With its 14-megapixel CCD, flip-up LCD, sensor-shift image stabiliser and built-in wireless flash controller, the feature-packed Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 seems like a cornucopia of photographic goodness for the budget shopper. You wouldn't be far off the mark: the A350 is certainly likeable.
Unsurprisingly, Sony made some compromises so that the A350 -- £570 with the 18-55mm, f3.5-5.6 kit lens -- could lay claim to the title of highest-resolution budget dSLR. Sony does offer an almost identical 10-megapixel model, the , which lists for about £170 less.
Heavy at 582g, the solid A350 has a solid, rubbery grip that's very comfortable to hold, and the extra heft makes it feel more substantial than competitors such as the . Another positive aspect of the extra weight is that it doesn't get overbalanced when using accessories like the tested it with.
Since much of the design matches that of the A200, we have similar complaints about the USB placement as well. The USB connector sits inside the CF card compartment, which means you have to leave the door open while downloading, potentially allowing all sorts of gunk to get on to the card-slot contacts -- and, if you're as accident prone as us, providing a protrusion to hit and hurl the camera to the floor.
More importantly, Sony uses a semiproprietary combo micro USB/audiovisual connector on all its dSLRs, for no reason that we can see other than to force you to buy a cable from them if you lose the bundled one.
Additionally, all of Sony's lower-end dSLRs use lines rather than squares for the 9 off-centre focus-point indicators. They're very dim and some people may have trouble seeing them. Especially since the A350 has a very low-magnification 0.74x viewfinder.
Sony's 2-sensor live view implementation harks back to the more seamless approach pioneered -- and subsequently discarded -- by Olympus. With a secondary sensor dedicated to receiving a preview image off the imaging sensor, there's no need to flip the mirror up for preview and focus, then flip it back down to shoot, proving a more typical snapshot-like experience when framing via the 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD.
In addition, Sony incorporates a flip-up LCD, which makes the feature not just practical, but actually useful, predominantly for overhead and from-the-hip shooting. Like the A200, the A350 also supports wireless flash, uncommon but not unique in this price class, using the same appropriately bare-bones implementation as the A200. Rather than grafting pro multichannel support on the camera, which can be quite confusing to configure, it's basically binary: on or off.