Somebody’s very happy today. Why?
That’s the first shot from his Sony Alpha 700. Shot with the Minolta 50mm F1.4 in camwhore arm’s length.
Launched in Malaysia on the 2nd of October 2007, with a recommended retail price of RM5499, body only, or RM6999 with Sony 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DT lens. Of course, shops in Sungei Wang will offer much, much cheaper prices.
Everything about it has been refined. The mode dial is easier to turn, and the buttons have the right amount of travel. You cannot help but feel the difference. The grip is better and leaves no leftover pinkies.
Autofocus is improved immensely; upon half-pressing it got to work immediately, unlike the A100 which sometimes went “oh, you want to focus?” with long dark zoom lenses.
It also works a lot better with lenses that are F2.8 and brighter, due to the more sensitive F2.8 sensors in the middle. There are also dual cross-type sensors in the middle… which I’d rather have than 11 cross-type sensors all over the place. One really good, consistent AF point would trump a few cross-type sensors.
More buttons, finally! The Drive, WB and ISO buttons are indeed a bit hard to reach with small hands, but the Quick Navi joystick and programmable C button attempts to circumvent that.
At least it’s on the right hand, so even though I have to relax my right-hand grip (until I figure out how I’m supposed to press it) it’s not as bad as having buttons on the top-left like the Nikon D200.
The things that matter most to me, like the AF/MF button and AEL button, are right there where I don’t have to move my right-hand at all.
The viewfinder now shows everything; I can even change Kelvin white balance and the Green/Magenta slider in the viewfinder!
The shutter is also very sensitive, but nicely so; the first few times I tried the A700 I ended up tripping the shutter without even pressing too hard.
And then there’s the beautiful 640×480 3″ LCD screen. Yes, Nikon has a claim to have announced their Nikons with 640×480 3″ screens first… but Sony put out their products way earlier. I love how pressing the AF/MF button in playback zooms straight to 100%. A 12 megapixel image, for example, gets zoomed to 6.7x (4272/640 = 6.7x). Zooming in any more would give a blurry interpolated image. Thus, it’s just there if you’re paranoid about checking focus while chimping… though the immense resolution is enough to tell you if it’s in blistering focus or not.
The included remote control! It has a button to trigger the shutter and 2 second delayed shutter. The other buttons on the remote only work when it is connected to a TV, like the sweet Sony HDMI-compatible PhotoTV.
There is a PC Sync socket, just like on the Minolta Dynax 7 and Konica Minolta 7 Digital. The Nikon SB-28 here, however, was triggered with an optical slave attached, and the Sony A700 pop-up flash set to Manual Power, 1/16th of a second. Yes, now even the pop-up flash can be set manually.
The Sony A700 next to the Dynax 7.
Back! There is one missing generation in between – the Konica Minolta 7 Digital, which was almost identical to the Dynax 7.
But anyway, on to the shots!
KJ is no longer underexposed, due to what seems to be much better exposure algorithms and better tonality. 50mm F2.8 1/80s ISO640. Xian Jin shot this, hence the weird in-between ISO setting. He likes the tonality, and so do I!
If not for the whites melting out, I’d say the blacks are pretty color film-like, never too black.
400mm F5.6 1/30s ISO3200. Finally, I can shoot moderately lit performances. The A700 worked the Tamron 200-400mm F5.6 well, with its strong, fast-focusing motor. It focused with confidence, unlike the A100 which would hunt at such focal lengths.
400mm F5.6 1/10s ISO6400. Surprisingly, it could still focus in such darkness! (Don’t tell me it’s the AF assist light working wonders, silly; I was zoomed at 400mm.)
400mm F5.6 1/4s ISO6400. Another friend who bought the A700 said that at IS06400, it could focus and see things the human eye could not see. All I saw were some dark figures!
And yes, this was handheld standing up, elbows unbraced.
To paraphrase a Sony Alpha Lenses book (which is much like the Canon EF Lens Work III book) about Super SteadyShot:
It also enables photographers to enjoy the benefits of image stabilization with large-aperture medium telephoto and wide-angle lenses, which by their very nature are extremely difficult to equip with optical stabilization systems.
That makes sense; that’s why you don’t see a simple 50mm getting IS/VR. There’s no space to shrink all the light and put it through a stabilizing lens, in the simple Gaussian designs of bright primes.
I don’t have a Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT anymore, as I sold it with the A100 to a friend. Yes, that means that I do not have anything DT, ADI, Sony, plastic mount, or F3.5-5.6! This leaves me with a gaping hole between 8mm and 28mm.
More testing will ensue. As you can tell by the time I posted this entry, I have not slept since I got the A700!