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Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 review with DT 18-70mm f3.5~5.6



The Alpha DSLR-A100 marks Sony’s debut into the digital SLR market and launches its new Alpha brand. Alpha was born from a collaboration announced back in July 2005 between Sony and Konica Minolta to jointly develop digital SLRs. Later in January 2006, Konica Minolta announced its withdrawal from the photo imaging business, transferring various digital SLR technologies including its anti-shake system and lens mount to Sony.

Now one year after the original announcement, the Sony DSLR-A100 or Alpha 100 has arrived complemented by a wide range of lenses and accessories. As expected the A100’s ‘Alpha’ lens mount is identical to the previous Minolta A-type mount, allowing it to work with any existing Minolta A-Type lenses. Indeed most of the 21 Alpha lenses Sony announced with the A100 are based on existing Konica Minolta lenses, but revised with new zoom and focusing grips, along with Sony’s branding. There are brand new models though, including three premium products from Carl Zeiss.

While all the Alpha products for 2006 have already been announced, Sony promises new releases during 2007 which will no doubt include both bodies and lenses, and intends to ‘challenge the market leader’ by 2008. That’s fighting talk, wherever you come from.

Any new arrival in the highly competitive budget digital SLR market needs to be an impressive proposition, and on paper at least, the Sony Alpha DSLR A100 certainly delivers the goods. Sony’s sensibly taken the best aspects of Konica Minolta’s technology including the built-in Anti-Shake mechanism, lens mount, exposure system, and user interface, and added it’s own expertise in CCD sensors, image processing and LCD screens.

The result is a 10.2 Megapixel compact digital SLR with built-in anti shake capabilities which work with every lens you attach, an anti-dust system, long life battery, advanced image processing and a nice large LCD monitor. That’s a pretty impressive spec, considering the kit with 18-70mm lens has an RRP of UK £699 or US $999. Lets put it this way, it’s much more than a Konica Minolta 5D with a new CCD sensor, and already a serious challenge to Canon’s market-leading EOS-350D.

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 certainly sounds good in theory, but how does it perform in practice? In our in-depth review we’ll take a look at this new contender and compare it against immediate rivals like the Canon 350D and Sony’s own Cyber-shot DSC-R1, along with Nikon’s higher-end D200, which after all, sports essentially the same CCD sensor.

NEW: Check out our 10 Megapixel DSLR group test to see how the Sony A100 compares against the Canon EOS 400D / Rebel Xti and Nikon D80.

NEW: Potential Sony owners considering the great value twin lens kit option should visit our Sony 75-300mm review to see how this longer lens performs.

Update January 2008 : The A100’s successor, the Alpha A200 has been announced – see our Sony Alpha A200 preview with sample images.

Testing notes

Following our convention of using default factory settings to test camera bodies unless otherwise stated, our DSLR-A100 was set to Large Fine quality, Auto White Balance, Standard colour space, standard contrast, colour and sharpness, Wide Area AF, Multi-Segment metering and Sony’s Standard Dynamic Range (DR) mode, with Noise Reduction and Super SteadyShot enabled.

Our test body was a final production model with a serial number of 01500647, running firmware version 1.00. We tested the DSLR-A100 with the 18-70mm DT f3.5~5.6 lens with a serial number of 1819282.

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