Sony A390 Review

September 13, 2010 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.

When you marry a sensor with a high pixel count to a standard kit lens there's always a question mark over whether the combination is truly capable of resolving all those self same pixels. For us, though there are plenty of subtleties of tone across the images from the Sony A390, occasionally they could do with being a tad sharper.

While such gripes can of course, to an extent, be 'put right' with subtle application of Photoshop's Unsharp Mask at the processing stage - or simply fitting a top-of-the-range Carl Zeiss branded optic - images also suffer from the very common complaints of barrel distortion at the lens' widest setting and pixel fringing, evidenced when zooming in close between areas of high contrast.

Still, when left on its default settings the A390 delivers a naturalistic array of colours, suggesting white balance is reliable, if grey featureless skies will inevitably result in underexposed foreground detail when shooting JPEG.

Considering its target market the Sony A390's ISO performance isn't bad - with on-board noise reduction implemented that is. OK, so image noise is noticeably lurking in the shadows at ISO 800, but by ISO 1600 noise reduction has kicked in, reducing the effects without smoothing out surrounding detail to a ruinous degree. At ISO 3200, as expected noise is more evident again and detail softer, resembling an Impressionist dot painting when zooming right in. But like those self same old masters, draw back from the image and everything comes back into sharp, clear focus. While Sony may not be pushing the envelope like Canon and Nikon when it comes to superior performance in low light, the A390 gives an adequate showing.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Sony A390. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:


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)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Sony A390 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Superfine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

14M Fine (4.56Mb) (100% Crop) 14M Normal (3.21Mb) (100% Crop)
14M RAW (18.6Mb) (100% Crop)  

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony A390 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The flash settings on the Sony A390 are Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync and Rear flash sync, with Red-eye reduction available in the Main Menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (18mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (18mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (55mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (55mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Neither the Auto setting or the Red-eye reduction mode caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)


The Sony A390's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there's also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 200.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light.



Creative Styles

There are 7 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.