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Home arrow Digital Camera Reviews arrow Sony > arrow Sony Alpha 700 DSLR Digital Camera Review
Sony Alpha 700 DSLR Digital Camera Review
sony090617.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker 


Both on paper and in the way it handles, Sony’s Alpha A700 certainly gives its prosumer DSLR competition a run for their money. At a glance, this unit is well built, offers some 12.24-megapixels, outstanding LCD resolution, and an array of features likely to tickle the fancy of semi-serious photographers everywhere.

The mentioned 12.24-megapixel CMOS ‘Exmor’ sensor helps produce sharp images with exceptional detail and keep noise levels to a minimum. An ISO range of 200-1600 can be extended out to ISO 100 and 3200 and as expected, the A700 has dedicated ISO and white balance buttons on the upper right hand side of the body making adjustments quick and easy to make.

Users have the option to manually select the amount of noise reduction applied to images shot at 1600 ISO or above so a setting that best suits one’s personal taste can be applied, rather than a blanket default setting.

The A700 has an 11-point focus system that operates with good speed and accuracy and a subtle red AF illuminator fires automatically as required (when using flash) to assist the speedy focussing process.

Dynamic range optimisation is available on the A700 to help lighten shadowed areas of images as well as maintain or slightly boost highlight zones. This feature appears to be quite effective but not so much in its automatic mode as when manually set in advanced mode where it offers some pleasing, and quite frankly unexpected, results.

Sensor based image stabilisation Sony call ‘Super SteadyShot’ works by compensating the detected camera movement with slight movement of the sensor itself and proves to work very well in decreasing blurriness in images generally resulting from hand-holding at slower shutter speeds.

The Alpha A700’s magnesium alloy body encases an aluminium chassis making it a sturdy and robust unit capable of withstanding a decent amount of rough and tumble and its finger moulded right hand grip section ensures a comfortable and steady hold during use.

The camera’s numerous buttons, dials and controls are logically positioned overall with the exception of the on/off switch, which may have been better placed on the right hand side to avoid the two-handed control required simply for powering the unit.

The A700 has a generous estimated shutter durability of some 100,000 cycles and its environmental seals are said to help protect the unit against unwanted moisture and dust particles, although proper caution is advised to best avoid any damage as by no means is the unit waterproof or entirely dust proof.

The exposure mode dial located on the top, left-hand edge is pleasantly clicky and offers: auto program exposure and program exposure modes, shutter and aperture priority, full manual mode, memory recall mode (where three self-designed sets of settings can be stored and readily accessed), along with six preset scene modes: portrait, landscape, macro, sports, sunset and night view/portrait.

The A700 has a front and a rear control wheel predominantly for controlling aperture and shutter speed and like any good DSLR, offers users both dedicated buttons for control over oft-referred to settings (ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, drive etc.) along with the option of controlling said features via the main and sub menus.

A single button labelled ‘C’ accesses the creative style menu by default (vivid, standard, neutral, black and white etc.) but is also customisable to one of 15 settings (image size, AF lock, flash mode, DOF preview etc.) depending on user preference.

Ergonomically, some users may not favour the joystick directional multi selector on the A700 over the more commonly used larger four-way directional pad, although this of course is subjective and with continued use, users are likely to become perfectly familiar with the joystick’s somewhat finicky operation.

The A700 camera body (including battery and card) weighs approximately 768g, which is lighter than its equivalent models from Nikon: the D300 at 925g and Canon: the 40D at 822g. It houses a 3-inch LCD with 921,600 dots (267ppi resolution), which well exceeds Canon’s 230,000 dots in the 40D.

As a result, the previewed picture quality is exceptionally pleasing to the eye: it’s contrasty, sharp, and offers true-to-life colours (if not slightly hyper-saturated at the default setting which can be easily altered) with fine detail that doesn’t reveal any pixelation. Once users visually experience a DSLR LCD like this one, they simply will not be able to revert to anything less!

The anti-reflective coating helps to ensure good visibility across a variety of lighting conditions although unlike Nikon, Sony don’t provide a clip-on LCD protective cover and as such, the A700’s screen is highly susceptible to make-up and oil from the face, condensation from breathing through the nose, and fingerprint smears.

The A700 is quite a speedy unit for the most part, especially in terms of its general responsiveness, buffering and write speed (tested with SanDisk Extreme IV card), USB 2.0 transfer speed, and continuous shooting mode.

The viewfinder is fitted with an eye-start sensor that senses when the unit is brought up close to the face and then automatically focuses on the scene without any user intervention i.e. you don’t have to semi-depress the shutter control to focus, simply point and shoot. This quirky feature will help ensure crucial moments that are often over before you blink will no longer be missed.

The A700’s built-in flash can only be raised manually and has an approximate 16mm lens coverage equivalent. It generally produces correctly exposed images, if not occasionally slightly under, and is relatively gentle on skin tones without the presence of any obvious colour casting.

The A700 allows for an unlimited number of images to be shot in burst mode when in fine JPEG mode and up to 18 frames at a time when shooting RAW with a maximum burst just shy of five frames per second.

There is no LCD control panel on the top of the unit for constant display of current settings, battery life, shot counter etc. which is somewhat of an oversight from Sony who should have realised DSLR users generally find it easier and far quicker to refer to this secondary LCD on the body’s top edge instead of using the primary LCD to flick between image previews, menus, and the list of current settings.

Having said that, the viewfinder sensor described above also cleverly disables the LCD preview as you bring the Alpha A700 close to your eye to ensure the bright display doesn’t act as a distraction while composing, and cleverly enables it again once you pull the unit approximately 4cm away from your face so that settings can be easily reviewed.

Depending on the positioning of the unit, the LCD display will rotate to accommodate either landscape or portrait format viewing.

Users do have the option of using CompactFlash and/or Memory Stick Duo storage although wireless file transmission and GPS data transfer aren’t supported nor does the A700 offer users live view, which may disappoint some potential buyers who enjoy the creativity it allows.medal-platinum-r.jpg

Gratefully, a wireless remote control is supplied with the A700 unit although 95 percent of its buttons (aka all bar the shutter release) are relevant only once the unit is connected to a television. Full 1080i HDTV via HDMI connectivity is available to users for displaying photographs on modern wide screen, high definition televisions.

Don’t be fooled by the hype that Nikon and Canon are the only two ‘serious’ competitors in the DSLR market because with the Alpha A700, Sony are undoubtedly making a push for the front.

A quick comparison of the specifications and image quality of the A700 against its competing models will reveal that this worthy unit certainly equals, if not rivals, its DSLR opposition and is resultantly highly recommended.

 

[ Tested with the Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM lens ]

 

Appearance rating 3.5 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
4.5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 stars
RRP (AUD)

RRP $2,249 (body only)

RRP $2,399 (with 18-70mm lens)

RRP $2,999 (with 16-105mm lens)

SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 12.24 Million mega pixels
Image Sensor
APS Exmor™ Sensor, 23.5 x 15.6 mm (APS-C size) with RGB primary color filter
Image Sizes 3 Sizes
Resolution Settings

L(12M): 4272 x 2848; M(6.4M): 3104 x 2064; S(3M): 2128 x 1424

L(10M): 4272 x 2400; M(5.4M): 3104 x 1744; S(2.6M): 2128 x 1200 

Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds 1/8000 sec. - 30 sec., bulb
Exposure Metering System
Direct TTL metering (40-segment honeycomb-pattern metering, center-weighted metering, spot metering)
Exposure Modes Program AE (Auto mode / P-Mode, with program shift), aperture-priority AE (A-Mode), shutter-priority AE (S-Mode), manual (M-Mode), Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Sunset, Night view / Night portrait
ISO Auto/160/200/400/800/1600/3200/ 4000/5000/6400
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3.0-inch (100% field of view), 921,600-dot TFT, hybrid type (Xtra Fine LCD)
Viewfinder Yes
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance Auto plus 6 Modes (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash); +/- 3-step adjustable Kelvin temperature control (2500-9900k w/19-step Magenta/Green compensation).
Self Timer 2, 10, off
HD Movie Option No
Movie Sizes  
Video Out Yes
Storage Type Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Compact Flash (Type I & II), Microdrive, UDMA
Still Image Format/s JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG (DCF 2.0 compliant, DPOF 1.1 print functions supported, Exif 2.21 supported)
Movie Image Format/s  
Audio Format/s  
Connectivity USB2.0 Hi-Speed (mass storage mode / PTP mode), HDMI type C minijack, NTSC / PAL selectable
Power Source AC adaptor - AV-VQ900AM
Battery Options NP-FM500H
Battery Life
 
Dimensions (W) 141.7 x (H) 104.8 x (D) 79.7mm
Weight 690g

 

 
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