Hands on with the new A700

Started Sep 6, 2007 | Discussions thread
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Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,959
Hands on with the new A700

This morning I attended the Canadian launch of the Sony A700. Thought some of you might like to hear my impressions.

It's a very solid, professional feeling camera with some unique features. With grip it's slightly larger than the Canon 20/30D w/grip, but lighter in weight. Very comfortable combination, and all the test cameras had the grip attached.

The Sony grip includes all of the main controls for focus selection and exposure found on the back of the camera itself, and is one of the most well-thought out I've seen. The grip is magnesium, and the information screen on the back of the camera switches to portrait orientation when using the camera for vertical shots.

Also, the location of the shutter release on the grip is very sensible. They cut the grip down on the front so the release is more in line with the lens. More comfortable, more stable, and easier to access the control buttons.

You can shoot in 16:9 ratio format (the only DSLR that does this) and you can output in that aspect ratio to select Bravia TV's in HDMI format. When the television is selected to photo mode the results are amazing. Like having a 37 inch computer monitor. Much, much more detailed than looking at photos on an ordinary TV, or even an HD television.

The LCD on the back is very high resolution. Very nice feature. Easy to see the true detail and exposure of a photo.

The price will be $1599 CDN body only, $2050 CDN body w/ the new kit lens which is a 24 - 160mm equivalent . The lens has an ED element and two aspherical elements. But it is APS only, no good for full frame which Sony are rumoured to be working on.

Results from the lens were good to very good. After only about 50 exposures I'd say my rough impression is that it's better at the wide end than at the telephoto.

The A700's top speed is 6400 ISO. I shot several frames at this setting and you'll be shocked to know ... it's actually useable. If only for smaller prints or in Hail Mary situations, but in a variety of circumstances it did quite well considering. Certainly there is noise, against some backgrounds and lighting colour blotchiness, but in others the photos were little different than the 20D at 3200 ISO, and even in a few frames close to the 20D's 1600 ISO. It varies with the lighting and how much shadow information there is in the shot. In bright perfect lighting it's really good for the speed we're talking about, however, that's not likely to be the circumstance in which you'd need such an extreme setting.

There are environmental seals around all the buttons and switches but the Sony reps went out of their way to stress the camera is not considered water-proof or even splash-proof.

Max. frames per second is 6 fps. but their technical person said the sensor is capable of doing 10fps.

They've tweaked the included software and it is now faster than previous versions.

I had the camera to myself for about twenty minutes. The launch was at the Jane Corkin Gallery in The Distillery District. We were allowed to shoot at random outside as well as use a studio setup w/model. The images I shot ranged from 100 - 6400 ISO. I'd say they were pretty impressive. With further familiarization with the camera I'm sure it would be easier to match settings to the subject and achieve even better results.

Eleven point auto focus - feels much quicker than my 20D, with a double cross high precision sensor in the centre for lenses 2.8 and larger.

Focus was off in just a few of the early frames as I had it in auto focus point selection mode, once I switched it to centre point they were dead on. Even grab shots of people walking by were perfectly sharp.

The viewfinder is nice and big, and very bright. Really nice.

The back LCD is easy to see, even in the bright sunshine of midday here, and gave a good representation of the final results.

It's a seriously impressive camera.

BTW: I asked one of their executives about the full frame direction - no comment. When we would be seeing the highest level pro model - no comment. Is the A100 discontinued - 'the A100 will carry through the Christmas season'

Very good presentation, well executed and informative, all of the Sony people were well-versed in the product. Good professional effort all round.

Doug B
Torontowide.com

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