Sony Alpha A200 Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The shutter-release on this DSLR is a standard 2-stage release. The halfway point is distinct with a moderate amount of travel until the shutter is released. Some like this because it is hard to accidentally take a picture, some do not because they feel it takes longer to release the shutter. In single-shot focus, half-pressing the shutter locks the focus and exposure. Focus can also be locked separately by using the spot-focus button located at the center of the 4-way controller. There is also an AEL button to lock exposure before the shutter is half-pressed.
Ergonomically, the Sony Alpha A200 is decent. It has a deep hand-grip with a small recession to provide a solid grip. On the camera's rear, an inwards curvature prevents the thumb from slipping off to the side. Together this makes the camera quite easy to hold. The A200's only control-wheel is located just in front of the shutter-release.
On the rear, the very important ECExposure Compensation and AELAuto Exposure Lock buttons are reachable with a small movement of the thumb. These buttons are unfortunately quite small and almost flush with the camera's body. The drive-mode and ISO buttons, on the camera's top, are bigger and protrude more. However, reaching them while looking through the viewfinder does not feel so comfortable. The entire camera feels solid and well balanced though.
The A200 has an average size penta-mirror viewfinder with a bright and clear view. The eyecup is large and also surrounds the previously mentioned eye-start sensor. The eye-start sensor ensures that there is no bothersome LCD glare when looking through the viewfinder. This is one feature that is hard to live without once you get used to it! All Sony DSLR cameras have it.
Exposure parameters are changed using the control-wheel. In P mode, the control-wheel selects between equivalent aperture and shutter-speed combinations. In A, S and M modes, the control-wheel changes a single exposure parameter. In M mode, the other parameter is changed by turning the control-wheel in conjunction with the EC button. In all other modes, this combination is used to apply exposure-compensation. The AEL button can also be used to modify aperture and shutter-speed simultaneously to maintain the set exposure.
The Function (Fn) button brings up a menu that controls meteringMulti-segment, center-weighed or spot, flash-modeOff, Auto, Fill, Slow-Sync, Rear-Sync or Wireless, focus-areaWide, Center, Selected, focus-modeSingle-shot, Automatic or Continuous, white-balanceAuto, Preset, Kelvin, Custom and the DROOff, Standard, Advanced. The camera's remaining features must be controlled by its efficient-to-navigate menu-system.
Like all modern DSLR cameras, the A200 has a dedicated playback button and an image review option. When an image appears for review, it can be immediately deleted, zoomed-in or have its RGB histograms displayed. All the same options are available in playback mode as well. During image playback, the control-wheel can also be used to iterate through images without changing the zoom or display options. This is an effective way to compare the same area across a series of shots. The A200 offers two ways to zoom into an image. First, there is the traditional way which is operated by directly changing the zoom factor and scrolling around the image. Second, there is an area-navigation way which works by moving and resizing a selection rectangle over the image. When the selection rectangle is in the desired position, the LCD can be made to see only the selected area by pressing a button. This approach allows zooming into a specific feature more rapidly than the traditional way.
There are three options for the LCD (which serves as a status display in shooting mode): off, simple and detailed. Obviously, when off the display shows nothing. The simple display shows basic shooting information using a very large font. The detailed display uses a medium font to display a bit more information. A display button to the left of the LCD iterates through all three modes. Our impression is that photographers will either be interested in the simple mode or the detailed mode, but rarely both since the latter is a superset of the former. For that reason it would be better if the display button was simply an on/off switch and the simple or detailed view could be chosen via a setup-menu option. Presently , when switching between the status display and having the LCD off, the user is required to press the button an extra time to bypass the undesired mode.
The Alpha stores images in sequentially numbered folders. Each folder can contain 9,999 images but a new folder, numbered sequentially after the last one, can be created at any time using the setup-menu.
Sony A200 Facts
|10 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-3200|
|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|
|2.8 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.7" LCD 230K Pixels||Compact Flash|
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