Customer Reviews: Sony Alpha A230L 10.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with Super SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization and 18-55mm Lens (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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on July 1, 2009
My title is rather pessimistic, I know, but I've been playing with this camera now for a couple of hours, so I've had a chance to get a feel for what consumers are going to probably like, and not like, about this lens kit.

First, if you are a serious photographer, you are going to be better off buying the body of this camera separately from the lens. It isn't that the 18-55mm, 3.5-5.6 aperture lens is bad: it just isn't great for inside work, as far as I can tell. The kind of "meh" aperture range means you'll struggle a bit in "normal" indoor lighting to get hand-held shots that don't really want flash, and the problem with the flash is it is straight-ahead flash, so that your attempts at head shots are going to potentially have a deer-in-the-headlights quality about them. This will be because even zoomed in to 55mm, you're going to need to be close to a subject for a portrait shot--closer than you really would like to be. Getting the two-lens kit, for a couple hundred dollars more, might be a really good alternative here, because I think the longer telephoto in that kit can go out to 200mm, giving you more flexibility in where you need to stand for shots. I was pretty sure when purchasing the kit that I was going to quickly need a really solid prime to go with it, and the Sony 50mm f 1.4 has already proven itself a valuable addition.

The good news is that, aside from the "adequate-but-kind-of-meh" lens, everything else on this thing mostly rocks! I was a bit nervous because I had seen other reviews in which some reviewers chewed on the ergonomics a bit, but I'm not really finding that to be a problem so far. The battery door, the door to the memory cards, etc., are rigid and open happily and confidently. As far as the battery goes, my advice would be to pick up an extra battery, because after charging mine the first time, I was down to roughly half power without having taken that many photos (maybe 75 RAW out of what I was being told was a 500-image total available. I didn't expect the battery to make it for 500 shots, but it looks like I would have gotten about 150 shots out of the charge, and I can definitely see situations where a photographer would run into trouble from that.)

One thing that may not be immediately obvious from pictures is that the right-hand grip is quite comfortable, and there is a design feature on the back (basically a bit of a "hump" that provides the right thumb a place to get a kind of secure purchase so that you really shouldn't ever feel like the camera is in danger of slipping out of your hand. I always put my left hand under the bottom of a camera anyway, so that I can adjust the focus ring easily, and even though this camera and its lenses have auto-focus, that's still a comfortable place for the left hand.

Many of the features and details of the camera are things that you can find in other reviews or in detail lists for this product, so I won't repeat all of that. I will state that I had no problems with the placement of the shutter button. I had seen some criticism on line suggesting that the reviewer felt like he was putting a lot of stress on a couple of fingers while firing the shutter button, but I really just didn't find that to be the case.

All of the controls are really pretty intuitive. I turned the feature off that shows the pictures of what various things mean. If you are stepping up to a SLR from a point-and-shoot, do yourself a favor and learn what aperture is, and white balance. The joy of this camera is taking a photo with "automatic" settings, and then going to manual, taking the same shot, and realizing how completely screwed up your own sense of the shot is! <smile> Actually, this is kind of valuable, in that the digital nature of the camera means that you (and I) can get a real lesson about what happens when changing aperture or shutter speed, even sometimes by very small amounts.

In many ways, this camera is an ideal camera for a serious hobbyist (I'm not going to go hyperbolic and say "professional," because the limitations of this camera are the sort that wouldn't be tolerated by a professional being pushed to the limits of digital photography. It isn't that a professional shot can't be taken on this camera, but that there are digital bodies that would make a professional's life much easier than the a230 would).

It is going to pretty much meet all of my needs for awhile, at least with the better lens on the front, and maybe a really good zoom to give me a bit more range of options.

The build quality seems fine to me. Nothing is jiggling. Lenses go on and off with no problems. Definitely buy the LCD cover that's available from Amazon. Otherwise, you'll discover that basically everything smudges the LCD display. It isn't the end of the world, but your nose will constantly be pressed against the display, so there will always be a bit of oil and moisture smudged on, otherwise.

This isn't a bad camera at all, and if you are JUST looking for a system that will give you some flexibility to take "normal" shots of the variety that other people make you sit through after they've fed you dinner, then you are going to be immediately happy. The camera will do many of the things that you need for it to do automatically, and can easily take better shots than you would take, if you knew nothing or little about photography, and had no interest to learn. But like many things, if you DO know something about photography, you will be pleasantly surprised about the sorts of things that you CAN do with this rig, as long as you are willing to make an investment in accessories that will give the body a chance to show its stuff.
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on March 5, 2010
This was a Christmas gift to myself, purchased mid-November 09.

I'm a beginner DSLR user. I won't go into a catalog of specifications this camera has, those can be found easily on the sales information listing for this camera on this website or from Sony. I will highlight the features I use and like or dislike.

This camera has been exactly what I wanted for learning photography. I did not want a lot of bells and whistle. Out of camera picture quality is very important to me. I am not ready to spend time at the computer post processing when I would rather be outside shooting pictures.

The Sony a230 does not have live view or video, but I did not want live view or video capability. I have both on my advanced zoom and never use it. Optical viewfinder important due to the fact that I am far sighted and find live view screens not usable in 98% of my pictures since I like shooting outdoor/nature/landscapes the majority of the time.

*Out of camera colors/picture quality is great. I love the colors and textures this camera produces. Again, this is a personal preference. Exposure compensation can easily be changed +/-2 as well as color saturation in the menu. I have enjoyed the black and white out of camera results also.

*The GUI menu system is easy to use, clear/crisp with easy to find advanced menu settings. Because of the great GUI, I have to say that my learning curve has been much much improved over my advanced super zoom, in fact, I rarely use the Green Zone (auto/preset modes) on this camera. I am using Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority and easily experimenting with manual white balance etc. VERY FUN and REWARDING. If you so choose, different color scheme options allow you to change the display to either Black, Brown, White or Pink. (I haven't experimented to see what is the best viewing for outside use yet, leaving mine set to White default)

*18-55mm kit lens excellent IQ and good overall practical range to have for most photos. I love having this wide angle capability that I didn't have in my advanced zoom camera.

*ERGONOMICS & BUILD: At first glance I thought it looked a little plasticky, but once I held and examined it, changed my mind. It feels sturdy and well made (which was proven recently when it accidentally was toppled from my dining table onto the floor. I like to hike, and did not want a bulky heavy camera to lug around. I know this is a personal thing, but I really like the balance and feel of this camera in my hands, even with the additional larger 70-300mm lens I purchased later for this camera, it still feels good to me.

The menu buttons on back may be too simplified/stripped down for experienced users, but I like the way they are arranged, ISO setting is easy to access. For learning, having less buttons to accidentally hit and cause frustration has been good.

*VALUE reasonably priced for those on a budget. Kit lens 18-55mm included

*OPTICAL VIEWFINDER. I love this VF. Nice clear crisp, with sophisticated auto focusing when it senses my eye.(this can also be turned off if for batery power savings, since it will start focusing the lens if gets anything close to the view finder, when carrying)
Camera settings are displayed through the viewfinder, wheel on front of camera below the on/off power button allows you to change settings based on what menu mode you are on. Field of view seems to be very good in my limited experience. 9 cross focus points.

*Auto-Bracketing feature. Will take up to 3 different shots with exposures shifted either 0.3 or 0.7 steps.

I can't speak knowledgeably about dynamic range since I haven't played with those settings yet.

*Lens options. Knowing I can use Minolta A-mount lenses is a plus
CONS: *at some point, maybe I will wish there are more advanced features available on this model, like an AEL button. A "depth of field" button is mentioned by more experienced users, but being far sighted, I have to load the pictures up on my computer to see the true quality of the final picture, so I usually take several pictures of the same thing, tweaking the settings and the angle as insurance. So a depth of field button probably wouldn't help me.

*Bigger screen on back, it has a 2.7". Larger would be nice for viewing

*Not the fastest frames per second on the market at 2.5, but have to say this is not an issue for me so far. I have been able to get some decent bird in flight pictures. I don't normally shoot sporting events, except for baseball.

*like any camera, low light situations are a challenge. In low light, the auto focus has a hard time. Some patience and experience/or in my case, trial and error is needed. I find if I switch to manual focus and manual white balance settings this helps. Having the right lens probably also helps. I have 2 lenses at this point, neither are really meant for low light/night use. I recently successfully used the on-board flash using rear sync or fill, manual white balance settings set to daylight, ISO set to 800, to take a nice portrait of my husband at night by a campfire. This was the BEST outdoor evening portrait shot I have ever taken to date! I was evidently in the perfect range for the on-board flash, and accidentally through experimentation got everything right! After taking this shot, I would say that ISO 800 or below is where the best image quality will be for this camera. An accessory flash will be in my future, so the ISO capabilities will probably improve if I do that.

*Proprietary battery. Expensive and only found at stores that carry the a230/a330/a380.Won't be able to find the battery at the local hardware store or even electronics store if they don't carry this line of cameras or camcorders that use this battery.

There are no perfect cameras, but the Sony a230 has exceeded my expectations thus far.
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on July 1, 2009
this is just about the perfect entry-level DSLR.

It has everything that you need to get great shots out of it, without the high price tag or a bloated feature set. I'd definitely recommend it. It's not the best, technically, but it's a great learning tool, performs well under stress, and an expert can get great shots out of it across the ISO range and in all lighting conditions. I would say that this will become legendary for its value as a DSLR. It's the closest thing to a "throw it up and shoot" cheap little box film camera that you can get in a DSLR. But it still takes great photos, it's very fast, nice and small, obviously cheap, and very easy to use.

I have to say I'm very happy so far with my choice, and this camera is my first DSLR Camera. The auto focus is fast and accurate. The shutter response is quick. The image quality is very good with lots of detail. The exposures have been very accurate with a minimal number of photos with blown highlights. The image stabilization kicks butt. The dynamic range optimization really does pull highlights out of the shade.

-In-body Stabilization
-Compatible w/ Minolta lenses
-Smallest and lightest DSLR
-Very simple to use
-Vivid and good image quality
-Its high ISO (3200) low light performance is increbible

-New Sony lens are expensive
-Some noise at high iso.

Just got this camera for couple days, will update more soon...

Update: 04-2010 - I have taken about 27,000 pictures with this camera, so far so good.
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on August 11, 2009
I found a deal on a new Sony A230 that was too good to pass up (I really wanted the new kit lens). Knowing the comments I have read on the internet, I was skeptical on its performance and especially its ergonomics.

Let's talk about the ergonomics first. It feels very solid and well made to me. I owned the A200 previously and actually think the A230 has a better build quality. It just feels more solid. The grip is different for sure but I find it is manageable for me by placing the right side of the camera against my palm. Plus it's lightweight and this helps with the grip. You really cannot get an understanding of the grip by holding it in a store like Best Buy or Target where you cannot hold the camera by itself. I am not saying it's my favorite grip by any means but it is manageable.

My main complaint in general usage is the lack of dedicated buttons. Many functions are menu driven. However in my case the main 2 options I change regularly are exposure compensation and ISO. There are dedicated buttons for these.

Simply stated, the new kit lens is quite an improvement over the 18-70. I am no expert but the overall image quality was noticeably sharper across the entire range. It is still entry level in feel though. The thing that stands out to me as an improvement over the A200 is the auto white balance. It is very good and a definite plus for new DSLR users. I actually compared it indoors to my Nikon D5000 and the white balance of the A230 was noticeably better. The Nikon tends toward a warmer white balance in general and this drives me nuts honestly.

Another aspect of the image quality that surprised me was its low light performance and noise performance. I tried last night to get it to take pictures without flash inside in a very dark room without flash. I changed to manual mode and raised the ISO to 1600 and then 3200. With the quality as JPEG fine, the noise was well controlled but noticeable, especially at ISO 3200. Then I changed to RAW and the difference was significant. I normally shoot JPEG but shooting RAW will make a difference when a special shot is needed or when the lighting is not optimal.

One area the Nikon noticeably performed better was in low light auto focus. The Nikon can focus quicker than the Sony. However the A230 usually did not give up and could eventually focus.

I personally do not use AEL or Kelvin white balance so Sony removing these features did not impact my decision to buy it. Each person will have to make his/her own opinion on the importance of certain features.

In the end, the A230 won me over for its great out of the box image quality, fantastic auto white balance, excellent kit lens and reasonable price. I definitely recommend it.
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on November 1, 2009
After about a week with this camera, I really like it. I am a photographer and I needed a D-SLR, I wanted to start small, but not too small, and cheap. I did do a LOT of research before buying this. I would not recommend it if you need to take lots of fast consecutive shots, 2.5fps (frames per second) is not the fastest. Flash recovery time is a bit slow too. If you have large hands this camera might be strange too, the buttons have very little travel and are shallow and the grip is small. The menus and UI (user interface) are very very nice however. Easy to use and navigate. I really like this camera, it is basic, but has advanced features too. Color is pretty good, but for the best results you should play with the settings. Another plus is you can use Minolta lenses too. I would suggest going and buying a telephoto or zoom lens however, because the kit 18-55mm lens is not the best. Another thing is the shutter is kinda loud, not a huge down, but something to take note of. Also has a proprietary hot shoe (where you can attach an external flash) but you can buy an adapter online for about $5. The battery life is also pretty good. I really like it, and would recommend.
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on February 25, 2011
This camera ROCKS!

You can't get anything close to the same value from Nikon or Canon. I switched from a Nikon D90, and had a Nikon D80 prior to that. The value proposition of the Sony is way, way beyond either of those. It's not even close. Let me illustrate:

You want to do indoor, somewhat low-light handheld shooting: this is a common situation. The ideal would be an image-stabilized fast prime. What's the cheapest way to do this with a Nikon? The 35mm and 50mm aren't image stabilized, and the 50mm (my favorite, and best for portraits) doesn't even have autofocus with the D3100 or D5000. You'd have to get a D90, which costs a LOT more. The 85mm has VR but is only f/3.5, a pain to use on any APS-C, and costs a mint. Basically, there are no good cheap options with Nikon. With Sony, it's a cheap camera with a cheap Sony or even old Minolta 50mm lens, and you're done.

What if you want wireless flash? Even the low-end Sony's do that, not so with Nikon.

Want to do bracketing? Again, included in even the low-end Sony's, but not with Nikon.

Another great lens option is the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. A professional lens for cheap, that will benefit from the in-body image stabilization.

Any way you cut it, the value is right here.
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on June 2, 2012
I bought this camera body used off another site. My initial motivation to picking a Sony Alpha was the compatibility with Minolta lenses, I have a Minolta Maxxum 7xi with a full complement of lenses and I hoped I would be able to use at least a few them. I checked into newer "digital" lenses, but decided to give my older lenses a try before putting out money on newer versions of what I already had. One of my favorite lenses was the Tamron AF Aspherical XR LD [IF] 28-300 1:3.5 - 6.3 Macro so I put it on the camera and headed into the flower garden. I am so glad that I didn't spend the money on a newer lens before giving this one a shot..the pictures turned out great! The camera was easy to use right out of the shipping box, menus are fairly easy to navigate and it only took a few minutes to start shooting. I am very pleased with the pictures (I am not a pro or a pixel counter). Both the camera and lens performed wonderfully. The camera has a good feel to it, light enough to carry but heavy enough to feel solid. It does not have live view, I still prefer the viewfinder so that's not a big deal to me. Shots are previewed on the display after shooting (you determine how long they show) BUT don't go by the preview screen - my only real complaint so far is the preview screen sucks! After taking 30 or so shots and looking at each on the screen, I came back into the house thinking the camera was going back on the site I got it off of. I pulled the memory card and put it in the computer, expecting to be disappointed...was I surprised!! So if you have Maxxum xi lenses and want to use them, get this camera (or another in the same line). I read a post that said the older lenses (before the xi series) don't have TTL so you have to disable it in the camera to use them. Not sure what they were talking about, but something to keep in mind; you want the lenses with 8 contact points.

I know this review is supposed to be about the camera, but the camera requires a lens to work and one is only as good as the other...

Camera pros:
Light, easy to carry. I have small hands and the buttons were all positioned where they were easy for me to access, someone with larger hands might find it kind of cramped.
Easy to use...while it will take a while to learn all the features, it's nice to be able to pull it out of the box, charge the battery, put a memory card in, a lens on and go and know you will get good pictures.
Can go from full manual to full Auto, plus 6 pre-programmed modes...sometimes you feel creative, sometimes you don't.
10.2MP is good for most of us, I know there are 24MP (and higher) out there, but for most of us we won't notice the difference between 10.2 amd 24...we don't make poster size prints... we want nice pictures we can pass around or frame as 8x10's or 11x13, or show on the computer or web page. If you are cropping to the point where you need 24MP, get a bigger zoom, LOL!
Ability to use either SD card or Sony HG Duo. You can have both in the camera and choose which one you want to use.

Camera cons:
Preview screen...the pictures all looked really "soft".
Rechargeable battery... I know they are more eco-friendly, but I miss the ability to pop into a store and get a replacement battery if I'm away from home. So far the battery life seems decent, but I will be buying a second battery before I do any day hikes.

All in all, I am very pleased with the camera... no, it's not top of the line, but it's a great little camera for those of us who want nice pictures with the flexibility of a dslr without taking out a second mortgage to get it. And keep in mind, the Minolta xi series lens work great and are fairly inexpensive.
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on May 15, 2010
First of all: I have never even held a Sony a200, so I can't compare it to the previous model. I did own a Nikon D70 and a D60, however, so I can draw some comparisons there.

The reasons I decided to give up on the Nikons was twofold: first, the user interface that I just couldn't get along with and always found quite cumbersome. And then there's the issue of lenses. cheaper Nikons (such as the D60 or D3000) can only autofocus with AF-S lensen (which have the AF motor in the lens rather than in the body of the camera), which means that you'll have to manually focus older (AF) lenses. For me, that's not an option all the time. I bought a D70 body second-hand to use on my older Nikon lenses for that reason. The D70 wasn't perfect, however: it was an older device with the LOUDEST shutter I've ever experienced (not so brilliant for nature photography, then). But even IF you want to use regular AF lenses, the demand on the second-hand market is such that often, used lenses are hardly cheaper than new ones.

After deciding that consultation of friends was pointless (photographers can get VERY partizan, esp. Nikon and Canon users), I decided to test a number of cameras for myself. The decision between this camera and the Pentax K-m was finally decided in this specimen's favour because of:
- The user interface: everything is intuitively accessible. Sure, you need to read the manual, but you rarely need to refer back to it after you've used settings (my experience with the D60 was VERY different).
- Weight and form: the device is quite light, but not so much that it feels flimsy in any way (admittedly, the Pentax 'feels' still more sturdy).
- Picture quality. A detail (duh!) perhaps, but I found the pictures taken with the kit lens were just a bit crisper than the comparable Pentax or Nikon setup. Furthermore, in-body stability control works like a charm.

But most of all:
- This is basically a Konica Minolta camera, and (almost) the entire archive of Minolta lenses and flashes will fit. For under $100, I purchased some brilliant lenses (four in all) that would have cost me well over $500 had I chosen their Nikon alternatives. So on that score, it offers very good value for money as well. Sony hasn't artificially crippled this model like Nikon has, so any lens will work because of the in-camera autofocus motor.

In all, very happy with my choice. The few idiosyncracies were things I could live with. For some, the lack of a live view on the display may prove to be a deal-breaker, but I never used live view anyway so for me it wasn't a factor.

Good value for money, and brilliant value if you decide to hit the used lenses market.
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on February 26, 2010
I have read the pros and cons from many reviews and I don't have much to add. Sony has given us much more quality than that for which we paid. I have been taking photo for 50 years and I am impressed.
For those who wrote negative things, the solution is easy. Pay the extra dollars for what you are looking for. Sony is pricing this a lot lower than what it is worth.
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on March 17, 2010
Got this camera for my wife. We have three kids and take lots of pics. We had been using a point and shoot, which makes taking pics of the kids impossible. So, we went with this camera for the DSLR shutter speed. It is super easy to use right out of the box and took better pictures with the automatic settings than our old point and shoot ever did. There are some features that we'll have to learn how to use to get the full value out of the camera, but for someone wanting to go to the next level of picture quality and who isn't a professional photographer, you will be very happy with this one, especially for the value. PS - if you are upgrading from a point and shoot, just know that you have to use the optical viewfinder when shooting pics (that is, the lcd is only used for reviewing pics and adjusting settings, not "framing" pics). This was an adjustment at first since you can frame a pic with the LCD on point and shoots, but not with DSLR's. But not to worry, the quality of the pics and the shutter speed will quickly offset that inconvenience!
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