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Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 Gordon Laing, April 2008

Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 results :
Outdoor resolution / Studio resolution / Real life Noise

Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 versus Canon EOS 400D / XTi real-life noise

Note: to see how the A350 compares to the A300 and Canon 450D / XSi, see our A300 results page. For low light high ISO examples, see our Sony Alpha A350 sample images page.

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Sony A350 - body only

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Sony Alpha DSLR A350 and the Canon EOS 400D / XTi within a few moments of each other using each of their ISO settings in Aperture Priority mode.

Both cameras were fitted with their respective kit lenses, set to f8 and adjusted to deliver the same field of view.

The image left was taken with the Sony A350 at 28mm f8 and with a sensitivity of 100 ISO; the original JPEG measured 5.35 MB. The crops are taken from an area just below and to the left of the centre and presented here at 100%.

At 100 ISO, the Alpha A350 produces clean images, although as we've found throughout our tests, they can certainly handle a boost in sharpening to bring out all the detail. At 200 ISO though pixel peepers will already notice a small drop in quality with a loss of ultimate detail compared to the Canon EOS 400D / XTi.

At 400 ISO, smearing from noise reduction is becoming more visible compared to the Canon and arguably the 400D / XTi is holding onto more real-life detail. At 800 ISO, noise has become quite noticeable on the samples from both cameras, although again, the Canon has retained finer detail. At 1600 ISO, the Canon sample clearly has visible noise, but the Sony A350 is exhibiting some quite undesirable processing artefacts. These unsurprisingly become even worse at 3200 ISO.

This is the first set of results we've had from an APS-C sensor with 14 Megapixels and if it's not already a step too far, then it's certainly as far as you'd want to go before sensor technologies or efficiencies improved. It's revealing that noise or processing artefacts are already visible at 200 ISO if you're looking for them, and they only get worse, smearing fine detail as you increase the sensitivity. We've commented throughout the review how the A350 can benefit from increased sharpening, but only at the lowest sensitivities. Apply it at 400 ISO and above, and you'll just make the noise more visible - perhaps that's why Sony chose relatively modest sharpening settings by default.

With its quick and fuss-free Live View, the A350 is trying to be the closest a DSLR has come to being a point and shoot, but the results below also show it getting uncomfortably close in terms of noise levels at higher sensitivities. Obviously it remains considerably better than any compact in this respect, but it's a trend we're not particularly happy about. It will be interesting to see how other 14 Megapixel APS-C models like the Pentax K20D perform, and just how much further manufacturers will push DSLR resolutions from here. We could have reached the limit for respectable high sensitivity APS-C performance. As mentioned above our A350 was running firmware 1.0 and final retail samples may perform better in this test - we will update this page as soom as a final sample is available.

The A350 applies High ISO Noise Reduction by default, but this can be disabled if desired - scroll to the bottom of this page to see a comparison with and without NR. Or to see more real-life examples across its sensitivity range including several taken indoors under low light, check out our Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 sample images page.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (High ISO NR on - default)
Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi
Sony A350 at 100 ISO   Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi at 100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
Sony A350 at 200 ISO   Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi at 200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
Sony A350 at 400 ISO   Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi at 400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
Sony A350 at 800 ISO   Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi at 800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
Sony A350 at 1600 ISO   Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi at 1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
Sony A350 at 3200 ISO    
3200 ISO
3200 ISO not available

Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 High ISO Noise Reduction comparison

By default the Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 applies High ISO Noise Reduction to sensitivities of 1600 ISO and above, but you can switch this off in a menu if desired. So below you'll find examples taken with and without High ISO NR applied, starting at 800 ISO just to make sure.

There's not a great deal of difference between the samples taken with both settings below. Those on the right without High ISO Noise Reduction show slightly less processing, but the results at 1600 and 3200 ISO still ain't pretty.

Now for more real-life examples across its sensitivity range, check out our Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 sample images page.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (High ISO NR on - default)
Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (High ISO NR off)
Sony A350 at 800 ISO - NR on   Sony A350 at 800 ISO - NR off
800 ISO
800 ISO
Sony A350 at 1600 ISO - NR on   Sony A350 at 1600 ISO - NR off
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
Sony A350 at 3200 ISO - NR on   Sony A350 at 3200 ISO - NR off
3200 ISO
3200 ISO

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Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 results

Outdoor resolution / Studio resolution / Real life Noise

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