The Red Ferret Journal Product of the Year 2007: Imaging – Sony Alpha A700. The Sony marketing blurb cheekily asserts, ‘What you once called a photo album you can now call a portfolio’, and that’s a remarkably accurate assessment of the market positioning of this excellent 12.4 megapixel digital SLR camera. On the face of it, this is just another entrant into the increasingly crowded digital SLR market, as manufacturers desperately retreat from the advancing quality of cell phone cameras at the low end of the market.
But look closer and you see that Sony have applied all their consumer smarts to a product which cleverly straddles the line between professional and aspirational digital photography, and does so with a product which really does the job superbly. The price and feature set indicate that this should be a complicated piece of equipment to master, but the reality is that it’s probably one of the simplest ways you will find to take superb photos. The excellent Minolta imaging heritage, coupled with very clever implementations of tech like Super Steady Shot, eye proximity triggered auto-focus and great firmware means that it’s hard to take a bad photo, and surprisingly easy to take good photos if you’re prepared to invest a small amount of time in learning some DSLR basics.
I’ve been playing with one of these for a while now, and it’s a beauty. The body feels great in the hand, just about every control you need is just a fingertip away, and the optics mean that you can take shots you never thought were possible and they’ll work 7 times out of 10. This is especially evident in low light and indoor photography, where you can grab some handheld shots that should be impossible and they’ll come out looking great. I am *clearly* not the world’s greatest photographer, but even I have managed to grab some images that I think are half reasonable. Here’s a small sample all taken handheld (and without flash indoors).
True purists will sneer at the lack of lens options and accessories, but for anyone who’s just starting out, or who comes from the Minolta-Konica camp this is a great way to move to prosumer level photography in one jump. And don’t be fooled by the raft of 14 megapixel look-alike dSLRs due to arrive this year from some of the major Far East consumer brands. They may be half the price, but they’re not even in the same universe when it comes to photo quality and functionality.
I’ll leave it to veteran camera reviewer Steve from Steve’s Digicams to sum it up. “These days the amateur dSLR market is quite competitive and the A700 has a wonderful combination of quality and shooting features to keep it in the top rank. With 12 megapixels of resolution, impressive shooting performance, superb image quality and the combination of Super Steady Shot image stabilization and anti-dust technology, this camera it a very worthy contender.”