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Sony Alpha 850 DSLR Digital Camera Review

sony20100427b.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Simon Vrantsis  


Sony crashed the Full-Frame DSLR party in late 2008 when they released its A900. With its 24.6 megapixel CMOS sensor, Sony set the highest resolution of its class and has only now been equalled by a competitor with Nikon’s D3x. Now a year and a half down the track, Sony has release an ever so slightly toned down version of the A900 in the guise of the new A850.

When it was initially released, the A900 was considered an amazing value for money proposition. Eclipsing resolutions that were considered the norm, it delivered a new standard in image detail, and a high-level of build quality, with weather sealing, that full-frame users were accustom to. By dropping the price by about a $1000 and only taking a step back on a couple of specifications that many users might consider minor if not negligible, Sony has pushed the value for money aspect of its full-frame DSLR to another level with the A850.

With only minor changes made from the A900 to the A850, it’s recommended that reader’s head over to our previous in-depth review of the Sony’s A900 to get a full rundown of the A850s inherited qualities.

But now to the differences.

The most obvious change to the A850 is the speed in which it can push those 24.6-megapixel images around. The continuous shooting speed has dropped to 3fps from, what was, 5fps in the A900. For those with a tendency toward action photography, this adjustment will be negative one but even the original A900 had a relatively slow continuous shooting speed, compared to industry standard, and photographers are understanding that this was never a headline feature, consider the file sizes being moved about.

When composing your images, you may also notice the second minor change and that’s in the viewfinder. The A900 offered full edge-to-edge coverage at 100% and that has dropped to 98%. This should have less of an impact on the way the camera operates compared to that of the A850s continuous shooting change and, ultimately, for many users will be worth the additional cost saving.

medal-platinum-r.jpgApart from that, nothing more has changed and Sony quotes that image quality between both cameras is identical. So, I guess looking at Sony’s motivation, it’s easy to ask why? It could be a sign of a replacement to the A900 in the near future but otherwise only minor changes (backwards) in its first full-frame release for a year and a half seems a tad odd. With the natural progression continuing to take place in the full-frame market over the same period of time, it’s hard not to feel Sony has remained a little stagnant. Megapixels have gradually increased closing the gap the A900 had on the market and the speed will still be a factor for some. But at its price point, there is still minimal direct competition to the A850; the Canon 5D Mk II being the only option when compare to based on a megapixel/continuous shooting combination.

If wanting to shoot under optimal lighting condition such as studio and landscape settings, the detail captured by the A850 still remains of the highest quality, and is more than a valid option, especially if on a slight budget. For those, however, wanting high ISO quality and faster continuous shooting for sport and wildlife photography, there may be some higher priced alternatives.

Please note that the Sony A850 was tested using the Sony 24-70 F2.8 like previous.

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 $3,499 (body only)

Effective Pixels 24.6 Million mega pixels
Image Sensor
35mm-film format (35.9 x 24.0mm), Exmor CMOS sensor, BIONZ™ Engine : Dual BIONZ™ processors
Image Sizes 3 Sizes
Resolution Settings (Aspect ratio 3:2) L (24M): 6048 x 4032; M (13M): 4400 x 2936; S (6.1M): 3024 x 2016
Resolution Settings (Aspect ratio 16:9) L (21M): 6048 x 3408; M (11M): 4400 x 2472; S (5.2M): 3024 x 1704
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds 1/8000 sec. - 30 sec., bulb
Exposure Metering System
TTL metering (Multi Segments, Center-weighted, Spot)
Exposure Modes Program AE (AUTO / P, with program shift), Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual
ISO Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, (up to 6400)
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3.0-inch (100% field of view), 921,600-dot, Xtra Fine LCD
Viewfinder Yes
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash), Colour Temperature (2500 - 9900k with 19-step Magenta / Green compensation), custom
Self Timer 10 sec., 2 sec. (with mirror up)
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, UDMA Mode 5 compliant), Microdrive
Still Image Format/s JPEG (DCF 2.0 and Exif 2.21 compliant, DPOF supported), RAW (Sony ARW 2.1 format), RAW+JPEG
Movie Image Format/s  
Audio Format/s  
Connectivity USB2.0 Hi-Speed (mass storage mode / PTP mode / multi LUN), HDMI mini connector, NTSC / PAL selectable
Power Source AC adaptor - AV-VQ900AM
Battery Options NP-FM500H
Battery Life
Approx. 880 shots (CIPA measurement)
Dimensions (W) 156.3 x (H) 116.9 x (D) 81.9mm
Weight 850g




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