Sony DSLR-A100 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Alpha i Full Review

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Gallery


(All images copyright © 2006 The Imaging Resource, all rights reserved)

The shots below were taken on a Sony press trip to Alaska, arranged to give journalists a chance to shoot with the A100 and a variety of lenses. I'm not personally a big fan of press junkets, they absorb far too much time relative to the mountain of review work that's always piled up at the office. (Besides the time on-site, you always lose a day on each end to travel and general chaos; grump, grump.)?The reason I go on them though, is they provide a chance for a deeper hands-on with the equipment, as well as time with senior technical reps from the manufacturer, who can answer questions and explain features in better depth than could be managed over the phone. In the case of the A100, the press trip also meant having a chance to shoot with a variety of Sony's lenses and their wireless flash system, in an environment more conducive to interesting photos than the yuppie wasteland of the Atlanta suburbs where IR is based. All in all, a worthwhile exercise despite the hit to other review work and the physical burnout involved.

Despite my general dislike of press trips, I'll admit that it didn't hurt that the A100 trip was to Alaska -- I'd been before, back when my brother was still alive and living up there, but I didn't mind going back. It's an amazing place, home to what's easily some of the greatest natural splendor on earth. If you can manage the trip, it's well worth it, just be sure to allow yourself ample time to get around (Alaska is huge), and be sure to avail yourself of at least one of the boat-based wildlife tours: Based on this trip, I can highly recommend Kenai Fjords Tours of Seward, the boat captain/tour guide was easily one of the most knowledgeable I've encountered.

The cameras we shot with weren't officially "production" models, as the A100 production line apparently hadn't been fired up to full speed as of the time of the trip. (As far as I know, there are no true production-level A100s in the world yet, as of this writing. (June 10, 2006)) We were told though, that for all intents and purposes, the cameras could be considered as final, and that image quality should be fully representative of the final production models. We expect to have a true production sample in-house sometime towards the end of July, and will of course run it through our full battery of tests and post all our standardized test shots from it as soon as possible. Until then, check out the photos below. I've attached notes in red that list the lens used for each, along with other relevant facts about the shots. (Not to mention random notes on the eating habits of killer whales, etc.) Enjoy!

Click to see YDSC01367.JPG
YDSC01367.JPG
2,230,953 bytes
2592x3872
1/100 sec
f5.6
+0.7 EV
60mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens, which seemed to do a fairly good job with moderate closeups.

Click to see YDSC01370.JPG
YDSC01370.JPG
1,910,103 bytes
3872x2592
1/500 sec
f5.6
+0.7 EV
300mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 75-300 mm "kit" lens. (It's not clear that this lens will actually be bundled into a kit with the A100, but the Sony staff referred to both it and the 18-70 mm as the "kit" lenses. It did look like a relatively inexpensive lens, of the sort that you'd expect to find bundled as part of a kit.)

Click to see YDSC01391.JPG
YDSC01391.JPG
1,881,597 bytes
3872x2592
1/800 sec
f5.6
Unreported EV
300mm focal length
ISO 100

Another shot with the 75-300 mm "kit" lens. "Unreported EV" in the captions here means the photo was shot with the default exposure setting. (As do many cameras, the Alpha just omits the EV field from its EXIF data when shooting at its default setting.)

Click to see YDSC01425.JPG
YDSC01425.JPG
3,920,120 bytes
3872x2592
1/500 sec
f5.6
Unreported EV
300mm focal length
ISO 100

The 75-300 mm lens again.

Click to see YDSC01533.JPG
YDSC01533.JPG
2,910,508 bytes
3872x2592
1/250 sec
f13.0
+0.7 EV
75mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens. This was apparently one of the "local" killer whales, it breached several times near the boat. There's a little motion blur in this shot, despite the relatively high shutter speed: I had to slew the camera around pretty quickly to catch the whale as he breached, quite a ways from where he last appeared.

Click to see YDSC01534.JPG
YDSC01534.JPG
3,129,189 bytes
3872x2592
1/500 sec
f8.0
+0.7 EV
75mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens. Interestingly, "local" killer whales (that tend to stay in a given area) eat only fish. "Nomadic" killer whales, which roam across great distances eat other sea mammals (seals, etc). Same species, no genetic differences, just different behavior.

Click to see YDSC01578.JPG
YDSC01578.JPG
2,723,133 bytes
2592x3872
1/1600 sec
f6.3
+0.7 EV
300mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens. The tiny boat (actually a good-sized cruiser) in the foreground of this tele shot conveys more of a sense of the scale of the enormous mountains than do wider-angle views showing more of the scenery.

Click to see YDSC01620.JPG
YDSC01620.JPG
3,180,759 bytes
2592x3872
1/200 sec
f13.0
+0.3 EV
70mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens. This was a glacier we visited by boat. The other boat in the foreground was a twin to the one that we were on. The glacier in the background is about a half-mile away, and ranged from 400-800 feet high at the waterline.

Click to see YDSC01673.JPG
YDSC01673.JPG
2,706,428 bytes
3872x2592
1/500 sec
f8.0
+0.3 EV
300mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC01522.JPG
YDSC01522.JPG
2,890,000 bytes
3872x2592
1/640 sec
f10.0
+0.7 EV
18mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens. It's hard for a photo to convey the amazing broad, sweeping vistas common in Alaska.

Click to see YDSC01566.JPG
YDSC01566.JPG
2,855,697 bytes
3872x2592
1/800 sec
f9.0
+0.7 EV
75mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC01768_500mmReflex.JPG
YDSC01768_500mmReflex.JPG
3,308,324 bytes
3872x2592
1/640 sec
f8.0
+0.3 EV
500mm focal length
ISO 400

This was shot with a 500mm "reflex" or catadioptric lens. These lenses are like miniature astronomical telescopes, with a curved mirror as the primary focusing element. They're very compact and lightweight relative to conventional lenses of the same focal length, but have a fixed aperture, and tend to produce odd donut-shaped artifacts in out of focus highlights. Those limitations aside, the Sony 500mm reflex optic was very sharp. The A100's anti-shake also worked very well on this photo. I was shooting at 1/640, but the equivalent focal length was 750mm, and the boat was moving so much I literally had a hard time holding the camera steady enough to frame the subject!

Click to see YDSC01792_500mmReflex.JPG
YDSC01792_500mmReflex.JPG
3,576,262 bytes
3872x2592
1/1000 sec
f8.0
+0.3 EV
500mm focal length
ISO 400

Another shot with the 500mm reflex.

Click to see YDSC01837_500mmReflex.JPG
YDSC01837_500mmReflex.JPG
4,120,755 bytes
3872x2592
1/1000 sec
f8.0
+0.3 EV
500mm focal length
ISO 800

Yet another from the 500mm reflex lens. This shot very clearly shows the characteristic donut-shaped highlights from the len's odd bokeh. (These are the result of the central portion of the front element of such lenses being blacked-out, obstructed by the secondary mirror that directs light back into the camera body.)

Click to see YDSC01897_11mm.JPG
YDSC01897_11mm.JPG
2,339,680 bytes
3872x2592
1/160 sec
f10.0
+1.0 EV
11mm focal length
ISO 100

I also played briefly with the Sony 11-18mm ultra wide angle zoom. While this shot doesn't show much detail in the corners, other photos I took with it showed good sharpness and surprisingly little CA (chromatic aberration) in the corners of the frame.

Click to see YDSC01917-11mm_wless_flash.JPG
YDSC01917-11mm_wless_flash.JPG
3,051,084 bytes
3872x2592
1/50 sec
f4.5
+0.7 EV
11mm focal length
ISO 100

Another shot with the 11-18mm. This was shot inside an aerial tram car, you can judge how small the area was by how tightly packed the people are. A pretty amazingly wide field of view! Supplemental light in this shot was provided by a couple of Sony flash units, held by two of the people in the back of the photo. The A100's wireless flash support worked well in this shot.

Click to see YDSC01937-wireless_flash.JPG
YDSC01937-wireless_flash.JPG
2,384,610 bytes
3872x2592
1/50 sec
f5.6
+1.3 EV
24mm focal length
ISO 400

Another shot using the wireless flash system, this time with the 18-70mm kit lens. The wireless flash also worked well for this shot, the flash being located slightly behind me, and about 10 feet to the right.

Click to see YDSC01959_ISO1600.JPG
YDSC01959_ISO1600.JPG
4,051,725 bytes
2592x3872
1/60 sec
f8.0
Unreported EV
35mm focal length
ISO 1600

Not a particularly picturesque shot, but a good example of ISO 1600 with approximately daylight white balance. (Cooler than daylight, but at least not a situation where the camera was having to crank up one color channel dramatically, to balance the color.) Noise on the A100 was a bit higher than I'd been expecting, but I haven't had the opportunity yet to compare its photos under controlled conditions with those of competing cameras -- I'll withhold final judgement in this area until I can do some comparisons under lab conditions. (Shot with the 18-70mm kit lens.)

Click to see YDSC01973_ISO1600.JPG
YDSC01973_ISO1600.JPG
3,903,306 bytes
2592x3872
1/40 sec
f4.5
+1.0 EV
28mm focal length
ISO 1600

Another ISO 1600 shot with the 18-70mm. As usual, this and the image at the left look worse on-screen than they do when printed at modest enlargement. Still, I'd consider the noise level here to be pretty marginal for making 8x10 inch prints.

(As I noted in the news story announcing the posting of these photos though, I'd have given my eye teeth to have had noise this low in ISO 1600 film, back in my film-based days: It's important to keep in mind your expected use of a camera, and your expected use of its photos, to keep the true impact of image noise in perspective.)

Click to see YDSC01985.JPG
YDSC01985.JPG
2,108,928 bytes
3872x2592
1/320 sec
f5.6
+1.3 EV
250mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens. Looking for a few non-nature shots, I walked around Anchorage a bit, but didn't find an awful lot that was particularly photogenic. It's a nice enough city, but does have a bit of a scruffy, frontier-like atmosphere about it, with not a lot of interesting architecture.

Click to see YDSC01993.JPG
YDSC01993.JPG
2,644,569 bytes
2592x3872
1/500 sec
f6.3
+0.3 EV
230mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 75-300 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC01976.JPG
YDSC01976.JPG
2,207,564 bytes
3872x2592
1/160 sec
f6.3
+1.0 EV
45mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC02000.JPG
YDSC02000.JPG
1,389,594 bytes
2592x3872
1/80 sec
f5.6
+1.3 EV
60mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC02003.JPG
YDSC02003.JPG
1,585,085 bytes
3872x2592
1/40 sec
f5.6
+1.0 EV
45mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens.

(From a very nice stained glass shop, that I unfortunately lost the business card from. Look them up in the phone book if you're ever in Anchorage though, they had some really beautiful pieces.)

Click to see YDSC02021.JPG
YDSC02021.JPG
3,146,836 bytes
3872x2592
1/125 sec
f6.3
+1.0 EV
60mm focal length
ISO 100

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC02042.JPG
YDSC02042.JPG
2,084,669 bytes
3872x2592
1/40 sec
f16.0
+1.0 EV
60mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the 18-70 mm kit lens.

Click to see YDSC02098-wireless_flash.JPG
YDSC02098-wireless_flash.JPG
2,456,721 bytes
3872x2592
1/125 sec
f5.6
+0.3 EV
135mm focal length
ISO 200

Shot with the wireless flash system and the 75-300 mm kit lens. The wireless flash system had a fair bit of trouble with this shooting setup, failing to trigger on a number of shots. It was a fairly large room, and we were playing with having the remote flash units positioned on the edges of the stage area. It seemed that the trigger light (infrared? strobe head itself?) didn't have enough oomph to bounce off the background and back to the remotes reliably.

Click to see YDSC02119-wireless_flash.JPG
YDSC02119-wireless_flash.JPG
2,205,403 bytes
3872x2592
1/125 sec
f5.6
+0.3 EV
75mm focal length
ISO 200

Also shot with the wireless flash system and the 75-300 mm kit lens. When it worked, the A100's wireless flash system worked very well indeed, handling difficult shots like this one very well. (It did well not to overexpose the subject here, given how small a percentage of the frame it occupied, and the extreme contrast between the subject and background.)

All images copyright © 2006, The Imaging Resource, all rights reserved.

 

Sony DSLR-A100

Your purchases support this site

Buy the Sony DSLR-A100


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.

Follow Imaging Resource

Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate