Sony’s still a newcomer to the DSLR world, but it’s clearly serious about competing against the old guard like Nikon and Canon. Just look at its top of the range A900, an awesome full-frame monster with 24.6 megapixels at its disposal.
While the A900 is a serious piece of technology for seriously experienced (and well-heeled) photographer’s, the A380 is pitched at the opposite end of the snapper spectrum. With a new, streamlined interface and menu system, this is clearly designed with novices in mind.
Struggle with shutter speed? Find aperture awkward? Make a mess of manual shooting? In that case the pictorial interface, complete with tips, should help you get to grips with the basics of advanced photography in no time.
Sony has also packaged the A380 with a brand new 18-55mm kit lens, replacing the rather disappointing 18-70mm lens previously used. While the new glass lacks a bit of range compared to the old model, it’s sturdier and more compact, sports an auto/manual focus switch on the side and most importantly, delivers better shots.
Aside from these nice bits of newness, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the A380 and the A350 model it replaces in Sony’s line-up.
Sure, the A380 has SD and Memory Stick Duo slots instead of just CompactFlash, plus an HDMI output for painless hook-up to an HDTV, but the rest of the specs are fairly similar: a 14.2MP sensor, tilting 2.7in screen with live view and a (pretty small) optical viewfinder with nine autofocus points.
No HD video
The lack of HD video isn't necessarily a bad thing - it’s nice to see the super-speedy live view autofocus is still there - but with similarly priced rivals like the Canon 500D and Nikon D5000 now equipped with HD video skills, the A380 seems a bit underpowered.
In some ways the A380 is actually worse than the A350. The lighter, more compact design might look a bit more stylish, but the tiny grip makes it uncomfortable to hold, especially with a heavy lens attached.
And the interface streamlining means less controls on the back - meaning, for instance, that you have to dip into the menu if you want to manually shift the focus point. On the A350 you could do it without moving your eye from the viewfinder.
Good quality photo
Of course, none of that particularly impacts on the quality of the photos you can take, and the sensor, in-body SteadyShot image stabilisation, wide dynamic range and built-in BIONZ processor all contribute to deliver fantastic shots.
High ISO performance still isn’t quite as noise-free as Nikon’s, but on balance the A380 is about as good when it comes to stills as any of its close rivals.