Sony Alpha A700 Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The shutter-release on this DSLR is a standard 2-stage release. The halfway point is rather soft, so it is easy to miss it and unwillingly take a picture. Some like this because they feel it takes less time to release the shutter. A possible advantage of this is that it reduces vibrations to the camera. 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 A700 is great. It has a deep hand-grip with a small recession for the index-finder to keep it securely in place. The camera's rear has a small grip to prevent the thumb from slipping off to the side. Together this makes the camera exceptionally easy to hold. The A700's two control-wheel are located opposite to each other on the front and back grips. The very important AELAuto Exposure Lock buttons is reachable with a small movement of the thumb. The focus-override button is located under-your-thumb. This button serves either to lock focus or switch between auto focus and manual focus. Speaking of buttons, every one except the focus-override button is relatively large and has a durable feel. Understandably, the focus-override button is smaller and recessed, so that it is not often accidentally pressed. The entire camera feels solid and well balanced.
The A700 has a moderately large pentaprism viewfinder with a bright and clear view. The eyecup is large and also surrounds the 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, very few cameras implements this feature.
Exposure parameters are changed using either control-wheels. In P mode, one control-wheel activates shutter-priority shift and the other activates aperture-priority shift. In A and S modes, both control wheels control the same parameter by default. However, one control wheel can be configured to access exposure-compensation directly. In M mode, one control-wheel changes the aperture, the other changes the shutter-speed. The AEL button can also be used to modify aperture and shutter-speed simultaneously to maintain the set exposure.
The control-wheels are also used with 4 top-mounted buttons: exposure-compensation (EC), ISO, white-balance (WB) and drive.Multi-segment, center-weighed or spot While these parameters are being changed, an indication of the selected value appears in the viewfinder. MeteringMulti-segment, center-weighed or spot is controlled by a ring surrounding the AEL button.
Like all modern DSLR cameras, the A700 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 and primary-color histograms displayed. All the same options are available in playback mode as well. During image playback, any control-wheel can be used to iterate through images without changing zoom-levels or display options. This is an effective way to compare the same area across a series of shots.
The A700 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.
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 display a row of thumbnails above the current picture. The AEL brings up a thumbnail view that allows to navigate between folders.
The LCD itself appears very impressive. At just under one megapixel, this is an incredibly precise display. Images appear quite sharp on this large and bright 3" LCD. Visibility is excellent, both outdoors and indoors. We have two gripes with the LCD: images are overly yellow and overly sharp. Indeed, all images we reviewed on the LCD were noticeably more yellow there than on a calibrated CRT. This has not been the case with other DSLR cameras before, so keep that in mind when trying out white-balance settings. It also seemed like Sony applied strong sharpening to image previews. The result was that some unsharp images appeared sharp on the LCD.
There is a menu item which selects the memory card to be used since the Sony Alpha A700 directly supports both Compact Flash and Memory Stick Duo cards. When only one card is present inside the camera, the proper card type must be selected, otherwise an error message is displayed. We have no idea why it simply does not detect which one is there and only use the menu system when two cards are present.
Sony A700 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|12 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-6400|
|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|
|5 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Compact Flash|
|Memory Stick Duo|
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