Sony A700 Operation
I've always been impressed with Minolta SLR camera designs, as well as their optics. Taking nothing away from Minolta's design aesthetic, I see many Sony aspects in the A700's design, including a tendency for fine, precise, and intricate engineering of each part. Much like the R1 and the F818, the Sony A700 is built for the enthusiast. Though the Sony A700 doesn't quite bristle with the analog dials I so enjoyed on the Maxxum 7D, its controls are thoughtfully placed for easy visibility and quick adjustment.
The Sony A700's external dials and buttons access most of the main camera settings, reserving the LCD menu system for less commonly-used functions. The Control dials access shutter speed and aperture settings, in addition to a wide range of functions when used with other control buttons. Most of the camera adjustments are made by pressing a button, and turning a Control dial. Menus are navigated with the Multi-controller joystick, which is surprisingly easy to use. I usually dislike most joysticks, but this one has just the right mix of resistance and play. The major functions not accessed by an external control are clustered under the Function menu, which you activate by pressing the Function button. Unlike most competitors, the Sony A700 does not include a top-panel status LCD, relying on the main LCD to fulfill that function.
Sony A700 Record Mode Displays
The Sony A700's rear-panel, 3.0-inch, TFT color LCD monitor is for image review, status display, and menu display. Unlike recent DSLRs from some of its competitors of late though, the Alpha A700 doesn't offer any form of live view mode, so the LCD can't be used to frame shots. Since the A700 does not have a top status LCD panel, the large, high resolution (640 x 480 full-color pixels, 921,600 dot) color LCD is put to good use to display various camera settings. We do have somewhat mixed feelings about using the rear panel LCD for setting readouts. While it provides a much larger area than the more typical small black & white data readouts, it necessarily also consumes more power. While the Sony A700's battery life is quite good, it'd arguably be even better if it didn't require the main LCD screen to be lit so much of the time. That said though, we do really like the wealth of camera information that the A700 makes available on its rear screen.
Sony A700 LCD Display Screen Info
1 - Shutter Speed
14 - Aperture Value
Here's a nice ergonomic touch, carried over from the A100: The Sony A700 has an orientation sensor inside, and uses it to keep the display oriented in the right direction so the information will appear right-side up when viewed by the photographer, whether shooting horizontally, or in either vertical orientation. (For those who might be wondering though, no, it won't turn completely upside-down.)
Large- and Small-Type Options
Sometimes you don't need to see every last detail about the camera's operation, but rather prefer to concentrate on just the most important settings. The Sony A700 has two different display options, that apply to both the horizontal and vertical formatted data screens. The large-type/low-density option drops the details on metering mode, AF mode, Creative Style, Flash mode, and Contrast, Saturation, and Brightness settings.
Sony A700 Playback Mode Displays
The Playback button on the rear panel accesses Playback mode, where you can review captured images. Pressing the DISP button cycles through displays with information overlay on or off. The Histogram button displays a RGB+L histogram along with recording data and any areas with lost highlights or shadows are illuminated. Pressing the Index button cycles through 25, 9 or 4 frame index views and individual images can be selected using the multi-selector joystick. Images can be zoomed by using the Enlarge button, and magnification can be adjusted up to 13x (depending on image size) using the rear control dial, or a zoom box can be defined using the multi-selector joystick. Enlarged images can also be scrolled in the X or Y direction using the joystick.