Sony has developed its latest round of alpha SLRs with the first-time user in mind. They've designed the A230, A330 and A380 for consumers looking to step up from their digital compacts into the DSLR class. From the multi-colored menu screens down to the control layout, these cameras are lighter, cheaper and intended to be user-friendlier than any of Sony's current Alpha offerings.
With the introduction of the new Alpha cameras, Sony is also rolling out four new lenses, a flash, and a set of colorful camera accessories.
In a smart play to encourage first-time SLR users to step up from their familiar compacts, Sony has included dual memory card slots for SD/SDHC and their proprietary Memory Stick format.
Existing Sony Alphas have only been outfitted with CompactFlash card compatibility, so those who are hesitant to ditch their old memory cards and buy into a new system can now take a closer look at Sony's new cameras.
To make these cameras more familiar to those moving up from a point-and-shoot, Sony has equipped them with 9-point phase-detection auto focus, a system that doesn't require a viewfinder blackout to acquire focus.
The Alpha A230, A330, and A380 will all feature in-body Steady Shot image stabilization and compatibility with all Sony Alpha lenses as well as Minolta and Konica Minolta AF lenses. These three cameras also share the same optical viewfinder, offering 95% field of view coverage. On the back of each camera body, Sony has moved all buttons and controls to the right side of the 2.7 inch LCD. Each model is also equipped with their BIONZ image processor and pop-up flash.
Menu screens have also been given a makeover for this round of Alphas. Users will now be able to choose from a few different display colors - black, white, brown and pink - and will also be guided through menu screens with optional on-screen help guides. The menu graphics themselves have been re-designed with a first-time user in mind, too. Proper shutter and aperture adjustments can be made with the help of icons that demonstrate how different settings will affect the image.
Sony Alpha DSLR-A230
Rounding out the lower end of the pricing spectrum, the Sony Alpha A230 will debut as part of a one or two lens kit priced at $549 and $749, respectively. At the heart of this camera is a 10.2 effective megapixel APS-C size CCD sensor, presumably the same imager found in the Alpha A200.
The Alpha A230 will feature the same size 2.7 inch LCD as the A330 and A380, but unlike the screen on the other two cameras, this one doesn't tilt. The A230 also sacrifices Live View function on this camera to bring the price down.
Sony Alpha DSLR-A330
Price-wise, the Alpha A330 fits comfortably between the A230 and the A380 at $649 for a single-lens kit and $849 for a two-lens kit. Sony is also making this camera available in a new copper brown color.
Like the A380, the Alpha A330 offers shooters Live View functionality with their 2.7 inch display. The LCD also tilts upward by 135 degrees and downward by 55 degrees.
The A330 offers the same sensor specs as the A230.
Sony Alpha DSLR-A380
At the top rung of the price ladder, the A380 offers a higher resolution sensor with 14.2 effective megapixels. As we mentioned before, it shares live view capability with the A330 as well as a tilting LCD.
Lenses and Flash
In addition to the new zoom and telephoto lenses being sold with the new cameras, Sony has introduced two additional lenses for the Alpha line. Optimized for the APS-C sensor within each new Alpha, Sony will also offer a portrait DT 50mm f/1.8 lens and a macro DT 30mm f/2.8 lens.
Each of the four new lenses will feature Sony's Smooth AutoFocus Motor for in-lens autofocus. The new standard zoom and telephoto lenses will cost $200 and $230, respectively, and the portrait lens will sport a price tag of $150.
An external flash unit, HVL-F20AM, also makes its debut today. It should give users more flexibility and higher flash output than the standard pop-up flash. It will debut with a $130 price tag.
Alongside the announcement of these new DSLRs, Sony is also taking the wraps off of some new camera accessories including new bags and color-coordinated camera straps.
Sony will begin taking pre-orders for the A230, A330 and A380 starting today at their retail website.
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