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Sony Alpha a58 review

DSLT merges two beginner lines

Sony has been producing high performing cameras for some time, so we had reasonably high expectations for the Alpha a58. Image quality from both last year's Sony a37 and Sony a57 were good, so we guessed it would be a similar story with their replacement.

Happily, we can say that images contain plenty of fine detail, display good colours without being over the top and are generally well exposed.

JPEG images straight from the camera are pleasing, although in some circumstances, the camera has a tendency to produce slightly underexposed images, especially where the scene is quite dark. You might find yourself regularly having to dial in exposure compensation to combat this particular problem.

Sony Alpha a58 review

Bright colours, such as reds and oranges, are displayed well. The Sony a58 also represents other general scenes with more muted colours well, but perhaps with slightly less punch than the colours straight from its Canon and Nikon counterparts.

General purpose metering, known as Multi-segment metering on Sony cameras, does a good job in the majority of conditions, helping to produce balanced exposures. However, in high contrast situations it can struggle a little, and you'll need to switch either to centre weighted or spot metering, depending on the situation you're in.

Similarly, automatic white balance performs well in the majority of conditions, erring towards slightly warmer colours under artificial lighting, but switching to a more appropriate white balance setting is easy enough if you're finding it a problem.

Sony Alpha a58 review

The Sony a58 is packaged with an 18-55mm kit lens as standard, which is a new version of the old kit lens. It's a good performer overall, and is certainly worth investing in as part of the kit, if you don't already have some compatible optics.

By shooting at mid-range apertures such as f/8 we can assess the edge to edge sharpness of images. The whole frame displays a good level of clarity, though there is some softness evident in the very corners.

Autofocusing speeds, though much quicker than what the equivalent Nikon and Canon cameras can achieve while shooting in Live View (which DSLT cameras are basically always shooting in), are slow when compared to traditional DSLR focusing speeds, and certainly slow when compared with some of the current crop of compact system cameras (CSCs).

Sony Alpha a58 review

Sometimes the lens can hunt around to attain focus for several seconds, and when you're using the kit lens this can be a fairly noisy process, so if you're shooting somewhere quiet this can be a little distracting. This problem is made worse when the lighting levels drop slightly, or if you're attempting to photograph something relatively close to the lens, such as a portrait.

One plus point about the autofocusing system is the Eye-Start AF, which can be activated from the main menu. This automatically starts the autofocusing process as soon as the camera is lifted to the EVF, and can speed things up. It's perhaps most useful when using automatic AF

Sony was extremely keen to shout about its low light performance, in terms of image quality, at the launch of the Alpha a58. At very high sensitivities, such as ISO 2500 and ISO 3200, the Sony a58 does put in an impressive performance, with an impressive amount of detail kept and noise well controlled.

Sony Alpha a58 review

There's some evidence of smudging if you zoom in to 100%, but at normal printing and web sizes images are more than useable.

There are a wide number of digital filters available on the Sony a58, and it's worth experimenting with them. We particularly liked Toy Camera and High Contrast Monochrome. Because you can't use filters with raw format shooting, you might find that using Creative Styles gives you more flexibility.

With Creative Styles you can shoot with different settings selected, including Monochrome and Vivid, which you can customise, such as by upping the contrast. We particularly enjoyed using the Monochrome setting, but it's a shame you can't use different toning, such as cyanotype and sepia, as is offered by other manufacturers.

Sony Alpha a58 review

The Sony a58's screen is fairly low resolution, at just 460,000 dots, but it doesn't suffer too badly from glare or reflections. The tilting element helps if the sun is particularly strong, enabling you to get a better view.

The most notable improvement to the camera perhaps comes in the shape of the EVF, which is now an OLED device. It's significantly brighter than the previous version and is very easy to use.

There's barely any time lag and it's almost good enough to make you forget you're using an electronic viewfinder at times. You might find, however, when it's very sunny you need to guard the EVF with your hand to get a better view.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLT Camera with Lens
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
TouchscreenNo
Effective Camera Resolution20.1 Megapixel
GPSNo
USBYes
HDMIYes
Product Familyalpha
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedMemory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG HX Duo, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Eye-Fi Card
Image StabilizationOptical
Optical Zoom3.1x
Brand NameSony
FeaturesFace Detection, Noise Reduction, Live View, Continuous Shooting Mode, External Flash Shoe, Smile Detection
Screen Size6.9 cm (2.7")
Video FormatsAVCHD, MPEG-4 AVC, MP4
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)492 g
Image Sensor Size23.50 mm x 15.60 mm
Maximum Image Resolution5456 x 3632
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height95.5 mm
Width128.6 mm
Depth77.7 mm
Focal Length18 mm to 55 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashOptional
Focus ModesManual, Auto
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product Modela58
Product Namea58 Camera and 18-55mm Lens
Product Linealpha
Exposure Control
  • Program AE
  • Aperture Priority AE
  • Shutter Priority AE
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberSLTA58K
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing Information

Advance your images with the creative freedom of interchangeable-lens DSLR photography. The Sony Alpha a58 SLT-A58K camera combines innovative technologies with user-friendly features for intuitive handling and impressive quality. The 20.1-megapixel Exmor HD APS sensor delivers richly-detailed images with a truly professional look. Combined with Sony CMOS technology, the a58 achieves high resolution and excellent low-light performance with reduced noise. Thanks to award-winning Translucent Mirror Technology, you'll be able to shoot and focus simultaneously for ultimate speed and precision. Lock-on AF helps guarantee tack-sharp photos, even when shooting quick-moving subjects. And with a wide range of sensitivity-from ISO 100 all the way to ISO 16000-your photos and Full HD video will shine with noticeable clarity and reduced graininess, even in challenging lighting conditions. Includes an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens.