At the beginning of 2013, the Sony A58 came on the market as a replacement for both the A37 and the A57. Price-wise it is an attractive camera for photographers buying their first single-lens reflex camera. With a suggested retail price of 549 euro, incl. a Sony 18-55 mm kit lens, you get great value for your money. Everything is there. In terms of capabilities, including Auto-HDR and sweep panoramas, even an advanced photographer can work with this camera. The camera also offers video (1080 @ 60i/24 p) with a connection for an external stereo mic, but not for stereo headphones. The image quality of the Sony A58 you might compare to the Sony A77, as we will do in this review.
The Sony A58 looks like a SLR, but it's not. The Sony SLT series uses a semitransparent mirror, in which a portion of the light is used for the AF module and the rest of the light lands on the sensor. The signal from the sensor is passed to a 1,044,000 dots OLED electronic viewfinder, which you lets you take pictures in Liveview. This design allows the camera to be very compact and light. This is indeed a camera that is light, but at the same time sits comfortably in your hand.
For those who already have a Sony SLT camera and are considering getting a Sony A58 as a second camera: the Sony A58 will feel familiar, but you will also encounter a few surprises.
Compared to the Sony A77, the Sony A58 has fewer buttons. That makes sense, because the Sony A58 is aimed at a different target group. For novice photographers it's nice to have a camera with fewer buttons. But like all other camera brands, Sony does not manage to leave the buttons in the same place.
The Sony A58 is equipped with image stabilization and a built-in flash. A striking feature of the Sony A58 is the plastic lens mount. With cheaper lenses we see that more and more often, but on a camera I have not seen it before. A tiny little bit of clearance between lens and camera can lead to a loss of sharpness. With a light kit-lens I am concerned, but if the plastic mount is stressed because there is a large telephoto lens mounted on it, that may be different in the long run. We write in the long run, because we used this Sony A58 to regularly photograph with a Sony 300 mm f/2.8, without visible lowering of sharpness. If you plan to regularly photograph with heavy lenses, then I would prefer the Sony A77.
Measurements for this review are performed using Imatest. For the test method and the explanation of concepts: see FAQ.
Sony A58 versus Sony A57 & Sony A77
Megapixels: The Sony A77 has a 24 Megapixel sensor, the Sony A58 20 megapixels and the Sony A57 16 megapixels.
The Sony A58 is more compact and lighter (500 vs 700 grams) than the Sony A77.
Buttons: There are many more buttons on the Sony A77.
The LCD screen of the Sony A77 is larger (3 inches/920,000 dots) than that of the Sony A58 (2.7 inch, 460,000 dots).
AF: The Sony A77 has a more advanced AF system (19 AF points, of which 11 are cross type) than the Sony A58 (11 AF points, 3 cross type).
Sony A58 versus Canon 700D
Megapixels: The Sony A58 has 10% more pixels than the Canon 700D.
Sony A58 with 8 frames per second is faster than the Canon 700D with 5 fps.
The Canon 700D has a larger screen (3 inches, 1,040,000 dots).
The Sony A58 has built-in image stabilization, with the Canon 700D it depends on the lens.
The Sony A58 is considerably cheaper.
Viewfinder, screen and menu
Viewfinder, screen and menu
The Sony A58 has an electronic viewfinder and that is both an advantage and a disadvantage. If you're used to a compact camera, then you will be pleased with the clear viewfinder. Extra options such as a histogram, spirit level or a grid in your viewfinder, increase the ease of use. With manual focusing you can view a partial magnification in the electronic viewfinder, which lets you much more accurately focus than with an optical viewfinder. Those used to an old SLR camera like the Sony A900 or Sony A700 will find the viewfinder less quiet and clear than the viewfinder of their trusty old SLR.
The viewfinder precision is 100% and that is better than most cheaper SLRs. It works very nice that you get to see what's in the picture. The total viewfinder magnification of the Sony A58 is 0.67. This makes the viewfinder image slightly smaller than that of the Sony A77. The viewfinder image gives a good overview.
The monitor on the back of the camera is clear and tiltable, but not turnable. The size and resolution of this screen are less than the LCD screen of the Sony A77, and on the other hand better than what you usually see on a compact camera.
Sony 300mm f/2.8 & Sony A58 @ 1000 ISO, f/4. 1/500 (hand-held): standaard jpg opname
Resolution Sony A58
We have analyzed the sharpness of the Sony A58 on the basis of the performance with several expensive lenses, including the Sony 24 mm f/2.8 Zeiss, Sony 50 mm f/1.4 Zeiss and the Sony 300 mm f/2.8 GII. The Sony A58 delivers, with these good lenses, RAW files that developed with both DCRAW and Lightroom a high resolution. Compared to the 24 megapixel sensor of the Sony A77, the 20 megapixel sensor of the Sony A58 did almost as well (MTF50 of 2800 LW/PH for the Sony A77 and 2700 LW/PH for the Sony A58 for a RAW file developed in DCRAW). Due to the noise reduction, the jpg files lose sharpness compared to the RAW files. Even so, it looks at 1000 ISO very natural and sharp.
Click (2x) on the photo of the heron.
Dynamic range Sony A58
In terms of dynamic range, the Sony A58 scores comparable to the competition like the Nikon D3200 or the Canon 700D. Although the Sony A77 is a lot older than the Sony A58 and also more and smaller Pixles than the Sony A58, scored the Sony A77 in our test better than the Sony A58 in terms of dynamic range.
Sony 300mm f/2.8 & Sony A58 @ 3200 ISO, f/5, 1/100 + IS (hand-held): standard jpg file
Noise Sony A58
As with the Sony A77 we are particularly impressed by the pictures that you make at low ISO values. At the higher ISO values, you see in the RAW files the noise and in the jpg files the noise reduction increases. Comparing the RAW files with the jpg files, you will see that there is quite a bit of noise reduction applied to the jpg files. This gives a jpg file in our conclusion a higher score than the RAW files. The noise reduction, however, has a downside: the resolution decreases. In terms of resolution, the RAW files score better than the jpg files. Below you see a 6400 ISO shot made in the daytime. Under such favorable lighting conditions, you get a file that can print well, but for larger formats it's recognizable that noise reduction is applied.
Move your mouse over the image below.
Sony A 58 + Sony 24 mm f/2 Zeiss @ 6400 ISO, f/9, 1/4000: standard jpg file
Color accuracy Sony A58
The differences in color reproduction of modern digital cameras are today very small. In terms of color reproduction, the Sony A59 gives nothing up to the Sony A77 (click here for a comparison). The auto white balance of the Sony A58 scored in our measurements even slightly higher. Just like the Sony A77, the Sony A58 delivers in daylight RAW files with a natural color reproduction with a small color deviation (Delta E 94 = 6). As with the A77, the colors are generally both in the RAW and the standard jpg files somewhat oversaturated. That looks pretty good.
In artificial light we see with the Sony A58 the same as we see in almost all cameras: there is a clearly visible orange color cast, which can be easily restored in RAW files. Later correction of the white balance in the jpg files of this extreme color cast leads to quality loss (posterization).
The AF module in this camera is in a different location from the sensor. This permits you specifically when focusing systematically to focus too far forward (front focusing) or back (back focus). This phenomenon may, in particular, stand out with lenses with limited depth of field, such as bright telephoto lenses. The Sony A77 has an AF micro-adjust capability to correct for this. The Sony A58 does not.
The auto focus of the Sony A58 is accurate, quiet and fast. A nice feature is the ability to lock the auto focus on the subject, after which the AF continues to follow the subject. This is an option found in much more expensive SLRs. It is in itself an achievement that you can shoot 5 frames per second with an SLR camera, in which the phase-detection AF continues to while making the series. With an SLR camera, the mirror flips up and down with each recording. That not only makes a lot of noise, but it also makes it hard to with an SLR camera to make a series of images in rapid succession. Thanks to the Translucent mirror with the Sony A58 you can make 8 jpg shots per second. The processor is likely to be the limiting factor in the RAW pictures, because this is the maximum speed of the Sony A58 on 5 frames per second. Compared to the Sony A77, you notice that the buffer of the Sony A58 fills more quickly: after 8 RAW pictures.
Conclusion Sony A58 review: Mid-range features and performance for an entry-level price
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The Sony A58 is not only attractive in terms of dimensions, weight and price. This camera offers broad capabilities and a very good image quality. The electronic viewfinder is less bright than an optical viewfinder on the more expensive SLRs, but an electronic viewfinder also offers many opportunities that you do not have with an optical viewfinder. Accordingly, we have recorded this point both a plus and a downside. The image quality of this camera is no less than the two year older Sony A77. Of course, the Sony A77 has many more possibilities for the advanced photographer, but for a beginning photographer the Sony A58 is probably more attractive. In the image quality of your shots, you will not notice the difference. If you would like to make the transition from a compact camera to a camera with interchangeable lenses, then the Sony A58 is a serious candidate to consider.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.