All Sony Alpha digital SLRs have a Dynamic Range Optimizer feature which helps to bring out details in shadows and highlights. The default settings are Off, DRO Standard and DRO Advanced.
However, on the A700, there are 5 more levels, for manual customization, and often, at Level 3, you get a stronger effect than with DRO Advanced.
Aperture Priority, 17mm F5.6 1/800s ISO200, DRO off.
Aperture Priority, 17mm F5.6 1/800s ISO200, DRO Level 5.
Aperture Priority, 17mm F8.0 1/250s ISO200, DRO off.
Aperture Priority, 17mm F8.0 1/250s ISO200, DRO Level 5.
What it does simply, is change the ISO for certain areas of the image, brightening it smarter than most Photoshopping can or will do. This saved me from hours of dodging and burning! (Though I enjoy that activity, heh!)
Of course, there are limitations – having DRO on slows down your burst shot framerate slightly as the camera has to process the pictures. Also, if you’re shooting at ISO1600, the darker spots that get brightened by say DRO Level 5 will have its noise become very, very obvious. However, DRO Level 5 is awesome in bright daylight and contrasty conditions.