Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sony Alpha A700: choosing a digital SLR for advanced amateurs

Alpha A700 is the next digital SLR from Sony. As the Sony A100, this new camera is a direct descendant of Konica Minolta digital SLRs such as 5D / 7D and has a lot of famous KM’s features. This is a digital SLR for advanced amateurs with a strong magnesium alloy body, a large CMOS 12 MP sensor instead of A100’s 10MP CCD and in this case it is a descendant of the Sony DSC-R1 using a CMOS sensor. Though, DSC-R1 is only SLR-like digital camera (for more look at Canon PowerShot S5 vs EOS350D, Sony H9 vs A100; SLR-like cam never comes to SLR). With its 5 fps continious shooting, the new Sony A700 is close to any great SLRs as the Canon EOS 40D or the Nikon D200 (look at Nikon D200 body gives birth to Fujifilm S5pro).
Sony A700 main features
- 12.2 effective megapixel Sony Exmor 23.5 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor with on-chip noise reduction
- Alpha mount support for Minolta and Sony lenses with 1.5X focal length conversion
- Super SteadyShot image stabilization system
- Rugged, weather resistant body
- Dust reduction system
- Ultra high resolution (922,000 pixels) 3-inch LCD display
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- Fully adjustable Dynamic Range Optimizer; user can bracket for DRO as well
- 11-point center dual cross autofocus system, EyeStart AF
- Dual memory card slots (CF + MS Duo), with the former supporting UDMA cards; CF1 / CF2 / MS Duo / MS PRO Duo / Microdrive
- HDMI output
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 142.2 x 109.2 x 83.8 mm / 5.6 x 4.3 x 3.3 in
- Weight (empty): 690 g / 24.3 oz

Sony A700 main differences from A100
- Sony A700 hands grip
After one year shooting with Sony A100, whose hands grip is really handy and cozy; the Sony A700 feels good with its
high quality plastic and strong magnesium body. Just a little larger that A100, this SLR is creating an impression of a solid, high-level gadget, especially with its dust sealed body. With a battery grip, A700 gets a lot taller, but not much heavier. There are most of the right-hand rear controls with the Multi-selector joystick and Rear control dial. It costs about $350.
- New 12MP CMOS sensor
Sony describes a 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor as "all new" and custom-designed for the A700. Its main feature is that Sony made much of the new sensor's integration of the 12-bit A/D converters right on
the chip. This advantage of having the A/D converters right on the sensor is that there is no chance of noise pickup in the connections between the converters and the sensor readout cells. That is the greatest opportunity to reduce the sensor noice. As for any speculations about using in the Nikon D300 the same as Sony A700 chip, it is a wrong idea. Physically, the Nikon D300 produces images with the same number of pixels at 2,848, but 16 pixels wider 4,288 vs. 4,272 than those of the Sony A700. For more details about the Nikon D300 look through: Nikon D300 as a higher one to Canon 40D and even to sensor’s mommy – Sony Alpha
- Sony A700 Super SteadyShot upgrade
The new Sony A700 uses the same as the A100 sensor-shift image
stabilization, but with a few improvements. One benefit of the more powerful BIONZ processor in the Sony A700 is improved performance in the anti-shake system. This should be translated into a better image stabilization performance, allowing slower shutter speeds than on the A100. Sensor-based image stabilization obviously involves some mechanical complexity in the camera body. As in case of the A100, A700 uses the Super SteadyShot actuator system as the basis of their anti-dust system.
- New shutter for Alpha A700
The shutter mechanism on Sony’s A700 is rated at 100,000 cycles with a maximum speed of 1/8,000 second. The corresponding times for the Sony A700 are 1/250 and 1/200 second instead of A100’s x-sync speed of 1/160 second when Super SteadyShot is turned off, or 1/125 second when it is turned on.
- Viewfinder’s upgrade
The Sony’s A700 viewfinder has a pentaprism design. It has a better brightness than in the pentamirror, which used in the Sony A100. It still covers 95% of the frame, but the magnification has been increased almost nine percent, going from 0.83 xs in the A100 to 0.9 xs in the A700. The eye point is 25mm from the eyepiece objective, 21mm from the surrounding eyepiece bezel, both numbers higher than those of the A100. This is a high eye relief, and reasonably comfortable for eyeglass wearers, although we found that we had to press our eyepiece lenses up against the bezel to see the full frame.
- 3 inch 922,000 pixels LCD
The new X-Fine 3.0" LCD has a high contrast and a wide-angle viewing. With 922,000 (640 x 480) pixels
it has a resolution of 267 ppi. This new screen with extra resolution is impressive and very useful.
- Sony A700 Construction
The Sony A700, as a real Pro camera has a new magnesium-alloy body and frame as the Nikon D300 or Canon 40D (look at Canon EOS 40D features, pros and cons). With this feature, the A700 can compete with any low level pro SLRs from other mfrs. The new aluminum chassis is 5% lighter and three times stronger than the A100.
- Double slot for Memory cards
Sony’s first DSLR -- the A100 had a Compact Flash memory slot, and shipped with a CF to Memory Stick PRO Duo adapter. However, the Sony A700 sports two memory card slots, a Compact Flash Type I/II slot, and another separate one for Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. You can select between these slots manually for splitting storage of RAW and JPEG files between the two cards.
- The next BIONZ processor
This all-new version of the Bionz image processor is optimized for the new 12 MP CMOS sensor. It is claimed to boost speed and features a two-stage RAW noise reduction system. This combination of fast sensor and fast processor allows the A700 to offer 5 fps for up to 18 RAW 12MP files while the A100 turned out only 2.4 fps at 10 mega pixels. That is a solid 2.5x increase in RAW throughput.

First Sony’s A700 appearance makes a majority of Konika Minolta (Dynax 7D) fans and KM lenses owners
happy. However, three new lenses for Sony Alpha are a little disappointing. I have waited for something as 28-75mm f2.8 or 12-24mm. Maybe the new kit – DT 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 is not bad, but it is better to have any great lenses with Sony firm instead of Sigma and Tamron. In any case, the Sony A700, that is sequential of the Alpha line, is a great digital SLR. As for me, I do not want to change my Sony A100 to A700 now. For more details look through: Sony A100 vs Nikon D80 more worthy than Sony A100 vs DSC-H9/H7. I want to buy the Sigma 12-24mm to Christmas and to wait for appearing of a next DSLR from Sony.


Tony said...

There is more info about new Sony’s lenses: Sony is launching 4 additional lenses in addition to the previous range of 21 high-quality interchangeable lenses, which include Carl Zeiss lenses and 2 teleconverters.
The four lenses are as follows:
DT 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 (0.4m)
DT 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 (0.45m)
DT 55-200mm F4-5.6 (0.95m)
70-300mm F4.5-5.6G SSM (available in March 2008)

Anonymous said...

In comparison with my old KM 5D, 7D and Sony A100, the A700 is faster with exposure that is more accurate. As for image quality, it may be better.

fototramp said...

To Tony
Thanks for your info. I am a little disappointing with -- 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 for the excellent A700 -- this is an excess. In my opinion, it is better to look through Tamron or Sigma lenses. Battery life is another problem. It is best to buy at least one extra battery. Most that come with a camcorder will last an hour to hour and a half tops.

fototramp said...

To Anonymous
The Sony A700 with its new and low noise CMOS sensor, with its "on board" Analog-to-Digital converter -- this is the next DSLR's level.

Camsman said...

The Canon EOS 40D and the Nikon D300 are entry professionally accepted systems. The Sony is not. I don't keep track of the entry level DSLR camera prices, but unless there is a great price differential and you are on a limited budget, buy the Canon.

fototramp said...

To Camsman
I cannot agree. In fact, the Nikon D300 has much more opportunities. However, in case of Canon 40D and Sony A700 it is a question: who is better.

Anonymous said...

I lucked into an "OpenBox" deal at BigName retailer who sold me the A700 with SAL1870 (18-70mm) and SAL75300 (75-300mm) for 980.00 + tax WITH full warranty. It seems the biggest gripes against A700 are noise effects at ISO above 400 and lenses. I am really tempted to keep this package. Is the Canon 40D worth an extra 400 for the body and 28-135mm lens? Will the A700 give better results than a Canon Digital Rebel XTi with 18-55mm lenses on sale now for around 650? What other lenses besides the two I have do I need to buy? I'm thinking perhaps a wide-angle for group shots.

Anonymous said...

In the semi-pro category the Sony A700 is the best value for money

fototramp said...

Yes, I agree, the Sony A700 is a good value for money. However, the Canon 40D is the same camera level.