Sony DSLR-A100 Review
Capture Mode: When powered on, the camera is automatically placed into Record mode. The Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera sets the main shooting mode, with the following options:
Manual: Provides complete user control over the exposure, including both aperture and shutter speed settings. A Bulb shutter setting also becomes available in this mode, allowing variable length exposures for as long as you hold down the shutter button.
Shutter Priority: Allows the user to set the shutter speed, from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, while the camera selects the most appropriate aperture setting.
Aperture Priority: The opposite of Shutter Priority, this mode puts the user in control of the aperture setting while the camera selects the best shutter speed. (The aperture range varies with the lens in use.)
Program AE (Program Shift): This mode places the camera in control over both aperture and shutter speed, while the user has access to all other menu functions. Turning the Control dial with or without shifting the Exposure Compensation button cycles through a range of equivalent exposure settings, enabling the Program Shift mode.
Full Auto: This mode places the camera entirely in control of the exposure, though the user can adjust the exposure compensation and determine the flash mode.
Portrait: Optimizes camera settings to reproduce warm, soft skin tones against a slightly blurred background.
Landscape: Optimizes settings to produce sharp, colorful landscapes.
Macro: This mode is for close-up pictures of small objects, enhancing color in flowers, etc.
Sports Action: Favors faster shutter speeds to capture moving subjects.
Sunset: Optimizes settings to capture rich, warm sunsets.
Night Portrait: Balances the foreground subject illuminate by flash with the ambient light of the background.
Playback Mode: The Playback button on the rear panel accesses Playback mode, where you can review captured images. The left and right arrow keys scroll through the images on the card, and the up arrow displays a histogram and information display and the down arrow rotates the image. You can enlarge captured images or display them in an index format for quick viewing.
Camera MenusPressing the Menu button provides access to the camera's full menu system. The following options are available in most camera modes as menu tabs at the top of the display:
- Record 1:
- Image Size: Sets the pixel dimensions of captured still images. Choices are 3,872 x 2,592 pixels (Large); 2,896 x 1,936 (Medium); and 1,920 x 1,280 (Small).
- Quality: Specifies the compression level of still images. Options are RAW, RAW & JPEG, Fine, and Standard. RAW captures the data directly from the CCD, and losslessly compresses it. RAW & JPEG simultaneously records both a separate RAW and JPEG version of each image as it is captured. (Note though, that RAW + JPEG mode is quite slow, as after capturing three shots, the camera apparently has to wait for each shot to write to the memory card before it can capture the next one.)
- Instant Playback: Enables an instant review of the most recently captured image, or disables it. Display times include 10, five, or two seconds.
- Noise Reduction: Turns the Noise Reduction function on or off.
- Eye-Start AF: If set to "on," this option automatically enables the autofocus whenever the camera senses your eye at the viewfinder.
- Record 2:
- Red-Eye Reduction: Turns the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash on or off.
- Flash Control: Selects the flash metering method. Options are ADI Flash, which uses distance information from the autofocus system together with a pre-flash to determine flash exposure, or Pre-flash TTL, which uses only the preliminary metering flash to gauge exposure before the shutter opens.
- Flash Default: Sets the default flash mode to Auto flash or Fill flash.
- Bracket Order: Sets the order of bracketed exposures, placing the default exposure either first or in the middle of the series.
- Record Mode Reset: Resets the record mode settings to their defaults.
- Playback 1:
- Delete: Lets you delete the current photo, all photos in a folder or on the card, or only marked photos.
- Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even protected ones). There is an option to cancel, in case you select "Format" accidentally.
- Protect: Marks the current image for write-protection, or removes protection.
- Index Format: Lets you choose between four-, nine-, or 16-image thumbnail image displays.
- Playback 2:
- Slide Show: Initiates a slide show of photos on the memory card.
- DPOF Set: Sets up photos for DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) printing on a compatible standalone printer. This selection lets you choose whether to print the current photo, all photos, or only marked photos.
- Date Imprint: Chooses whether or not to print the date on all photos in your DPOF order.
- Index Print: Chooses whether or not to include an index print of all photos in your DPOF order.
- Cancel Print: Deletes all print orders on the card, or in the current folder.
Custom Menu Options
The following menu options are available in any exposure mode, and are accessed through the Custom tab at the top of any menu screen.
- Custom 1:
- Priority Setup: Sets the priority of the Shutter button as AF or Release. The AF option will not release the shutter unless focus is set, while the Release setting trips the shutter even if AF is not established.
- Focus-Hold Button Setup: Sets the function of a lens' Focus Hold button. Options are Focus Hold (locks the lens) and Depth of Field Preview (previews the depth of field in the viewfinder).
- AEL Button Setup: Through this option, you can set the operation of the AE Lock button to AE Hold (hold the button down to lock exposure, exposure lock is released when you let go of the button), AE Toggle (press and release to lock exposure), Spot AE Hold, or Spot AE Toggle.
- Control Dial Set: Sets whether the control dial changes shutter speed or aperture when using Program shift.
- Exposure Compensation Setup: Sets whether the main Exposure Compensation dial adjusts the ambient exposure only, or the ambient exposure and the flash (if flash is in use).
- AF Illuminator: Enables the flash as an AF illuminator, for use in very dark shooting conditions.
- Custom 2:
- Shutter Lock (no card): If enabled, this lock prevents the shutter from opening when a card is not inserted in the camera.
- Shutter Lock (no lens):If enabled, this lock prevents the shutter from opening when a lens is not attached to the camera (protecting the CCD from dust).
- AF Area Setup: Sets the length of time that the AF area is illuminated in the viewfinder display to either 0.3 or 0.6 seconds.
- Monitor Display Setup: Sets whether the viewfinder eye sensors are active. If active, the viewfinder display only enables when your eye is in the viewfinder.
- Recording Display Setup: Sets whether the camera automatically rotates the LCD display in Recording mode (Auto Rotate option), or displays it horizontally.
- Playback Display Setup: Sets whether the camera automatically rotates vertically-shot images in Playback mode (Auto Rotate option), or displays them horizontally
Setup Menu Options
Like the Custom menu, the following menu options are available in any exposure mode,and are accessed through the Setup tab at the top of any menu screen.
- Setup 1:
- LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD display to one of five levels.
- Transfer Mode: Sets the data transfer mode to Mass Storage or PTP (for PictBridge connection to compatible printers, or to Windows XP and Mac operating system utilities for digital cameras).
- Video Output: Select either NTSC or PAL timing for the video output signal.
- Audio Signals: Activates an audio confirmation of the AF system when the Shutter button is halfway pressed.
- Language: Sets the language for menu screens (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese).
- Date and Time Setup: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
- Setup 2:
- File# Memory: Chooses whether or not to number images sequentially across memory cards. If set to "yes," the A100 will remember the last number used to name a file, even if a different card is inserted.
- Reset: Resets the File number
- Folder Name: Selects the folder naming scheme as either Standard or Date format. Date format integrates the current date into the folder name, to help keep track of images on your computer later.
- Select Folder: As an aid to organizing large numbers of photos, the camera lets you set up separate folders on the memory card. If you have more than one folder defined, this menu selection lets you choose which you want to use to save photos in.
- New Folder: Creates a new folder to save photos on the memory card, with a name of your choosing.
- Setup 3:
- LCD Backlight: Specifies the period of time before the LCD backlight turns off to conserve power. Times are 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds.
- Auto Power Save: Sets idle delay before the camera shuts itself off to conserve power. Options are 1, 3, 5, 10, or 30 minutes.
- Menu Section Memory:Sets the camera to remember which menu section was last opened,automatically returning to that section when the Menu button is pressed.
- Delete Confirmation: Turns the delete confirmation screen on or off.
- Clean CCD:Sets up the camera for cleaning the CCD, raising the mirror and opening the shutter for clear access. A confirmation screen appears to confirm the action. (Once opened, turn the camera off to close the shutter again.)
- Reset Default: Resets all menu choices to their factory default values. (Very handy forgetting back to "square one" after making a number of settings changes.)
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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.