Sony Alpha DSLR-A200

Intro

The Alpha A200 is Sony’s third DSLR and the successor to its debut model, the best-selling Alpha A100. Launched at CES in early January 2008, the A200 is Sony’s new entry-level DSLR, and as we learnt at the PMA show a few weeks later, the base model upon which at least two subsequent DSLRs would build.

The Alpha A200 shares the same 10.2 Megapixel CCD sensor as its predecessor, but squeezes it into what Sony describes as a smaller and lighter body. Like the two previous Alpha DSLRs, the A200 still features built-in stabilisation which shifts the sensor to counteract camera shake. Like other built-in sensor-shift systems, the benefit is enjoying stabilisation on any lens you attach, although the downside is not being able to see the stabilising effect through the optical viewfinder as you compose your photo.

Beyond the new body shape and control layout, what else is new over the original A100? Sony’s increased the maximum sensitivity from 1600 to 3200 ISO, accelerated the AF performance by 1.7 times, enlarged the screen slightly to 2.7in, employed the same InfoLithium battery pack as the A700 for accurate feedback of remaining charge, and it now supports an optional battery grip.

These are all nice improvements, but they’re hardly ground-breaking, nor do they include the latest technology darling of Live View. At the A200’s launch, this seemed like an oversight by Sony, but a few weeks later at the PMA show, all became clear. The A200 is Sony’s entry-level DSLR, but it’s also the base model for others to build on.

At PMA, Sony announced the A300 and A350 models, which essentially take the A200 and add extra features. For example, the A300 takes the A200 and adds Live View and a vertically tiltable screen. Then the A350 takes the A300 and switches its 10.2 Megapixel sensor for one with 14.2 Megapixels. By doing this, Sony’s effectively created three versions of the same DSLR, allowing you to choose the model which best suits your budget and requirements.

Click here for the Sony A200 video tour
 

We will of course be publishing full reviews of the higher-end models in Sony’s new extended Alpha range, but are starting here with the Alpha A200. Following our preview of an Alpha A200 pre-production model, we’ve now updated our samples and results pages with a final production model.

Sony’s debut DSLR, the Alpha A100 was one of the best-selling DSLRs of 2007. Can it’s successor the Alpha A200 follow this track record, or will new buyers prefer to trade-up to one of the enhanced A300 or A350 models instead? Then there’s the competition with new budget DSLRs from the likes of Nikon and Pentax, along with increasingly-discounted existing models from Canon and Olympus. Read on to discover which is the best budget DSLR for you, and as always, check out our Sony Alpha A200 video tour for a demonstration of its key features.

Testing notes

We tested a final production Alpha A200, running Firmware 1.0. Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test cameras unless otherwise stated, the A200 was set to Large Fine JPEG quality, Auto White Balance, Multi-segment metering and Standard Colour mode. High ISO NR and the D-Range Optimiser were set to their default On and Standard settings respectively. Super SteadyShot was enabled for all handheld shots and disabled for tripod-based test.

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