Somewhat unexpectedly, Sony has announced the A200 at CES (rather than PMA), the follow up to the aging A100. Opting out of the megapixel race, Sony has kept the A200 at the same 10.2 megapixels that the A100 had. Instead, Sony has introduced more subtle upgrades/updates and made the A200 more of a Sony product – as opposed to a rebadged Konica Minolta. In hindsight, the CES announcement may be more fitting because of Sony’s desire to market this as more of a “consumer” camera than to the budding amateur photographer.
The A200 is available with a 18-70mm kit lens or a two-lens kit with an additional 75-300mm lens. For all the details, see the Press Release below.
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Image and color quality are good and there’s a host of inputs available to customize image parameters if the default shots don’t suit your fancy. The shutter is “DSLR quick” and auto focus performance is good in normal to marginal light, and acceptable in dim light.
The Sony Alpha A200 is a compelling entry-level DSLR due to its high image quality and excellent speed of operation. In many ways, this is what new DSLR buyers are looking for. Beginners often want to improve image quality and speed of operation without getting something significantly more complicated then they are used to. The A200 fulfills this role very well as well.
Having a dedicated processor like Sony’s BIONZ certainly helps with noise. It’s not until ISO400 that any kind of alteration starts to appear in the image at full size and all that happens is a slight discolouration of the grey card.
The Sony Alpha 200/DSLR-A200 is a worthy competitor in the entry-level market, offering awesome image quality, robust performance, great ergonomics and loads of useful exposure options. One feature that stands out is the Super SteadyShot option.
If you have no investment in a DSLR system and you’re looking for an entry-level model, the Sony A200 is a real alternative to the likes of the Nikon D60, Canon EOS 450D and Olympus E-510. It may not be the most exciting camera on paper, with no Live View and “only” a 10 megapixel sensor, but in practice it’s an easy-to-use, solid proposition from which you can confidently upgrade in the future to a more feature-rich model.
Overall, the A200’s photo quality was very good, but the difference between RAW and JPEG images is disconcerting. JPEG images are considerably softer than those taken in RAW format, with noticeable noise reduction artifacting starting at ISO 200 in low light, and ISO 800 in good light.
The Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 is a solid entry-level dSLR that doesn’t really stand out in its very competitive field.
I’m happy to report that Sony has shipped a digital SLR that I find easy to recommend to anyone, a position previously held mainly by the Nikon D40/D40x and Canon Rebel XT/XTi.
For first time DSLR users, it should make transitioning from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR as painless as possible. The A200 has plenty of manual features to keep a new user busy and to encourage advancement, and plenty of auto features just in case the manual features get tiring from time to time or, there simply isn’t enough time to make adjustments on the fly.
This entry-level D-SLR has a lot of things going for it: quick focusing, fast shutter speed, lots of tweaks for those who want them plus it captures good 10MP stills with accurate colors and nice contrast.
In terms of overall performance the A200 is a definite improvement over the A100. As with most DSLRs the A200 starts up in well under a second, and shuts down again almost instantly on power-off. The AF system is now much faster and more accurate, and is noticeably better at locking on quickly to low-contrast or poorly lit subjects, something that was a bit of a problem for the A100.
Pictures from the test camera were similar to our test shots from the A700, with natural-looking colours and an attractive tonal balance that minimised the need for post-capture processing. Raw files were clean and easily adjustable and the DRO control allowed us to take usable shots in contrasty lighting that would overwhelm a less-capable camera.
The new Alpha camera is Sony’s entry-level model and offers a stack of setting possibilities for a very attractive price. When we look back at the moment the Alpha 100 got introduced, and after that the Alpha 700 with on top of that Sony’s promise to introduce a professional DSLR in 2008, and we look at the A200 now, we can say that Sony are definitely branding their name on the DSLR market.
Well it may not have much beyond its predecessor (and indeed a couple of the A100’s features have gone missing), but for the money it’s still a great entry-level DSLR which stands-up well against the competition. Its predecessor’s old rival, the Canon 400D / XTi is likely to become the A200’s new nemesis, especially with its superior high ISO performance, but with built-in stabilisation at a similar RRP, the Sony still looks strong. It’s also looking good against Nikon’s new entry-level D60.
Images straight out of the camera look good, and the camera isn’t too intimidating for a beginner. Also, metering works really well, making it easy to get images that are sure to astound anyone who just jumped from point-and-shoot digicams to a DSLR.
You get a camera capable of Excellent image quality (with resolution right around 2,000 lines), useful image controls such as DRO, a fine-performing lens, and image stabilization that will work with virtually any lens that fits on the camera.
Master Chong: Several samples showing off the ISO range 100-3200
Where to Buy
A200 Key Features
Camera type: Digital SLR with built-in flash and interchangeable lenses
Lens mount: Compatible with Sony lenses and Konica Minolta/Minolta MAXXUM/DYNAX lenses
Image sensor: APS-C size CCD with anti-dust system
Sensor resolution: 10.2 effective megapixels
Image processor: Sony BIONZ engine
Image stabilization: Super SteadyShot with approx. 2.5 – 3.5 EV decrease in shutter speed (actual stabilization depends on shooting conditions and lens)
Noise reduction: Long exp. & High ISO NR at ISO1600 / 3200
Creative Styles: Preset modes: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Night View, Sunset, B/W, Adobe RGB. Adjustable parameters: Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness
D-Range Optimizer: operating modes: Off, Standard, Advanced
Scene Selection modes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Sunset, Night Portrait / Night View
Viewfinder: Field of view: 95% / Magnification: 0.83x
AF system: TTL phase detection, centre-cross 9-point
Sensitivity: ISO100 – 3200 equivalent (Recommended Exposure Index)
Light metering: 40-segment honeycomb with multi-segment, spot and centre weighted modes
Flash modes: Auto, Fill-in, Wireless, Rear, High Speed Synchro and Slow Synchro (Wireless and High Speed Synchro modes require optional accessory flash HVL-F56AM or HVL-F36AM)
Built-in flash system: Auto popup (GN 12) with manual popup button
Shutter speed range: 1/4000 sec. – 30 sec., bulb (Flash sync speed 1/160 sec.)
Continuous shooting rate: Up to approx. 3 fps
Max no. of frames: JPEG Fine/Std: unlimited (until memory card is full), RAW+JPEG: 3, RAW: 6 recordable (continuous)
Monitor screen: Transparent TFT / 2.7-inch Clear Photo LCD (230k dots) with AR coating
Histogram display: Brightness, RGB
Function menu: Camera Function Display with direct control of Flash Mode, AF Mode, WB, Metering Mode, AF Area, DRO
Battery type: NP-FM500H with InfoLITHIUM % power remaining display on screen
Battery life: Approx. 750 shots (CIPA measurement)
Vertical control grip: VG-B30AM (optional) accepts up to 2x NP-FM500H batteries
Recording media: CompactFlash card: Type I, Type II (Microdrive), Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo with optional adaptor.
Dimensions: (WxHxD) Approx. 130.8 x 98.5 x 71.3 mm (excl. protrusions)
Weight: Approx. 532 g (w/o batteries or memory card)
SONY UNVEILS NEW MAINSTREAM DSLR CAMERA
LAS VEGAS(CES BOOTH 14200), Jan. 6, 2008 – Sony is advancing the digital SLR category for mainstream photographers with today’s introduction of the new ? (alpha) DSLR-A200 camera.
The DSLR-A200 model features upgrades influenced by the recently-introduced, enthusiast-class DSLR-A700 camera and replaces the former Sony DSLR-A100 model, which was Sony’s first in the DSLR class.
The new model is designed to be faster, lighter and easier to use. Upgraded features include a wider, 2.7-inch Clear Photo LCDTM screen for easy playback viewing; a more compact body and an easily-accessible mode dial; an easy-to-use function menu (camera function display); improved noise control for higher quality images; an auto focus speed 1.7x faster than the previous model; improved predictive control performance; quieter shutter sound; automatic pop-up flash; and a battery life indicator that displays the percentage of battery life remaining so you know exactly when to recharge.
As seen in all ? (alpha) camera bodies, the DSLR-A200 camera incorporates Super SteadyShot® image stabilization in the body to allow shooting at shutter speeds of 2.5 to 3.5 steps slower than otherwise possible – a benefit realized with every compatible lens attached to the camera. Compatible lenses encompass all Minolta Maxxum® mount lenses, in addition to Sony a (alpha) lens lineup – including Carl Zeiss® lenses.
“With the DSLR-A200, we are helping consumers capture high-quality images with advanced technology that’s practical and easy to use,” said Phil Lubell, director of marketing for digital cameras at Sony Electronics. “This model is an ideal step-up for point-and-shoot users who are looking for a camera that can capture virtually all of the photographs they want.”
With its 10.2-megapixel (effective) APS CCD image sensor, the DSLR-A200 camera continues to offer high-quality images by allowing more light to pass through to each pixel – increasing sensitivity, reducing noise, and providing greater detail.
Clean, reduced-noise signals are sent from the image sensor to Sony’s BIONZ™ processing engine, which processes data-rich picture information at high speeds and reduces picture noise in the RAW data stage before image JPEG conversion. The results are high-resolution, detailed images with rich tonal reproduction.
The DSLR-A200 model supports JPEG and RAW file format support. It has a slot for CompactFlash™ Type I/II media cards. An adaptor for Memory Stick Duo™ media cards is sold separately as an accessory.
Get The Photo Results You Want
In addition to Super SteadyShot image stabilization for virtually blur-free photos, the new model incorporates Sony’s D-Range Optimizer (DRO). It helps you capture well-exposed images, especially when shooting high-contrast or backlit scenes that often lead to loss of highlight and shadow detail. Sony’s DRO modifies the range from highlights to shadows, including gain and contrast, through its in-camera hardware processing to produce more natural, evenly exposed pictures. The camera’s image analysis technology studies the captured image data and instantly determines the best exposure and color tonality for the image before JPEG compression.
The BIONZ image processing engine powers the camera up immediately and the eye-start autofocus starts the focusing system before you even press the shutter. The camera can shoot up to three continuous frames per second at 10.2-megapixels at the finest JPEG compression level.
As seen in previous ? (alpha) models, the new model carries a static-free anti-dust coating on the CCD filter which is gently vibrated to dislodge any dust that might have collected each time the camera is powered off.
Additionally, the DSLR-A200 camera’s supplied lithium ion battery offers up to 750 shots per full charge.
Bright and Easy Playback
The camera’s smaller, more compact body along with its wider, 2.7-inch Clear Photo LCD TM screen and a new on-screen navigation interface make it easier to carry and to use. The vibrant, easy-to-view screen features 230K-pixel resolution, an anti-reflection coating and glare-reducing layer assures vivid, accurate colors with a wide viewing angle, even in daylight. The on-screen navigation display shows camera settings and key shooting information in large, easy-to-read text. The display’s orientation automatically switches from landscape to portrait position when the camera is turned on its side.
Accessories Expand Creative Possibilities
Sony is providing a full line of accessories for the model, including flashes, rechargeable battery packs and several carrying cases. An interesting addition is the VG-B30AM ergonomic vertical grip equipped with the most essential controls for portrait orientation shooting. It also allows for the use of two InfoLITHIUM® batteries (sold separately) for up to 1,500 shots on a single, full charge.
The DSLR-A200K kit includes the camera body and a DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 3.9x zoom lens for about $700. The DSLR-A200W kit includes the camera body, the DT 18-70mm lens and a 75–300mm f4.5-5.6 lens for about $900. Both will ship in February and will be available at sonystyle.com, Sony Style® retail stores (www.sonystyle.com/retail), military base exchanges, and authorized dealers nationwide. Pre-orders begin online on Jan. 7 at www.sonystyle.com/dslr.
[tags]sony, a200, announcement, release, specs, review[/tags]