Sony Alpha 550 Review: highs and lows
My review of the Sony Alpha 550 was supposed to appear at the end of November, allowing one week abroad in good weather with plenty of subject-matter, in Tenerife. Sadly that trip had to be cancelled, and the Nikon D3S arrived for review on the day we were meant to have travelled. So, with far too much work to do on the D3S, I’m “going to press” here with my initial thoughts based on a fairly short time using the Alpha 550.
There are 11 pages in this review, please use the Next Page navigation at the end of each page to continue reading. A sponsor link appears before the end of each page – “Get camera lenses at Shopping.com’s affordable deals.” Our thanks to Shopping.com for spotting and sponsoring this review!
This review has been updated August 2010 – see the second to last page for new Adobe Camera Raw Process 2010 results, a massive improvement with Alpha 550 files.
The 500 was promised to me a week before writing this, but has not been sent by Sony. The Alpha 550 is mine; they have not been issued for reviews yet, and to get one, I had to buy one.
It’s both one of the best £600 purchases I’ve made and one of the worst. Find out why!
The literature and application CD included with the Alpha 550
The accessories included with the Alpha 550 – the neckstrap is slightly less sharp-edged than the very cheap version provided with the A200 to A380 models.
I have always valued the superb low ISO performance of the Alpha digital cameras – from Konica Minolta Dynax 7D onwards. The Alpha 100 remains unmatched for the crispness of its detail at ISO 100 when processed from raw, if you are lucky enough to get accurate focus.
The Alpha 350 had the same intensive test treatment that was planned for the 550. I left my Alpha 700 behind, and took only the 350 for a week shooting Gran Canaria. It didn’t disappoint; we knew the high ISO performance was a limitation, but shots at 400 and 800 were commercially usable. Those at 100-200 had a great colour quality and smooth, noise-free sky and neutral tones.
The 700 and 900 have both been a mixed experience. The base ISO 100 image in both cases lacks the finesse of either the Alpha 100/200/230 10 megapixel sensor, or the Alpha 350/380 14.2 megapixel CCD. However, both respond well to using settings or 160 or 320 (not 200 or 400) with Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom processing.
The Alpha 550 has a 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor so might be expected to behave a little more like the 700 and 900, with strong anti-aliasing and heavy noise reduction applied to the raw file (in effect) by processes built in to the sensor itself, and the BIONZ processor.
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