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I bought this camera to replace my 35mm SLR with 28-80 and 70-300mm lenses. I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the way my pictures came back from the processors; the difficulty of sharing them with family by email; and the weight of all that equipment in a camera bag. However I wanted the look and feel of an SLR and the same control over the picture-taking process.
I opted for the KM A200 because of the manual zoom ring, the zoom range (I would have loved a 10 or 12x zoom but the 28 mm wide-angle was more important), the anti-shake (which all the reviews said worked quite well) and the flip out LCD. This last feature was important because I wear bi-focal glasses and the natural position for reading is looking down, hence the need to adjust the screen angle.
I couldnt find another camera with this combination of features, still neat in size and with the track record of Minolta for user-friendly handling. Having ticked all the boxes, did the camera fit the bill? The answer has to be yes and no. Yes, because it does all the things I wanted it to, but no because I have had to adopt a different way of working when I take pictures in order to achieve the same result.
The one reason for this, and the big difference between a digicam and a true SLR, is the viewfinder. Neither the LCD screen or the electronic viewfinder give you the degree of clarity that an optical viewfinder does to know whether the picture is properly focussed. This is particularly true of landscapes, where small figures in the distance, eg horses are impossible to see clearly. Bright sunlight also spoils the picture on the screen, so I end up trusting the camera to sort it all out and hope for a good, well-focussed picture.
The good news is that the A200 almost always gives you that. But when you see it on your computer screen you think I could have composed that better, but now of course you can. I didnt really want 8 million pixels, but one of the benefits of this is that you can crop half of the picture and still be left with a resolution that will print excellently up to 10x8 and maybe more. This makes up for the short reach of the zoom as well - if its not close enough dont worry, just crop and enlarge.
So now I have less control over the picture when I take it, but much more when I view it afterwards, and I can make the changes at my leisure, undoing them if I dont like them, until Im happy. And Im happy with a far greater percentage of my shots than I was with 35mm.
The rest of the camera is fine. I use spot-focus rather than wide-area because its more accurate on the thing you want in focus, and Ive tweaked the colour and sharpness settings to the max because I think the pictures look better like that, but thats a personal thing. Again, you can always adjust those afterwards if you prefer.
Minor niggles are that theres no landscape mode it seems a daft omission as its there on the Z series and KMs dSLR, so why not the A200? I use aperture priority set to a small aperture, but its not so flexible in low light. The lens hood is so dinky I keep it on all the time but tend to forget that it affects flash coverage and keep getting a shadow in my flash photos, something I'll get used to it in time. The lens cap is small and slippery to grip and it doesnt have a tether cord I drop it almost every time I take it off. Every review Ive read has complained about it so I dont think Im just fumble-fingered, but its just a niggle, not a big deal. The flip-out screen is also difficult to grip and can take a little longer to flip out than you want when youre in a hurry to catch a photo, but that could be my problem for having short nails.
The bottom line is, Im really pleased with the photos this camera takes. Im starting to trust it a lot more now and that makes for better picture taking. Its easy to carry around and handles well. Ive had to change my approach to taking photos, but now that I have, its great.
By the way, I got a spare battery on ebay for less than £10 including postage from Hong Kong, and also a 1Gb flash memory card for about £30. Thats all it needed, everything else was in the box. Its not an SLR and you have to accept that, but because it isnt you dont get the bulk and the weight. For me the compromise was worth making and Id recommend it.