After Sony bought over some major divisions of Konica Minolta, everyone knew that something new would turn up from there. Sure enough, around a year later, Sony launched the Alpha A100, it's first DSLR, along with a range of lenses.
The biggest selling point of the camera during its launch was that it was supposed to be extremely user friendly—a DSLR, simple enough to replace your regular family camera. We put that and a lot more to the test.
Build & Features
The A100 is pretty big and heavy considering it's a starter level camera. Sized at 133x95x71mm, the A100 is quite a handful and at 638 grams its not too light either. Not that any of that should matter much when using an SLR, but considering that many camera manufacturers these days have put their budget D-SLRs on a major diet to make them smaller and lighter; Sony has taken no such step with this one.
One trend I don't much appreciate in these new budget SLRs is the removal of the top status display panel, which really comes in handy when taking those difficult shots. The Alpha A100 puts that information on the camera's LCD display and you obviously get the exposure related information in your viewfinder. Also, I would oh so much prefer to have a separate jog dial for adjusting the aperture instead of the button+jog combo deal that the A100 (and many other D-SLRs) offers.
My whiny nature aside, the A100 looks excellent and feels great to hold. The big-sized body and hand grip make it the right size to fit comfortably in any adult hand. The mix of dull and glossy plastic all over the body adds a great look to an otherwise regular finish.
One of the problem that any new brand would face by launching a D-SLR camera in the market would be lens support, but since the A100 uses the Konica Minolta design, all their lenses are perfectly compatible with this one. Besides, Sony had also launched over 20 lenses along with the camera, so i shouldn't be much of a problem sourcing the lenses for this one.
The A100 uses a custom Li-Ion battery that lasts for around 700 shots on a single charge, which is not too bad considering that unless you're like a hardcore pro photographer, 700 shots are more than enough before you can get to a charging point by any standards. If you're looking at something more, then a beginner-level SLR camera is not what you should be looking at anyways.
Speaking of beginner, the design and functionality of the A100 is extremely easy to get into. Like in most starter-level models, this one too is accompanied by an Auto and a range of shooting presets like portrait, landscape, macro etc. to make things easier for a newbie. If you're a pro photographer, you're probably rolling your eyes at all this, but in my tests, these more worked pretty well for times when I wanted a quick picture without messing about with all the manual settings.
The optical image stabilization is built into the body of the camera itself, and works on the sensor shift technology. Though I wouldn't go as far as saying that it makes shooting in low light easy, it did make a noticeable difference in medium light conditions.
I think one of the biggest fears of any D-SLR owner in this country is sensor dust. There is a hell lot of dust out here and it does manage to make its way into the most unlikely of places, including our precious camera sensors. Luckily the CCD in this one comes coated with an anti-friction layer that doesn't allow dust to settle in easily, and also with sensor vibration every time you turn off your camera. While his doesn't mean that you can now change your lens in the middle of a sand storm, it does mean that you won't have to worry too much about stray dust particles settling on the sensor.
The speed of the camera wasn't too shoddy, as it took a mere second to start up and shut down. In burst mode, the A100 shot at 2.85 frames per second.
The colors I got from the A100 were quite natural. There was no added vivid effect to make it look more consumer friendly and the reds, yellows and oranges were extremely sober. Even the light gradients were captured beautifully, with all the little color changes accurately.
Sharpness levels were spot on. The 10 megapixel resolution brought out all the wanted and the unwanted details from edge to edge.
I particularly found the results I got from the camera's night mode preset very impressive. Though you would definitely need a tripod for the long shutter speed, the end result is worth it. But when I manually turned the sensitivity level to over ISO 400 I found the results a bit noisy.
Overall there isn't anything I can point out to and call bad in the A100, but still when I compare it to the results I got from the Pentax K10D (another DSLR in a similar price range), I feel this one falls a bit short on overall image quality. Even the Canon EOS 400D's CMOS sensor did a slightly better job with the contrasts and colors, eliminating the need for post processing.
The Rs. 60,000 street price makes this one a very expensive option for a starter level DSLR, in fact it's a price that perfectly suites the semi-pro range. It's not a problem fitting the A100 into either of the above categories, because even though it has shooting modes and easy to use features that anyone can get easily accustomed to it also has a great image sensor and a pretty comfortable manual control system that would please any enthusiast.
Though I wouldn't go as far as calling this one a 'bang for your buck', I still think its a pretty good camera with some really good features and overall performance.
Sony Alpha A100
133 x 95 x 71 mm
|LCD Type||2.5", 230,000 px|
|Effective Pixels||10 Megapixels|
||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|Shutter Speed||30-1/4000 sec + Bulb|
|Format||RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG|
|White Balance||7 positions, plus manual|
|Flash||Auto, Fill-in, Red-Eye reduction, Slow Sync, Off|
|Self Timer||2-10 secs|