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 Post subject: A900 User review
PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:29 pm 
Here goes:
First a bit of background since I am new to this forum.
I have used my fair share of 35mm film cameras since the Canon A1, Nikon FA1 and my last one is the Minolta 7xi. I have also use Medium format (totally manual controls) as well.
I have been waiting for FF since I got into DSLR with the Sony Alpha 100 which doesn't quite fit my 35mm habits. Canon 5D was tempting but I held out.
When the A900 was anounced I knew this would fit my requirements so I pre-ordered and got probably the first shipment in Vancouver BC early October. I also knew going in my old Minolta AF28-105f3.5-4.5 might not cut it so I splurge for couple of new lenses. I couldn't resist the cleverness of the n32 58AM flash as it turns out you need one as a control unit anyways.

What I like the most:
1. Of course the Viewfinder. As soon as I put it up to my eyes I amtime- warped backto the old 35mm days. I never got used to the LCD screen so the absence of Liveview means almost nothing to me. I like to shoot putting my elbows up against my chest (you know the old triangle posture) and could never understand why would anyone shoot with arms stretch way out apart from overhead shots. (Which by the way is one reason I would like to have liveview.) To me, SLR is about seeing through the lense and the view through the 900 will let you see more than the tourist next to you.
Some reviewer lament the lack of certain info inside the viewfinder but I find it adequet without being too distracting. I do agree that the top LCD seems to be an afterthought. Probably when they realize their major target audience would be Studio/lanscape artists who sleep with their tripods.
2. The resolution. One of the first thing I tried my old Minolta AF 28-105f3.5 to 4.5 and it works just fine but as soon as I compared it to the CZ 24-70f2.8 I put it away. What does that mean? I think we have just either match or surpass film with camera like the 900. The resolution and Zeiss lense feel totally made me recall the Hasselblad days. One of the item on my wish list is an uber printer like Epson 3800 or Canon ipf 5100. I can probably make poster size prints like back in the old medium format days. I knew the Canon 1DsII can do that too but come on $8000? The 900 and the up coming 5DII is going to change the lanscape of DSLR. (Nikon won't be far behind.)
I recall one previewer was making reference to the movie Bladerunner when Harrison Ford got a crucial piece of clue by enlarging a high res dig photo and now I know what he is talking about.
The high ISO performance isn't important to me because I came from film and I rarely go beyond ISO 800 (an old habit). Poor light=poor picture was the rule but I guess now people want to have their cake and eat it too. This camera is all about taking advantage of the 24.6m sensor and that is Sony's agenda. If you live on the edge of ISO 3200+ look elsewhere. I haven't tried using APS-C mode in low light but I didn't buy the 900 for that. Just whip out the biggest badest flash gun you can afford/carry and stop whining. By the way that is why I don't miss not having the pop-up since I only use that for wireless trigger anyways. I do wish Sony would put out a small flash/trigger.
3. Wide is wide again. YES! nough said.
4. In body anti-shake. I find myself leaning towards available light especially with the newly acquired f2.8 lenses. The extra 2 stop is a God-send. You will be able to shoot birthday cake blowing with the natural warm glow. YES!
5. VGA LCD screen. Lets you evaluate your shots in more detail.

Things I have to put up with:
I have made reference to some above, like the poor high ISO sensitivity, lack of life view, no pop up flash etc. If like me you missed the old 35mm feel and want high res like medium format the 900 is for you.
I don't like the little joy stick, I never liked it in the 5mp Minolta h5? and I would have prefer ipod like setup.

Be prepare to spend for at least 8G of UDMA 300X memory cards and readers.(The Sony MS HG is not bad as backup) 4G only give you 100 RAW and you can burn through that in 20 second!
Be prepare to upgrade your computer if it is more than 3 years old and you like to shoot RAW unless you like lots of coffee breaks.
Be prepare to do lots of sit ups and push ups because you will be packing about 20 lbs of gear.
Be prepare to answered to wife's questions: why have you been? "Let me show you."
Enough for now.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:48 pm 
Lovely review. Nice to finally see a user-review of that camera.
Does the RAW-files really take up 40mb each? :O That's a lot of detail!
And how heavy is it with the 27-70 and the flash? :)

Btw, maybe this should be posted in the "User "Review" section at the top of the forum. Just a thought :)

0eyvind


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 Post subject: Pretty heavy
PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:58 pm 
Yes, the RAW files average 38mb each I would say.
The 24-70 is 445g,58AM flash about the same with 4AA, A900 about twice that with battery so you are holding about 4lbs. and since the lense is heavy you will have trouble single hand. My friend suggest getting the battery grip to "balance" it out but I don't know because that's another lb.
Then again the A700 is only 150g lighter (1/3 lb) if you want to compare apple to apple.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:33 pm 
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Just a quick reply from school: the Zeiss 24-70mm weighs 955 grams.
Having quite some experience with the A700 + 70-200mm, I support your point about carrying the camera with one hand, it's quite uncomfortable. A battery grip doesn't help much for that issue. However, it's a lot more comfortable to shoot with a grip attached, I recommend you'd get one...

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 Post subject: My bad
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:00 pm 
Actually I copy the weight from Sonystyle.ca and it was wrong.
You are right, it is about 2 lbs so the whole thing is more like 5 lbs with flash.
I bought the leather strap and it help.
http://www.sonystyle.ca/commerce/servle ... 272n100273
I will investigate about the verticle grip, thanks.


http://www.sonystyle.ca/commerce/servle ... 269n100358


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:16 pm 
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Just read the review (a little late for a Sony-diehard like myself, I know). Thanks! I've read before the A900 compares well against the Hasselblad H3, but still, I'm thrilled to read it!
What I'm mostly interested in though, is the lens, the Zeiss 24-70mm. After purchasing the 70-200mm, I'd like to replace my current Zeiss 16-80mm by something that matches the 70-200mm a bit better, and the 24-70mm is the best option. I've held it a few times, but never long enough to get a very good impression.

I'm facing a dilemma now, let me explain:
For Christmas, my parents will buy me a present. They'd like to buy me an extra bag (a smaller one, my Lowepro CompuTrekker is huge!), and perhaps with some extra cash I'll start saving for the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 SSM. That is one option. The other is to give my parents money and let them buy me a 50mm f/1.4 instead. No bag, no good start saving for the 24-70mm.

I'd like to ask, not just Dave, but others too: what do you think is the best option? Thanks in advance!

- Bjorn -

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:15 pm 
Hi Bjorn
That's a tough Decision. Personally i think i would go for bag + money. Mostly because i think i would rather get the bag now, and have a little more money saving = you'll get the 24-70 faster. And i think i would like that better.
Ofcourse it depends on how much you want the 50 1.4.
That's just my opinion. :)
0eyvind


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:22 pm 
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I plan to visit a camera store some time soon and try both the Zeiss 24-70mm and 50mm, at the same time, thoroughly comparing them to see which one I'd like to have most.

Another pro for the bag-option is that my parents would much rather give me that, than a lens. They're not interested in lenses etc., so they don't see how nice it can be to get one. They can however imagine it'd be nice to get a bag...

- Bjorn -

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:26 pm 
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Hi FarmerDave, thanks for a great report - glad you're enjoying your A900!


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 Post subject: 50mm1.4
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:48 am 
I was lucky enough when my father-in-law sold his Minolta he kept the 50mm1.7 and gave it to me. It is not the same as 1.4 but hey it is free.I bet you can find some decent used one out there.
I think with the A700 you would not get the most out of the 24-70 because it is more like 36-105 and you probably be better off with the 16-80 for you get some real wide coverage.
If eventually you are thinking of the 900, well then that is different.
So far I am getting away with one set of 77mm filters (well only a polarizer for now really). The up coming 16-35 CZ and the existing 135mmf1.8 are also 77mm, hmmmm!


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 Post subject: Re: 50mm1.4
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:08 pm 
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FarmerDave wrote:
If eventually you are thinking of the 900, well then that is different.

I'm sure my next camera will be full frame, just have to wait and see whether that'll be the A900 or, what I'm actually hoping for, an Alpha 800 (lower resolution, better high ISO performance, perhaps a higher framerate). So on such a camera, the Zeiss would be a perfect general use lens.

I'm not really worried about the equivalent range of the lens. I'll keep the Zeiss 16-80mm for wide-angle shots, at least, as long as I'm still shooting with an APS-C camera (with a FF, I'll sell it). Since I find myself using the 16mm end quite often, I'd be stupid to sell the lens. However, it does make sense to me to replace the CZ16-80mm for the longer end, because of the superior quality of the CZ24-70mm.

The Minolta 50mm f/1.7 was also suggested to me on a Dutch forum, but I don't really like buying second-hand lenses. You never know whether anything's wrong with it, there might just be a tiny little scratch on the surface of the lens...


FarmerDave wrote:
So far I am getting away with one set of 77mm filters (well only a polarizer for now really). The up coming 16-35 CZ and the existing 135mmf1.8 are also 77mm, hmmmm!

Nice ones :shock: . I'm very interested in both the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8, the first most of all. I hope Sony will announce a more extreme wide-angle zoom some time in the near future, I'd prefer something like a 14-24mm instead of the 16-35mm...

- Bjorn -

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 Post subject: some more thoughts
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:48 am 
After putting the A900 and company through a hectic day of shooting for a wedding I have some more thoughts.

1. The results are as good as I can recall using Hassy 500C/M juggling 3 lenses, 3 A12 backs, Metz 60CT1. I am scrutinizing the shots on a Dell 30 inch 2560x1600 panel. All I can say is good thing the bride has perfect skin!
2. The 900 is fast, much faster than the Alpha 100 in focus speed with no down time between shots. True, I have to juggle 2 lenses instead of one but the IQ is well worth it. (Part of which might be due to the switching to UDMA 300X cf cards instead of Toshiba microdrive.)
3. The battery would probably last 400 shots max. in realistic usage not the 800+ in the ads. Two batteries are a must.
4. Total of 16G was barely enough for a whole day even when I am not the trigger happy type! I was shooting RAW only. (You learn to make every shot count with A-12 backs for medium format.) I was glad I had a 8G Sony memory stick HG I never had to dip into. Alas, I will have to pack some means of downloading the CF cards.
5. Crunching that many images in LightboxCR (in a very up-to-date computer) crash the program a few times! I hate to think 4G RAM wasn't enough. (Vista-64bit). The good news is it just needed re-launching. Basically the image I tried to open just stopped rendering so I wind up with large pixels, some times it will go away after I pick another image to work on. What am I doing wrong? (I am new processing RAW since I only shot jpeg using the Alpha 100).
6. The HVL 58AM bounce in portrait orientation works like a charm! Loved it.
7. The depth of field is VERY shallow with 70-200 at 200mm f2.8. Subject one feet in front is already out of focus. Use flash to get f8 if you need everyone in focus.
8. There is also a fair bit of distortion with the outside subject of the 24mm shots with the CZ24-70mm. Step back and use 28 or 35 unless you have no choice for group shots.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:57 pm 
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So if I'd buy an Alpha 900, I'd surely have to get a new laptop or PC with it to edit those gigantic RAW-files. Both my laptop and the family-PC are superslow... :|

- Bjorn -

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 Post subject: More than likely
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 3:59 pm 
I have the feeling I am not closing some files before I move on to the next or something stupid like that. You can probably crunch the 38M+ RAW files using dual core CPU's with 2M RAM. I will try this on my laptop (Which is dual core and 2M RAM setup with Vista 32bitOS.) and see if it is acceptible when I have a chance. I know the slide show (with 18M jpegs) does not play very smoothly on it (1920x1200 Sony Vaio) so the video card on it is probably taxed.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:01 pm 
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Even with A700 JPEG (X.Fine) slide-shows, my laptop has serious problems...

- Bjorn -

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