be made. While it doesn’t offer all of the features of the a900 and a850, it does have video. This will most likely be the camera I upgrade to from my Minolta Maxxum Htsi-Plus. My Minolta family needs a home.

The a580’s got good heft. Coming from a film SLR, the a580 felt right. It’s bulkier than the a33 and a55, but for a large-handed user, there’s more to hold. The weight distribution is solid. It feels akin to something like the Canon 7D.

Out of the box, the a580 is ready to go as it has the On/Off ring right around the shutter. The phase detection autofocus is fast and smooth. The button layout is easy to navigate, as is the the menu system.

The a580 is a prime choice for concert photographers as it performs very well in low light. It is important to note, though, that the difference between the a560 and a580 is strictly in the sensor. The a560’s being 14.2 MP and the a580’s being 16.2 MP. The price difference is $100.

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