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Sony Alpha Review

Mark Peters
Photokina report
Tuesday 22nd, August 2006
Posted by: Mark Peters

Sony has been actively involved in digital photography for years and can be regarded as a digital pioneer. Until recently however, there was no digital SLR camera in their wide range of cameras. When Konica Minolta, a brand that had built up an impressive reputation in photography was in difficulties, Sony was quick to contact them. This finally resulted in a takeover of Konica Minolta's camera division which suddenly gave Sony loads of in house information on lens and DSLR. If the stories are to be believed, a lot of innovative technology that has not yet been launched on the market also fell into Sony's lap. It is not then surprising that Sony's first mirror reflex camera, the DSLR Alpha 100 has a lot in common with Konica Minolta's DiMAGE 5D. However, it is more than just a blatant copy.

Sony A100

Sony A100 reflex camera – Design
In regard to appearance, the Sony Alpha 100 digital reflex camera bears an obvious resemblance to the DiMAGE 5D. This camera is more rounded and therefore looks more modern and attractive. Sony's style logo is an orange border and this looks good on a black camera. Just like the 5D, the Sony A-100 has the necessary buttons that mean that you don't have to keep referring to the menu. All those buttons look difficult, but in practise, they are great to work with. Assessing the focus is child's play, thanks to the large 2.5 inch screen on the back of the camera. The eye sensor has also been adapted from Konica Minolta. If the camera is in front of your face, the Sony Alpha 100 awakes from its slumber mode or even focuses which, to be honest, is a bit overdone.

Sony Alpha 100 - Super Steady Shot
Fortunately, Sony has kept image stabilisation in the Alpha 100. Instead of Anti Shake, it is now called Super Steady Shot, a name that Sony uses for every form of image stabilisation and not just for the moving sensor. The same principle is used for the Sony A-100 as for Konica Minolta. A gyroscope detects the camera's movements and a processor prompts the sensor to make a counter movement. As a result, the influence of the camera's vibrations is considerably reduced, at least to a certain extent. Sony updated the algorithm and claims more than three steps EV. This will not be reached at every focal point. The disadvantage of a moving sensor as opposed to image stabilisation in a lens is that the former cannot be optimally attuned to all focal points. It is, however, cheaper and perfectly suitable for most applications.

Sony A100 DSLR camera - Dust reduction
Sony has immediately put this moving image sensor to good use. The Sony DSLR Alpha 100 has been equipped with dust reduction. This system works in a similar way to the Olympus. The image sensor is shaken back and forth at high speed, shaking the dust off the sensor. Of course, the sensor must be free of power, or it will only attract dust. The dust filter becomes active when the camera is turned off. With the Olympus, this happens when the camera is turned on.

Sony Alpha A-100 SLR - Image sensor
Sony may be new to the manufacture of digital SLR cameras, but Sony image sensors have been around for a long time, for example in the Nikon D70s and the Nikon D200 DSLR. It is only logical that the Alpha 100 incorporates Sony's newest sensor. With ten Megapixels and a crop factor of 1.5, it looks identical to the image sensor in the D200. The Sony Alpha 100 is, however, a good deal cheaper. With it, Sony is setting the standard for the number of pixels in entry models. Now that Sony is also making reflex cameras, the question is if Nikon will still get the latest sensors. Exciting times are ahead, also because Sony is expected to launch more advanced models.

Sony A100

Sony A-100 digital SLR - Carl Zeiss lens
Just making a camera is not enough for a manufacturer. You also need a lens, and thanks to their use of Konica Minolta's mounting, Sony now has an enormous range of lenses at their disposal. The standard lenses have been given are slightly different shape and christened Sony. The standard range has more than 15 lenses already, from wide-angle to extreme tele, including macro and fisheye. In addition to this, Sony in collaboration with Carl Zeiss has added three more lenses. These are really top lenses as Zeiss is still one of the top trendsetting manufacturers in the filed of optics. These three lenses bear the name of Zeiss and rightly so. The first lens is a Vario Sonnar T DT 16 - 80 mm f/3.5 - f/4.5 ZA. This lens was designed especially for the smaller image sensor. The Carl Zeiss Planar T 85 mm f/1.4 ZA and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T 135mm f/1.8 ZA are also suitable for full-frame models. This could possibly indicate that Sony has a full-frame sensor waiting in the wings. However, this is still just guess work and not relevant now.

Sony Alpha 100 digital SLR camera review
Like Canon, Sony has given its processor a name. The Sony Alpha 100 has a Boinz. We will certainly hear more of this name in the future. The Boinz processor has enabled Sony to change the dynamic range via software. It can be adjusted for the whole picture or for just part of the picture. Boinz also ensures that the DSLR camera saves the pictures on the flash memory card at top speed. According to Sony, you can shoot a 1GB memory card full in JPEG without any pauses. We tried out the Sony Alpha 100 with a Sony DT 18-70mm f/3.5 - 5.6 for a considerable period. You can read our findings in the following Sony Alpha 100 digital reflex camera review.

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