First Impressions: Sony A58

Sony a58

Sony a58

Sony rang, and we answered the call. Editor-in-Chief Chris Gampat and I headed over to the Museum of Natural History for an invite-only press event for Sony’s new line of consumer electronics. There were upcoming television, audio, and photo offerings on display, and it was the latter of the three that particularly interested us. Following a presentation by COO Phil Molyneux and several product specialists, we signed out cameras and went on a small tour of three exhibits. Chris took the new NEX-3N and I had the a58, Sony’s latest addition to its SLT line. In summary, it’s something you’re either going to like or not.

Tech Specs

Courtesy of the Adorama listing:

Lens Compatibility Sony A-mount, operation with Minolta/Konica Minolta Maxxum lenses
Lens Mount Sony A-mount
Camera Type Interchangeable Lens Digital SLT camera
Imaging Sensor Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor (23.5 X 15.6mm)
Processor BIONZ image processor
Anti Dust Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and electromagnetic vibration mechanism
Pixel Gross Approx. 20.4M pixels
Effective Picture Resolution Approx. 20.1M pixels
Focal Length Conversion Factor 1.5x
Color Filter System RGB primary color filters
Media Type Memory Stick PRO Duo /Pro-HG Duo media; SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
Color Space sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS Color
Still Image Mode JPEG (Standard, Fine), RAW, RAW+JPEG
Still Image Max Effective Resolution L (20 MP) 5456 x 3632
Still Image Size 16:9 L (17 MP) 5456 x 3064, M (8.4 MP) 3872 x 2176, S (4.2 MP) 2736 x 1536
Still Image Size 3:2 L (20 MP) 5456 x 3632, M (10 MP) 3872 x 2576, S (5 MP) 2736 x 1824
Panorama Still Image Size Horizontal Wide: 12,416 x 1,856 (23M)
Horizontal Std.: 8,192 x 1,856 (15M)
Vertical Wide: 2,160 x 5,536 (12M)
Vertical Std.: 2,160 x 3,872 (8.4M)
Video Format AVCHD / MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC (H.264))
Video Mode AVCHD FX – 1920 x 1080/60i@24Mbps
FH – 1920 x 1080/60i@17Mbps
FX – 1920 x 1080/24p@24Mbps
FH – 1920 x 1080/24p@17Mbps
Video Mode MP4 HD – 1440 x 1080/ 30p@12Mbps
VGA – 640 x 480/ 30p@3Mbps
Video Signal NTSC color, EIA standards
Audio Format Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC, 2ch
Microphone/Speaker Built-in Stereo Microphone
Still Image File Format JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format), RAW & JPEG
Type 1/2″ SVGA EVF (Electronic viewfinder) (1,440k dots)”
Diopter Adjustment -4.0m to +4.0m-1
Field of View 100%
LCD Type 2.7″ TFT Clear Photo LCD (460,800 pixels)
Angle Adjustment Tilt angle: Up approx. 135 degrees, downward approx. 55 degrees
Brightness Control Auto, Manual (5 steps between -2 to +2)
Coverage 100%
Live View Continuous Live View (LCD/EVF Auto, selectable)
Real-time Image Adjustment Display Yes(On/Off)
Histogram Yes(On/Off)
Peaking Yes (Level setting: High/Mid/Low/Off, Color: White/Red/Yellow)
Grid Display Yes (Rule of thirds, Diagonal, 4×6 Square Grids, Off)
Customization Grid, Histogram display, Grid Line, Magnified display for playback
Focus System TTL phase detection AF (CCD line sensors)
Focus Points 15 points (3 points cross type)
AF Modes Single-shot AF(AF-S), Continuous AF(AF-C), Automatic AF(AF-A) selectable, Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus
Focus Area Wide (Auto,15 points)/ Zone/Spot/Local selectable
Focus Sensitivity EV -1 to 18 EV (at ISO100 equivalent, with F2.8 lens attached)
Focus Features Predictive control (AF-A, AF-C), Focus Lock, Eye-start AF
AF Illuminator Built-in LED, Range: approx. 3′ – 21′ (1m-7m)
Metering Advanced 1200-zone evaluative metering
Metering Modes Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
Metering Sensitivity -2EV to 17EV (at ISO 100 equivalent w/ f/1.4 lens)
Exposure Compensation Still images: +/-3.0 EV(1/3EV steps selectable)
Movies: +/-2.0 EV(1/3EV steps selectable)
Exposure Settings iAUTO, Flash Off, Superior Auto, Scene Selection, Sweep Panorama, Continuous Advance Priority AE, Movie, Picture Effect, Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M)
Scene Mode(s) Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night View, Handheld Twilight
Picture Effect(s) 11 types (15 variations): Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R,G,B,Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature
D-Range Optimizer Yes: (Auto, Level, Off)
Auto Exposure Lock Yes (AE Lock button)
Color Temperature 2500 – 9900K with 15-step each Magenta/Green compensation (G7 to M7), AWB micro adjustment
Creative Style Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Black & White (Contrast (-3 to +3steps), Saturation(-3 to +3steps), Sharpness(-3 to +3steps))
Exposure Bracketing Cont./Single, w/ 1/3 EV,1/2 EV,2/3 EV,2.0EV,3.0 EV incmnts,3/5 frames (2.0EV,3.0EV:only 3 frs) sel
ISO Stills: ISO 100-16000 selectable in 1 EV steps, Auto (100-3200)
Movies: ISO 100-3200 selectable in 1 EV steps, Auto (200-3200)
Noise Reduction Long Exposure NR: (On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 second) High ISO NR: (High/Normal/Low)
White Balance Mode Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent (Warm white, Cool white, Day white, Daylight) , Flash, Setting the color temperature, Color Filter, Custom
Burst Buffer Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE: Fine: 16 frames, Standard: 19 frames Continuous shooting: Fine: 7 frames, Standard: 8 frames, RAW & JPEG: 5 frames, RAW: 6 frames
Continuous Shooting Speed Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE: Maximum 8 frames per second Hi: Maximum 5 frames per second, Lo: Maximum 2.5 frames per second
Drive Mode Single Shooting, Continuous Shooting (Hi/Lo selectable), Self-timer (10/2 sec. delay selectable)
Bracketing (Cont., Single, White Balance)
Self-timer 2-sec. or 10-sec. delay
Shutter Speeds Still images: 1/4000 to 30 sec/Bulb, Movies: 1/4000 to 1/4 (1/3 step), up to 1/30 in AUTO mode
Shutter Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter
Flash Compensation +/-2.0 EV (switchable between 1/3 and 1/2 EV steps)
Flash Coverage Field of view coverage up to 16 mm (in the focal length)
Recycling Time Approx. 4 sec.
Flash Bracketing 0.3/0.5/0.7/2.0/3.0EV steps, 3 frames(2.0/3.0EV : only 3 frames) selectable
Flash Metering System ADI flash/ Pre-flash TTL
Flash Modes Auto, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync., Hi-speed sync., Red-eye reduction (on/off selectable for Auto flash and fill-flash mode), Wireless, Off
Flash Type Built-in, Pop-up Auto
Guide Number 10 (in meters at ISO100)
Self Timer Yes, 10/2 second delay selectable
Shutter Speeds Still images: 1/4000 to 30 sec/Bulb, Movies: 1/4000 to 1/4 (1/3 step), up to 1/30 in AUTO mode
Shutter Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter
Flash Compensation +/-2.0 EV (switchable between 1/3 and 1/2 EV steps)
Flash Coverage Field of view coverage up to 16 mm (in the focal length)
Recycling Time Approx. 4 sec.
Flash Bracketing 0.3/0.5/0.7/2.0/3.0EV steps, 3 frames(2.0/3.0EV : only 3 frames) selectable
Flash Metering System ADI flash/ Pre-flash TTL
Flash Modes Auto, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync., Hi-speed sync., Red-eye reduction (on/off selectable for Auto flash and fill-flash mode), Wireless, Off
Flash Type Built-in, Pop-up Auto
Guide Number 10 (in meters at ISO100)
Self Timer Yes, 10/2 second delay selectable
Red-Eye Reduction Yes, On/ Off selectable
Media/Battery Indicator Yes
View & Index Single (with or without shooting information), RGB histogram and highlight/shadow warning4/9-frame index view, Enlarged display mode (L: 13.6x, M: 9.9x, S: 6.8x), Auto Review (10/5/2 sec, Off)Image orientation (On/Off), Slideshow, Panorama scrolling, Folder selection (still)

Forward/Rewind (movie), Delete, Protect

Advanced User Interface Easy-to-understand Graphic Display and on-screen Help Guide User-friendly function menu
Anti Motion Blur 6-image layering
Auto High Dynamic Range Yes, (Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure difference Level (1-6 EV at 1.0 EV step), off)
Sweep Panorama Horizontal (Wide/Standard), Vertical (Wide/Standard)
Face Detection On, Off, Face Registration, Face Selection; maximum eight faces detected
Smile Shutter Technology Smile shutter (selectable from 3 steps)
Tracking Focus Yes
Image Stabilization For still images: SteadyShot INSIDE Image Sensor-Shift mechanism, For movies: Electronic
Priority Setting (for Face Detection) Yes (eight faces max)
Microphone Input Yes (3.5mm Stereo minijack)
Remote Commander Yes (via optional RM-VPR1)
Accessory Shoe Yes (Multi Interface)
BRAVIA Sync Yes, via HDMI with compatible BRAVIA HDTV
DC IN Yes via AC-PW10AM (sold separately)
HD Output HDMI mini connector (Type D)
Memory Card Slot Dual compatibility slot: Memory Stick PRO Duo /Pro-HG Duo /PRO-HG HX Duo media – SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
PhotoTV HD Yes, with BRAVIA Sync enabled HDTV and HDMI cable
Tripod Mount Yes (1/4″ diameter, 20 threads per inch)
USB Port(s) Multi/Micro USB Terminal, Hi-speed USB (USB2.0): Mass-storage, MTP/ Multi (REMOTE)/ Micro USB Type B
Battery Type InfoLITHIUM NP-FM500H (7.2V)
Battery Capacity 1600 mAh
Number of Still Images Approx. 690 images with viewfinder, 700 images with LCD monitor (CIPA standard)
Power Consumption (Using EVF) Approx. 690 images with viewfinder (CIPA standard)
Supplied Software Supplied Software: PlayMemories Home, Image Data Converter Version 4
Operating System Compatibility Operating System Compatibility: Windows® XP SP3 (64-bit and Starter Editions are not supported, Windows Image Mastering API(IMAPI) Ver.2.0 or later is required to use the function for creating discs.) Windows Vista® SP2 (Starter Edition is not supported) Windows 7 SP1; Windows 8; Mac OS X(v10.5 -v10.8) (Image Data Converter, PlayMemories Home is not Mac compatible)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.1″ (128.6 x 95.5 x 77.7mm)
Weight 1.3 lbs (573g)

Ergonomics

SONY DSC

This camera is slightly smaller than my a580–the company’s last DSLR with an optical mirror built in. Sony’s SLT technology affords this slightly smaller form factor. Given what they’re accustomed to, my large hands felt a bit cramped on the a58, but it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable. The more I shot with it, the better it felt in my hands.

SONY DSC

The button layout is remarkably similar to the a580. This makes sense as it’s a part of the Alpha line. You’ve got the standard Menu, Movie, AEL, Exposure compensation, Function, AF, Preview, and ? buttons. This Sony event was my first time with any of the SLT cameras. I had five minutes with the A99 when Chris reviewed it, but that was it until I took the a58 around the museum.

sony a58 back

OLED Tru-Finder EVF is the name of the game here, and it’s a game I’m wholly personally unfamiliar with. Consider me a bit optically biased as I began with a Minolta Maxxum Htsi-Plus, and I bought into the Sony alpha with one of its last OVF offerings before going with translucent mirror technology. The lighting in the event area wasn’t conducive to good images, so the EVF was a bit rough. Once we moved into the exhibit areas, the EVF was clearer, but I wasn’t fully on-board with it by the end of it. I understand the advantages of an EVF, but I can’t shake my preference for an optical viewfinder. I can talk at length about this, but I won’t digress. The camera takes nice images, and that’s what matters in the end.

Build Quality

The camera felt sturdy, as do all of Sony’s Alpha offerings. Smaller than its OVF ancestors, the a58 takes a bit of getting used to if you’re accustomed to larger form factors. That’s not to say the camera is lacking in any regard, but in forgoing a mirror and a pentaprism in favor of the SLT technology, Sony can pack the same punch, if not a stronger one, in a smaller package. This also means some more space in your camera bag.

Autofocus

The a58 had the stock 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 mounted, and the AF was smooth. There was an uptick in speed when I changed out the kit lens for my Minolta 50mm AF f1.7. It hunted a bit in some areas of the exhibit where lighting was lacking, but other than that, it performed very well.

Ease of Use

The camera is very easy to use, particularly so if you’re already in the Alpha family as I am. If you aren’t, this camera makes for a solid entry point into the DSLR world. That’s doubly true if you don’t mind EVFs. I have my grievances, but I’m somewhat of a curmudgeon when it comes to my ocular preferences.

Image Quality

With approximately 20.1 effective MP, the a58 puts out great images, and it’s important to note that image quality in the models Chris and I spent some time with is final. While Chris had the NEX 3N, he spent a bit of time with the a58, too. Here are some sample shots:

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A58 Images First Impressions (8 of 9)ISO 5001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A58 Images First Impressions (5 of 9)ISO 5001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A58 Images First Impressions (6 of 9)ISO 32001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A58 Images First Impressions (4 of 9)ISO 2501-160 sec at f - 5.6

First Impressions

This is a solid addition to Sony’s Alpha SLT line. It did feel a bit basic for my tastes. In its heyday, the a580 went toe-to-toe with other offerings in the mid-level camera market. Marketed as “an ideal choice for consumers eager to explore the world of DSLR-style interchangeable lens technology”, I take it that the a58 is an entry level option. If you’ve already got an RX1 or an A99 in your bag, you’d probably wouldn’t give this a chance. If you are, however, looking to make your point and shoot past-tense, this would be a great step-up. You’ll enter into a great selection of first and third party glass, as well as a whole back-catalogue of Minolta AF lenses. The estimated release date is sometime in April 2013 with a retail price of about $600.

Please Support The Phoblographer

We love to bring you guys the latest and greatest news and gear related stuff. However, we can’t keep doing that unless we have your continued support. If you would like to purchase any of the items mentioned, please do so by clicking our links first and then purchasing the items as we then get a small portion of the sale to help run the website.

Also, please follow us on FacebookFlickr and Twitter.