February 8, 2008 Sony has added the Alpha 350 to its digital SLR line-up. Even by today's lofty standards, the unit earns the tag of high-definition with its 14.2-megapixel CCD image sensor, a feature backed by in-built Super SteadyShot image stabilization, sensitivity up to ISO3200 for faster shutter speeds and Quick AF Live View technology, which delivers live image previews (a feature lacking in most digital SLRs up until recent times) with through-the-lens phase-detection autofocusing via the 2.7-inch variable angle LCD. The A350 also boasts an anti-dust protection system and batteries that last long enough for up to 730 shots on a single charge when using the optical viewfinder.
The 14.2-megapixel CCD image sensor combines with a BIONZ image processing engine to deliver evenly-exposed pictures, particularly when shooting high-contrast and strong backlit scenes according to Sony. The engine automatically adjusts exposure and tone to suit shooting conditions to give rich shadow and highlight detail.
The Quick AF Live View technology uses Sony’s Pentamirror Tilt Mechanism to direct the light path to a dedicated live view sensor. The switch-over between optical viewfinder mode and Quick AF Live View mode is done via a simple push of a switch at the top of the camera. Fast auto-focus is also boosted by the advanced centre-cross 9-point autofocus sensor system and predictive focusing for enhanced shooting of moving subjects.
The 2.7-inch variable LCD screen features a high 230,400-dot resolution with a 130-degree upward and 40-degree downward variable tilt - anyone who has ever tried to take a photo while standing in any but the first row at a public event will immediately realize the benefit of this feature in a digital SLR.
A1200-zone metering system uses the dedicated live view image sensor to evaluate light levels and colour distribution to achieve optimum image exposure while the Smart Teleconverter function applies zoom scaling on images with no reduction in image quality, achieving an equivalent of 1.4x or 2x magnification.
Sony claims that improved control algorithms in the A350's body-integrated Super SteadyShot system allows users to shoot at shutter speeds of 2.5 to 3.5 steps slower, giving the user more leeway before resorting to a tripod or flash.
The dust reduction system combines an anti-static coating on the camera's low-pass filters to prevent dust build-up with an anti-vibration mechanism that activates to dislodge dust each time the camera is turned off.
The camera also sports some eco-friendly elements - the body cap uses renewable polyamide 11, a vegetable-based plastic derived from castor oil.
The Sony DSLR-A350 camera body will be available in March for about USD$800, and the DSLR-A350 kit with a DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 3.9x zoom lens will be available for about USD$900 at the same time.
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