The development of interchangeable-lens compacts has made choosing a camera in the $600 range more complicated than ever before. Sony’s own NEX-3 ($600, street, with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 kit lens) beats the A390 in certain areas of performance. But we’d rather use the A390, given the slow-moving interface on the NEX cameras and the lack of an optical viewfinder.
We also like being able to invest in lenses that will work with a newer body once we’re ready to step up. So far, few lenses are available for any ILC system other than Micro Four Thirds. With that in mind, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-G10 ($550, street, with 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 Lumix G Vario lens) offers an appealing alternative to the A390, though its electronic viewfinder may be a deal-breaker for fans of a true optical viewfinder.
There aren’t many other DSLRs this inexpensive, and, in our lab tests, the A390 beat both the Pentax K-x and the Nikon D3000. So we’d be much more enthusiastic in recommending the A390 were it not for its ergonomics. Handle the A390 yourself before making a decision. If it feels comfortable in your hand and you don’t mind the controls, then it could be the camera for you.