Sony DSLR-A100 Review

 
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Sony A100 Design

Designed for amateur or professional photographers (and really anyone interested in a digital SLR), Sony's A100 offers exceptional exposure control and a solid build reminiscent of a high-end, compact 35mm SLR. The body accommodates a handy assortment of control buttons, switches, and dials, which becomes fairly intuitive to operate after. When shooting, your attention is directed primarily to the back panel and sometimes to the top, but not to either side as is the case with many prosumer digital cameras. The A100 features a 10.2-megapixel CCD and a bayonet lens mount. A Sony 18-70mm f/3.5 lens accompanied our evaluation unit, and will presumably be included as the "kit" lens.

The A100's all-black and compact body measures 5.2 x 5.6 x 3.7 inches (132 x 142 x 94 millimeters) with the 18-70mm lens, and weighs 30.8 ounces (874 grams; 1.92 pounds) with the lens, battery, and memory card. The A100 isn't small enough to fit a pocket or purse, but is light enough to carry on vacation. You'll want a camera bag for better protection and portability, but the positions of the eyelets for the included neck strap at least let the camera hang level with the standard lens.

The camera's front panel has the bayonet lens mount, lens release button, Depth of Field Preview button, Self-Timer lamp, and the front of the pop-up flash compartment. Also visible from the front of the camera are the Shutter button and Front Control dial, located at the top of the hand grip. An indentation near the top of the hand grip comfortably cradles your middle finger as it curls around the grip.

The right side of the camera holds the CompactFlash memory card slot, covered by a hinged plastic door. The A100 accommodates Type I or II CF memory cards, including Microdrives. The camera also comes with a Memory Stick Pro Duo to CF adapter to keep the A100 compatible with existing Sony memory technology. Nestled inside the compartment door is the shared-use A/V Out / USB 2.0 jack for direct connection to a computer or television set. At the very top of the right panel is one of the two neck strap attachment eyelets.

The left side of the camera has a DC IN jack at the very bottom and the Manual / Auto focus switch just below the lens release button housing (on the Konica Minolta 5D, this was the wired Remote jack, which has been moved to the rear where the DC IN jack used to be). At the top is the other neck strap attachment eyelet.

The top panel accommodates the manually-activated pop-up flash compartment and external flash hot shoe; the latter is protected by a sliding plastic cover that is completely removable from the camera body. The hot shoe employs a proprietary electrode setup and mounting bracket for Konica Minolta and Sony accessory flash units, which isn't compatible with generic hot-shoe flashes, nor with Sony's older hot shoe flash units for the F828 and R1, like the HVL-F32X. The pop-up flash has two slight rails on either side that allow you to raise it into its upright position (it does not automatically pop up). In addition, there are a number of controls that access various camera functions, including the Function button and dial, Exposure Mode Dial, Drive Mode button, front Control dial, and Shutter Release button.

The remaining controls are on the camera's rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The A100's optical viewfinder is surrounded by a flexible, removable arch, and features two sensors below it that detect when your eye is brought up to the viewfinder. (You can enable these sensors through the Custom menu to automatically detect your eye in front of the viewfinder and disable the information display on the LCD monitor, cutting out any distracting glare; it also begins the autofocus process before you press the shutter halfway.) A diopter adjustment dial on the right side of the eyepiece adjusts the view for eyeglass wearers. Controls on the left side of the rear panel include the Power switch, and the Menu, Display, Delete, and Playback buttons. On the other side of the LCD monitor are the four-way Controller with a Spot-AF button / OK button at its center, the wired remote jack, and the Anti-Shake switch. On top and to the right of the optical viewfinder are the Exposure Compensation button (Zoom Out) and the AE lock button (Zoom In), which also enables Slow Sync flash mode.

The camera's bottom panel is fairly flat, with a grooved grip pad surrounding the metal tripod mount. Also on the bottom panel is the camera's battery compartment, which features a locking, hinged door, oriented quite differently from the KM 5D. As a result, depending on your tripod, the battery compartment may not be far enough from the metal tripod mount to allow quick battery changes when mounted on a tripod.

Worth noting are the absence of the focal plane indicator and a flash sync terminal.

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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