OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Started Sep 6, 2007 | Discussions
Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

This morning I attended the Canadian launch of the Sony A700. Thought some of you might like to hear my impressions of this new competitor to the upcoming E3.

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 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. Olympus have their work cut out for them matching it. Should be interesting to see how the E3 compares.

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

2005magnum Veteran Member • Posts: 4,473
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Are you able to post any of the photos?
--
http://www.zenfolio.com/digitalphotonut

Xoom
Xoom Contributing Member • Posts: 830
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Doug Brown wrote:

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.

I have to wonder if Oly's is being left behind with the 4/3 aspect ratio.

 Xoom's gear list:Xoom's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 Canon EOS 5D Nikon D200 Olympus PEN E-PL3
OP Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Sorry, not posible.

Doug B
Torontowide.com

Jon Ragnarsson
Jon Ragnarsson Veteran Member • Posts: 5,282
Nice...

It's a shame that I will not buy any Sony product out of principle...

 Jon Ragnarsson's gear list:Jon Ragnarsson's gear list
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8
OP Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Don't knock Olympus. I pulled out my E510 and started shooting product shots of the cameras (I think the SONY execs were amused by that) and looking at those photos and the ones from the A700 in the same light the Oly images are just different. Not technically inferior, just a different tonal scale and saturation.

But I will tell you for free that the A700 beats the E510 at high ISO. There's one shot I did of the studio setup at 3200 & 6400 sequentially. I have hard time telling them apart. But then, like I said, some other 6400 shots don't look as impressive.

Doug B
Torontowide.com

BJL Veteran Member • Posts: 9,342
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Firstly, having posted in the Sony DSLR forum why duplicate this post to Olympus SLR, but not to Pentax, Canon or Nikon? Olympus DSLR forum readers are just as capable as Canon, Nikon and Pentax forum readers of reading the News Discussion and Sony SLR forums when curious about a new Sony DSLR!

Doug Brown wrote:

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

Actually 5fps (same as the leaked E-3 spec.), but what intrigues me is when and where that 10fps ability of the new Sony IMX021 sensor will be used.

One obvious guess is that the ability will be used in the promised professional Sony DSLR, with a suitably turbo-charged shutter and mirror.

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.
... Olympus have their work cut out ...

Judging from the leaked E-3 spec's, Olympus has a number of advantages:

  • All 11 of its AF points will be cross style, rather than just the central one, and usable to -2 EV instead of 0 EV. (And hopefully all 11 will be accurate, not just the central one!)

  • better in-body stabilization: 5 stops instead of 2.5 to 4.

  • a larger VF image with 100% coverage instead of 95%

  • live view with articulated LCD.

So the E-3 might do alright.

 BJL's gear list:BJL's gear list
Olympus E-1 Olympus E-620 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.0 SWD +8 more
erichK Veteran Member • Posts: 6,580
Re: Sony A700 not a threat to Epro..

The information that Olympus is now releasing on the level of materials engineering, asembly preciasion and sealing of the new pro model indicates that whiile the Sony sounds like a nice camera, the E whatever may be in whole different league

BTW, Even as Olympus' engineers are proudly explaining the design principles and touting the tight! production tolerances,they are stiill carefully still calling it the " E1 successo"r--they seem have the seam tech specs down to tenths of milimetres but no name. Gotta love a company where engineering clearly comes before the maketing.

-- hide signature --

erichK
saskatoon, canada

 erichK's gear list:erichK's gear list
Olympus E-1 Olympus E-330 Olympus E-620 Olympus E-5 Olympus PEN E-PL5 +25 more
erichK Veteran Member • Posts: 6,580
Re: Nice...

Jn Ragnarsson wrote:

It's a shame that I will not buy any Sony product out of principle...

I won't goquite as far as making a principle, but, especially because my wife is a professional musicianwith her own studio equipment,I can certainly confirm that the Sony Megabehemoth is not a company that I would ever count on for either value, or product continuity or customer support...or services....or even predictablity!

erichK
saskatoon, canada

 erichK's gear list:erichK's gear list
Olympus E-1 Olympus E-330 Olympus E-620 Olympus E-5 Olympus PEN E-PL5 +25 more
OP Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

This is kinda my home forum, as the Canon people are so scathing as to discourage ordinary discussion, and the Sony people might want to hear news about the their brand.

I thought it might be of interest here as this will be a direct competitor to the camera many are very excited about in this forum.
It's not my mission in life to spread the word for any camera manufacturer.
Doug B
Torontowide.com

Tom Davis Regular Member • Posts: 147
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Thank you, Doug, your contribution is appreciated.

 Tom Davis's gear list:Tom Davis's gear list
Fujifilm X-H1 Voigtlander 35mm F1.2 Nokton Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8R LM WR Samyang 135mm F2.0 +10 more
erichK Veteran Member • Posts: 6,580
Re: OT: Hands on with new Sony A700

Doug Brown wrote:

This is kinda my home forum, as the Canon people are so scathing as
to discourage ordinary discussion, and the Sony people might want to
hear news about the their brand.
I thought it might be of interest here as this will be a direct
competitor to the camera many are very excited about in this forum.
It's not my mission in life to spread the word for any camera
manufacturer.
Doug B
Torontowide.com

Andmost of us appreciate the information and your balanced post. Obviously, the new Olympus top model cannot possible top the endless features race in every area, and it is actually quite useful to make such comparisons and try to differentiate between the gee whizz features (e.g. 10fp) that may impressand the handling qualities and important picture-taking performance capabilities we really need (better AF and ISO).

And then there are the not-essential, but convenient/helpful bits,like the new buigger, much higher-res LCD's that Sony has followed Nikon in trouncing Canon and all the rest--as well as Olympus with. But swivelling live is probably worth as much, or more.
--
erichK
saskatoon, canada

 erichK's gear list:erichK's gear list
Olympus E-1 Olympus E-330 Olympus E-620 Olympus E-5 Olympus PEN E-PL5 +25 more
OP Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
Speaking of the rear LCD ...

One of their execs in conversation said it was originally a 2.5 inch. He seemed to infer they wswitched it to match the Nikon D300 last minute (who knows what 'last minute' is in production-speak
I wonder if Olympus might do the same thing with theirs?

Doug B
Torontowide.com

Michael Meissner
Michael Meissner Forum Pro • Posts: 27,111
Re: Nice...

erichK wrote:

Jn Ragnarsson wrote:

It's a shame that I will not buy any Sony product out of principle...

I won't goquite as far as making a principle, but, especially because
my wife is a professional musicianwith her own studio equipment,I can
certainly confirm that the Sony Megabehemoth is not a company that
I would ever count on for either value, or product continuity or
customer support...or services....or even predictablity!

After all, they include a free root kit in CDs and memory sticks

 Michael Meissner's gear list:Michael Meissner's gear list
Olympus Stylus 1 Olympus E-5 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm 1:2.8-3.5 Olympus 14-150 F4-5.6 II +22 more
JohnMcL7 Senior Member • Posts: 2,109
Actually no - original post is incorrect

Xoom wrote:

Doug Brown wrote:

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.

I have to wonder if Oly's is being left behind with the 4/3 aspect
ratio.

Thinking about four thirds in general:

"You can shoot in 16:9 ratio format (the only DSLR that does this)"

The Panasonic L1 (and presumably the Digilux 3) allow you to shoot in 16:9 although it's simply cropping which means the A700 is not the only one to do this but it's not the first either. Unless I'm missing something and it's sensor isn't a standard 3:2 format which is cropped for 16:9

With regards to the Sony in general, I did read through the preview with interest as something that puts me off Nikon/Canon is the lack of inbody IS. The lack of liveview puts me off, even in it's more limited fashion on the E-510/L1 I still find it useful and it doesn't compromise the rest of the camera. What would put me off moreso though is the Sony lenses, while I'm sure they're good quality when looking at the A100 the lenses seemed expensive plus few and far between. It's one of the aspects which I've found to be a disadvantage of Olympus (Canon and Nikon lenses are everywhere) but it's definitely something that's ni a better position than Sony anyway and looks to be improving reasonably quickly with the popualrity of the E-410/E-510.

John

 JohnMcL7's gear list:JohnMcL7's gear list
Sony RX1R Sony RX100 IV Sony RX10 II Sony Alpha NEX-6 Nikon D750 +3 more
OP Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
Sorry ...

I didn't realise the L1 did that.

Doug B
Torontowide.com

JohnMcL7 Senior Member • Posts: 2,109
Re: Sorry ...

No need to apolgise, it's not a well known feature. Panasonic do seem quite keen on the different image ratios, the LX2 has a wide aspect sensor and the TZ3 had some weird sensor which allows it to do both 4:3 and 16:9 without cropping, or so I believe. I did wonder if Sony were doing something similar to that when I read your comment.

To be honest though, putting HDMI on the camera makes a 16:9 shooting option very useful if you're planning more on showing people your photos on screen (many displays are now widescreen) rather than printing them which is often the case. The LX2 pictures do look superb on an HDTV as straight out the camera they fill it properly, the four thirds ones look a bit small with the crop.

Does the A700 offer any assistance in framing the shots? It's something Liveview would be helpful for, on the LX2 it adds black bars to the sides in 4:3 and 3:2 mode which allow you to accurately frame the shot.

John

 JohnMcL7's gear list:JohnMcL7's gear list
Sony RX1R Sony RX100 IV Sony RX10 II Sony Alpha NEX-6 Nikon D750 +3 more
Alfisti Veteran Member • Posts: 6,649
It still seems over priced

Apart from a better burst mode the Penny K10D is nearly half the price and in many ways offers more camera. I dunno, Sony seems to produce me-too products and charge industry leader prices.

-- hide signature --

***********************************************
Please visit my gallery at http://www.pbase.com/alfisti

Pentax Lens examples at http://www.pbase.com/alfisti/images_by_lens

Updated August 2007

illy
illy Forum Pro • Posts: 12,160
no top lcd!

deal breaker for me

 illy's gear list:illy's gear list
Nikon D200 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR +4 more
OP Doug Brown Veteran Member • Posts: 3,964
Framing 16:9 ...

This is one area where I think the camera could be improved. In the viewfinder they have very thin lines extending out from the side a few millimeters to indicate framing for 16:9. In dark lighting, when shooting against a busy background, they are very difficult to see. I asked their execs if they were considering a focusing screen (it has removeable screens - 2 available now) that would make framing for this format more distinct. They weren't sure but thought perhaps the grid screen had this feature.

I think the wider ratio is becoming more poular all the time. Our site has always shot panoramically, but lately I've noticed magazine and newspaper layouts using the wider format more and more. I think it has to do with the popularity of wide screen TV's and monitors.

BTW: The quality of photos on a large High Def TV with their photo option enabled is just stunning. The head of their TV Division did a demo of an image at various common levels of resolution. The High Def Photo option just blew away all the others for definition, tonality and sharpness. Really nice. But apparently this option is currently only offered on a couple models... W something, and the XPR series?

Doug B
Torontowide.com

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads