Sony Alpha A100 DSLR Review – Based On Minolta SLRs With A New Face And Features

This is the first DSLR from Sony , the a100 . The technology comes from the discontinued Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D line. This is the first camera from the Konica and Sony collaboration. It has a reinforced version of the Maxxum mount so “nearly all” the old Maxxum lenses made and third party lenses will fit. The camera flash shoe is also the same so it will take the old D-series flash units.

This camera is packed with a 10.2 megapixel CCD. It also has the eye-start system that will automatically activate the autofocus when you put your eye up to the view finder. It has a new BIONZ image processing engine that allows for unlimited JPEGs at full resolution at 3 fps. In raw format it takes up to eight shots in a burst. It also features a Dynamic Range Optimizer that decreases shadow detail and gives better highlight detail under high contrast lighting. The LCD is 2.5” with wide viewing angle and anti-reflection coating. It also has a built in Anti-Shake system called “Super SteadyShot.” It has a 40 segment metering pattern. Included is a 1600 mAh lithium battery that gives 750 shots on a charge with 50% flash use.


Look and Feel

The Sony Alpha A100 is a nice consumer level camera. It’s got a plastic body and a slightly cheap feel, but that goes for any intro level DSLR. It weights 1.4 pounds with the battery and is 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 inches.  If you have used the Minolta 5D before then you’ll notice a very similar body layout.

Overall the body is very easy to grip with one hand. It has a nice hand grip with a solid sticky rubber feel. The back of the camera is molded with a thumb grip to help make it very comfortable to hold.

The LCD is a nice 2.5 inches with a resolution of 230k pixels. It’s very bright and clear. It has a hard plastic screen with an anti-reflective coating. The back monitor turns off when you the automatic eye sensor detects using the viewfinder.

The body has a USB 2.0 slot, a video out slot for both NTSC or PAL, a DC-In for power and a remote terminal. It also features the use of Compact Flash. Sony also includes a Compact Flash Memory Stick Duo adapter. A nice feature is the camera can stay on while the door is open.

In the box you’ll find the Alpha A100 digital SLR body, an NP-FM55H Lithium-Ion battery, a Battery Charger, and Eyepiece, a Body Cap, a Shoe Cap, a shoulder strap, video and usb cables, software CD, and a manual with Warranty.

Features

The camera features three various image sizes at roughly at 10MP, 5.6MP and 2.5MP. It allows RAW, RAW + Jpeg Fine, Jpeg Fine and standard file formats. It has roughly a FOV crop of 1.5x. The camera has a built-in Super SteadyShot that stabilizes all your shots. They claim the stabilization can compensate for 2-3.5 steps in shutter speed. The autofocus has a wide AF area setting, spot AF in the center or manual selection of 9 points. It has an auto-tracking focus point display and predictive focus control for moving focus points. The camera also has an AF assist illuminator that is on the internal flash so it must be raised to be used. The camera has 6 scene modes including portrait, landscape, macro, sports, sunset and night portrait. The ISO sensitivities includes an auto 100-800 or manual selection from 100-1600. There is also a Lo80 and Hi200. The shutter speed can be set from 30 secs to 1/4000 sec or to bulb. The flash can be synced to 1/160 or 1/125 with the super SteadyShot on. It also features a dedicated DOF (depth of field) preview button.

Performance and Use

The battery defiantly lasts over an entire day. Sony stats their battery will last 750 shots using the flash 50% of the time. Most people will never get close to shooting this many photos in a day. I tested this camera during Fashion Week in Los Angeles and was glad to know I could go through a whole day of fashion shows without having to worry about battery life. Also note the battery is not the same as on the Maxxum bodies.

Using the camera in manual mode takes some time to get used to with only one dial wheel; you have to push a button to change the shutter speed. It has 2 or a 10 second self timer.

When reviewing photos the zoom feature takes a while to get used to but makes it very quick and easy to zoom in to check focus and detail of your very large photos. It lets you automatically zoom up to 12x at the last magnify level with a push of a button.

There is a left dial that is for function controls and the right dial for your program type. The function dial is very easy to understand just rotate to the function you wish to change including focus, iso, white balance and more then click the function button in the center. At that point you control and setup that function/feature using the back panel.

One of the biggest selling points for this camera is the Dynamic Range Optimization. The idea of the Dynamic Range Optimization is to lighten the shadow areas and keep the highlights. It has a standard, advanced and off setting. The Optimization will run only if you use the Multi-Segment metering and at 100-400 ISO and wont run if you run in Manual Exposure mode or shoot in RAW or RAW+JPEG mode. Overall the Advanced mode brings out the sky and lightens up the shadow areas. Not being able to use the Optimization modes in certain circumstances is a little disappointing.

Overall

The full retail price of the body is $899 and with a 18-70 lens kit is $999. The image quality of this camera is great. It has an eye start feature which is useful and doesn’t seem to suck up the battery. The battery life is amazingly long. The intergraded usb 2.0 is useful for transferring photos. The built-in SteadyShot helps add the extra speed stops to any lens. Any serious amateur looking for their first DSLR should take a serious look at this. Anyone who also misses the old Minolta bodies should try one of these out.

For more information on the Sony A100 visit here.

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