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Up until a few months ago I had always been a keen member of the school of photography known as the point, press and hope school whose members rely on the fact that the technology would do everything for them however the other half decided that we needed a more advanced camera and went out and bought this, he claims to have got it for a bargain price however I was not impressed with the £695 he spent on the camera and lens package. However after some practice and a bit of trial and error I'm really impressed with how easy this camera has proved to be in terms of using it and the results have been pretty damn good both when we have took portraits and also some scenery shots as well.
Now I'm not the most technical minded of people and have no idea about half of the stuff listed on the specification, this is just the opinion of a bit of a novice however if I can get this camera to work then I guess this is a pretty good one to start with if you are looking to move on from the basic point and press cameras.
The camera is larger than I'm used to but surprisingly easy to hold and it feels quite well made. I have not dropped it yet but it has had a couple of bumps and no damage is showing. The camera is designed in such a way that makes it easy to use, maybe it is just luck but when I have the camera up to my face the buttons are easy to locate and they are nice and easy to access.
The main dial that you need is on the left side of the camera, with a number of pre set scenes and you can also load up three settings of your own, the other half has done these for us but to be honest there are only two settings that I bother with. Next to the dial is the power switch which is quite large and easy to operate and locate by feel. One nice feature of the camera is that on the information screen if you rotate the camera then the screen info rotates as well so you can always read it.
The camera comes with a powerful lithium battery which really does hold its charge well, something I have not been used to with the point and press cameras.
I have really been impressed with the quality of the pictures from this camera, sure there have been some errors and a few out of focus shots but after a bit of practice I'm a lot more confident using it, the fact that you can easily view your results and download them to your PC quickly certainly makes life easy. I have even started experimenting with other settings and adjusting the size of my prints which can range from 3 mega pixel up to the maxiumim levekl of 12.2 mega pixels and you can opt for jpeg or raw images.
Is the camera worth the cost, well to be honest for what I use it for maybe not but the other half has produced some really impressive scenic shots and also a couple of action shots that are pretty impressive as well, my favourite is of a falcon in full flight, he almost got it taking prey as well but just missed the vital shot, still it is an easyish camera to learn to use and one I'm happy with, I would probably be more happy if I was ignorant of the original price he paid.
I'm not exactly the best photographer in the world. I've been interested in taking photos for years now and have struggled never knowing which camera to buy because of all the jargon used, ISO, WB, aperture; the list goes on.
After using the fuji S9500 for the past 3 years I felt it was time to upgrade and so my next hunt for the right camera went ahead. Since I had used that camera I felt I was ready to upgrade to a proper DSLR camera and after being left dissatisfied with the colour reproduction I got from the fuji brand I decided to look elsewhere, this is when the Alpha 700 caught my eye.
I'd say it took me about 4 months slowly researching all the specification and what it all meant before I finally took the plunge and forked out for it and I haven't regretted that day since.
Probably not fair to say because it's only been 4 weeks since I got this camera but in that short time I have been able to take some stunning shots with just the most basic settings on the camera meaning anyone can pick this up and use it.
However if you want to take better shots you've got to leave auto mode and start experimenting yourself.
The camera has a wide range of ISO settings ranging from 100-6400 and a good selection of White balance settings, each of which has a setting within them.
I won't go in to too much detail of the specifics because this can be easily found online, but this camera is great for amateur enthusiasts, the super steady shot is a great function and the results are strikingly different when you try taking shots with and without it on.
The screen is a great size and brilliant quality so you can easily look through your photos and delete accordingly without the need of seeing them on a big computer screen.
Unfortunately no live-view function is incorporated in to the camera, this is when you can take photos looking at the screen, meaning you do have to look through a view finder, but this tends to get better shots and the inclusion of live-view would of slowed down the extremely fast shutter speeds.
The battery is probably just about big enough to last a couple of days unless you're shooting a lot which is a shame but more battery packs can be bought, and I would recommend it.
As for the lenses, yes they can be expensive but Minolta lenses do fit and these can be picked up more cheaply (but do not offer the same quality).
Overall the A700 is a great introductory camera to people new to DSLRs and it offers many of the features you would expect from a serious professionals camera and offers stunning quality photos combined with an easy to use camera.
After writing countless of camera reviews on here as well as on a few other review sites on many different types of point and shoot cameras and DSLR`s that I have used or tested I thought it might be about time to write a review on one of the more upmarket DSLR`s that I own and use in my business as a professional photographer.
I own three high end DSLR bodies and the one I have chosen to review for you today is the Sony A700, this was the top of the line Sony DSLR until the recent release of the A900 and it is an expensive piece of kit but one that will produce not just great images but professional images if used correctly. It has many functions and settings and would no doubt be very confusing to a novice but if you have used a beginner level DSLR then you would or should be able to pick up how this camera works very quickly.
In previous reviews of lower end DSLR`s I have made mention of how Sony are fairly new to the DSLR market but they are advancing quickly and are already for me one of if not the best manufacturer of DSLR cameras. Their range is very diverse and as they have taken a lot of the design including the lens fitments from the old Minolta brand, you can buy many second hand lenses and flashguns for these cameras, just as you can for the Canons and Nikons that have been around forever.
The Sony DSLR range started out with the rather unimpressive A100 but this was quickly superseded by the A200 which was much more impressive both in functionality and in looks, these looks have been carried through the range right up to the A700 and all these DSLR`s look and feel very impressive. The A700 is slightly bigger all round than the A200, 300 or 350 but it looks and feels almost exactly alike.
As well as looking and feeling good in the hand they are also very well made, very robust and can take a bit of bumping and knocking which they will undoubtedly get, especially if you are into outdoor and landscape photography.
The people at Sony who have been producing point and shoot cameras for a long time, quickly realised that when it comes to selling DSLR`s they could not entice serious photographers with the kind of silly gimmicks and colourful add on`s that they had been enticing people with on their point and shoots and this shows with the amount of effort that they have put into making sure the A700 come fully loaded with all the serious functions and settings a high end amateur or even professional user would require.
This means that you will find a PC Sync port for external lighting, 5fps continuous shooting, an 11-area AF system, interchangeable focusing screens, buttons offering direct access to key settings, both thumb and finger dials, the choice of uncompressed and compressed RAW files, 6400 ISO sensitivity and an optional battery / portrait grip, if you do not understand the relevance of what I have just mentioned then without wishing to sound disrespectful, you probably should not be looking to spend £600 on this unit anyway.
Going back to what first drew my attention to the A700 and indeed the A200 Sony DSLR`s, their looks, I have to say that for me the design of these cameras is almost faultless. Not only are they designed to look very appealing but the designer has also gone to great lengths to ensure that the functionality of the buttons and the placement of the dials and how easy they are to reach and use was also taken into consideration, whether you have smallish hands like my female assistant or rather large hands like myself you will find the use of all the buttons and dials on the A700 to be very easy.
The hand grip on the A700 is just the right size and is well coated so you always feel you have a safe and secure grip on the camera and the fact that it has a tough magnesium alloy body means it feels fairly light although very, very strong. The addition of dust and moisture resistance, albeit not full water or splash-proofing. Is also very reassuring and I have to say this unit oozes class and style from every angle, making it for me the DSLR to be seen with.
Like most higher-end DSLRs, the main command dial is located on the upper left side of the body. It features the same PASM and six scene presets as the previous Sony DSLR`s but it now also features a MR position which brings up the choice of three preset settings which can be set by the photographer, so if you have favourite ways of shooting or studio settings you always follow then the camera will remember them for you. The dial itself is tall and easily turned and the power switch below it is also larger than most other DSLR`s this is very accommodating for gloved operation which again is handy for outdoor shooters.
The one surprise in the design of the A700 is the lack of a second information screen on the top of the camera but it is not crucial in any way and makes little or no difference to me it is just surprising that there is room for one but they have not used one. As such in the area where you'd traditionally find an information screen on a DSLR, the Sony A700 has four large buttons dedicated to the Drive mode, White Balance, ISO and exposure compensation, I found these to be in a very useful position and great to work with leading to another reason for me liking this unit so much.
On the rear of this unit you will find a three inch screen which rotates the details in correspondence to how you are holding the camera so which ever angle you hold the camera at you will still be able to read the info on the screen.
Also on the rear of the camera is the traditional thumb wheel and to the left of the thumb wheel is a button which disengages the AF motor while pressed to allow quick manual focusing. Below this is an for navigating menus and panning across images, this feels very firm and good to use but it can be a little bit hyper active and you will from time to time find yourself having to correct selections because you have toggled too far. On the bottom right hand side you will find the super steady shot button which is used to reduce blur when using zoom lenses or slow shutter speeds or a combination of the two.
Powering this wonderful DSLR camera you will find the highly impressive NP-FM500H Info Lithium battery pack, rated at 11.8 Watt hours; this will allow you to take around 500 photos without recharging even if you do choose to view a lot of the images you take as you go. The A700 also supports an optional battery grip which accommodates two batteries and replicates a number of key controls for portrait use, making the camera both more functional and more comfortable when used in portrait mode.
Almost all DSLR`s have a TV socket allowing you to view your images on your TV straight from the camera but the A700 from Sony takes this one step further with a digital HDMI port which can be connected directly to suitably-equipped TV`s. The HDMI port can be configured to output 1080i, 720p or standard definition signals. The other main connection on the unit is of course the USB connection which in this camera can also be used to remote control the A700.
The Sony A700 adopts the Alpha lens mount and is therefore compatible with the complete range of Sony lenses and third party models designed for the Sony or Minolta AF systems, allowing you as I mentioned earlier to browse through EBay and other places for older Minolta lenses but be aware that many of these will only work in manual focussing mode when used on this unit. All lenses attached to the A700 can exploit the camera's built-in Super SteadyShot stabilisation which means unlike with Canon and Nikon DSLR`s you do not have to fork out for very expensive lenses with their own built in stabilisation.
The A700 is available to purchase with a choice of kit lenses but it can also be bought as body only, to get the best from this unit you will I suggest need at the very minimum an 18 - 55mm lens and a decent follow on telephoto such as the 75 - 300mm, this can all get a bit pricy but more on that later.
The focussing system on this unit is faster than the A100 and A200 Sony`s and also quite a bit faster than most other lower end DSLR`s but is pretty much on a par with all DSLR`s in the higher end of the market. It is a very quiet focussing system and even in poorer light it doesn't struggle one bit to do its job. The focussing system in this unit is the new 9-point system; it has a diamond shape with two points at fairly wide positions to better track subject's off-centre.
Like previous DSLR`s from Sony the A700 offers the choice of four focusing modes: single-shot AF-S, direct manual focus DMF, continuous autofocus AF-C, or a hybrid AF-A mode which automatically switches between AF-S and AF-C. These modes are selected using a small dial to the lower right of the lens mount, the A700 also has the eye start focussing facility that means as soon as you raise the viewfinder to your eye it will begin focusing this making it appear to do its job quicker when you begin to set up your shot.
To test its continuous AF performance I have used it to photograph many moving objects including a stock car race at my local track which I would estimate the cars to be travelling around 35mph. Photographing these cars continuously as they approached me I could soon see that the A700 with the 75 - 300mm lens fitted was getting the focus right 9 times out of ten which is pretty impressive, so you can rest assured if you intend to photograph moving objects you won't miss out on many shots.
It goes without saying that as well as having many built in pre-sets and the ability to set and store your own favourite pre-sets as I mentioned earlier, this unit also gives you the option of setting absolutely everything manually so you the photographer can choose exactly how a photo should look rather than the camera choosing for you. That said though the auto settings and pre-sets on this fabulous camera are so good you can very often get away with taking the cameras word for how a scene should look as it gets it very close to perfect 8 times out of ten as opposed to about once out of ten times with your average point and shoot compact.
As well as being a great unit for taking pictures with it also offers you some great in camera settings for checking the images and even altering them. The built in histograms allow you to check both exposure and colours in images to make sure you get the shot exactly how you want it before you leave the scene and the moment is gone forever, this is very important to professionals and it is also of great importance to serious landscape photographers. Even although the images on the screen in the camera are much smaller than they will be on your computer or in print, the built in RGB and brightness histograms do a great job of checking the fine details.
The Sony Alpha A700 is equipped with a brand new 12.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor developed by Sony, and although it has been said by some that this camera should have had a full frame sensor I for one am glad it didn't and if you want a full frame sensor DSLR then the Sony A900 is now available anyway. The sensor offers a broad range of sensitivities from 100 to 6400 ISO in one third increments. High ISO Noise reduction is automatically applied at 1600 ISO and above. Long exposure noise reduction is also available but it has to be activated manually.
The thing many people find to be missing from this DSLR that the Canon and Nikons in this end of the market offer is the option of live view (the ability to see what you are shooting on screen rather than through the viewfinder). As a professional however I am glad of this rather than against it because I feel photography should be done through a viewfinder and you will almost always get a better outcome than if you set up your shots on a screen.
As with nearly all DSLR`s you have the choice of setting the size of the image you wish to be captured, you can set this down to around a 3 mega pixel image or all the way up to the maximum 12.2 mega pixels. You can also choose between JPEG capture, RAW capture or both JPEG and RAW together. Professionals like myself almost always shoot in RAW because it gives us a much better base image from which to perfect on Photoshop but the majority of amateurs will shoot in JPEG because the image is much smaller in size and easier to store and work with.
The Sony Alpha A700 features two means to actively combat dust entering the body: first the low pass filter has an anti-static coating to reduce the chance of dust sticking, and secondly the platform used for anti-shake can be vibrated at a higher frequency in an attempt to shake-free any foreign particles. Like all DSLRs, there's also a manual cleaning option which opens the mirror and shutter while you use a blower. The sensor vibration takes place automatically every time you power the camera down, so it doesn't impact start up time. Anti-dust systems are seen by some as a waste of time but for me they are very useful and do a decent job of combating the dreaded dust particles and keep professional cleaning to a minimum.
The built in steady shot to avoid blur that I spoke of earlier is much more advanced in this unit than it is n point and shoot compacts and indeed many other DSLR`s, I found it to allow me to extend my shutter speeds from 1/125 of a second to 1/15 of a second whilst hand holding and remaining blur free. This is a very effective system but obviously serious outdoor or macro photographers will still need a tripod and I doubt we will ever see the day when we can hand hold shots with 2 second shutter speeds and the likes and stay blur free but the way technology is who knows!!
The main thing for me and I would imagine anyone else also is the final image that the camera can produce and if you use a good lens then this DSLR can produce wonderful images. When I say a good lens I mean a lens of at least Sony basic standard. The 18 - 70mm lens for this unit retails at around £80 but I prefer to use the 16 - 80mm which retails at nearer £180, this is a pattern that goes on throughout the range of lenses, I choose to use top of the range stuff every time because as a Professional I a either charging for my time and prints when doing portraits or charging for my talents and prints when selling landscapes but there are cheaper lenses within the Sony range that will be perfectly suitable to even high end amateurs and will save you breaking the bank.
The images produced with this camera when even a basic Sony lens is used are useable up to a print size of 20 X 30 inch which is way bigger than most would ever dream of printing, so when you go down to the much more popular sizes of 8 X 10 and 10 X 12 these images will appear perfect to the untrained eye and not far from perfect to the highly trained eye.
With the lesser lenses a touch of purple fringing can become evident in larger prints or tight crops but this is so minimal I was in two minds whether or not to even mention it. The lesser lenses again tend to give a more noticeable noise level than the higher end lenses especially when the ISO setting is raised but again unless you intend to sell your images and print them in giant poster size you will probably never notice this.
Some of my professional images have been printed in huge 20 X 30 inch poster size prints even after cropping and there is little or no sign of any distortion, purple fringing or indeed noise, this is proof enough to me that if you spend big on the top of the range lenses they will combine with this unit to bring you as near to perfection as one could wish.
To purchase this unit in body only form will set you back the princely sum of around £600, remember this is without a lens so you need at least a further £80 outlay to get just the cheapest lens before you can start shooting. In order to get the best from this camera you will need to have two lenses and therefore you will be looking at a minimum spend of around about £850, this can rise to as much as £2000 depending on which lenses you choose to accompany the unit.
This is enough to scare off most low end amateurs and that is why this unit is targeting the high end amateurs and the professional market and whilst this might seem like a lot of money, when you take into consideration that my three bodies and huge collection of lenses totals up to somewhere in the region of £18,000 you will see that it is in fact the starting point for serious photography.
I think when you are looking at a huge spend like this and you know what you need from a camera, it is important to know the exact specifications of the unit as well as a users/owners opinion of it, so here are those all important specs.
THE HIGHLY IMPRESSIVE SPECIFICATIONS
Image sensor type ExmorTM CMOS sensor
Image sensor size 23.5 x 15.6 mm (APS-C type)
Total pixel number Approx. 13,053,000 pixels
Effective pixel number Approx. 12,246,000 pixels
Anti-Dust system Charge protection coating on low pass filter and image-sensor shift
Media Memory Stick: Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo,
Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo
CompactFlash card: Type I, Type II (UDMA / Microdrive)
Slot Dual slot for Memory Stick Duo / CompactFlash
Built-in flash system Manual popup; approx. GN 12 (in m at ISO 100);
coverage of up to 16 mm (in the focal length);
approx. 3 sec. recycling time; flash-ready indicator
Flash metering system ADI flash / Pre-flash TTL / Manual flash
Flash mode Autoflash, Fill-flash, Rear sync, Slow sync, Manual flash,
Red-eye reduction, High speed sync (with external flash)
Flash compensation +/- 3.0 EV (0.3 / 0.5 EV steps selectable)
Flash bracketing 3/5 frames, 0.3 / 0.5 / 0.7 EV steps selectable
External flash Sony a System Flash
Wireless control: available
Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type
Speed range 1/8000 sec. - 30 sec., bulb
Flash sync speed 1/250 sec. (Super SteadyShot off), 1/200 sec. (Super SteadyShot on)
Drive mode Single-frame advance, Continuous advance (H/L selectable),
Self-timer (10 sec. / 2 sec. delay, with mirror-up function)
Continuous advance rate Hi: approx. 5 fps max., Lo: approx. 3 fps
No. of frames recordable RAW: 18, cRAW (compressed): 25, RAW+JPEG: 12, cRAW+JPEG: 12,
w/continuous advance JPEG (Extra fine): 16, JPEG (Standard/Fine): until memory card is full
(WxHxD) Approx. 141.7 x 104.8 x 79.7 mm (excl. protrusions)
690 g (w/o batteries, memory card, body accessories)
TO SUM UP
This is an excellent camera and whilst there are many excellent DSLR`s, this is one of my favourites and the first one I would recommend to high end amateurs looking to advance to somewhere near professional level. As I have already said, I have used this in a professional capacity so that alone shows the trust I have in the unit and when fitted with my 18 - 200mm lens (known to me as my portrait lens), it is regularly the set up I use for outdoor portrait shooting.
This unit will be a very difficult camera for a complete novice to find their way around so even if you have lots of spare cash and want to get the best camera available I would still suggest you grab a Sony A200 to learn with then move on but if you have had some experience with DSLR`s then the learning process on this unit should be fairly quick, take time to read the very substantial and clear manual and you will be shooting like a pro in no time.
When you buy this unit in body only form which is how it is most commonly sold, you get the camera, a neck strap, the battery and the battery charger and the manual and software. The software is very simple to install and fairly easy to use and as I have already mentioned the manual is very informative and if followed will help greatly in your getting used to the camera and all its many functions.
If you have purchased it body only then my recommended lenses would be the 18 -70mm and the 75 - 300 if you are on a budget but if you can afford to splash out then the better lenses would be the 16 - 80mm and the 70 - 300mm but the price difference is quite big and unless you are ready to shoot at serious levels approaching professional then the cheaper lenses will suit you for a good while till you reach such levels.
It is very difficult to pick faults with this unit and although I might sound like a Sony salesman with my praise of this camera it is in fact just my honest opinion on the unit. As mentioned before, some people might wish it had live view and some might wish for a second information screen but these are no loss to me and therefore when giving my opinion I really cannot mark the unit down for these things. I think Sony have really hit the nail on the head with this unit, I love using it and I am sure anyone who loves photography would love this camera!
LOOKS - 9/10
BUILD QUALITY - 10/10
EASE OF USE - 9/10
IMAGE QUALITY - 10/10 (when used with top end lenses)
FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES - 9/10
VALUE FOR MONEY - 9/10
As there is no option to upload photos here on Dooyoo, I will give you the link to the same review on Ciao where if you want to take a look you will find some photos I have taken with this camera.....
Thanks for reading.
Intuitive and very capable camera, which can be bought with or without a variety of kit lenses. I bought the 18-70, which was the starter lense that suited my needs best. I also purchased a Minolta 50mm f1.7 and Minolta 70-200 lense from eBay as Sony bought Minolta and so use their lense mount. This gives a good choice of high quality and low cost lenses from the second hand market, which makes up for the lack of Sony lenses compared to other makes. Sony manufacture the CMOS imaging chip, which they also supply to Nikon for the D700. This demonstrates Sony's technological value compared to the usual Canon/Nikon pair, and proves there are alternatives. Cameras are subjective, and anyone looking to purchase should try handling as many as possible to see what works for them. Many people with smaller hands may not like the relatively large size of the A700. The latest software update has fixed an issue of not being able to disable the on-board noise filtering. This can now be disabled.
As an aside, I used to use a Canon so tend to compare to that.
High performance Digital Single Lens Reflex (D-SLR) camera - body only. Superlative HD picture quality from shooting to viewing. Ultra-responsive performance, ruggedly constructed and beautifully easy to use.