The Sony A390 is a new 14 megapixel DSLR camera featuring a restyled design to make it easier to use. That’s exactly what we said about the the A390’s predecessor, the A380, which had one of the most uncomfortable handgrips that we’ve ever used on a DSLR. Sony have gone back to the drawing board and released the A390, essentially exactly the same as the A380 with a larger more traditional handgrip.
The A390 retains all of its predecessor’s key features, with 14.2 megapixel sensor, a 2.7 inch tilting LCD screen, Live View, anti-dust system, ISO range of 100-3200, anti-shake system that’s built into the body, eye-start auto-focus system and Dynamic Range Optimizer.
Years ago I used to use a Nikon F SLR with an assortment of wide angle, normal, and telephoto lenses. I would buy my film in bulk, load it into casettes, shoot, then develop and print in my home darkroom. Those days are long gone. Once digital arrived I used a variety of compact cameras whose main virtue was portability and convenience, which sometimes did not provide the sharpest pictures.
With the birth of a grandchild on the way, my wife decided to look for a “really good” camera. She bought this camera at a one day sale at Electronics Expo as part of a kit that also included a 75-300mm lens, tripod, cleaning kit, 4GB SD card, and Bower camera bag–all for $600. After she brought it home the “photo bug” that had been dormant for so many years bit me again. I absolutely love this camera. Here is why.
1. Picture quality is stunning. Don’t be overly impressed with the 14.2 megapixels because unless you regularly make 16 x 20 pictures or larger, you won’t really notice a difference from a camera with say 10 megapixels. The whole emphasis on megapixels is really just a marketing ploy. The thing to focus on are the lenses, and both lenses that came with our kit take amazing pictures–clear, sharp, vivid colors. I use one of the pictures that I took as a screensaver on my 22 inch monitor, and the detail is incredible. Also, my cousin who is an avid photographer has a much more expensive Nikon DSLR, and because the Sony lenses are so good, there is no noticeable difference in our picture quality.
2. The lenses are easy to remove and put on, and the autofocus and automatic light metering features work very well.
3. The included flash is compact but powerful. No it is not a substitute for an external flash if you do lots of flash photography, but for ordinary use it works just fine.
4. If you are a beginner or just don’t want to be bothered with lots of technical details, just set the main control dial to Auto, and the camera will take care of all of your settings for you. If you want to start playing with settings to adjust aperture, shutter, depth of field, ISO settings etc. you can do so. In short, you can simply point and shoot or else start making all kinds of adjustments to become more creative.
5. The manual that comes with the camera is adequate. If you want a book that clearly and concisely explains everything about using this camera with lots of tips for being creative, buy David Busch’s book on Sony DSLR A390. I already have his book on the Sony A380, which I used to own and is essentially the same as the A390 (see paragraph 10 below), and can tell you that nobody explains things more clearly. He takes nothing for granted if you are a rank beginner, but at the same time provides tips for more seasoned photographers.
6. The Bower Camera Bag (which I have reviewed on Amazon) is superb for holding all of the equipment, and was part of the package that my wife got. Even with the camera bag loaded with everything, it is not that heavy, and is about the size of an average pocketbook.
7. Lens caps on any DSLR have a way of popping off and getting lost, so I suggest you buy an inexpensive lens cap keeper. I use the one made by Bower (I have reviewed it on Amazon).
8. I suggest buying an extra battery. Battery life is pretty good, but an extra battery is always a good idea. I bought one made by Lenmar that works just as well as the Sony battery, but is half the price (I have reviewed it on Amazon).
9. Although there is no video on this camera, I don’t consider that a problem. I have always preferred using a separate video camera because taking videos is much different from taking still photos, and video cameras have a different set of controls that are missing on a DSLR. For the time being I have settled on the latest Flip Ultra HD 8GB 3rd Generation (which I have reviewed on Amazon).
10. Except for the handle grip and a few other minor differences, this camera is basically identical to the Sony A380. Both work equally well, so buy whichever one you can get the best deal on (my wife first bought an A380 package, which we gave to our daughter once our granddaughter arrived, and next bought the A390 package because that was then the best deal).
Bottom Line: Whether you use this camera as a simple point and shoot or start experimenting with the different settings, you can take great pictures. I recommend this. Shop for price.
I am a college photography instructor and have had a ton of cameras over the years. This is my go-to camera and the first one I pick up. I love the fact that the image stabilization is built into the body and not the lens. The Live View mode makes teaching with this so easy, as well as for a student to understand. The color quality from this Sony beats my old Nikon hands down. For the price, this is an AWESOME camera, and super easy to use, whether it be on auto or manual.
I want to start by saying this is a great camera. However there are a few things that made me return it and get a different camera:
1. Continuous shooting. VERY slow. Almost too slow. They say it’s 2.5 per second, but it felt like maybe 1.5 per second. It’s not a huge issue, but my expectation was such that I thought it would be faster. It was really surprising and i couldn’t get over it.
2. Battery. I took it out one afternoon and only got 50 shots before the battery died. Which takes me to my next point:
3. Accessories- i saw some accessories, but none of them where really clear as to whether or not they fit this model. Also-there where two types of accessories, expensive and bottom level. Other brands had a full range and clearly specific to models. Case in point: look for a battery grip for this model camera and you’ll see what i mean.
Now, onto the Good-
1. you can use Minolta lenses with this camera. There are literally thousands upon thousands of lenses to choose from.
2. Superb optics, even for the obligatory 18-55mm kit lens. See the pictures i loaded with the basic kit lens.
3. it uses both Sony cards as well CS, and has two slots. This is awesome.
4. The price alone makes this the top pick for beginners. I bought the kit from Adorama and it came with a bag, a card, and lens all for $465.
At the end of the day- if you don’t care about the continuous shooting issue (and it’s not an issue per se) then this is a really hard camera to pass up.