2008 Photokina Tradeshow
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Sony Alpha A700 digital SLR camera. Copyright © 2007, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved. Sony releases major firmware update for A700, new application software update
By Dave Etchells, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, September 16, 2008 - 12:00 EDT)

Big kudos to Sony: Major firmware revision released for their DSLR-A700. New software update as well...

It's nice to see a manufacturer really responding to their users and continuing to support cameras well after their initial release. In the case of the Sony A700, we were also gratified to learn from Sony representatives that our own early leadership in highlighting the issues surrounding noise reduction in the camera's RAW images had an influence on their decision to update the A700's firmware.

While they aren't making a public announcement of it, Sony has today released a firmware update (version 4) for their A700 SLR that among other things permits users to turn noise reduction completely off in its RAW files. They've also added a bracketing mode helpful for those interested in High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography and improved white balance and Dynamic Range Optimization processing.

You can find the v4 firmware and application software updates on the Sony US eSupport page for the A&00.

Here, verbatim from Sony is a list of the improvements found in the A700's version 4 firmware release:

Alpha 700 Firmware (v4)
  • Adds the choice off +/-2.0EV, 3 shot EV Bracketing (available in both single and continuous modes)
  • Adds the choice of "Off" to high sensitivity NR (this deactivates all NR, including in RAW file)
  • Improves picture quality in high ISO conditions
  • Improves Auto White Balance accuracy
  • Improves the performance of Dynamic Range Optimizer
  • Improves the communication consistency between camera and VG-C70AM Vertical Grip

Application Software:

Sony Image Data Suite
(for DSLR-Alpha100/Alpha200/Alpha300/Alpha350/Alpha700)

Also: Image Data Converter SR
(v3.0 - same as supplied with Alpha900)
  • Improves ease of use by unifying pallets and positioning of toll bar buttons
  • Increases speed of display rendering
  • Adds Peripheral Illumination compensation
  • Improves effectiveness of Dynamic Range Optimizer

Image Data Lightbox SR (v2.0)
  • Increases speed of display rendering
  • Adds settings of color label and display sort by camera which captured image

Remote Camera Control (v2.0 - only applies to Alpha700)
  • Adds Interval Shooting function (Windows only)
  • Adds the choice off +/-2.0EV, 3 shot EV Bracketing (available in both single and continuous modes)

As noted, the +/-2 EV bracketing options will help HDR photographers quickly collect the wide brackets they need for use with their HDR software. A lot of people will be happy to see the ability to disable high-ISO noise reduction, so they'll be able to process their Sony A700 files through their third-party noise reduction programs.

A version of this update appeared briefly on one of Sony's support sites a week or two back, igniting a flurry of internet discussion. We refrained from publicizing or loading that version on our sample of the Sony A700 because it wasn't clear that it was the final version. Now that the release is official, we'll be updating our A700's firmware, and reshooting some of our key test images, so we can update our Sony A700 review with the results of the latest/current firmware. (Expect some delay on this though, we're all buried in Photokina preparations at the moment, and several of us will be in Germany all next week, to bring you our video coverage of that show.)

Once again, hats off to Sony for listening to and responding to customers' requests for camera updates, and for continuing to deliver value to their customers long after a camera has shipped. They've really stepped up to the mark here with the A700, setting a standard of support few manufacturers aspire to.

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