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
|The Lone Photographer by ed rader|
from My Best Photo of the Week
|Neighbourhood Watch by Stevie Boy Blue|
from Zoo trip ~ Cute...
Fujifilm released a firmware upgrade for its X-T3 mirrorless camera that addresses issues with distortion compensation and the mechanical lock on SD cards.
The app's algorithms have been trained using using 200 million cropping data points from real photographers.
Thanks to a software update, the Loupedeck+ editing console can now be used for video editing.
British photographic engineer MTF Services is claiming the world’s first third-party lens adapters for the new Nikon Z system with a collection of four units designed to allow cinema lenses to be mounted on the mirrorless full frame bodies.
Think Tank Photo has updated its line of heavy-duty rain covers and introduced a new, compact version for emergency situations.
The X-T3 is our first opportunity to analyze what's likely to be Fujifilm's next generation image sensor. Take a look at how it performs next to the competition in our studio test scene.
Canon's new normal is seriously sharp wide open. After shooting with it for a few days, we've prepared a gallery of real-world sample images.
Nikon will cease offering Brazil-based customer service and technical support, though the company stresses that it will still offer technical assistance and warranty repairs for valid warranties.
Two years ago, CatLABS of JP announced a plan to save Packfilm from the dead. Now, it's announced it's giving up its efforts to better focus its resources elsewhere.
The GoPro Fusion is designed to make it easy to capture 360-degree video and stills. We took it out recently on a typically hot Seattle summer day to see what it can do.
We've got our hands on a full-production Nikon Z7 camera and have updated our gallery with additional samples.
A new Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for Chroma Chrono, a programmable RGB camera flash that emits multiple colors during long exposures.
Think Tank Photo has launched a new lineup of six dual-access, water-resistant protective lens cases it calls Lens Case Duo.
Canon and Nikon finally entered the full-frame mirrorless market this summer with the brand-new RF and Z mounts. Now that we've had some time with the cameras, we wanted to revisit our earlier predictions and take stock.
The devices' camera specs look pretty much identical to last year's iPhone X but under the hood a number of important improvements have been made.
Blackmagic Design has announced the public beta of its new Blackmagic RAW video codec. The company says the new format combines the benefits of shooting Raw video with the ease of use and smaller file sizes usually associated with non-Raw video files.
Serif, the company behind the Affinity suite, has announced the latest update for its mobile Photoshop competitor Affinity Photo for iPad.
The Atomos Ninja V external video recorder and monitor will be ready to ship at the end of this month. The 5.2in Ninja V is designed to provide a smaller option, while still offering many of the features of the larger 7-inch models.
Having shot with the camera, spoken to Canon and read the tea leaves, here's what DPR Technical Editor Richard Butler thinks the EOS R tells us about Canon and the RF's mount's future.
After last week's teaser, lighting manufacturer Profoto has announced its 'small big' new product. The B10 is designed to be used as studio flash head but in a very small body, and has a powerful continuous light source for videographers as well.
Konseen has launched Photo Studio, a new light box tent large enough to photograph people, as well as objects.
Seagate has introduced new high-capacity hard drives for Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices: the 14TB IronWolf and 14TB IronWolf Pro HDDs.
The case was first announced earlier this year as a Kickstarter campaign and comes with a range of features aimed at iPhone photographers.
Manfrotto has introduced a new two-in-one tripod to its Befree lineup. Called the Befree 2N1, this new addition is both a tripod and monopod in one and is available with both of Manfrotto's locking mechanisms.
This new high dynamic range editing software comes with an AI-powered Quantum HDR Engine for improved photo merging.
Apple has unveiled the next generation of its iPhone X in the form of three variants: the 5.8" iPhone XS and 6.5" iPhone XS Max with OLED screens, and the 6.1" iPhone XR with an LCD and single rear camera.
Ahead of the launch of the CamRanger II the company has announced a mini version of its wireless remote control system that it says has a longer range than the original in a body half the size.
Lens manufacturer Sigma has announced a trio of fast cinema lenses for full-frame camera systems, that it says will also be available in the future in the LPL mount for Arri’s large format camera system.
LumaPod is a a new tripod being funded on Kickstarter that takes just four seconds to set up and uses patented tension technology to keep your shots steady in a compact design.