Cameras

Sony A560 Digital Camera Review

The Sony Alpha A560 is an interesting SLR: we found that it had good overall performance and was easy to use. But there are a few issues that hold it back.

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Introduction

The Sony Alpha A560 is an interesting SLR: we found that it had good overall performance and was easy to use. But there are a few issues that hold it back: the flip-out LCD screen is useful, but a little awkward to use and doesn't have the same freedom of movement as the screen of the Canon 60D or many high-end point & shoots.

Product Tour

Front


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Back


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Sides


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Bottom


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Top


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**Size Comparisons **


**In the Box **


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In addition to the camera, you get:

• Neck strap

• BC-VM10 battery charger

• USB cable

• Lens & body caps

 

Color

**Color Accuracy *** (12.86) *


Our color accuracy test looks at how accurately a camera can capture the 24 colors on our test chart, which represents a range of real-world colors. We found that the A560 did well in this test, but struggled with some colors: the blues, reds and yellows on our test chart were a little oversaturated, producing a color that was somewhat brighter than the more subtle origional.  Click here for more on how we test color.

We found that the most accurate color mode was the Standard creative style. Examples of the other color modes are below this chart. 

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

 

Color Modes*(4.00)*


The A560 offers 6 creative styles, all of which have an impact on the captured color. The styles are called Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and Black & White. These modes invovle more than just color shifts: they also affect the sharpness of the image. Examples of the color shifts these involve on our color chart are shown below.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Long Exposure*(9.27)*


Our next test looks at how well the camera performs when taking long exposures of between 1 and 30 seconds with the long exposure noise reduction on and off. We found that the A560 performed well in these tests, with the noise remaining at moderate levels through the range of exposure times.  Click here for more on how we test long exposure.

Our first test looks at the color accuracy of the captured images. We saw a consistent patter between 1 and 15 seconds, with the color accuracy being slighlty worse with the noise reduction on. At the longest exposure, the color accuracy took a turn for the worse, though.

Looking at noise, we found that the long exposure noise reduction did some good, lowering the noise level slightly at all of the exposure times. However, something odd happened with the 30 second exposure: the noise was much lower than the 15 second exposure. 

Noise

Noise*(6.83)*


Noise is the random pattern that creeeps into digital photos, especially those taken at higher ISO levels. All cameras have some lvel of noise, but many offer noise reduction that helps to reduce the noise level. We found that the A560 had moderate levels of noise, and the noise reduction didn't make much difference. Actually, it is hard to tell: the A560 does not allow you to turn NR off, and only offers two settings: NR Weak and NR Auto. Click here for more on how we test noise.

As you can see from the graph above, there was very little difference between the two levels: the NR Weak setting was slightly noisier than the NR Auto, butonly by a very small amount.

If we look at the amount of noise in the different color channels of captured noise, we see a pretty consistent pattern, with no one color having much more noise than the others. 

The Sony A560 and the SLT-A55 are very close if we look at the performance of the cameras with the noise reduction off (or on the weak level for the two Sonys). The Sonys have less noise than the other cameras, but that is probably caused by the fact that you can't really turn noise reduction off on the Sony cameras: you can just set it to the weak value. 

If we look at the noise in the cameras with noise reduction at maximum, you can see that the cameras are more grouped together, with only small differences between them. However, the Sony A560 has a little less noise here than other cameras.

ISO*(7.00)*


The A560 offers a very wide ISO range, from a minimum of 100 right up to a highest setting of 12800, all at the full resolution of the camera. If you are looking to take photos in really dark places, the A560 offers a specail mode called Multi Frame Noise Reductiont  that takes 6 shots for each shutter press and combines the captured images together to form a single image. This can widen the effective ISO range to 100 to an incredible 25600. However, moving objects can confuse the camera: see our Sample Photos for an example. All of the images below were shot in the standard, single shot mode. 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution

Resolution*(15.73)*


Our tests of the image quality of the photos captured by the A560 revealed good overall sharpness, but a few issues that seem to be down to the 24-105mm zoom lens that we tested the camera with (Sony also offers a kit with an 18-55mm zoom lens). We found that this  lens had a tendency to produce soft, slightly fuzzy details at the edge of the frame, especially at the widest aperture settings. Click here for more on how we test resolution.

Distortion

We also found that the 24-105mm (equivalent to a 36 - 157mm zoom on a 35mm film camera) did produce some distortion in images. At the wide end of the zoom range, there was significant barrel distortion, but this switched to pincushion distortion in the middle and at the telephoto ends of the zoom range. The distortion at the widest zoom setting was the most noticeable, as the examples below show.

*Chromatic Aberration (7.76)

*The A560 has mixed results in our tests for chromatic aberration (CA), where the different colors of light are refracted differently by the le3ns elements, creating a color fringe in the captured image. We found very low CA in the middle of the zoom range, but some quite significant CA at the wide and telephoto ends of the zoom range, especially closer to the edges of the image. This CA was also present at all apertures at the wide and telephoto zoom settings.

*Sharpness (19.15)

*We were impressed with the sharpness that the A560 managed overall, but there are some issues. We found that the edges of the frame were extremely soft at the widest aperture (f/3.5 to f/4.5), but were much sharper at the middle and smallest apertures

 

Shooting at the wide end of the zoom range, we found that the A560 produced rather soft images with the widest aperture. Although the images were very sharp at the centre of the frame, they were very soft at the edge. Performance in the middle of the aperture range was better, but the edges got a little soft at the smallest aperture.

 

The same pattern was evident in the middle of the zoom range, with soft edges at the widest and smallest apertures. 

 

At the longest zoom setting, the edge softeness was even more evident, and was mixed up with some chromatic aberration, which produces the color fringes on the edges of our test chart.

Overall, we were impressed with the performance of the A560, but the 18-105mm zoom lens that is sold with it is less impressive. While it provides a good, wide zoom range, you should avoid using the longest zoom settings and the widest aperture unless absolutely necessary. Either that or buy the camera without the lens and spend the savings on some better lenses. 

Picture Quality & Size Options*(9.15)*


The A560 offers a resonable number of options for the size of images and their quality, especially when you include the panorama modes and two aspect ratios (3:2 and 16:9) on offer. There are only three sizes for standard, still photos, though: L, M and S.

In addition, there are two options for the JPEG compression  (Fine and Standard), plus the ability to capture RAW and JPEG files simultaneously. The last two options slow the camera down considerably, though, and use a lot of storage space for images.

Dynamic Range*(9.20)*


Dynamic range is a measure of the range of shades that a camera can capture: the wider the dynamic range, the more shades and the more shadow and highlight detail the camera will capture. Basically, the wider the dynamic range, the more realistic the image will look. We found that the A560 had a very wide dynamic range, managing an impressive maximum of 7.81 stops at ISO200. The dynamic range did fall off as the ISO increased, as the shadow details became lost in the increasing noise. However, the A560 still managed to keep a very decent dynamic range up to ISO 3200.  Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.

If we compare the A560 with other cameras, we can see that it performed better than most, with only the Sony SLT-A55 getting comparable results. There is also only a small difference between the A560 and the Canon T2i.

 

 

 

Image Stabilization


Our image stabilization testing rig is currently offline. This section of the review will be posted when the system is back up & running.  Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.

White Balance

White Balance*(7.50)*


Cameras have to judge the color of the light that they capture in order to capture accurate colors. This is called the white balance, and we test this by illuminating a color test chart with three different types of light: simulated daylight, incandescent light and a fluorescent tube. We found that the A560 did a good job when it was in the auto white balance mode, but the custom white balance setting was a little bit more inaccurate than we like to see. Click here for more on how we test white balance.

Automatic White Balance (12.43)

We found that the A560 had no problems correctly judging the fluorescent and simulated daylight in our test, but it struggled with the incandescent light source, producing images with a distinct color cast. However, this is not uncommon in our tests: most cameras struggle to judge this light correctly.

If we look at the performance of our comparison cameras with the simulated daylight, you can see that all did a reasonable job here, although the Panasonic G2 had some issues.

However, all of the cameras struggled with our incandescent light source, consistently judging the light wrongly and producing images with a distinct color cast. 

The errors with fluorescent light were much smaller across all of the cameras. 

 

Custom White Balance (2.57)

We found that the A560 didn't do that well in our tests using the custom white balance. Using this involves taking a photo of a white object (we use a white card) which the camera then uses to judge the white balance. The A560 had a consistent significant error here. While this error wasn't huge, it was larger than we like to see with a custom white balance: we expect the results here to be far more accurate than the auto white balance. 

 

 

White Balance Settings*(7.50)*


A good selection of white balance settings are on offer, with 6 presets, all of which can be tweaked up or down to three steps (each step represents 10 Mired). You can also enter a color temperature directly, or use the custom setting to measure a white object, or just let the camera decide in the full auto mode. A single memory spot is also available if you are able to visit a location before shooting and check the lighting to create a custom reading. The color filter option allows you to set the white balance by manipulating a green/magenta compensation graph.

Sample Photos

Sample Photos


Below are sample photos taken with the Sony A560 under a variety of lighting conditions.

 

Still Life Examples


Below are shots taken with the A560 of our still life that cover the range of ISO settings, from 100 to 12800.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Noise Examples


Below are crops from the above images.

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Playback

Playback Mode*(8.50)*


The A560 offers a decent selection of features for showing off images on the flip-out screen, with the ability to show 9 thumbnails at once or zooming up to 12x on captured images. You can also create slideshows of captured images, but there are only a few basic controls for this: if the images repeat, the time they are shown and if all images or just 3D ones are shown.

Images and video are treated as seperate items: you can't create a slideshow of both or view both together. Instead, you have to choose either still images or video to look at. 

In-Camera Editing*(1.00)*


The A560 does not allow you to edit images except for rotating them. There is no way to tweak colors, crop images or do any other form of editing in the camera. 

Software*(4.50)*


The A560 ships with a CD containing three image programs: Image Data Lightbox SR, Image Data Converter SR and Picture Motion Browser SR.

 

Direct Print Options*(3.00)*


Both DPOF image tagging and PictBridge support is offered on this camera. The first (DPOF) allows you to flag images for printing so they will be printed when you insert the memory card into a printer that supports it (and pretty much everything does). PictBridge allows you to conenct the camera directly to a printer and print images out without a computer.

Other Features*(3.00)*


3D Panorama Playback - The A560 can also capture 3D panoramas, which can be played back on a 3D HDTV. There are more details of this process in the controls section of this review. 

Hardware

Sensor*(3.5)*


The A560 uses an APS-C CMOS sensor with a total resolution of 14.6 megapixels. 14.2 of these are used to capture images. The sensor sits behind a mirror that flips up when the camera is in Live View mode or is taking photos. The mirror has to be down for the camera to focus: the focus sensors are located in the viewfinder assembly and use this light to focus the camera

Viewfinder*(4.75)*


The A560 offers an optical viewfinder, located above the screen. Unlike many other recently launched cameras, this is a true optical viewfinder: the image you see is through the lens, with a mirror in front of the sensor that bounces the light up into the viewfinder. A switch next to the viewfinder switches between the optical viewfinder (Sony calls this OVF) and the live view mode, where the image on the screen is captured from the image sensor. When this is set to Live View, the viewfinder is blanked out. Unlike the distant cousin of this camera the SLT-A55, there is no way to show the live view image in the viewfinder, which can make using the live view mode in bright sunlight difficult: the screen is not particularly visible in bright light.

SONY-A560-viewfinder.jpg

*The viewfinder of the A560 in live view mode

*

A small diopter adjsutment wheel by the viewfinder allows you to adjust the focus of the viewfinder. We found the viewfinder somewhat awkward to use: you have to hold the eye very close to see the entire frame, and the LCD screen pushes against your nose. The rubber eyecup around the viewfinder helps to block out light, but it also makes it uncomfortable to use with spectacles or shades: you have to push right against the eyecup to stand any chance of seeing the whole image, and that causes smudges on the glasses. Below the viewfinder is a sensor that detects your face and disables the LCD screen so you aren't distracted by the light.

LCD*(6.60)*


The LCD screen of the A560 is located on the back of the camera body. It is a 3-inch screen with an impressive 921k pixel resolution, which means that the images look clear and sharp. We did find that it was rather difficult to see in bright direct sunlight, though, so you might want to use the optical viewfinder instead when shooting outdoors. The LCD panel of this camera is on an articualted arm that allows it to flip up or down, so you can shoot while holding the camera above or below your eye. The screen does not rotate, though, so you cannot rotate it around so you can see it from in front of the camera.

The hinged arrangement of the screen does make it a little awkward to use, as you have to pull on both the top and bottom of the camera to angle it to the position shown in the second photo below. This hinge arrangement also does not allow the camera to rotate around, which is something that similar screens on cameras such as the Pentax DMC-G2 and the Canon 60D can do.

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The LCD screen of the A560 in three different positions

 

The A560 is missing the LCD panel on the top of the camera body that is present on some other SLRs, instead using the main LCD to show shooting information when the camera is in optical viewfinder mode. 

Flash*(6.75)*


There are two flash options with this camera: a flash built into the viewfinder housing, an a hot shoe for an external flash. the built in one pop up when the small flash button on the side of the viewfinder housing is pressed. We found it to be resonably powerful, penetrating total darkness out to about 10-12 feet, and having a pretty even flash pattern. The built-in flash can sync with shutter speed of up to 1/160 of a second: useful for capturing fast moving objects.

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The built-in flash of the A560

The hot shoe is a proprietary one that only works with flashes sold by Sony: it will not work with standard flashes. 

Lens Mount*(7.00)*


The A560 uses Sony's own A-mount, so it is compatiable with any A-mount lens. There are a decent range of lenses available from Sony themselves, and other lens manufacturers (Sigma and Tamron in particular) are supporting this mount type by making compatiable lenses. The A-mount is not compatiable with the E-mount used on the NEX range of cameras from Sony.

SONY-A560-lens-open.jpg
  *The lens mount of the A560* The lenses are easy to take off and replace: just press in the button (on the right side in the photo above) and twist the lens counter-clockwise. To put on the lens, you just match up the red dots on the camera and lens bodies, then twist the lens clockwise.  Our review model of the A560 was supplied with a 24-105mm zoom: it is not clear if this will be the one supplied as a kit lens when the camera becomes available.     **Battery***(6.00)* *** The power source of the A560 is a small 1600mAh battery that fits into a cavity in the camera grip. This battery (model NP-FM500) is recharged with the included charger: it cannot be recharged in the camera body. Sony quotes a battery life of 1050 images, which feels pretty accurate: we found that the battery lasted well during several days of intense shooting. A spare battery will cost you about $45
SONY-A560-battery-open.jpg

The battery compartment of the A560

 

Memory*(5.50)*


Images and video are stored on either a Memory Stick card or an SD/SDHC/SDXC card. You can't use both cards at once, though: you have to switch between them with a switch located above the card slots. 

SONY-A560-memory-open.jpg

*The card slots of the A560.

Note the switch at the top*

 

Jacks, Ports & Plugs*(4.50)*


On the left side of the camera are two port covers. Under the cover closest to the front of the camera is a connector for a wired remote and a microphone input. This input supports microphones that require phantom power to work. Under the second port cover near the back of the camera is a mini HDMI port and a USB port. Unusually for Sony, this USB port works with any mini USB cable, so you won't need to spend a fortune on a proprietary cable if you loose the one that comes with it.  

On the right side of the camera body is a cover for another socket: an optional power supply.

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The ports of the A560

Controls

Shooting Modes*(11.50)*


The A560 has a 9-position mode dial on the top of the camera body, which offers access to the following shooting modes.

The scene mode options are described below. 

Live View*(5.00)*


Setting the viewing mode switch to Live View sets the camera to live view mode, where the screen shows the image being captured by the image sensor. This provides a preview of the captured image, with a good level of detail thanks to the 921k pixel resolution screen. The only major issue is that the preview and the captured image are not quite the same: the captured image has a significant area around the edges that is not shown in the preview.

 

The camera can use contrast detection on the sensor to focus, but it is much slower to focus than the normal mode, which uses sensors in the viewfinder. You can focus using these by pressing the Focus Check LV button, which momentarily flips the screen down, focuses and then flips the screen back up. Like most SLRs, this is an imperfect compromise: you have to choose between slow focusing with a preview and quick focusing with a momentarily blank screen and no visual feedback on what the camera has focused on. Neither way is particularly satisfying. Manual focusing is also awkward: most camera show an enlarged portion of the center of the frame to help check focus, but the A560 just shows you the same image with a small green rectangle that indicates if the camera thinks it is in focus. 

The upside of live view mode is that it shows you a good preview of the captured image, complete with depth of field and color mode effects. The image reflects the final result well (apart from the aforementioned cropping issue), as long as you are not using an extremely slow shutter speed: in that case, the camera makes the smart decision of showing you a more frequently updated preview than the selected shutter speed so you can compose the shot. 

Scene Modes*(3.66)*


The A560 offers 8 scene modes, which cover the usual range of options. That is significantly less than some other cameras, but it is sufficient to cover most shooting situations.

 

Picture Effects*(4.00)*


The picture effects that the A560 offers are a number of modified color modes. 

 

 

Focus*(13.75)*


When shooting in the normal mode using the optical viewfinder, we found that the A560 focuses quickly. It has 15 focus points, 3 of which are the cross type that focus better in low light. When in live view mode, the camera has two focusing modes. The first is a contrast detection method (rather like a point and shoot camera) that uses the image sensor. This mode is slow, often taking a second or two to focus in, but the live view remains active while it is working.The second  mode uses the viewfinder sensors: tapping the Focus Check button flips the mirror down, focusses the camera and then flips the mirror back up again. That takes less than a second, but it does involve the screen going blank for this time, which is rather disorientating. 

SONY-A560-focuspoints-scan.jpg

The focus point layout of the A560

In the viewfinder mode, the camera offers three modes for how these focus points are used: Wide allows the camera to choose, while Spot uses the center group of 7 and Local allows you to choose an individual spot. There are also three options for how the camera focusses: AF-S, AF-A and AF-C. 

 

Exposure*(4.00)*


Both exposure compensation and bracketing are available on this camera. The exposure compensation allows you to overrride the exposure settings up or down to a maximum of two stops, in 1/3 of a stop steps. The exposure bracketing setting takes 3 shots bracketed around the selected exposure at either 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop above and below. 

 

Speed and Timing


Shot to Shot (4.42)

Shooting in the continuous Hi mode, we measured the speed of the A560 at about 4.4 frames per second(fps). It was able to keep this speed for between 10 and 12 shots, which means a burst of about 3-4 seconds. After this, the speed fell to about 1 fps, as the camera wrote out the captured images to memory. This test was done with a 4G SDHC card.

That puts it in the middle of the range in shooting speed: the Sony SLT-A55 was much faster (at 10 fps), but the A560 shoots faster than our other comparison cameras.  

Drive/Burst Mode (5.75)

There are three modes for shooting bursts of images: the Hi mode (which was used in the test above and shoots at about 4.4fps) and the Lo mode, which drops the speed to about 2.6 frames per second, but which is able to shoot continuously. There is also a mo

Depth of Field Preview*(2.00)*


Holding down the small button below and to the left of the lens provides a preview of the depth of field by stopping the lens down to the selected aperture. When using a small aperture in live view mode, this does make the preview somewhat dim and grainy, so it is a little difficult to see the effect if shooting in low light.

Metering*(7.00)*


The A560 includes an extremely large number of sensors used to judge exposure: Sony claims that there are 1200 in total located alongside the focus sensors in the viewfinder housing. This, they claim allows the camera to more accurately judge the scene in the evaluative mode, which is one of three metering modes on offer. In addition to the fully automatic evaluative mode, the A560 offers a center weighted and spot metering mode. 

 

Shutter Speed*(10.00)*


The A5605 offers a wide shutter speed range, from a minimum of 1/4000 of a second out to maximum of 30 seconds. A bulb mode is also offered, where the shutter remains open for as long as the shutter button is held down. 

Self-Timer*(3.00)*


The usual options are available for taking delayed images: a 2 and 10 second delay, plus a smile detect mode that only takes the photo when it detects a smile. 

In addition, the SLT-A55 supports an optional IR remote, which can be used to take photos. No pricing is currently available for this remote control.  

 

Other Features*(4.00)*


The A560 offers a number of special shooting modes:

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) - In this mode, the camera processes a single captured image to show a wider dynamic range by tweaking the gamma curve of the image processing. Although this can bring out shadow details, it does not widen the dynamic range of the sensor or the captured image. For examples of images shot in this mode, see our sample photos section of this review.

 

Auto HDR - The camera takes 3 images at different exposure settings, then processes them down into one image, producing an image with more dynamic range than any single image the camera can capture. This can be set to auto, or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 stop differences between the images. For examples of this mode, see our sample photos section.

Multi-frame noise reduction - In this special ISO setting, the camera takes 3 images and then combines the results, with the theory being that the combined images will have lower noise than one single shot. It also allows for higher ISO settings: up to 25600. In practice, it does seem to make a significant difference, with less noise appearing in images, but it only works with still or slow-moving objects: if anything moves in the frame (or the camera moves), the image becomes blurred. Samples are shown in the Sample Photo section of this review.

 


Design & Handling

Handling*(7.00)*


The A560 is a rather large SLR, with the body of the camera measuring 1.89 inches at the thinnest part and a chunky 2.95 inches at the grip. This makes it a bit too thick to be comfortable for those with small hands or shorter fingers, but it feels comfortable in the hand for those with medium and large hands. The textured covering of the grip makes for a firm handhold, even with slightly sweaty hands. On the back of the camera body is a small raised ridge at the back that provides a place for the thumb to rest, and another textured covering that provides for another grip. 

 

Controls*(7.50)*


There are plenty of buttons on the camera body: we counted 18 buttons, one dial and two switch. That is a lot of buttons that could intimidate a novice user, but it does put the controls that a serious shooter needs close to hand. This means that it is easy to do things such as lock the exposure, access the function menu or set the ISO quickly and wiothout looking away from the viewfinder. 

Menu*(6.50)*


The menu of the A560 is divided into two parts: the function menu and the main on-screen menu. 

The function menu provides access to the features most often used while shooting: drive, flash, autofocus, AF, ISO, metering, flash, white balance, DRO/HDR and creative style. Navigation is done with the directional pad, and the center button is used to select the option required. This means that changing options requires quite a lot of button pressing to scroll around and find the required setting.

The main menu contains all of these functions, and every other option divided up into 11 tabbed screens. Again, navigating this screeen involves a lot of scrolling and button pressing to navigate.

 

Manual & Learning*(6.00)*


Our review model was supplied without documentation, but we were able to review a PDF version of the instruction manual, which covers both the A560 and its sibling the A580. We found this manual to be well written and generally easy to use, with plenty of illustrations. Some aspects of the camera are not discussed in any detail, though: the image stabilization features of the camera only get a single page. 

Video Color & Noise

**Video: Color Performance***(12.07)*


In our video testing, the Sony A560 put up excellent color accuracy numbers. The camera managed a color error of 2.9 and a saturation level of 91.1%, and we consider any color error below three to be very good. Check out the charts and images below for more information about this camera's video color performance. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests color performance.

The chart to the above right shows you how the A560 did with specific colors in our testing. As you can see, the camera produced most blue tones with near-perfect accuracy, while greens gave the camera more trouble. If you don't like the colors the camera offers using its standard setting, you can adjust the colors manually—just like you would when taking photos. Examples of the A560's various color presets are shown below.

The A560 rendered colors with strong accuracy in every one of its color modes we tested. In fact, the camera produced its most accurate colors using the Landscape color mode (2.38 color error), which enabled the A560 to render green tones more accurately. All of the color modes shown above enabled the A560 to register color error scores of under three and saturation levels between 90% - 110% (this is very impressive if you didn't catch that already).

Looking at the comparison images above, you can make your own judgment as to what camera produces the best colors in video mode. Both Sony models offer vivid colors, but the A560 produced the most accurate colors by far. Of course, all of these models have manual color controls and color presets, so you can fine tune the colors to your liking.

 

**Video: Noise Performance***(9.37)*


The Sony A560 averaged 0.64% noise in our bright light video noise test. This score isn't bad, but the other models we compared it to all had less noise in their video images. Noise is one area where video-capable DSLRs often do much better than consumer camcorders in our testing, so even though the A560's score isn't great for a DSLR, it is good compared to a regular camcorder. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests noise performance.

The crops above are blown up to 100% so you can really see the kind of detail each camera is capable of capturing. The A560 shows a sharp image above, but there is some interference on the horizontal trumpet (notice the slight jagged edging to the black lines). You can see a similar problem with the Canon T2i's image, while the SLT-A55V looks smoother. The Panasonic DMC-G2 is the only camera shown above that does not record Full HD video—it tops out with a 1280 x 720 resolution. This is the reason its image looks blurred and has less detail than the other three images from the cameras shown above.

Video Motion & Sharpness

**Video: Motion Performance***(7.00)*


The Sony A560 outputs all recorded video with a progressive 30p frame rate, although the camera's AVCHD setting does record using a 60i frame rate (the difference between the two isn't really noticeable). The A560's motion video benefited from having low artifacting and good smoothness, but the video was blurry overall and there was some significant interference in our rotating pinwheels. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests motion.

Sony A560

*Click Here for large HD Version *

The rolling shutter on the A560, which is a problem that plagues many video-capable DSLRs, wasn't a huge problem, which surprised us. Often we see a strong wobble effect when we pan with cameras while they record video (this is the rolling shutter), but the A560's wobble wasn't too intense.

 

Sony SLT-A55V

*Click Here for large HD Version *

We liked the way the SLT-A55V captured motion a bit more than the Sony A560, despite the fact that the two cameras offer similar record modes and frame rates. We simply saw a bit less artifacting and not as much blur from the A55V, but the two cameras were close in terms of motion quality.

Canon T2i

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The Canon T2i ranks in the upper echelon of video-capable DSLRs when it comes to motion rendering. The camera offers 24p or 30p frame rates and it captures smooth motion with limited amounts of artifacting. The only drawback is that it lacks a 60i or 60p frame rate and we noticed a rolling shutter effect.

Panasonic DMC-G2

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The Panasonic G2 has a variety of recording modes that allow you to record 60p or 30p video. We ran into a number of compatibility issues with the camera's AVCHD Lite codec, but in the end, we weren't that impressed with the camcorder's motion rendering. There was a significant rolling shutter effect that created intense wobble whenever we panned the camera and there was always the presence of artifacting.

**Video: Sharpness***(8.89)*


The Sony A560 disappointed in our sharpness test as the camera earned a horizontal sharpness of 600 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 550 lw/ph. This is far worse than the numbers we got from the Sony SLT-A55V and they are only marginally better than the 720p Panasonic G2 earned. During our testing, we noticed that the A560 recorded a much sharper image when the camera was held still, but when moved, which is how we perform our test, the camera's image blurred significantly and showed a lot of interference (hence the low sharpness scores). Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests video sharpness.

Video Low Light Performance

**Video: Low Light Sensitivity***(4.34)*


The Sony A560 needed 14 lux of light to pass our low light sensitivity test, which is an average performance for a video-capable DSLR. The Sony SLT-A55V and Canon T2i both required slightly less light (11 lux each) to reach the same levels on our waveform monitor.  Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light sensitivity.

A 14 lux performance in this test is also similar to what the average consumer HD camcorder scores here. So, it's nothing special, but it's also nothing terribly poor. Of course, you can get better low light sensitivity from the A560—or any camera with an interchangeable lens system for that matter—if you use it with a faster lens and a wider aperture setting. However, these results, as are all our video testing scores, were obtained using the A560 and the 24-105mm zoom lens that all of our tests were done with.

**Video: Low Light Color Performance***(5.86)*


Considering how well the camera did in our bright light color test, we were dismayed to see the A560 put up such poor numbers in the low light color category. In low light, the camera earned a color error of 6.12 and a saturation level of 101.6%. Most alarming, however, was the fact that the camera produced a purple/blue bias in low light, which you can clearly see in the images below.  Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light color performance.

The purple/blue bias we're referring to comes in the form of a slight discoloration on the A560. Notice, in the comparison images below, how the gray areas on the A560's image have a different hue. They aren't straight gray or black and white like you see on the SLT-A55V or the Canon T2i. Still, the Sony A560 did have good saturation on its low light image and the video was very bright, which is a good sign for overall low light performance.

 

**Video: Low Light Noise Performance***(11.41)*


Noise levels in our low light test measured at 0.7975% on the Sony A560's video image. This is a strong performance, but it's not very different from what we've come to expect from video-capable DSLRs. All of the models shown below averaged under 1.0% noise in this test, which we consider to be very low levels.  Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light noise performance.

In the crops above you can clearly see the discoloration we talked about in the low light color section for the A560. You can also see some splotchy discoloration in all of these crops above, although he Sony SLT-A55V had the cleanest image.

Video Features

**Video: Compression***(11.00)*


Like many video-capable DSLRs, the Sony A560 offers two compression options for recording video. There's the AVCHD mode, which allows for Full HD recording at a 1920 x 1080 resolution, and there's two MP4 settings (one at a 1440 x 1080 resolution and one standard definition 640 x 480 option).

We usually got the best results when using the AVCHD setting as it does record video at the highest resolution and bitrate on the camera, but the MP4 setting may produce videos that are more compatible with certain video software (and the standard definition mode is great for videos you want to upload to the internet or share with friends). All video modes on the A560 output using a 30p frame rate, but the AVCHD mode records at 60i (the sensor output is still 30p, though).

 

**Video: Manual Controls***(2.75)*


The Sony A560 doesn't let you control much in video mode. Most functions are automated, like shutter speed and aperture control, but you can set white balance, adjust exposure, and utilize the camera's variety of color controls in video mode.

Auto Mode

Shockingly, we could not find a way to set autofocus manually while recording video with the A560. The camera has no continual autofocus system like you see on all consumer camcorders, and it doesn't allow you to press the autofocus button during recording. Prior to recording you can focus, however, but you do so in the same manner as you would when taking photographs (press the shutter button down half way or press the AF button).

Zoom Controls and Zoom Ratio

Zoom is controlled by rotating the lens ring on the camera, but the amount of zoom you have to work with entirely depends on what lens is attached. The kit lens, which we used for our testing, is a 24 - 105mm lens. That translates to a roughly 4.5x optical zoom.

Focus

The only way to adjust focus on the A560 while recording video is to do so manually using the lens ring. To do this, you must first unlock the lens ring by switching to manual focus mode (a switch on the left side of the camera). The benefit of adjusting focus manually is that it is quieter than an autofocus system, so that should help keep the audio cleaner on your video recording.

Exposure, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

Exposure is the only control of the above three that can be set manually in video mode. You can set it prior to recording or during video recording and the adjustment range is -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. Sony confuses the user by allowing you to adjust aperture and shutter speed prior to recording, while simply canceling any adjustments you've made once you start recording. We've seen this before on a couple of other video-capable DSLRs, though, so we knew what was going on.

ISO* and Other Controls*

Like aperture and shutter speed, ISO can't be set manually for video on the A560. There are some other controls that do work with video recording, however. The steady shot function will help stabilize your video image, and there are plenty of color controls that can be set in video mode.

**Audio Features***(2.75)*


The Sony A560 has a built-in stereo microphone and a 3.5mm external mic jack, but that's about it as far as audio features are concerned. You can't adjust audio levels manually, nor is there a wind cut feature. We do like the location of the built-in mic, however, as it is on top of the camera rather than in the front where it can be accidentally covered by your hands.

**Video: Handling***(4.50)*


Compared to the lot of small video-capable DSLRs that have recently hit the market (like Micro Four Thirds cameras), the Sony A560 is very big and very heavy. The camera is a true DSLR, so it has a lot of internal components that add to its bulk. Will your hands get tired after a few minutes of shooting video with the A560? Most likely. You'll probably want to use a tripod for any extended video shooting sessions, and you'll need to hold the camera with two hands if you want to hold it steady without one.

One feature on the A560 that has a clear benefit when shooting video is the camera's flexible LCD. The screen does not swing out from the side of the camera like you usually see on consumer camcorders, but it does tilt down and angle outward from the back. This makes it easier to view your video image while the camera is mounted on a tripod (you don't have to crouch), and it allows you to record videos at high or low angles without craning your neck.

The video controls on the A560 are limited, so there isn't much for us to critique. We hate the fact that you can still "adjust" settings like aperture or shutter speed, but that these "adjustments" are completely altered once you begin recording. This is both confusing and sloppy design. We'd much prefer a dedicated video mode on the camera's mode dial that lets you know right off the bat of what you can and cannot adjust. Basically, if you can't control aperture, then don't give the illusion of the option!

Sony SLT-A55V Comparison

 

 

Performance

Both cameras performed well, but there were some significant differences between them, partly because of the different lenses that we tested them with (the A55 with the 18-55mm kit lens, and the A560 with a 24-105mm zoom). We found that the SLT-A55 had slightly better color than the A560, but the A560 had slightly better dynamic range and resolution performance. Overall, there is not a lot to distinguish between the two.

Components

The most significant difference between the two cameras is the mirror. The A560 uses a moving mirror like a conventional SLR: it flips up out of the light path when the camera is taking a photo. The SLT-A55 uses a fixed translucent mirror, which stays in place when shooting but lets most of the light through to the sensor, bouncing only a small amount up to the focus sensors in the viewfinder housing.

The A55 has a slightly smaller sensor, but shoots higher resolution images (16.2 megapixels, against the 14.2 of the A560). The A560 also has an optical viewfinder, while the A55 uses an electronic viewfinder. The A55 also has a more flexible screen with a rotating hinge that provides a wider range of movement.

Handling

The two cameras have quite similar handling, but there are some differences in control layout that make using them a little different. Both fit well into the hand, with the relatively thick body making for a firm, solid grip on the camera. Both also put the exposure lock, exposure compensation and movie shutter buttons close to the thumb on the back of the camera body.

Controls

The two cameras offer a broadly similar set of controls, with both offering Auto HDR (High Dynamic Range), panormaic and 3D panormama photo modes. The physical buttons are also similar.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Canon Digital Rebel T2i Comparison

 

 

Performance

In our comprehensive scientitifc tests, we found that the A560 and the T2i are quite evenly matched, both scoring well on our tests for color, white balance and dynamic range. The Sony did get a slightly higher resolution score than the Canon, though, which means that the images are a little sharper across the zoom range. 

Components

Both cameras have quite similar features, offering 3-inch LCD screens and decent zoom range lenses. The A560 has the superior live view mode, though: it focuses quicker and provides a better image preview than the Canon. The Sony does have the advantage of a screen that can flip up or down, though: the T2i screen is fixed in place. 

Handling

The two cameras both fit will into the hand, but we felt that the Canon was a little easier to use overall, especially for those who are new to SLRs and can be overwhelmed by the complexity of these camera.

Controls

The A560 has more controls on the camera body than the T2i, but both put frequently used controls into an on-screen menu. The T2i calls this the quick controls menu, while the A560 calls it the function menu. Whatever you call it, this provides a handy way to quickly access a lot of controls without giving everything a dedicated button. 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Panasonic DMC-G2 Comparison

Performance

These two cameras had wildly different performance, with the DMC-G2 coming out on top in our tests for color accuracy and white balance, but the A560 earned the higher score in our tests on noise, long exposure and resolution. The noise was a particular weakness of the G2: the smaller sensor picks up and creates more electronic noise, which shows in the images as grainy noise, particularly at higher ISO settings.

Components

Both cameras offer LCD screens that are not fixed in place, but the G2 is the more flexible: the single hinge allows it to tilt up and down and to rotate, while the dual hinges of the A560 screen only allow it to flip up and down.

Handling

The DMC-G2 is the smaller of the two cameras, and this has an impact on handling. Those with bigger hands might be more comfortable with the larger and deeper Sony camera, Both cameras feel well balanced overall, and are similar weights despite the larger size of the Sony.

Controls

Both cameras have a lot of buttons and dials on the camera body, but they are both logically designed to put the important controls within easy reach: the G2 puts the control dial under the thumb, while the A560 puts the control dial on the front of the camera, under the shutter button.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Samsung NX10 Comparison

Performance

The two cameras were closely matched in many of our tests, but the A560 was the stronger performer in our tests on color accuracy, sharpness and shooting speed. However, the NX10 was no slouch, posting decent scores in our color, long exposure and resolution tests. But the overall winner in performance was the A560, which had better scores in the critical areas of color and resolution.

Components

The NX10 is the smaller of the two cameras, but it does manage to pack a similar set of features as the A560 into that smaller case. Both offer a 3-inch LCD screen, although the NX10 uses AMOLED technology that produces richer colors, but does not hold up that well in bright daylight.  The NX10 screen is also fixed, while the A560 scren can tilt up or down for shooting from above or below. Both also offer viewfinders, but the NX10 only offers an electronic one, which shows the same captured preview of the image as the screen. The A560 has an optical viewfinder, which shows the image from through the lens, which is easier to use in low light.

Handling

The NX10 is the smaller of the two cameras, and that makes it slightly easier to handle. However, the A560 does fit comfortably in the hand, and both cameras offer quick access to commonly used features through a smorgasbord of buttons on the camera body. If you prefer to shoot from the LCD screen in live view mode, the Samsung may be the better pick, as the Sony has issues with focusing in live view mode.

Controls

Both cameras offer extensive manual controls: a must have for the serious shooter who wants to control these settings to capture the desired image. The Sony offers a wider ISO range, though, especially if you include the ISO 25600 mode that captures 6 images and stacks them together. 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Conclusion

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