Tue, 12 Aug 2008
My old camera stopped working with any memory card bigger than 512 MB, so I have finally decided to buy a true D-SLR. Having several Minolta-A mount lenses and a Minolta-compatible flash, I have decided to buy a Sony Alpha, which is a successor of Minolta (later Konica-Minolta) cameras.
I had a great dilemma choosing between α350 and α700 (both links point to in-depth reviews at dpreview.com). The first one is a newer "higher entry-level" SLR with 14.2 megapixels, live view on a tilting LCD display, etc. The latter is a semi-pro body about a year older, 12.2 megapixels, bright pentaprism (cf. pentamirror in α350) viewfinder, etc. But no live view.
After reading the above reviews and the article "Which Sony Alpha?", which directly addressed my dilemma, I have decided to go for a slightly more expensive α700 (the difference was not so big because I wanted the SAL 16-105 lens, which is sold in a set with α700, but has to be bought separately for α350).
Want to see the photos? Look at the last page of the above reviews. Some of my own photos are here (not edited, just scaled down; click for the full version):
This one has been taken by my wife.
From a tearoom in Hlinsko, IIRC.
Zelená hora in Žďár nad Sázavou.
Even the photos in a foggy weather are not bad.
So, after several weeks of using α700, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Maybe it does not have many exceptional functions, but for many of them there are dedicated buttons, which means you can actually use those functions in real life shooting. Nobody who is in a hurry would use functions hidden in some deep menus. Also their dynamic-range optimization really works and is useful, as well as their anti-shake system built in the body (instead of in the lens, like other vendors). So far I have found only one drawback: the exposure bracketing can bracket by at most 0.7 EV steps, which makes shooting frames for HDR[?] photos from hand difficult. The only workaround I have discovered is to use five frames instead of three, which gives you a range of +/-1.4 EV. Another drawback is that my home workstation is too slow to handle 12-Mpix files, so I would probably have to upgrade soon.
Update - Thu, 20 Nov 2008: Fixed in new firmware
The version 4 firmware adds a wider EV range of bracketing (upto +/- 2 EV), so the problem with usability for taking HDR photos from hand is gone. Good. On the other hand, the α900 full-frame body is out now, so my α700 is officially obsolete now :-/