Sony Alpha A100 Review Summary
Sony Alpha A100 Assessment
The Sony Alpha A100 is a superb and well valued DSLR camera. This 10 megapixel digital SLR is packed with useful features and technology such as body-based stabilization and a hardware dust-reduction system. With body-based stabilization, all lenses automatically benefit from stabilization, even ultra-wide-angle lenses, at no additional cost. It also has some clever options such as low-key and high-key tone-curves, ambient and flash-based exposure compensation and a hardware dynamic range optimizer. Except for above average noise-levels staring at ISO 800, the Alpha A100 shows truly superb image quality. Other downsides are very minor such as artifacts for long-exposures noise-reduction, which can be turned off. The dynamic-range optimizer is also a good idea but since it is not entirely reliable, we recommend turning it off when there is no time to experiment. Then again, no other camera has this feature anyway.
All-in-all, we can easily recommend the Sony Alpha A100 except for action photography, particularly indoors, where ISO 800 and 1600 are normally used. For action photography, the Canon EOS 30D not only does better at high-ISO but also shoots faster at 5 FPS versus this Alpha's 3 FPS. Another alternative is the lower-end Canon Digital Rebel XT which has very clean high-ISO performance but is not as advanced as the A100. For those rarely using ISO sensitivities above 400, the Sony Alpha A100 is truly unmatched.
|Superb photo quality
||Quite noisy and low-saturation at ISO 1600|
|Great color accuracy||Slightly above average noise at ISO 800 for a DSLR|
|Very good dynamic range||Long exposure noise-reduction image artifacts|
|Excellent metering and exposure||Dynamic range optimizer not reliable|
|Low image noise up to ISO 400||Rare multi-segment exposure errors|
|Effectively stabilizes all lenses|
|Very fast and responsive|
|Excellent build quality|
|Selectable low-key and high-key tone-curve|
|Ambient and flash-based exposure compensation|
|Good battery life|
Sony Alpha A100 Hands-On
The Sony Alpha A100 has more technology features than any other available DSLR. The most important one is body-based anti-shake inherited from Konica-Minolta. This is extremely valuable in low-light and when using long lenses. Remember though that any stabilization feature compensates for the photographer's movements and does nothing against subject motion. Long lenses can be bought without stabilization, saving a significant sum of money and wide-angle lenses get stabilization which is rarely available for such focal-lengths. Next up is dust-reduction, this is a solution to a common problem for cameras with interchangeable lenses. Until now, only Olympus had such system.
There are subtle features which do not get much attention but can greatly help photography. The first are two tone-mapping mode which strangely appear as part of the selection of ISO sensitivity. It was the same way with the Maxxum 5D which is the first camera with these options. The low-key option creates a tone reproduction curve designed to preserve more detail in dark areas. The high-key options does the opposite, preserving more details in bright areas. Another interesting option is wether exposure-compensation adjusts ambient light or flash. When exposure compensation is set to adjust ambient light, flash power is kept constant as the exposure is changed. In the other mode, which is common with most cameras, the flash is used to adjust exposure in low-light conditions. These two interpretation of exposure compensation can produce rather different looking images.
Finally, there is the dynamic-range optimizer (DRO). It idea is a useful but unfortunately it has been reported to not be entirely reliable. Plus, the results are a matter of taste. Just like adjust saturation, contrast and sharpness, it must be done after some experimentation. The main difference is that DRO works differently from scene to scene. Hence, for consistent results, better keep it off. In some cases, having a scene where both shadow and highlight details are clearly visible results in a flatter and less pleasing image.
The bottom line is that this is a great camera except for hand-held low-light photography where high-ISO sensitivities are frequently used. Action photographers will also be better satisfied with a faster continuous drive. Below ISO 800, this camera is nearly perfect and provides excellent value for its price and capabilities.
Sony A100 Facts
|10 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 80-1600|
|Sony A Mount|
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|2-Axis Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Custom white-balance with 1 axis fine-tuning|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Spot-Metering|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe|
|3 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.5" LCD 230K Pixels||Compact Flash|
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