Sony DSLR-A100 Review

 
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Sony A100 Viewfinder

The Sony A100 features a digital SLR design, so the optical viewfinder offers a true, through-the-lens (TTL) display. A dioptric adjustment dial accommodates eyeglass wearers, letting them adjust the viewfinder optics. The viewfinder eyepiece has a reasonably high eyepoint (specified at 20mm, 16mm with the dioptric adjustment set to -1 diopter), but eyeglass wearers are still likely to need to press their lenses against the rubber bezel to be able to see the entire frame. Like those of many sub-frame DSLRs, the viewfinder image of the A100 is on the small side, with a magnification factor of only 0.83x for a 50mm lens and -1 diopter of dioptric correction.

While the Sony A100's viewfinder uses a pentamirror design, the viewfinder image is noticeably brighter than those of many competing DSLR models.

The Sony A100's extensive information display features a series of focus and exposure target marks in the center of the view that highlight briefly when the AF system is activated. Camera information appears beneath the image area in a small strip, and reports all of the major camera settings, such as shutter speed, aperture, flash mode, EV compensation, etc. At the far right side of the strip is the Anti-Shake scale, indicating the degree of stabilization whenever Anti-Shake mode is activated. The information readout in the viewfinder activates whenever you half-press the Shutter button, and remains active for a few seconds afterward.

A pair of horizontal infrared sensors just below the viewfinder detects your eye as it approaches the viewfinder, and deactivates the LCD information display if you have the auto-display option enabled. Through the Record menu, you can also set these sensors to enable the autofocus whenever your eye is in range of the eyepiece.

Sony A100 Viewfinder Accuracy

Coverage
Good accuracy from the optical viewfinder.

18mm, optical viewfinder 70mm, optical viewfinder

The Alpha A100's optical viewfinder showed about 97% frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 95% at telephoto (the difference most likely due to where we decided to set the edges of the frame, given the barrel distortion at wide angle. Good results, equal to or slightly better than most consumer DSLRs on the market. (Although we'd personally like to see true 100% viewfinders on all SLRs, not just high-end Pro models.)

 

Sony A100 Record Mode Displays

The Sony A100's rear-panel, 2.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor is for image review, status display, and menu display. As is the case with the majority of DSLRs, the LCD cannot be used as a live viewfinder. The large 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 A100'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 A100 makes available on its rear screen.

Sony A100 LCD Display Screens

1 - Exposure Mode
2 - Flash Status
3 - Normal/Flash EV Adjust
4 - Color/Image Mode
5 - Image Adjust Settings
6 - Dynamic Range Setting
7 - Metering/AF Settings
8 - Exposure Lock

9 - Battery Condition
10 - White Balance
11 - Card Capacity
12 - Drive Mode
13 - Image Size/Quality
14 - ISO (Sensitivity)
15 - Shutter/Aperture

 

In any capture mode, pressing the Display button on the rear panel reports camera settings in the LCD display. As shown above, you can choose between full or basic display modes, which essentially control how detailed the camera information is, and how large the text and icons are. A third press of the Display button disables the information readout entirely. By default the LCD reports the full status information screen whenever the camera is powered on or a control is activated. As mentioned above, the Auto Display option of the Custom menu disables the LCD display whenever your eye is detected by the sensors beneath the optical viewfinder. If this function is set to Manual, you must press the Display button to disable the display.

Sony A100 Playback Mode Displays

In Playback mode, the LCD monitor's default mode shows the most recently captured image, with a limited information overlay reporting the resolution and quality, date and time, folder, file number, frame number, and the total number of images.

Pressing the up arrow key on the Multi-controller enables a histogram display, which also shows expanded exposure information for the image. Just above the histogram is a luminance warning display, which alternately flashes any under and over-exposed areas in the frame. (This function can sometimes be more helpful than the histogram, in that you can directly see what parts of the image are too dark or light.) Pressing the down arrow in this mode also rotates the display, first counter-clockwise, then clockwise, then back to normal.

You can zoom in on captured images in Playback mode, by pressing the AE Lock button with the magnifying-glass icon adjacent to the right side of the optical viewfinder. When zoomed in, the rear control dial changes the zoom amount, and pressing the center button of the multi-controller toggles between the magnified view and a full-frame view with the current magnified area outlined in red. (The Exposure Compensation button zooms back out.)

Playback mode also supports, with the press of the Display button, Image Only display and IndexPlayback. Index Playback relies on the controller to highlight an image from a set of four, nine or sixteen whose basic data is displayed on the bottom line of the LCD monitor. A press of the Display button displays that image full screen.

Sony DSLR-A100

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