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Sony Alpha A700 Review

by Bob Atkins, May 2008

photography by Bob Atkins and Hannah Thiem


The Sony Alpha A700 is Sony's mid-level digital SLR, competing in the same price class as the Canon EOS 40D, the Pentax K20D and the Nikon D200/300. In the Sony line (formally the Konica/Minolta line) of DSLRs the Alpha A700 is probably closest to an evolution of the Minolta 7D. It was first released in September 2007.

The Sony Alpha A700 is compatible with all A-mount Minolta SLR and DSLR autofocus lenses and accessories. Note that the Sony A700 cannot accept Minolta MD-mount manual focus lenses.

Though it doesn't directly address Sony cameras, newcomers to the world of DSLRs might want to start with the photo.net article "Building a DSLR System".

The Sony A700 is available in various packages from amazon.com:

Controls

Unlike its direct competitors, the Sony A700 lacks a dedicated LCD for displaying camera settings. The large rear LCD is used for both image and data display. This results in a simpler user interface because there is only one place on the camera to look for information. However, the rear LCD can be quite difficult to see in bright sunlight, just the opposite of the typical top mounted B&W reflection type LCD displays. Personally I'd rather have a top LCD with the option of also displaying capturing information on the rear LCD, as is possible with the Canon EOS 40D.

There is just one main control dial on the left side of the top of the camera and it controls the operating modes: Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual plus multiple scene modes (Auto/Green, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Sunset and Night Portrait). On the right side of the top are dedicated buttons for setting exposure compensation, white balance, ISO and drive mode.

The A700 has a conventional shutter release layout with the main control dial being a vertically mounted wheel just in front of the shutter release button used to set parameters such as shutter speed and aperture. There's a second control dial, which is horizontally mounted at the top right of the rear of the camera. This serves essentially the same function as the Canon EOS rear QCD (quick control dial), allowing the main control wheel to be adjusted using the index finger and the secondary control wheel to be adjusted with the thumb.

On the back of the camera is the 3" LCD used for both image and data display. As you can see from the above image, the orientation of the display text changes when the camera is turned from landscape to portrait mode. To the right of the LCD is the main four-way controller with a center button, which can be used to select menu options or navigate within an image. At the bottom right is the switch to select "Super SteadyShot" mode, Sony's sensor-based image stabilizer. To the left of the LCD are the controls for displaying the menu, selecting which data are displayed, erasing images and recalling stored images. There are also dedicated buttons for exposure compensation (+/-) and Auto Exposure Lock (AEL).

The LCD itself provides a high quality image. It has 922,000 pixels, which corresponds to 640x480 resolution with RGB pixels at each location. This is a similar specification to the LCD found on the Nikon D300 (review), but provides a better and more detailed image than the 230,000 pixel LCD of the Canon EOS 40D (review).

In addition to the pre-defined function buttons there is also a "C" (custom) button, which can be assigned to one of many functions such as DOF preview, AF/MF selection, image quality, ISO setting, drive mode, AF lock, etc.

Like the Minolta 7D, on which I'm sure the Alpha 700 is based, the A700 uses switches for functions which many other cameras control via buttons and menus. The metering pattern is set using a 3-way switch on the back of the camera to select among spot metering, center-weighted metering and multi-segment metering. AF mode can be set by a 4-way switch on the front of the camera just below the lens. The options there are "S" - single (one shot) focus, "A" - Auto (switches from one shot to continuous, depending on subject movement), "C" - continuous (tracking) and "M" - manual focus. Whether you prefer buttons or switches is a personal choice. I'm sure you can get used to either approach.

Operating Speed

Note: All timing measurements were made using a Sony 300x CF card.
The Sony Alpha A700 takes about 1 second to "boot up". After that the camera is pretty responsive and it wakes up from "sleep" mode almost instantly. After a shot is taken, the image appears on the LCD screen in about 1 second.

In continuous drive mode with the shutter speed set to 1/500s, ISO set to 200 and saving images as Large/Fine JPEGs, I measured a burst rate of 4.92 frames/sec. I couldn't fill the buffer to the point where the camera slowed down, and I gave up after 200 frames! Saving the images in RAW mode the burst speed was 4.9 frames/sec for 18 frames, then the rate slowed to 2.1 frames/sec

These are pretty impressive numbers, especially if you're photographing JPEGs. As long as you have a fast memory card you really don't have to worry about filling the buffer. When capturing RAW you can fill the buffer after about 18 images, but even then the A700 will continue at over 2 fps for as long as you hold the shutter release down.

Auto Focus

The Sony A700 uses 11 autofocus zones. The center zone has a cross-type sensor, responsive to both vertical and horizontal detail, while the remaining 10 zones are line-type sensors, which respond to detail only in one orientation. A sensor detects when an eye is placed against the viewfinder and starts auto focus. With this function enabled, by the time you get the camera to your eye, the AF system may already have acquired focus. With eye-start focus off, AF is initiated with a halfway press of the shutter release.

Auto focus seemed fast and positive, with very little focus hunting in good light. I did see some problems getting focus in low light using the Sony 70-300/3.5-5.6 lens in low light where there would be occasional focus uncertainty before final lock, but that may be more due to the lens than the camera.

White Balance

Auto white balance (WB) performed well in outdoor lighting, but like most other DSLRs didn't so so well indoors under tungsten and fluorescent lighting where results were quite warm. Using tungsten and fluorescent settings improved matters, but images were still slightly warm. As usual, if you want accurate color balance, the best option is to manually select the color temperature or use the custom white balance feature.

The WB modes available are: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Color temperature (2500 K to 9900 K) and Custom.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder is quite bright and uses a glass pentaprism (some cheaper cameras use a pentamirror system). Viewfinder magnification is 0.9x and viewfinder coverage is 95 percent, which is about average for this class of DSLR. There is a -3 to +1 dioptric adjustment.

The in-viewfinder LCD display is presented just below the image. It shows the usual information: flash exposure compensation, flash mode and readiness, focus confirmation, shutter speed and aperture, exposure compensation and/or metering, and the number of images that can be stored in the camera's buffer memory. In addition, the display shows an indication of camera shake and the ability of the anti-shake system to compensate for it via a multi-bar graph (rather like the signal strength indicator on a cell phone).

Super SteadyShot

The Sony A700 has built-in "Super SteadyShot" image stabilization. Sensors in the camera detect motion and move the digital imaging CMOS sensor so as to compensate. This method of stabilization was pioneered by Minolta in the Maxxum 7D and a similar in-body stabilization scheme is used by both Pentax and Olympus.

There is some debate about the relative effectiveness of sensor-based stabilization vs. Nikon and Canon's lens-based stabilization. To get some idea of their relative performance, I tested the Sony A700 with a 70-300mm zoom set to 300mm and a Canon EOS 40D with an EF 70-300 IS lens also set to 300mm. I obtained a number of images with each camera at shutter speeds from 1/500s to 1/25s. The standard rule of thumb is that a photographer should be able to handhold a 300mm lens on these cameras at shutter speeds of 1/500s and faster and get sharp images. At lower speeds your chance of sharp images should drop significantly. Photographing at 1/250s is 1 stop slower, 1/125s is 2 stops slower, 1/60s is 3 stops slower and 1/30s is 4 stops slower.

The results showed that the effectiveness of the Sony Super SteadyShot system seemed pretty similar to that of the Canon lens-based stabilization system. Giving numerical results is difficult because photographs can range anywhere from sharp to blurred - and all degrees of sharpness in between. At 300mm, most of the images taken at 1/160s were acceptably sharp. At 1/80s about 40% were acceptably sharp. That's about 2-2.5 stops of stabilization. With the Canon lens at 300mm the probability of sharp images at 1/80s was a little higher and I'd estimate the stabilization at maybe 2.5-3 stops.

Whatever the relative merits of the two stabilization systems, it's clear that the body-based Sony Super SteadyShot has the advantage of stabilizing all lenses mounted on the A700 body. Additionally you only pay for stabilization once because it is built into the body. Also, if you buy a new body with an improved stabilization system, the improved stabilization is realized with every lens. If a new lens stabilization system is developed, you have to replace all your lenses to take advantage of it, which is a much more expensive and less attractive proposition.

Remember that any image stabilization system, whether based on the lens or the camera body, stabilizes camera motion not subject motion. If your subject is moving, e.g., at a sporting event, you need a fast lens (f/1.4, f/2, or f/2.8) and/or a high ISO setting in order to keep the exposure time short enough that the image isn't blurred by subject motion.

Sensor and Resolution

The Sony Alpha A700 has a 12MP sensor, 2MP more than that used in the Canon EOS 40D and the Nikon D80. Does this significantly increase resolution (and hence sharpness)? Well, in theory 20% more pixels means that the linear resolution should increase by about 10%. This should be measurable, but not really noticeable except if printing very large images.

Above are 100% crops from the center of a Sony Alpha A700 12MP image and a Canon EOS 40D 10MP image. They were taken with different lenses, but both were photographed at 100mm and f8, which is a setting that should be pretty sharp with any lens. At this scale, these crops represent a section from a 24x36" when viewed on a typical 17" monitor at a screen resolution of 1280x1024. As you can see, the A700 crop has slightly better resolution of the "2.5" line set, but the difference between the images is small.

ISO Settings and Noise Levels

The Sony A700 uses a 12MP CMOS sensor with an ISO range from 100 to 6400. Unlike some of its competitors, the Alpha A700 does not have an ISO display in the viewfinder, something I find quite useful on my EOS 40D. The Pentax K20D, Nikon D200/D300 and EOS 40D all have viewfinder display of ISO setting, though the Nikon D80 does not.

Noise levels are pretty well controlled up to ISO 400, with noise becoming more visible at higher ISO settings. The images below are 100 percent crops from images captured at ISO settings from 100 to 6400 with the Sony A700 and from ISO 100 to ISO 3200 with the Canon EOS 40D.

noise.jpg (25982 bytes)

As you can see, the noise level of the Sony A700 looks a little smoother than that of the EOS 40D, but that appears to be due to somewhat more aggressive noise reduction. In other tests, the EOS 40D images tended to hold onto more detail at ISO 3200 at the expense of somewhat more visible noise. This test (a gray card at 100 percent cropping) is designed to reveal noise. In a typical image printed at 8x12, both cameras would be fine up to ISO 800, with noise creeping in at higher ISO settings.

When ISO is set to 1600 or higher, noise reduction is automatically applied. The default setting for high ISO noise reduction is "normal", but "low" and "high" settings can be used. In practice there isn't very much difference between the three settings. The A700 seems to apply noise reduction to RAW files, which is in contrast to most other DSLRs. This may be due to the sensor design, which includes hardware noise reduction and A/D conversion on the digital sensor chip itself, rather than having those functions applied in separate steps.

Dynamic Range Optimization

Dynamic range optimization (DRO) is designed to recover details in dark or bright areas of the image. The Alpha A700 has three DRO modes: Standard mode, Advanced mode and Advanced Bracketing mode. Standard mode attempts to improve shadow detail using standard gamma curves. In Advanced mode you can select auto or one of 5 manual DRO correction levels and in Advanced Bracketing mode, you can automatically take three photos at different DRO levels with a single shutter press.

DRO does seem to work, though the Advanced manual modes seem a lot more effective at raising the level of dark shadow areas than either the standard or advanced auto modes. Bringing up the shadow levels tends to increase shadow noise, but that's often a reasonable trade-off. DRO does not affect RAW files, so presumably its a software function which changes the shape of the tone curve. You can also vary the DRO level when converting RAW files, which also suggests that it's done entirely in software.

Flash

Maximum shutter speed for syncing with flash is 1/250s or 1/200s with Super SteadyShot enabled. The built-in flash, which must be manually raised and lowered, has a useful range of about 10 ft. (guide number of 12 in meters at ISO 100; higher ISO settings result in longer flash range). The built-in flash has to be manually raised. The flash covers the field of view of a 16mm lens (equivalent to that of a 24mm lens on a full frame camera).

There are seven flash modes: Automatic, Fill, Red-eye reduction, Rear sync, Wireless, High-speed sync, and Slow sync. In wireless mode the built-in flash sends a series of optical pulses to an external flash such as the Sony HVL-F56AM Flash, (compare prices). The external flash first fires a metering pre-flash, which the camera uses to set exposure. The built-in flash then sends a second series of pulses, which tell the external flash how much power to use. Contrast this with the Canon system, which requires a hot shoe flash such as the 580EX II in order to fire and control a wireless slave such as the 430EX. Using the built-in flash as a wireless flash controller is a simpler and less expensive solution.

The Sony system currently offers several external flash units, the Sony HVL-F36AM Flash, (compare prices), the more powerful Sony HVL-F56AM Flash, (compare prices), and the Sony HVL-MT24AM Macro Twin Flash, $499.

Memory Cards

The A700 has a card slot for Type I or II Compact Flash (CF) memory cards and for Memory Stick Duo cards. You can store images on either type of card, but you cannot write to both cards simultaneously. The Memory Stick card format was developed by Sony about 10 years ago (1998) but it hasn't really caught on as a major player in the flash memory market. The capability to use Memory Sticks may be useful to those upgrading from earlier Sony cameras who already have a supply of Memory Stick cards, but I think that most users will chose the more widely available, less expensive and higher performance Compact Flash memory.

Batteries

The A700 uses a NP-FM500H Li-Ion rechargeable battery with a rated capacity of 1650 mAh. Sony specifications indicate that you should get around 650 captures on a single charge in average use. A battery charger is included with the camera and an optional AC adapter is available.

A vertical grip, the VG-C70M, is available for the Sony Alpha A700. As well as offering a shutter release convenient for vertical operation, the VG-C70M has two control dials, function buttons and can accept two battery packs for extended capture time.

Mechanical Construction

The A700 is constructed of a high strength aluminum chassis with a magnesium alloy body shell and a plastic covering. The grip section of the body has a textured rubber covering to make it a little easier to hold.

The control ergonomics are good and it's possible (though perhaps not advisable) to operate most of the more commonly used camera controls one-handed.

The A700 is slightly larger (141.7x104.8x79.7mm vs. 133x95x71mm) and slightly heavier (768g vs. 638g inc. battery) than the A100, but it should be much more durable.

Choosing a Lens

The Sony Alpha A100 can use any of the Sony or Konica-Minolta autofocus lenses. They range from the Sony 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 DT and Sony 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye to the Sony 300mm f/2.8 and the Sony 500 f/8 AF Reflex mirror lens. Tokina, Tamron and Sigma also make lenses that are compatible with the A700.

The following Sony lenses have been reviewed on photo.net:

Compatibility with Older Lenses

Like all Sony DSLRs, the Alpha A700 is compatible with all Minolta autofocus lenses. but it is not compatible with any earlier Minolta MD mount (manual focus) lenses.

Adapters are available, which allow the mounting of Minolta MD lenses on the Sony A700, but they contain optics (to enable infinity focus) which increase the focal length slightly, reduce the maximum aperture slightly, and almost certainly lower the image quality. When using such adapters manual focus must be used and the lens must be manually stopped down.

Key A700 Features

  • 12MP CMOS sensor, APS-C format (23.6 x 15.8 mm)
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • 3" LCD monitor, 920,000 pixels (640 x 480 x 3 (RGB))
  • 5 fps continuous burst speed
  • No buffer limitation with fast CF card and Large/fine JPEGs
  • Anti-dust system to shake dust off sensor
  • 40 segment metering system
  • Image Stabilization in body "Super SteadyShot"
  • Eye Start AF
  • 11 AF zones, 1 cross type, 10 linear type.
  • Shutter speeds from 30s to 1/8000s
  • Flash sync 1/250s (1/200s with Super SteadyShot on)
  • 95 percent viewfinder (0.9x)
  • Uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO memory cards
  • Shutter speeds 30s to 1/8000s
  • Weight 768g (with battery)
  • Size - 5.6x4.1x3.1in (142x105x80mm)

A PDF copy of the User manual (and other A700 documentation) can be downloaded directly from the Sony web site.

Conclusion

The Sony Alpha A700 is competitive in terms of price, performance and features with cameras such as the Canon EOS 40D, (compare prices) (review), Pentax K20D, (compare prices) (review), and the Nikon D80, (compare prices) (review). The Sony system of lenses and accessories is smaller than Pentax's and much smaller than Canon's and Nikon's. The A700's main advantage over similar priced bodies from Canon and Nikon is the built-in image stabilization, though the Pentax K20D not only has body based stabilization and extensive weatherproofing, but also has a 14MP sensor, 2MP more than the Sony Alpha A700 and Nikon D300.

One feature that the Sony Alpha A700 lacks which is present on most new DSLRs is a "LiveView" mode. The Canon EOS 40D, the Nikon D300, and the Pentax K20D all have LiveView capability, though the Nikon D80 doesn't.

For anyone with an investment in Minolta/Sony AF lenses, the Sony Alpha A700 is a logical upgrade and currently Sony's most professional and full featured DSLR. It's clearly a very capable camera offering high image quality, fast operation and (in JPEG mode) the ability to capture 5 fps bursts of hundreds of images when a fast CF card is used.

Those without a prior investment in lenses would need to carefully weigh the various DSLRs systems offered by Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus to see which best meets their needs. With a maturing technology, DSLRs at this level are all capable of yielding excellent results. Each system offers some unique features or lenses and buyers have to decide which factors are most important to them.

Where to Buy

Amazon.com offers the Sony Alpha A700, (compare prices). To make it a complete package, consider the lens recommendations above under Choosing a Lens, and you may want to add one or more SanDisk 8GB, 4GB, or 2GB CF cards.

More

Sony A700 Example Photographs

Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6, set at 230mm, 1/640s, f/5.6, ISO 200, multi-segment metering. Even though the edges of the images may get a little soft with this lens at 230mm, in many situations (such as this one), the center of the image is much more important than the edges (which will be out of focus anyway)

Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6, set at 160mm, f/5.6, 1/40s, ISO 400, multi-segment metering, manual exposure mode. Although this decorative light fixture was photographed against a luminescent window, the A700 did a great job with the colors, sharpness. I used the AE Lock button to focus on the colored object before recomposing the image.

Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6, set at 75mm, f/4.5, 1/40s, ISO 200, multi-segment metering, manual exposure mode. Although handheld at 1/40s, the image stabilization helped me capture this. I wanted the least amount of noise in this photo, hence the ISO setting and a slower shutter speed.

Sony 70-300 f/4-5.6 G SSM, set at 75mm, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 400, multi-segment metering. At 75mm the image sharpness is quite good across the frame.

Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro, f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO 640, multi-segment metering. The edges of the photo are out of focus, but this is probably more due to the angle of view and how close I was to the subject.

Sony 70-300 f/4-5.6 G SSM, set at 75mm, 1/100s, f/5.6, ISO 400, multi-segment metering. Though the sky is bright and the foreground dull, the A700 has just avoided overexposing the sky (average level around 252, where 255 is featureless white).


Text ©2008 Bob Atkins; Images ©2008 Bob Atkins or Hannah Thiem.

Article created May 2008

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Douglas Ferling , May 16, 2008; 07:04 P.M.

FYI. Like some other camera functions, ISO is displayed in the viewfinder when you press the ISO button.

Ken Hoffman , May 18, 2008; 01:59 A.M.

Excellent Review

One Note/ Error: The A700 back LCD is VERY readable in bright sun. There is a special reflective back coating behind the LCD so when the sunlight would normally overwhelm a normal LCD the A700 settings screens become very readable. It does affect the color of the image play back, but only in light where image play back is already not going to work well. So the LCD works well in all lighting situations.

Barry Chapman , May 20, 2008; 09:53 P.M.

I enjoyed the review thanks but there are 2 points to correct. The A700 has a CMOS sensor (in fact the same as the D300 I believe) - not a CCD as you stated. And you don't need to raise the flash for an AF assist lamp as the A700 has one built in - the red LED between the grip and the lens mount.

Asmir Halilagic , May 21, 2008; 09:11 A.M.

"The built-in flash can operate as an autofocus illuminator in low light conditions, but has to be manually raised. The built-in flash covers the field of view of a 24mm lens (equivalent to that of a 36mm lens on a full frame camera). "

1. A700 has infrared illuminator for autofocus. Need to check my manual but I don't think you can use built in flash for this. 2. Built in flash covers 16mm, not 24.

Bob Atkins , May 22, 2008; 02:22 P.M.

Thanks guys, I appreciate the comments and correction. I've asked Hannah (our editor) to make corrections to the text to take care of the errors (at least those found so far), to keep the article as accurate as possible.

Mal Nunya , May 24, 2008; 12:47 A.M.

Very nice review but something quite important was left out. I would like to add that there is one function of this camera that is rarely described and that is the HDMI video function of the SONY a700 and the included remote control.

I have a Samsung 52 inch LCD HDTV. After taking some photos, I plug the camera into a mimi HDTV cable and that into the TV. The pictures are breathtaking and astounding. I have been an avid amature photographer for 30 years and nothing has ever impressed me as much as this. You cannot imagine the quality of the photos - a computer screen cannot match the effect. It is better than real life and at real life size. The TV screen also works like your screen on the back of the camera with controls to magnify (5.6X instead of 13) from the included remote. You can even see the histogram or move the photo around after magnification or set up a slide show and go forwrd and back at will. Just point the remote at the camera - and all functions can originate from your favorite easy chair.

I thought my HDTV was extremely sharp when there is good 1080 transmission however the resolution and quality of the HDMI output from a photo with the a700 is far better. I can look at that hugh screen from 8 inches away and it stays sharp. The best cable-air programming will let you get to about 2 feet and you begin to see some of the processing that the TV sig goes thru. But there is none with the camera.

If you have the Sony a700 give yourself one of the greatest treats in photography and purchase a mini HDMI cable on ebay (cost with shipping is usually under 10.00.) You will literally not believe your eyes. Please believe me when I tell you that this is not an exaggeration. Of course you must have an HDTV with an HDMI input. This is nothing at all like using the yellow RCA video plug output and you cannot understand this until it is seen.

I also found out some other interesting information and that is that you can use any photo generated on a CF card even if from another camera - but it has to go into the a700 body and then played back thru the TV. I first tried a CF vcard that was in my KM5D and then tried a CF card that was in my Nikon coolpix. Each card worked beautifully.

This effect is so good that I would state that the purchase price of my Sony a700 was justified if only it was an HDTV player and had no camera functions.

If you are a professional think how effective showing a slide show at full HD would be for a wedding photographer showing his work to the married couple. I am sure you could think up a lot of other scenereos where this wound generate more income.

By the way, a 1080 HDTV screen is composed of 1920 x 1080 pixels or about 2 megapixels. Because of that using say a Nikon coolpix or any other over 2MP camera should yield results that are limited only by the screen size in pixels and the lens. Magnification is another item and a lower pixel camera would lose more detail when enlarged. So for those of you with a NIKON D300 which has the same function a truly wonderful surprise awaits you at the cost of a 10.00 ebay auction.

In another vein. I had purchased and returned the Sony a350. I found the live view of no use to me and the screen made the camera bulky and hard to handle with one hand. There are of course some advantages to live view but the flip side of the coin is that you get a small viewfinder and a camera which feels like it is going to fall. The a700 feels and operates like a precision foreign sports car and the a350 more like a Mercury.

Hannah Thiem , May 27, 2008; 03:36 P.M.

Thanks Barry and Asmir. The corrections you pointed out have been adjusted.

Rick Eselgroth , June 06, 2008; 01:16 P.M.

Nice writing, but it leans a little to much in finding fault than fact. I can tell that the writer is not open minded to other cameras, he likes his Canon. But I've seen pictures taken by both the D300 and 40D and they really don't hold up to the A700. Even with the pictures side by side the people writing these reports say that the A700 isn't as good, and it's clear to me that the A700 pics look far better. The pictures I saw were in a photo mag , I will not say which one. But unless the editor miss labeled the photos it's obvious which looks better. People just love to bash the things that are better than what they have. And Sony/Minolta A mt. have plenty of lens and equipment options, prob. the best glass. Just because it's not on every bodies shelf doesn't mean it's not out there.

Caruso Carson , July 01, 2008; 10:37 P.M.

I read the review and the reader comments/corrections. When do those revisions to which you refer make it into the displayed article? I almost gave up on reading the review when I came across your inaccurate description of the sensor type.

Also, you did not discuss the Sony HSS feature which allows for flash sync indoors or out at any shutter speed, a pretty neat feature that allows you to get flash fill outdoors and still open up your lens to maintain a shallow depth of field when desired.

JC

Chris Holt , July 07, 2008; 06:36 A.M.

I just want to make a point about the A700's lack of LiveView. The A350 has LiveView but the majority of photographers who are using DSLR cameras are not really interested in the digital image provided by the LiveView function. This is the case because the digital image provided is not "true." By using the view finder, you see the image as it will appear once printed (before pre-print edits). This is why Sony decided to leave the LiveView off the A700.

Nikola Konsulov , July 10, 2008; 10:09 A.M.

Want to see some Sony Alpha 700 pictures go to my web page at: www.flickr.com/photos/xanadu_photography

Image Attachment: file8f9cBd.jpg

Paul Perano , November 11, 2008; 05:59 P.M.

I am the first to admit to being new to the digital camera world.

When my faithful Minolta Dynax (Maxxum) 7000i died about a year ago I decided it was time to change. The Alpha 700 had been out for a month or two and that was the only sensible option available for me. With Dynax lenses ranging from 24mm to 500mm including a 100mm Macro I had little choice. No regrets at all. With some serious RTFM, (Read the …. Manual) later and the purchase of a DVD about the A700 from the net I was quickly out and about shooting as per normal.

I have found the camera very easy to use. Having turned off the sensors that detect hands, eyes, etc, I find it is even easier to use. Shooting from macro to using studio strobes to first time rally event shooting I find it a very versatile camera. The menus are easy to navigate and provide a wide range of options allowing you to use the full automation or as manual as you prefer. Mind you, all the equivalent cameras seem to have these options. I have yet to use the camera to its full potential, but I’m having a lot of fun trying.

Sony is new on the market and still have along way to seriously challenge Nikon and Canon they, but they are working at it. Where Sony does fall down is their lens and accessory range. This range is fairly small when compared with Nikon and Canon. However as Sony’s market share becomes more established, I believe they will work on their range of lenses and accessories.

Would I recommend Sony DSLRs, in particular the 700 – YES. For any amateur, serious amateur or even semi-pro the 700 should meet all their expectations and still leave room for growth. If you have any Dynax lenses they will bolt straight on and work very well. That alone is a major cost saving. For any existing Dynax users looking going digital it would be unwise to look elsewhere.

René J.V. Bertin , November 20, 2008; 05:30 A.M.

I've purchased one this summer, based on reviews I saw, the very good experience with my mom's Minolta Dynax 5D (basically Sony's first Alpha...). I went for the A700 because of its CMOS sensor, and DRO functions.

The DRO functionality works quite nicely, but I've been somewhat disappointed with colour reproduction and to some extent sharpness. I do recall reading suggestions for the customisable settings of the Dynax 5D, which gave better quality until someone reset the camera, and I can't find the article I took them from. I've experimented with the A700's settings, but haven't been really satisfied until now.

Note that I am probably comparing to my 2 Powershot compacts, of which I'm still using the 720IS very regularly. I've always been very pleased with the images I get from those little cameras.

I find the default setting to bleak, and often over-exposed (this is a general impression). Taking the saturated creative profile (can't remember the exact name right now), decreasing saturation a notch or two and increasing sharpness a notch already comes closer to my ideal, but tends to be too much. The AdobeRGB style is appealing on paper (who would not want an extended range...), but again I have not been able to get a full grab on its results either, despite shooting mostly in that mode nowadays.

I'd be interested in reading how others think and go about these things. What I'm looking for is basically working like with slide-film: images as I would like them to be right out of the camera (and preferably not requiring RAW most of the time).

Thomas Hildebrand , December 17, 2008; 11:15 A.M.

All I can say is that with the recent firmware additions/revisions, as well as the fact that I own two A700 bodies, and Sony 'G" and Zeiss glass, as well as the Sigma 10-24mm, 70mm Macro, and 30mm F1.4 HSM, and Sony 50mm F1.4.

I have been very impressed with the ease of use, yet pro functionality of the body. I will not graduate to the A900, or its next full-frame upgrade until Sony can prove why I should move up. The A700, IMHO, is excellent for all photography, and if you have their HSM "G" lenses (I happen to own the 300mm F2.8, 70-200mm F2.8, and the Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8) it is a powerful, fast focusing, dynamic sports shooting machine. I used the 300 (450mm eqiv.) and the 70-200 (105-300MM eqiv.) to shoot HS football at night with excellent results. The continuous AF combined with the rapid focus speed and sharpness of these lenses made it literally easy to shoot high-quality photos at night. The expanded ISO range also helped a lot as well.

Right know Canon and Nikon both have better bodies, but they cost $1,000's more, and they also have more glass at this time at better pricing. I have paid a premium for my glass, betting that soon Sony will introduce the full frame equivalent successor to this outstanding body. Until then, I am very happy with my two A700's.

Orlando Andico , January 20, 2009; 04:30 A.M.

The K20 "on paper" may have a better-looking spec, but its Live View is useless. Sony and Olympus seem to have the best Live View implementations for what it's worth.


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