Outwardly, little has changed on the Sony a58 from its predecessor, the Sony a57, although Sony says it is a little bit smaller. Holding the cameras side by side it's not particularly easy to see the differences, though.

It has a large, chunky grip, which is particularly useful when shooting one-handed, and is reasonably weighty enough to give it a quality feel. It feels like it could withstand the odd knock or scrape, and is of a more premium construction than the Sony Alpha a37, which it also replaces.

On the top of the camera is a dial for switching between the various modes it has to offer, such as fully automatic, semi-automatic and fully manual. One new addition to this dial is Picture Effects, which previously could be accessed via the main menu. Picture Effects can also be accessed when shooting in other modes, such as aperture priority. This enables you to keep control over other settings while still using the Picture Effects, whereas in the dedicated mode, everything is automatic.

Sony Alpha a58 review

Built into the hand grip is a scrolling dial that can be used to alter aperture or shutter speed, depending on the mode you're in. When in fully manual, the dial controls shutter speed when used on its own, but if you hold down the exposure compensation button and use the scroll dial, aperture is altered.

Dedicated buttons on the back of the camera provide quick access to key settings, including ISO and exposure compensation, and like other cameras in the Sony Alpha range, there's some customisation that can be enjoyed for those who like to work in specific ways.

The function button accesses a type of quick menu that has the majority of the most commonly used settings, such as Drive Mode, Metering and Creative Style.

Sony Alpha a58 review

A number of the most interesting options available on the Sony a58, such as Auto Object Framing, Clear Zoom and Picture Effects can't be shot when shooting in raw format. Not only is this pretty annoying in terms of keeping a clean image to work with, but it also requires a pretty tedious delve in and out of the main menu to switch to JPEG-only shooting.

Having the ability to switch to JPEG from the function menu would have been much quicker, as would a pop-up screen asking if you'd like to switch off raw format shooting if you attempt to use one of these functions. Better yet, it would be nice if Sony enabled raw format shooting when using these tools so there was no need to switch it off at all.

A dedicated button for the digital zoom feature can be found on the top of the camera. Press this and then use either the left and right keys to zoom incrementally, or the up and down keys to zoom in steps.

Sony Alpha a58 review

There's also a dedicated button for exposure compensation, so you can press this first and then use the scroll dial to make changes.

Like its predecessor, the Sony Alpha a58 has a movable screen, which is handy for shooting at awkward angles. However, Sony has chosen to make this a tilting device, rather than a fully articulated one, meaning you can't pack it away when it's not in use, and it's less useful when shooting portrait format images.

Sadly, it's still not a touchscreen device, which would have been handy for setting autofocus point. Instead, to set the autofocus point you need to press the central OK button and then scroll around with the arrow keys to the area you desire.

Sony Alpha a58 review

Helpfully, an eye sensor is included to automatically turn off the screen and activate the EVF. This makes it a much more seamless transition and more akin to using an optical viewfinder than having to switch between the two with a physical button.

However, there is also a physical button included, which can be used when switching off the automatic detection. This is handy if you only want to use the EVF and LCD for a certain length of time.

Thankfully, Sony has decided to include a standard hotshoe, rather than the Alpha proprietary hotshoe that has been on the majority of Alpha DSLTs up until this point - good news for those with standard accessories.