• Price: £459 with 18-55 zoom lens

  • Company: Sony

  • Pros: User-friendly; good value; eye sensor focusing; image-stabilised body, HDMI-out port

  • Cons: Plastic feel; blocky design and control layout; uncomfortable handgrip

  • Our Rating: We rate this 6 out of 10 We rate this 6 out of 10

Weighing around the same as a bag of sugar, the A230 is also a little light on features at first glance. Aimed squarely at beginners, this 10.2-megapixel model has a retro-look on-screen help guide through its 2.7in LCD, illustrating the effects, for example, of adjusting shutter speed and aperture. The camera focuses automatically when it detects an eye coming level with its viewfinder. The price is even more good news.

The A230 is supremely quick and efficient, offering six scene options and four creative modes. Turn the camera on its side to shoot and its LCD display will likewise flip through 90 degrees. It saves images either to SD/SDHC cards or Memory Stick – with the user simply flicking a switch to choose between them.

Sample picture for this camera

The small handgrip is annoying, especially given the big buttons and chunky controls. It’s usable but uncomfortable compared to the full-size versions found on rival models. Also, there’s no Live View option, which is a shame, as this would have made the camera more user-friendly still. Unexpected, but welcome, are sensor-shifting SteadyShot Inside image stabilisation and an HDMI-out port for hooking up to an HD TV. However, there’s no video and the HDMI lead costs extra.

Sony does, however, feature its D-Range (Dynamic Range) Optimiser technology – found on cameras higher up the range – for tricky exposures, such as shooting against a bright light that would usually render foregrounds dark and devoid of detail. The kit lens is also sharp given ideal shooting conditions, displaying minimal barrel distortion and corner softening.

The A230 is less sophisticated than other models here, but that’s OK given its target market. It’s good for those who aren’t already wedded to Canon or Nikon’s lens systems – neither of which have in-body anti-shake.

This review is part of our group test on Digital SLR cameras. Please click here to return to the feature.