Entry-level 10.2MP D-SLR
The a230 won’t score very highly in a beauty pageant; it’s an ugly lump of a machine, that despite its size isn’t particularly comfortable to hold. The overall design also gives its budget price tag away too readily – and that’s even before you’ve found the flimsy cover for the sockets and card slots.
Although the runt in the family, it shares a useful gene with more able Sony SLR siblings. It too has a built-in image stabilisation that will convert any zoom you buy into a shake-busting one; a feature that could save you a pretty penny compared to some rivals. This is particularly useful, as the camera will not just accept Sony-fit lenses, but also most made for the Minolta AF mount over the last 20-plus years. The vibration reduction with the supplied standard zoom is amazingly good – allowing sharp shots without a tripod with exposures of a third of a second.
The autofocus system is in a different league to many budget models. There are nine active focusing points, which prove useful for action subjects and portraits – although choosing a point manually isn’t easy enough. A neat trick is that the autofocus starts working and adjusting the lens as soon as you lift the camera to your eye – unlike other cameras it doesn’t wait for you to squeeze the trigger.
The flash can’t be popped up with a simple button like the other models on test here, but uses an over-elaborate menu option for this simple task. Other niggles include the lack of Live View function, a heavy-handed mirror mechanism, and a failure to display the current ISO setting in the viewfinder.