The plastic surfaces of the A200's body can at first appear a little cheap but the camera's construction is actually quite solid and perfectly capable of withstanding normal amateur use.
There is a relatively large number of external buttons which ensures quick and easy access to the most important shooting parameters. The control layout is
fairly logical and (after some initial adjustment time) you'll find your way around the camera quite easily.
The only (but potentially quite significant) point of complaint is the location and function of the four-way controller and the combined AF/OK button in its center. In shooting mode both the button and controller trigger the autofocus. This is a problem in so far that if you, like me, have a typical, standard to large sized, central European nose you are quite likely to unwillingly, and repeatedly, trigger the AF with your olfactory organ when you take the camera up to look though the viewfinder. If you're less physiognomically challenged than I am this might not pose a problem but by all means try before you buy as there is no option to change or deactivate this function.
In your hand
The A200 has one of the larger grips amongst entry-level DSLRs. It fits well in the hand and most buttons are within easy reach. Most buttons are easily accessible, even when you hold the camera up to your eye, but the square shoulders of the camera mean you'll have to adjust your hand position to get to the ISO button.
Side by side
The A200 is by no means a particularly bulky camera but it is marginally larger than other cameras in its segment. From the table below you can see that it is also slightly heavier than most of its direct competitors which is not a bad thing. The A200 still feels well balanced, even when using slightly heavier lenses than the 18-70mm kit zoom.
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Pentax K200D||133.5 x 95 x 74mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in)||700g (1.5 lb)|
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A200||131 x 98.5 x 71 mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)||624 g (1.4 lb)|
|Canon EOS 1000D (XS)||126 x 98 x 62 mm (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)||502 g (1.1 lb)|
|Nikon D60||126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)||522g (1.2 lb)|
|Olympus E-420||129.5 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)||445 g (1.0 lb)|
Recording mode display
Like almost all entry-level DSLRs the A200 does not feature a top LCD and uses the rear screen to display shooting information instead. You can chose between two levels of detail (by pressing the DISP button) and the display rotates automatically when the camera is placed in the portrait orientation.
Unfortunately you can't directly interact with this display to change settings (as you can on Sony's flagship DSLR - the A700). You are taken to another screen every time you press a button to change a parameter.
A full breakdown of available information is shown in the diagrams below (camera in horizontal orientation on left, vertical orientation on the right). Note that the diagrams are in detailed mode.
Information (advanced mode)
With a 0.83x magnification the A200 sports one of the bigger viewfinders in the entry level segment. You can remove the eyecup by pulling it upwards. The diopter-adjustment dial allows you to adjust for -2.5 to +1.0 dioptres. Underneath the viewfinder you can see the sensors that detect if you are holding the camera up to your eye. If that's the case the rear screen is switched off. The A200 has also an option to activate the AF immediately once you look through the viewfinder (Eye-start AF).
When looking through the A200's viewfinder you get all the usual visual aids such as markings representing the position of the autofocus points, a circle showing the limits of the spot metering area and a whole range of shooting information. There are also guides denoting the limits of a 16:9 aspect-ratio image.
What you don't get is an indication of ISO speed, so make sure you switch the sensitivity back to a lower value after shooting High ISO images, otherwise you might find a 'noisy surprise' in your images when checking them on your computer.