Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 Review
Update: The noise sections of this review (and the conclusions) were updated February 2009 to reflect significant changes in the way noise reduction works with raw files.
It's been almost two years since Konica Minolta pulled out of the photo business and transferred its entire camera division to Sony, and well over a year since the first Sony DSLR (the DSLR-A100) was announced. Two years is a long time in the digital SLR market, but the three years Minolta (latterly Konica Minolta, now Sony) SLR users have been waiting for a high end model to replace the innovative Maxxum (Dynax) 7D must have felt like a lifetime. But, finally, it's here, and it looks very much like the mockup shown earlier in the year.
Like the A100, the new camera still wears its Konica Minolta heritage very much on its sleeve, and when you start to look a little more closely at the specification it's obvious that there's still an awful lot of Konica Minolta DNA in the A700. This is hardly surprising given that the circumstances behind its development.
And, just as the A100 was obviously based on - and designed to be a successor to - the KM 5D, the A700 follows on from the 7D, and - despite lots of Sony touches and an attractive new design - 7D users are likely to find using the new model reassuringly familiar.
But of course Sony doesn't only have existing system users in its cross hairs; the A700 is designed to go head to head with the latest 'prosumer' models from Nikon, Canon and Pentax. Whether the A700 offers enough to really put Sony on the DSLR map will be decided when we get to look properly at the image quality, but on specification, features and handling it certainly seems to have what it takes to play with the big boys.
Interestingly the one thing the A700 doesn't have is any form of live view; when we spoke to Sony about this the answer was simple; they believe that the compromises involved in current systems are satisfactory, and they won't implement live view until they can 'get it right'. Whether the lack of live view has any real relevance in a camera at this level remains to be seen; we doubt it.
The A700 shares many technologies with earlier Konica Minolta models (including, naturally, the lens mount), plus all those introduced in the A100 - though virtually all have been uprated or upgraded in one way or another (we've been told the A100 and A700 share virtually no components). From the sensor to the construction of the body to the GUI to the extensive feature set, this is a very different camera to the entry-level A100 (more of which later in this review). We'll start by looking at what's specifically new to this model:
What's new (highlights)
Other new / upgraded features of note:
- New advanced Dynamic Range optimizer functions (also supported in RAW)
- New software bundle with all-new raw converter
- Dedicated AF illuminator (red LED)
- New Creative Styles (expansion of color modes function on A100)
- 0.3 EV steps (or 0.5 EV if you prefer)
- ISO 3200-6400 expanded range
- Compressed Raw mode and X-Fine JPEG mode
- High ISO noise reduction control
- Grip sensor (optional trigger for eye control)
- RGB histograms
- New 'Quick Navi' control system
3 years on: A700 vs Konica Minolta Maxxum (Dynax) 7D
Before we look at the A700 and how it compares to Sony's first DSLR (the A100) and the rest of the market it's worth having a quick look at how it compares with the Konica Minolta 7D. Our first impression of the A700 was that in spirit (and very much in reality when you look closely) it is the successor to KM's first (and only) high-end digital SLR, introduced almost exactly 3 years ago at PMA 2004. it's obvious that the A700 contains a lot of Minolta DNA (there are elements of the D7D and the Maxxum/Dynax 7 film SLR in its design and control layout) and it's fair to say that - for users of Minolta's lens system - it can be considered a (long awaited) successor.
Although the styling has been given a modern twist and the D7D's button / switch overkill has been toned down a little, it's not hard to see where Sony's designers started from, and there are many features from the D7D that made it almost unchanged into the A700. These include the basic control layout (the second dial has been lost and replaced by a simpler on-screen 'Quick Navi' system), the magnesium alloy construction, the eye-start focus, CCD-shift IS and high level of customization and the optional vertical shooting grip. For potential upgraders looking for a reason to trade up from a D7D to Sony's new 'Advanced Amateur' model here's just a brief taste of what three years difference makes:
- Twice as many pixels: 12MP CMOS sensor (vs 6MP CCD)
- New shutter with higher maximum speed and higher sync speed
- Bigger screen with three times the resolution
- Improvements to focus speed and accuracy
- Faster (5 fps) continuous shooting capabilities and better buffering
- New 40 segment honeycomb metering
- Better GUI and huge range of new features
- HDTV output
- Creative Styles and lots of new parameters to play with
- HDTV output
|Nectar Dancing by Lensmate|
from A Big Year - birds
|Foggy morning by LassiM|
|Sad clown by PEB|
|Mtl Gen X 2015 DP by MarioSS|
from - Gen X - (In Full Colours+ Border)
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has a the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.