Now, before I go any further in this user review, I would like to make it known that I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to photography. I have owned a Fujifilm 6900Zoom superzoom type camera for a while, but in use it was pretty much in the "Auto" mode. Nonetheless it is a good camera which has served me well, despite it's slow autofocus speed. So I will probably exasperate some of the more experienced photographers here as I type this review...
Nonetheless, I have decided to write up a review on my new photographic weapon of choice, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 (Which I will refer to as A100 for brevity). It is my intention to make this something of a long term topic and post my experience with this beast (To me) of a camera as I go along. I will not go into too much detail regarding the stats of the A100. Those are available from Gordon Laing's more professional review on this site. What I will do is post my impressions of the camera as time goes along. Updates will be sporadic but I'll do my best to keep everyone informed.
Below are pictures of my actual model.
As you can see, unlike most A100s this one is pretty unusual in that it came in silver rather than black. I bought this example from the local branch of Argos after seeing it listed on sale for around £379.99. This is compared to the black coloured model which is exactly the same except for the colour and the inflated price of £499.99. I am unsure as to why black paint would hike the price so much. However it would seem the silver variant is no longer available from Argos at the time of writing.
Despite the different colour, it is still an A100 and still works as such. Although I think that the black colouring suits an SLR better, this silver A100 still looks quite smart. Build quality is nice and sturdy overall although compared to my old Fuji 6900Zoom it does feel a bit flimsy in places. The supplied kit lens snaps on with a satisfying click and feels solid enough. It even comes supplied with a hood although fitting and removing it is a bit fiddly. One disappointment is the built-in flash. Although it is quite a bit more powerful than my Fuji 6900's flash (At least to me!), to use it requires you manually raise it by grasping the sides and pulling up on it. I prefered the 6900s flash which is spring loaded and is raised by pressing a latch button on the side. So Sony loses some points for that. Also, I do not like the finger dial as it is a bit stiff to turn and is in a slightly akward position for me. I would prefer either the finger dial to be placed behind
the shutter release as in the Canon EOS 400D/Rebel XTi or for it to be replaced with a thumbwheel, like on my 6900Zoom. Apart from that, the controls are in comfortable positions and the grip fits my hands well. Holding it is still a bit hard as I'm used to lighter cameras, however.
The screen is nice and bright and does the job well. It is amazing how much difference an extra inch makes. One of the big improvements compared to my old camera is the viewfinder. In the A100, it is optical as opposed to electronic, so the difference is startling. The 6900Zoom's viewfinder can be somewhat dark, fuzzy and lag a bit under certain conditions. Also manual focusing was a near impossibility in my opinion due to the above. With the A100, this is not a problem. Changes appear instantly and I can better judge manual focusing adjustments.
I haven't had much of a chance to use the camera "in anger" so to speak. So I'm not sure how it will handle in the long run. However, for now, the initial feel of the camera is that it is a capable tool. The question now is "Am I capable enough to take advantage of this camera?" Only time will tell.
Finally, I will look at the anti-shake. Initially I wasn't too sure if it was working or not. So I decided to conduct a simple test. With the A100 in Shutter priority and the speed set to half a second (0.5s, I think). The subject was my laptop while showing a screen from this very forum. ISO was in Auto, autofocus was set to Auto and Wide area. The lens was zoomed in at 75mm, D-Range optimizer was off. Flash was not used. Crops of the test shots are shown below. To the left is before I switched on the anti-shake, to the right is after I switched it on.
As you can see, the anti-shake isn't a miracle worker but it does improve the visibility of the text under low light conditions. At the very least, it can make an improvement in situations where flash is undesirable or banned.
Overall, my first impressions are very good. I think the ultimate problem with the camera is the person who is wielding it right now. I hope to improve as time goes on and take advantage of the creative freedom the A100 provides over my old 6900Zoom.