This page will seem very familiar if you've read our Sony A900 review, as the Sony A850 is identical to the A900 in operation.
Sony A850 Top Panel Status LCD
The Alpha A850 is the first Sony SLR with a top panel status LCD. This rather small, monochrome LCD displays basic status information such as the current Shutter Speed, Aperture, Exposure Compensation, Battery Status, etc. We like these displays as they give a quick overview of the camera's settings without having to refer to the larger, more power-hungry main LCD when trying to conserve battery life. They also come in handy while adjusting settings when the camera is below eye-level, such as on a tripod. See the illustration below for details on the information displayed.
Sony A850 Top Panel LCD Display Info
Remaining Number of Recordable Images
Sony A850 Record Mode Displays
The Sony A850's rear-panel, 3.0-inch, 921,600 pixel TFT color LCD monitor is for image review, status display, and menu display. Unlike the A300, A330, A350 and A380, the Alpha A850 doesn't offer any form of live view mode, so the LCD can't be used to frame shots. We do really like the wealth of camera information that the A850 makes available on its rear screen, especially since the top panel status LCD is so small and basic.
14 - Aperture Value
15 - Exposure
16 - AE Lock
17 - EV Scale
18 - ISO (Sensitivity)
19 - AF Area
20 - D-Range Optimizer
21 - Metering Mode
22 - White Balance
23 - Remaining Shots (Buffer Space)
24 - Memory Card
Large- and Small-Type Options Sometimes you don't need to see every last detail about the camera's operation, but rather prefer to concentrate on just the most important settings. Like other Sony SLRs, the Sony A850 has two different display options, that apply to both the horizontal and vertical formatted data screens. The large-type/low-density option drops the details on Flash mode, Metering mode, AF mode, Card type, Creative Style, and Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, Brightness and Zone settings.
Sony A850 Intelligent Preview
The Alpha 900 introduced what Sony calls "Intelligent Preview", which simulates the results of changes in settings in real-time, on an pre-capture image that isn't stored on the memory card. The A850 also offers this feature. It can simulate the effects of white-balance adjustment, exposure, DRO settings, etc. The animation to the right shows the effect on exposure of changing the shutter speed, for example. Some things it can't simulate however is the blurring effect of a slow shutter speed with a moving subject, or the depth-of-field change when adjusting aperture.
Sony A850 Playback Mode Displays
The Playback button on the rear panel accesses Playback mode, where you can review captured images. Pressing the DISP button cycles through displays with information overlay on or off. The Histogram button displays a RGB+L histogram along with recording data and any areas with lost highlights or shadows are illuminated. Pressing the Index button cycles through 25, 9 or 4 frame index views and individual images can be selected using the multi-selector joystick. Images can be zoomed by using the Enlarge button, and magnification can be adjusted up to 19x (depending on image size) using the rear control dial, or a zoom box can be defined using the multi-selector joystick. Enlarged images can also be scrolled in the X or Y direction using the joystick.