We were also disappointed with a couple more features. It’s handy having the option of two memory cards, although the camera won’t automatically switch cards when one of them fills up. That said, you can quickly swap over cards by using the function button.
The preview function takes a snapshot of the scene which is shown on the large LCD screen. You then have the option of making a number of adjustments - depending on the camera mode - such as exposure compensation and white balance. You can then compare the adjusted image with original by pressing the display button. It’s a handy feature, but because the preview image is a compressed RAW file, you can’t save it, which is a pain if you have captured the decisive moment. But don’t let these gripes make you think that using the DSLR-A900 isn’t a pleasant experience – there is a lot to like about this camera.
Performance-wise, the A900, produces the type of quality you'd expect from a camera of this type: very good indeed. Sadly, Sony was unable to provide us with one of the Carl Zeiss lenses that are an ideal partner for the A900, so there’s probably even more performance to be squeezed out of it. RAW and JPEGs offered similar quality, although the former looks a tad sharper when using Sony’s RAW viewer software. Noise levels were low, although this creeps up between ISO 400 and 500. The High ISO noise reduction system’s impact was more subtle than spectacular. Our advice: stick to the lower ISO speeds where possible. The AF system was reasonably good, if a little sluggish at times.
One thing that did impress though was the integrated stabilisation system, which works with whatever lens you use. It works by detecting camera shake and adjusting the CCD’s position accordingly. Sony says it offers up to four stops of compensation, allowing users to use slower shutter speeds without noticeable camera shake. We took a number of shots at the extreme end of our 105mm zoom, starting with a 1/125 shutter speed. We then reduced this by one stop until 1/8, and compared the results with image stabilisation switched both on and off. The results were impressive, although we found that SuperSteadyShot Inside offers around three stops of compensation rather than four.
We weren’t so impressed with the D-Range Optimiser system, which is designed to improve contrast when, for example, shooting against a strong backlight. DRO does indeed boost detail that is normally hidden, but the price is increased noise. However, we loved the continuous shooting mode, which had no problem keeping up with fast moving vehicles.
Sony is snapping at the heels of Canon and Nikon, and with the DSLR-A900, Sony give its rivals a good old nip. This is a very good high-end DSLR that will please many users. That said, we think some potential buyers might be put off by the lack of one or two features. We also think that there’s room for improvement in the area of handling. But its full frame viewfinder and built-in image stabilisation system are cracking features to have. If you're considering buying a Canon EOS D5 Mark II or a Nikon D700, you should take a long hard look at the DSLR-A900 too. ®
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Sony DSLR-A900 Alpha 900 digital SLR
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.