Sony announces three entry-level DSLRs: Sony Alpha DSLR-A230, A330, and A380

Roughly 15 months after Sony stormed the entry-level digital SLR market by announcing three sub-$900 dSLRs in the span of a month, the electronics giant is on the scene again with a triple-threat announcement upgrading all three models.

Roughly 15 months after Sony stormed the entry-level digital SLR market by announcing three dSLRs under $900 in the span of a month, the electronics giant is on the scene again with a triple-threat announcement upgrading all three models. The Sony Alpha DSLR-A230, A330, and A380 will replace the A200, A300, and A350, respectively, and will debut in July of this year at $549.99, $649.99, and $849.99 (with 18-55mm lenses), respectively. All three models are available for pre-order from Sony now.

The new models offer no huge surprises. As with their predecessors, the A330 distinguishes itself from the A230 by offering live-view shooting using a flip-out LCD, and sacrifices magnification on the optical viewfinder (the A230's viewfinder magnification is 0.83x like the A200,  while the A330's is 0.74x like the A300). And as with their respective predecessors, the A380 differs from the A330 in higher resolution (14 megapixels vs. 10). Unlike their predecessors, though, the A330 and A380 deliver the same continuous shooting speed of 2.5 fps (slightly slower than the 3 fps the A200 and A300 offered). In fact, the bump in resolution is the only way the A380 differs from the A330 aside from body design.

Speaking of which, the upgraded models sport a new, more modern-looking body design. A nice touch in the new design is that you can easily distinguish among the three models: the A230 is all black with a pebbled grip texture, the A380 is black with silver accents at the top and the same pebbled grip texture, and the A330 is available either in the same black-and-silver color scheme as the A380 (distinguishing itself from that model with a basket-weave grip texture) or in a new copper color with the pebbled texture.

Other main differences between the three new models and their predecessors are their smaller and lighter-weight bodies (the A220 weighs in at 15.9 ounces vs. the A200's 18.8 ounces, while the A380 and A330 are just 17.3 ounces, down from 20.5 ounces for the A350 and A300); their new, more-intuitive user interfaces (with built-in onscreen Help Guides); upgraded image processors; and -- in a big (and welcome) change for Sony -- support for SD/SDHC memory cards in addition to Sony's proprietary Memory Stick formats. Additionally, rather than the 18-70mm kit lenses bundled with the earlier models, the three new models will be offered with 18-55mm lenses, or for $200 more each, with both 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses.

In addition to the new zoom and telephoto kit lenses being offered with the cameras, Sony also announced new portrait and macro lenses. All the new lenses are designed specifically to use with the APS-C sized sensors (which Sony uses in all of its dSLRs except its highest-end A900).

For specs comparisons of the A380, A330, and A230 and their likely competitors, go to the next page »

On the high-end, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A380 competes directly with two of the hottest entry-level dSLRs of the year, the Canon EOS Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000:

Sony Alpha DSLR-A380 Canon EOS Rebel T1i Nikon D5000
Price $849.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $899.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $849.95 (with 18-55mm lens)
Sensor 14.2 megapixels, 23.5x15.7mm CCD 15.1 megapixels, 14.9x22.3mm CMOS 12.3 megapixels, 17.3x13mm Live MOS
Continuous Shooting Speed 2.5 fps 3.4 fps 4 fps
LCD 2.7-inch, 230,400 pixels (tiltable) 3-inch, 920,000 pixels (fixed) 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixels (articulated)
Autofocus 9-point 9-point 11-point
Sensitivity ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-6400
Live View Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD memory card, SDHC memory card SD memory card, SDHC memory card SD memory card, SDHC memory card
Movie Mode None 1920×1080 (20 fps)/1280×720 (30 fps)/640x480 (30 fps) 1280x720 (24 fps)/640x424 (24 fps)/320x216 (24 fps)
Dimensions 5.0x3.8x2.8 inches 5.1x3.8x2.4 inches 5.0x4.1x3.1 inches
Weight (body) 17.3 oz 16.9 oz 19.8 oz

For specs comparisons of the A330 and A230 and their likely competitors, go to the next page »

The mid-range Sony Alpha DSLR-A330 doesn't have such clear-cut recent competitors. It's priced $50 lower than the Olympus E-450, which comes bundled with two kit lenses at $699.99. But last year's Nikon D60 can also be found selling for about $649.95 with an 18-55mm kit lens.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A330 Olympus E-450 Nikon D60
Price $649.99 (with 18-55mm lens); $849 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses) $699.99 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses) $649.95 (with 18-55mm lens)
Sensor 10.2 megapixels,  23.5 x 15.7mm CCD 10 megapixels, 17.3x13mm Live MOS 10.2 megapixels, 15.8x23.6mm CMOS
Continuous Shooting Speed 2.5 fps 3.5 fps 3 fps
LCD 2.7-inch, 230,400 pixels (tiltable) 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixels (fixed) 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixels (fixed)
Autofocus 9-point 3-point 3-point
Sensitivity ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-1600 ISO 100-3200
Live View Yes Yes No
Storage Media Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD memory card, SDHC memory card Compact Flash Type I/II (UDMA), Microdrive, xD-Picture Card SD memory card, SDHC memory card
Dimensions 5.0x3.8x2.8 inches 5.1x3.1x2.1 inches 5.0x3.7x2.5inches
Weight (body) 17.3 oz 13.4 oz 16.1 oz

For specs comparisons of the A230 and its likely competitors, go to the next page »

The closest competitors to Sony's lowest-price model, the Alpha DSLR-230, are likely last year's Canon EOS Rebel XS and Pentax K2000 (you can buy the K2000 direct from Pentax for $599.95 with a 18-55mm lens and flash).

Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 Canon EOS Rebel XS Pentax K2000
Price $549.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $599.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $599.95 (with 18-55mm lens and flash)
Sensor 10.2 megapixels, 23.6 x 15.8mm CCD 10.1 megapixels, 22.2x14.8mm CMOS 10.2 megapixels, 23.5x15.7.6mm CCD
Continuous Shooting Speed 2.5 fps 3 fps 3.2 fps
LCD 2.7-inch, 230,400 pixels (fixed) 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixels (fixed) 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixels (fixed)
Autofocus 9-point 7-point 5-point
Sensitivity ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-1600 ISO 100-3200
Live View No Yes No
Storage Media Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD memory card, SDHC memory card SD memory card, SDHC memory card SD memory card, SDHC memory card
Dimensions 5.0x3.8x2.7 inches 5.0x3.8x2.4 inches 4.8x3.6x2.7 inches
Weight (body) 15.9 oz 15.9 oz 18.5 oz