Canon EOS Rebel T1i $810, street, with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens
Though it only has one more megapixel, in our lab tests this Canon showed significantly more resolving power than the Alpha 380. It also focused faster in dim and very low light, and produced slightly more accurate colors. Then there's noise: The Rebel T1i earned a Low or better rating all the way up to ISO 3200, and its Moderate rating at ISO 6400 matched the A380's result at ISO 3200. Plus, the Rebel captures at the ultra-sensitive ISO 12,800-that's 2 stops more than the A380's top sensitivity of ISO 3200. Oh, and the Canon costs a little less. Sure, the Sony's image stabilization works with nearly any lens you mount on the camera, but we still have to hand this one to Canon.
Nikon D5000 $850, street, with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens
This and the Sony posted nearly identical results in our resolution tests, and they share the same basic kit price. But the similarities end there. The Nikon was slower to focus in bright light, yet faster in very low light. The Sony served up less noise at ISO 1600 and 3200, while the Nikon produced less from ISO 200 through 800. We preferred the Nikon's fully articulated flip-down LCD to the Sony's tilting screen. But we like the economics of Sony's in-body image stabilization, and its live-view experience is tops. Could this be a tie? We give a slight edge to the D5000 because it feels better in the hand-on a long day of shooting, we'd rather hold the Nikon's grip than the Sony's. But if you're a committed live-view shooter, you might prefer the A380.
IMAGING: 14.2MP effective, APS-C-sized CCD sensor captures images at 4592x3056 pixels with 12 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: Memory Stick PRO Duo, SD, and SDHC. Stores JPEG, ARW RAW, and RAW + JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode): 2.5 frames per second up to card capacity. RAW (12-bit): Up to 6 shots at 2.5 fps.
AF SYSTEM: TT L phase detection with 9 illuminated focus points (1 center crosstype). Single-shot and continuous with tracking. Tested sensitivity down to -1 EV (manufacturer rated to 0 EV) at ISO 100, f/1.4.
LIVE VIEW: TTL phase detection.
SHUTER SPEEDS: 1/4000 to 30 sec plus B (1/3-EV increments).
METERING: TTL metering using 40-segment honeycombpattern evaluative, centerweighted, partial and spotmetering. 2-20 EV (at ISO 100).
ISO RANGE: ISO 100-3200 (in 1-EV increments).
FLASH: Built-in pop-up with TTL autoflash with +/-2-EV exposure compensation (1/3 EV increments), GN 33 (ISO 100, feet), covers 18mm lens field of view. Flash sync to 1/160 sec. Dedicated Sony/ Minolta hot-shoe and wireless control of optional flash.
VIEWFINDER: Fixed eye-level pentamirror.
LCD: 2.7-in. TFT with 230,400-dot resolution.
OUTPUT: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, mini HDMI video.
BATTERY: Rechargeable NP-FH50 Li-ion, CIPA rating, 510 shots.
SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.1x3.8x2.4 in., 1.1 lb with card and battery.
STRET PRICE: $850 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Sony DT SAM lens; $1,050 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-200mm f/4-5.6 SONY DT SAM lenses.
FOR INFO: www.sonystyle.com