Sony Alpha A58 First Impressions Review$599.99
Sony has combined its two entry-level DSLRs into a single, affordable update.
Our First Take
With the mirrorless camera segment booming, Sony has moved to combine its entry-level DSLR lines—last year represented by the A37 (MSRP $599.99) and A57 (MSRP $799.99)—into one single camera, the A58 (MSRP $599.99 with kit lens). With such a low price tag right out of the gate, the A58 seems to promise the mid-level features of the A57 at an entry-level price.
The A58 is an intriguing camera on paper, advancing in some areas over its predecessors while regressing in others. We got a chance to shoot with the new Alpha in some challenging conditions last week and came away with mixed feelings about Sony's latest entry-level shooter.
Design & Usability
A comfortable design that doesn't stray from past Alphas.
If you've shot with either the A57 or A37 for any period of time, there's little here that will surprise you. For those who haven't used a Sony Alpha recently, the A58's mostly plastic doesn't offer a great many dials or physical controls. The grip is a nice rubberized material, but the plastic feels chintzy—right in line with similarly-priced models from Canon and Nikon. The control layout is the same as the A57, though the zoom and exposure compensation dials have swapped places.
The camera features a 2.7-inch articulated rear LCD screen as well as the electronic viewfinder that all of Sony's current DSLRs share. The LCD now sits on a hinge that extends out and then up, rather than the bottom-mounted hinge that the A57 had. Like other Sony DSLRs, the A58 is an SLT, using a translucent mirror that lets most of the light from the lens pass right to the image sensor, feeding that image in live view to the EVF. This allows the user to record video, shoot in live view, or use the EVF while still taking advantage of phase detection autofocus.
The EVF itself has received a slight bump up in size (0.46" to 0.5") with the same resolution. The Sony EVFs have gotten very good in the last two years, with little to no lag. Shooting with them now feels natural, letting you enjoy the advantages of live view—seeing exposure effects in real time, instant image review at eye level, and easier focusing in low light—without having to live with so many downsides.
A healthy step up from the A37, but some of the A57's best traits are gone.
Some of these sacrifices, such as the wired remote terminal, seem logical. Others, like the drop in burst speed (10fps vs. just 5fps at full resolution) and the loss of 1080/60p video are less excusable. The drop in burst speed is the real head-scratcher, as one of the chief benefits of an SLT design is the stationary mirror, theoretically resulting in faster burst shooting.
It's also worth noting that the A58 still only allows full manual control over video recording with AF deactivated. While there are technical hurdles that prevent aperture control and phase detection AF at the same time, there's no reason why shutter speed should be similarly limited. Even the ability to shoot manually with contrast-detect AF would be appreciated, as it limits the usefulness of SLT bodies for serious video recording.
Even with the loss of those key features the A58 is still competitively priced at $599.99 with the 18-55mm kit lens. We were able to capture some samples from the A58 that we shot with, which was pre-production with "final" image quality, according to Sony. The images are quite good, with noise well controlled in most of our shots. The 15-point AF system (3 cross-type) works quite well in most lighting conditions, the creative options are fun to play with, and the new automatic features should really help novices out. Modes like Auto HDR, Hand-held Twilight, and Auto Portrait Framing can also be quite useful, though only in limited situations.
The A58 will be a fine option for those on a budget, but the A57 at the same price is a steal by comparison.
In our time with the A58, we came away with mixed impressions. On the one hand it's a very competitive entry-level DSLR, with an attractive $599.99 kit price. The body is lightweight and simple to operate, the sensor seems like a fair upgrade over the A37 and A57, and its feature set does rival the barebones models put out by the likes of Canon and Nikon. The image quality seems at least on par with the A57, though we're always wary of any claims there until we get a real production sample in for analysis.
Of course, we'll have to wait for a full lab review before we really know how the A58 stacks up against its predecessors and contemporaries. But if you're already sold on a new Sony SLT, we'd suggest snapping up the A57 at the discounted price while you still can.