Sony A300 Review

Review Date: December 22nd 2008
Author: Zoltan Arva-Toth

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Page 1
Introduction / Ease of Use
Page 2
Image Quality
Page 3
Sample Images
Page 4
Design
Page 5
Specifications
Page 6
Conclusion

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10.2 megapixel Fine JPEG mode, which gives an average image size of between 5-8Mb.

During the review, the Sony A300 produced images of very high quality. Colours were pleasing the legacy of Konica Minolta perhaps? and generally true to life, although in some shots the sky took on a slightly unnatural hue. Automatic white balance was sub-par, but the camera has a number of presets which can all be fine-tuned, plus a Custom WB option and the ability to enter the colour temperature in degrees Kelvin. The supplied Sony DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens did not do justice to the 10 megapixel sensor, but using a couple of other lenses and stopping them down to their optimum aperture revealed the true amount of detail captured by the image sensor. The dynamic range of the sensor proved admirably wide, so much so that the camera refused to engage its D-Range Optimiser even when photographing relatively contrasty scenes. Noise reduction at higher ISO settings was a bigger problem than noise itself, easily circumvented by shooting RAW. The anti-shake feature really worked and proved its value by saving shots that would otherwise have been ruined by camera shake.

Noise

The base sensitivity of the Sony A300 is ISO 100, with the other selectable settings being ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. Although you can disable high-ISO noise reduction via the menu, the JPEGs will always exhibit signs of NR being applied above ISO 400. This causes progressive loss of sharpness and detail as you move up the sensitivity ladder and leads to a frankly unpleasant look by the time you hit ISO 1600. Switch to RAW, however, and you'll get back almost all the seemingly lost detail and sharpness, along with stronger but more 'film-like' noise at the highest settings.

JPEG RAW  

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the A300 are Fine and Standard for JPEGs, plus you can also opt to shoot RAW. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

10.2M Fine (4.93Mb) (100% Crop)
10.2M Standard (3.77Mb) (100% Crop)
   
10.2M RAW (9.77Mb) (100% Crop)
 
 

Sharpening

The out-of-camera JPEGs can be rather soft, especially when using a not-so-sharp lens. Applying some sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop may help, although this is no substitute for sharp optics. Alternatively, you can change the in-camera sharpening level for any creative style if you don't like the default look. Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some extra sharpening applied.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   
   

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens supplied with the test unit displayed some serious chromatic aberrations at the telephoto end, where it was also very soft. At the wide end of its vast zoom range, chromatic aberrations were much less of a problem (but off-centre sharpness - or lack thereof was, prompting us to use a different lens for most of our Sample Images).

Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)

Flash

The pop-up flash on the Sony A300 has a guide number of 12 (in metres) at ISO 100. Depending on shooting mode, the available flash modes may include Off, Auto, Fill, Slow Sync and Rear-curtain Sync. In addition to these, the pop-up flash can also act as a controller for wireless slaves. Another function of the built-in unit is to provide an AF assist light this solution works, but can be more annoying to your models than the red or white AF assist lamps of some competing models. These shots of a white coloured ceiling were taken at a distance of 1.5m, and demonstrate how much extra vignetting the flash may cause, particularly at the wide end of the 18-200mm lens, where its coverage is not enough to evenly illuminate the scene.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Auto Flash - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64
ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (300mm)

Auto Flash - Telephoto (300mm)
ISO 64
ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. The built-in flash caused only a tiny bit of red-eye, which was quite successfully removed by activating red-eye reduction from the menu.

Fill-flash

Fill-flash (100% Crop)
   

Fill-flash & Red-eye reduction

Fill-flash & Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

Night Shot

The Sony A300 can use shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds, and there is a Bulb mode available as well, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 2 seconds, aperture of f/11 at ISO 200. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The A300 features Konica Minolta's CCD-shift anti-shake technology, re-branded 'Super SteadyShot' by Sony. This allows you to take hand-held photos at shutter speeds that are critically slow for the focal length used. The crops below are from two photographs, both taken at 1/10 second at 120mm. As you can see, anti-shake does make a difference at shutter speeds like this. Importantly though, it won't help when even longer exposure times are required in those cases, switch off IS and use a sturdy mount such as a tripod.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti-Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti-Shake On (100% Crop)
1/10th sec / 120mm

Dynamic Range Optimizer

DRO is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light. The selectable settings are Off, Standard [D-R] and Advanced [D-R+]. This is a simpler version of the system used in the A700. Also, it is important to note that selecting either the Standard or the Advanced setting does not guarantee that it will actually do anything. If the camera thinks the tonal range of the subject falls within certain limits, it may decide to take no action and if you think otherwise, your only option is to lift the shadows manually in post-processing. This makes DRO less appealing than competing systems.

Off (100% Crop)

Standard (100% Crop)

Advanced Auto (100% Crop)

     
Page 1
Introduction / Ease of Use
Page 2
Image Quality
Page 3
Sample Images
Page 4
Design
Page 5
Specifications
Page 6
Conclusion

DIWAPhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Sony A300 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.

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