A runner-up in the advanced-beginner digital SLR category, the Sony A580L does an overall good job in tests but not quite as well as the top-rated Nikon D5100 (*Est. $650 with kit lens). Still, if you're interested in unique shooting modes such as Sweep Panorama or the best live view available, experts say this could be the camera for you.
The Sony A580L shares the same 16.2-megapixel image sensor as the Nikon D5100, so testers (not surprisingly) report very good image quality. However, more than one notes that the Sony camera has more trouble with noise (graininess) in very dim light, over-smoothing the image and sacrificing detail to get rid of the graininess. Some also report that when they leave the Sony's auto white balance to its own devices, it leaves photos overly warm or doesn't render colors correctly.
The A580L has an optical viewfinder, but if you prefer framing your shots on the tilting 3-inch LCD screen, the camera offers a choice of two live view modes -- a fast-autofocus version (that makes use of a built-in secondary sensor) or a more precise, normal live view. Autofocus isn't available while shooting 1080p full-HD video clips, though. Testers have fun with the A580L's unique shooting modes, including the superb Auto HDR (which shoots the same shot at various exposures and blends them together to beat bad-lighting problems) and Sweep Panorama, in which you pan from one side to the other and the camera stitches the images together to create a wide panoramic shot.
Plenty of top expert sources conduct thorough tests of the Sony A580L, including DPReview.com, TechRadar.com, Imaging-Resource.com and PhotographyBlog.com. Amazon.com had collected only a handful of user reviews for this relatively new camera at the time of this update.
If you like shooting in live view, but can't live without an optical viewfinder, the Sony A580 "could be the ideal compromise," Lars Rehm concludes after an exhaustive test. The camera gets high marks for its overall performance, image quality and unique features.
Review: Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Review, Lars Rehm, May 2011
Despite novelty features like Sweep Panorama and Smile Shutter, the Sony A580 proves to be a serious digital SLR. Testers here like its high-resolution image sensor, quality video, swiveling LCD screen, fast autofocus and 7 fps shooting speed. However, occasional image quality problems drop the A580's score to 3 stars (out of 5).
Review: Sony A580 Review, Editors of TechRadar.com, Feb. 2011
Experts here find the same pros and cons for the Sony A580 as other reviewers. The biggest flaw is "over-aggressive noise suppression," but overall great image quality, fast live-view autofocus and interesting scene modes make it a Dave's Pick.
Review: Sony Alpha DSLR-A580, Mike Tomkins, Shawn Barnett, Zig Weidelich and Carl Garrard, May 2011
The Sony A580L earns a Highly Recommended rating here. Mark Goldstein finds it easier to use than the translucent-mirror Sony A55, and "a real rival" for Canon and Nikon despite some complaints about its heavy-handed noise control in very dim light and lack of autofocus in video mode.
Review: Sony A580 Review, Mark Goldstein, Jan. 2011
Only a few owners have reviewed the Sony A580L, and all give it glowing scores -- 4 or a perfect 5 stars. They don't include much criticism.
Review: Sony DSLRA580L (Black), Contributors to Amazon.com