At first glance you can immediately see the Konica Minolta family resemblance, certainly from the back the camera is laid out almost exactly the same as the Konica Minolta 5D. Spend a little longer however and you'll see the differences. With soft corners, sweeping lines, varied materials and ergonomically shaped grip areas. Whether this improved design is thanks to Sony or it was in the pipeline from an unreleased Konica Minolta camera we'll probably never know but it looks and feels a real step ahead of previous Konica Minolta incarnations. Build quality is also very good, the camera feels solid, reliable and purposeful with good use of different materials and a nicely sized hand grip with soft rubber. My only gripe may be that the plastic used feels a little more lightweight than I'd expected (compared to plastics used in other bodies).
In your hand
I'm happy to report that despite its small dimensions the A100 hasn't sacrificed user comfort, the hand grip is the perfect size, well shaped and a sticky rubber coating. The rear of the camera features a shaped thumb grip and the overall combination is comfortable and balanced.
Side by side
As you can see from the image below the A100 is only a little larger than the EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT) and most of this is due to the larger (and better) hand grip. As you can see from the comparison table it may only be slightly larger than the 350D but it is about 100 g heavier, and that really doesn't matter because it just feels better put together.
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Pentax *ist DS||125 x 93 x 66 mm (4.9 x 3.6 x 2.6 in)||605 g (1.3 lb)|
|Canon EOS 350D||127 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)||540 g (1.2 lb)|
|Olympus E-330||140 x 87 x 72 mm (5.5 x 3.4 x 2.8 in)||616 g (1.4 lb)|
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A100||133 x 95 x 71 mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)||638 g (1.4 lb)|
|Nikon D70 / D70s||140 x 111 x 78 mm (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)||679 g (1.5 lb)|
|Canon EOS 30D||144 x 106 x 74 mm (5.6 x 4.2 x 2.9 in)||785 g (1.7 lb)|
The A100 features a nice large 2.5" LCD monitor which has a high resolution of 230,000 pixels. In use it's bright and clear with very good viewing angles. The LCD is protected by a hard plastic screen which has a trademark Sony anti-reflective coating. *
The eye sensor (below) automatically switches off the LCD backlight when your eye reaches the viewfinder eyepiece.
* As much as I appreciate an anti-reflective coating I was a little disappointed to discover how easily this one became smeared and cloudy after coming in contact with skin.
Recording mode display
As per previous Konica Minolta digital SLR's the A100 doesn't have any control panel LCD displays, instead it uses the LCD monitor to provide a virtual control panel display which summarizes camera settings (there are two levels of detail) and rotates automatically when the camera is placed in the portrait orientation. A full breakdown of available information is shown in the diagrams below, first with the camera in the landscape orientation and then in the portrait orientation. Note that the diagrams on the left are the most detailed mode, on the right the 'enlarged' mode.
Camera in landscape (horizontal) orientation
Camera in portrait (vertical) orientation
Through the viewfinder you will see the center spot-metering circle and nine AF areas indicated. The selected / in-use AF area is indicated on a half-press of the shutter release with a red glow. The 'Anti-Shake scale' indicates how much the camera is having to compensate for movement, this is obviously a combination of the current actual movement, focal length and shutter speed, ideally you should be aiming to keep this as low as possible.
The focusing screen image in the diagram above is simulated.