Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 Review
Battery / Battery Compartment
The A700 features yet another slight battery variation. The new NP-FM500H InfoLITHIUM is exactly the same size as the NP-FM55H used by the A100, but it has a very slightly different spec (1650 mAh). Though the battery itself is backwardly compatible (the new battery will power the A100), the reverse isn't true - you can't use the A100's battery to power the A700. The battery is charged in around 175 minutes (235 minutes for a 'full charge') using the supplied charger (which can also act as a mains adapter for the camera if you buy an optional cable). Battery life is quoted as 650 shots (using the CIPA standard) but our experience would seem to suggest that is a little on the optimistic side (using the main LCD for status display draws a lot of energy).
Compact Flash Compartment
The A700 sees the return of Memory Stick (DUO) compatibility - poor A100 users had to make do with CompactFlash alone (I'm sure there'll be a huge sigh of relief from semi professional photographers that their SLR can now accept the same slow, pricey memory cards as their PlayStation). The card compartment door is located on the right side of the camera and forms part of the hard grip. The door is spring loaded and flips open once slid back. Inside is the Compact Flash Type II card slot which can accept Type I or Type II cards (including FAT32 cards) and a smaller Memory Stick DUO slot. If both are inserted a menu option allows you to choose which is used for recording/playback.
Connections / Accessory shoe
The A700's connectors are gathered together on the left side of the camera (looking from the rear) under very sturdy (and quite rigid) rubber flaps on proper hinges. At the front you'll find the x-sync socket (for studio flash), remote commander port (for the optional Minolta-standard remote) and DC-in socket. Behind these are a mini USB port (combined data and video out) and the mini HDMI socket for HDTV. On the top of the camera is the Minolta standard accessory shoe. The A700 supports USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (up to 480 Mbps).
On the bottom of the camera you'll find the metal tripod socket which is aligned exactly with the center line of the lens. Although there's no rubber foot there is plenty of 'real estate' available for a stable location on a tripod mount.
The A700 has a pop-up flash on the top of the viewfinder prism, it is opened manually by flicking it up. When raised the flash is approximately 100 mm above the center of the lens, which is about 10 mm more than the A100. The built-in flash unit has a guide number of 12 and a maximum sync speed of 1/250 sec (1/200 sec with AS on).
No surprises here, a standard Minolta A-type bayonet lens mount (now re-named the Sony Alpha mount of course, and given a rather garish orange trim). As usual there is a red indicator dot for aligning the lens and lock by rotating clockwise. Just like other Minolta AF SLR's the camera goes through a priming process when a len is attached by spinning the focus motor connector to ensure it has connected correctly to the lens. This mount supports either body driven focus or lenses with built-in focus motors.
With the introduction of the A700 comes with one very welcome optional extra, a very solid (but surprisingly lightweight) vertical grip, the VG-C70AM. The grip powers the camera using one (or optionally two) NP-FM500H batteries (again, no luck for owners of NP-FM55 batteries) and is attached by removing the battery from the camera. There is a small slot in the body of the grip to accommodate the A700's battery compartment door (in other words you don't have to take the door off). The grip has a vertical shutter release that is positioned lower than normal so it still lines up with the top of the lens and the viewfinder, meaning the camera feels remarkably similar whichever orientation you use it in. I have to say, handling with the VG-C70 attached is excellent.
The grip has a full complement of switches and buttons to replicate those on the rear of the camera, meaning when it is attached the A700 has well over 30 buttons, switches and dials on the exterior of the body
Controls built into the Vertical Grip
- Fn (Function) button
- C (Custom) button
- Multi Controller
- AEL / Slow Synch / Spot meter button
- AF/MF button
- AE-Compensation button
- On/Off switch
- Twin (front and rear) control dials.
Shutter Release Sound
In some of our digital SLR reviews we now provide a sound recording of a continuous burst of shots. Below you can see waveforms of a recording made of the DSLR-A700 shooting continuously JPEG Large/Fine for 30 seconds. The storage card used was a 2 GB SanDisk Extreme IV Compact Flash.
JPEG continuous, 30 seconds
Box Contents (body only)
- Sony Alpha A700 digital SLR body
- NP-FM500H Lithium-Ion battery
- Battery charger (full charge time approx. 235 minutes)
- Eyepiece cup
- Body cap
- Shoe cap
- Shoulder strap
- Video and USB cables
- Software CD-ROM
- Manual, Warranty