When Sony took over from Konica Minolta and started to produce DSLRs, we secretly hoped that the Japanese electronics giant would take the opportunity to completely re-invent the concept.
Sony is, after all, the company that gave us the Walkman, in all its many forms, the Playstation and more recently, the PSP.
All of these devices were, simultaneously, pioneering pieces of hardware that opened up entirely new markets, and stone cold design classics. So where would Sony take the humble DSLR? The answer, up to now, was not all that far
The Alpha 380 certainly looks very different to earlier Alpha DSLRs, and it feels very different too, thanks to its overhauled ergonomics, new menu system and a more useful, colourful GUI, yet it still isn't the revolutionary product that a lot of people will be hoping for.
Other good points include an amazing Live View mode and superb value-added features like eye-start AF and Steady Shot INSIDE. Ultimately of course, this is an entry-level camera, and as such, we think it succeeds.
At its current (introductory) price the Alpha 380 is outclassed by competitors like the Nikon D5000, which offer more refined handling and better image quality, plus, of course, HD video recording mode.
The omission of an HD video recording function is disappointing, especially from Sony, and a plasticky body and unconvincing image quality detract from the camera's good points.
It is important to note, however, that if Sony's past pricing strategy is anything to go by, the A380 will drop in price fairly quickly and get cheaper and cheaper the longer it has been on the market.
If and when its price drops below £600, the A380 will be a great bargain.