Sony Alpha A100 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 and DMF, 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 A100 is great. It has a deep hand-grip with a small recession for the index-finder to keep it securely in place. On the camera's rear, an inwards curvature prevents the thumb from slipping off to the side. Together this makes the camera exceptionally easy to hold. The A100'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. Speaking of buttons, every one on this camera is relatively large and has a durable feel. Even with thick gloves on, this camera's controls were all useable. The entire camera feels solid and well balanced.
The A100 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! Unfortunately, there is only one other current DSLR which implements this feature, Canon's Digital Rebel XTi
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 control-wheel is also used with the function-dial (Fn) to change image parameters. The Fn-dial is a great way to control many parameters without having to enter the menu system or overloading the camera with buttons. It works by rotating the dial to the desired parameter and then turning the control-wheel while pressing the Fn-dial's center button. The Fn-dial controls meteringMulti-segment, center-weighed or spot, flash-modeAuto, Fill, Rear-Sync, or Wireless, flash-compensation-2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV inc., focus-areaWide, Center, Selected, focus-modeSingle-shot, DMF, Automatic, Continuous, ISOAuto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, Lo80, Hi200Wide, Center, Selected, white-balanceAuto, Preset, Kelvin, Custom, white-balance presetDay, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, DROOff, Standard, Advanced and DECColor mode, contrast, saturation, sharpness. Some parameters on the Fn-dial require the use of the 4-way controller to select between groups of sub-parameters. For example, the DEC parameter is split between color-mode and three image-parameters. Switching between the four requires using the 4-way controller. While the ISO setting is being changed, its value appears in the viewfinder status bar. It would have been better if it could be changed completely while looking through the viewfinder by providing a dedicated button.
Like all modern DSLR cameras, the A100 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 luminance histogram 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 A100 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 more information including modified image parameters. 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. When playing back images, the display button optionally allows to navigate between folders.
Sony A100 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|10 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 80-1600|
|Sony A Mount|
|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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