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back to article Sony DSLR-A900 Alpha 900 digital SLR

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 …

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In this price range...

Nobody seriously looks at Sony. It is almost exclusively a Canon and Nikon playground.

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Handlng

I would definitely recommend that anyone who's thinking of spunking so much cash on one of these, or indeed it's near rivals the Nikon D700 and Canon 5d MkII go to a large photographic store and take some time to handle them.

I was lucky enough to be at the Focus on Imaging event at the NEC last week and got a chance with all three. And it was quite eye-opening. I have to be honest and say that the addition of the Live View and HD video capture actually detracted from the 5d, making it more complicated and more disappointing for me. The best camera for my money was the D700 (51 AF points, and general ease of use (even for a current Canon user)), with the Alpha-900 not too far behind.

Anyway, as I said, don't let me colour your judgement, go and hold them and try them. At £1500+ it's well worth it!

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Dead Vulture

I love it

The photographic skills of the reviewer is appalling.

No HD video is a bad thing? This is a DSLR. Anybody who requires video capture on their SLR wouldn't be in the market for such a beast anyway.

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Pirate

granny

Whose granny was used to sample the DRO? I think i saw her in a wee leather number on another site...

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Paris Hilton

16-105 lest is APS-C

The DT moniker makes it APS-C. Which means you were only shooting at 11MP. Also, the 16-105 is a nice walkabout lens, but it's far from a great lens.

I think you guys would be astounded by the detail you would get if you actually uses a 24-70 on there, or any actual full-frame lens (such as the many minoltas available everywhere).

Paris H for using an APS-C lens to review a full-frame body.

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Gripes?

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see that not being able to save the preview image is that big a deal. You're still going to be able to mess around with exposure settings when you've got the RAW file in Lightroom / Aperture / whatever - and is the LCD going to be the best way to review a shot?

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Bod
Bronze badge

No battery grip, 9 point AF

For £2000+ I'd expect a battery grip as standard for portrait shots, even if it's detachable.

I'd also expect a lot more than a 9 point AF!

Nikon produce cameras at half the price with 51 point AF (not to mention their sensors are now made by Sony).

However, maybe it's just me, but most of those sample shots seem very dark. Not that this is necessarily a judgement on the camera. Could be the way it's set up or a problem with the raw processing (and has to be noted that some DSLRs raw files will come out a bit dull, and especially if not processed by the manufacturer's own raw processor).

Would be interesting to compare the image stabilisation in camera here to those found in the lenses instead on Nikon and Canon models.

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Anonymous Coward

FF camera and DT lens?

Why on earth are you testing a full-frame camera with a lens designed as a cheap APS-C lens?

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Dead Vulture

A few corrections

"A brief tour reveals at the front, a remote sensor window..."

Nope, that's the focus assist lamp...

"no eye start optical viewfinder"

Yes it does - that's the two little windows underneath the viewfinder.

"When loaded up with a Sony DT 16-105mm f3.5/5.6 lens"

You realise this is an APS-C format lens, not full frame (that's the DT in the lens name), so you weren't really getting any benefit from that huge sensor or the viewfinder at all. Not really your fault if Sony couldn't be bothered to supply a decent lens...

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Friday afternoon review?

Okay, firstly the A900 has 24 megapixels, but you were only testing 11 of them as you were using a lens designed for crop sensors. Would you have tested a high-end PC by plugging it into an old 640x480 display?

Secondly, get a photographer to take your test pictures - those test images really are shocking. Oh, and the A900 does have eye-start - it's the two little windows below the viewfinder.

Other things are more personal choices, but do pro photographers really need more gadgets that reduce performance, like live-view? Sony left the gizmos off for a reason.

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A Few Things in Reply ....

Guys, a few things before I post my own comments.

1. Nikon/Canon playground. You're very correct on this one and it does make it hard for any 'newcomer' to the DSLR and pro DSLR market to make any headway. At least with the Sony you can use the old Minolta lenses, where as anyone with a 4/3rds system ...

2. APS-C lens in the test. The author did say Sony had been unable to provide him with a suitable lens - so don't go blaming him.

My views do reflect some of the above. Sony have the problem that this camera is targeted at a market that tends to be split between two parties - Nikon and Canon, and many a vi/emacs style flame war has occurred between the two. Pitching any camera in this market sector is akin to sitting on the 48th Parallel and asking the locals if they fancy autonomy from both sides.

There is a second problem for Sony. Lenses. Having the Carl Zeiss name on their lenses is a good marketing ploy, but there is a distinct (though slowly growing) lack of third party glass providers. Ok there are some who will only get lenses from the same company as the body, but these also tend to be the same people who will be with Canon or Nikon for life. Interestingly if you look at the Zeiss range of lenses, while they do cover Nikon and Canon, they do not cover A-Type.

Actually lenses do bring in another issue. Most people who'd look to buy in this sector are either after an additional body or are upgrading and thus will be tied not by reviews or fashion, but by what body their lenses will fit. After all once you start collecting prosumer and professional lenses, even the cost of a top end Nikon and Canon starts to look less significant. most the people who'll be buying the A900 will have owned a previous Sony Alpha model.

I've been looking for professional reviews. I read one (I was sure it was dpreview, but it may have been a camera magazine instead) where they compared the Nikon D700 and Sony A900. While both have full size sensors, the Nikon has under half the pixels and costs more. The review (and I really wish I could find it, but it was a reputable source) found that the Nikon produced the far superior images, with the Sony suffering badly from noise at surprisingly low ISO levels. Having said that, the same source did like the Sony and did say it was a very good camera, just not up to taking on it's main rivals.

Me, I can't afford a full sensor camera, but am now in the Nikon camp with a D300 (it's the lenses that tie you to camera bodies after your first buy), having previously owned Pentax, Ricoh and Zenith film SLRs and still own a Voightlander Vito-B (now if only I could find some where that will still process 35mm film).

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Image Stabilization

I doubt that Canon and Nikon will use image stabilization in the camera body like the Sony since the optical stabilization in the lens is superior, and Canon and Nikon have large numbers of lenses with IS already. I can see where it might be important for Sony to appeal to those who have older Minolta lenses.

Remember, you aren't just buying a camera body - you are buying a system. That's the big advantage that Canon and Nikon have right now.

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Paris Hilton

blind reviewer?

Hmmm...My 10 year old niece can take infinitely better pictures....is this some kind of joke?? Seriously, but wtf el reg? Paris, coz even she knows how to handle a black 4-pounder....

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Anonymous Coward

Dirk Vandenheuvel

You obviously having been paying a lot of attention lately, but whatever.

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get your facts straight

As mentioned in a couple of comments: get your facts straight. Don't go calling names if you don't actually know them.

yes there IS eyestart focussing.

No the little red screen on the front is the AF Assist light

No it doesn't have LiveView but it DOES have Intelligent Preview

No it doesn't have a video function, but you don't really need it.

It IS FF so don't test it with a DT lens (which is made for APS-C size sensors).

Bassicly this is a wrong review!

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It's A DSLR For Pete's Sake!

If you guys are looking for Video .... go buy a camcorder for pete's sake it's a DSLR...

And thats a teerible lens to test it with......

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Silver badge

Autofocus? That's for wimps.

In answer to those for whom these new fangled features are too complicated, I have a novel suggestion: don't use them (or simply RTFM.)

In addition, (HD) video capture on DSLRs opens up creative possibilities that have until now only been possible with professional cinema quality equipment, due to the characteristics of the image formats and lenses used in DSLRs.

New features may not be useful to every owner of a particular camera, but they rarely detract from the quality of output or versatility of the system, and to equate "not useful to me" with "useless" is nonsense.

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Another 85% review?

85% again? Other numbers are available.

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Anonymous Coward

From what I read elsewhere

...the noise once you get above ISO400 renders some pictures unusable. If it can't take a decent picture then the rest is really icing on a badly baked cake.

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@Bod

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.

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@ 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.

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Bod
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@blackworx

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.

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