Sony DSLR-A900 Alpha 900 digital SLR
Looks great on paper
Review If cameras were rated on specifications alone, Sony’s Alpha 900 would be a hard act to beat. Let’s consider the evidence: there’s a full-frame Exmore CMOS sensor packed with 24.6 million pixels - and, please note, this is the effective number. The sensor measures 35.9 x 24mm. Other goodies include a built-in image stabilisation system, SuperSteadyShot Inside; two image processors to handle all that extra picture data; twin anti-dust systems and HDMI output.
Sony's Cyber-shot Alpha 900: on paper, perfect
But as we all know, figures are one thing - facts are another. What looks on paper doesn’t always turn out that great in practice. So the question is: does the A900 cut the mustard?
Naturally, this is a top-end model - Sony calls it its “flagship” offering - aimed at professionals and serious enthusiasts, but we think that Sony may have missed a trick or two with its target audience, because the A900 has no Live View, no video mode, no eye start optical viewfinder and no pop-up flash. No doubt some serious photographers won’t miss these features, and will probably thank Sony for delivering a DSLR that cuts out the 'frills'.
But one person’s frill is another person’s handy feature, and we think a fair number of the so-called 'prosumer' market will miss some of these elements, not least when you consider that one potential rival to the A900 – Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II – offers HD video capture.
That said, the A900 is impressively built. With a magnesium body and aluminium alloy chassis, it certainly feels solid and robust. And - ye gods - you certainly feel its weight. When loaded up with a Sony DT 16-105mm f3.5/5.6 lens, CompactFlash card and battery, our review sample tipped the scales at 1.5kg. The camera body weighs 928g. Add a flash unit and you’ll certainly need to ensure you’ve eaten your spinach. Incidentally, the camera is compatible with a-mount lenses from both Sony and Konica Minolta.
Hefty to handle
A brief tour reveals at the front, a remote sensor window, flash sync terminal, focus mode dial and preview button – more on this later. On the top are a mode dial - which has the usual PASM modes, plus three user-defined custom settings - a hot-shoe sitting atop a massive pentaprism head, small LCD panel, and buttons for ISO, drive mode, white balance, exposure compensation and illuminating the top LCD panel. In front of these are the shutter button and front control dial.
Sure, you don't *need* 51 AF points. You don't even need 1. It's an assist that's all.
The main benefit is in object tracking. You can do it the hard way manually of course, or let the camera track and continually focus on a moving object. More points makes it a easier for the camera to track accurately (in Nikon's case at least it works on a lot more than just having more AF points, and uses various scene evaluation techniques to find the object you are trying to focus on and keep it focused).
But it's an optional feature to use. The point is however that Nikon and Canon's top end cameras provide far better options like this than Sony obviously are. Hence for the price I'd expect far more.
Now I don't really need it, which is I don't spend £2000 on a camera! But if I did, I'd want my money's worth.
@ Michelle Knight
So, that means that Hasselblads, with ISO400 as the maximum, can't take decent pictures? What makes you think that High ISO is needed to take decent pictures. I primarily shoot available light portraits and landscapes. I've used many cameras before, and charted my ISO usage - 92% of my shots were ISO 400 or below. The rest were 800 and 1600.
I used the A900 for a week on loan, and traveled using the CZ 16-35 and took some portraits with the CZ 135mm lens. In all cases, including 2 test portrait shots at 800 and 1600 ISO, the detail was astounding, and very very very faaaar from "unusable". In fact, the noise profile seems better to me than the 1DsMkIII, and has higher detail too.
You're not really a photographer are you? 51 point AF is not needed, period. In 99% of situations it is faster and easier to work with only one. If you need multiple AF points then 9 is more than enough. Focusing accuracy is way more important.
fishman and dapprman
Absolutely on the money both of you. IS in lenses is far superior as at long focal lengths (500mm) where you need it most the Sony system can provide the least compensation - The CCD can't move far enough. You're also right about users upgrading having bought into a system - the most important part about this sector of the market.
As for the nay-sayers criticising the inclusion of live view and HD recording on the 5D Mk II...
Live view is very handy for macro photography.
HD recording is aimed primarily at journalists. Quality-wise it beats my HV30 camcorder, I'm guessing because of the extra lens quality in front of the sensor.
Yes I have one and, no, I've never looked to either of these features to justify the purchase. I've found the HD facility great when I don't wish to take both on holiday.
Another 85% review?
85% again? Other numbers are available.