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Sony Alpha DSLR-A200
This camera sure took its sweet time coming to our labs. But now that it's here, let's see what you're getting in this attractive, low-cost package, and how well does it compare to the budget cameras today.
New users may want to keep our camera glossary open for explanation of some of the used terms.
Compared to the bite-sized consumer DSLR camera bodies we've been getting lately, the A200 seems a bit bigger at 131x99x71 mm and also somewhat heavier, weighing 572g. But considering the number of goodies that the A200 packs inside, the bulk is well justified.
The plastic body of the A200 seems surprisingly cheap. Though the build of the camera seemed sturdy and durable, the feel was just not good enough. That said the hand grip was very comfortable to use, even for longer durations. Some of the shots I tested with required me to wait patiently for the subject to move to the right position, and that was easily achieved with the comfort level of the hand grip.
The button layout seemed quite odd on the A200 with the power button placed at a considerably hard to access location i.e. the right above the LCD screen, to the left. Though I did get used to it after a while, I still found the placement very uncomfortable, especially when I only have one hand free.
In fact, the overall button placement on the camera is not optimized or even intended for single hand use. While the shutter release is placed on the right, the mode dial is placed on the left of the camera. The worst part is aperture size control in the A200, which need you to press down the AV button, right next to the viewfinder at the back, and use the shutter speed jog dial placed in front of the shutter release. This has got to be the most uncomfortable way to change the aperture size ever!
While the A200 design does have a few good bits like a dedicated ISO button and comfortable navigation system, the majority of it was not very well thought of.
The 2.7-inch LCD display is good enough for all purposes, especially considering that the camera doesn't feature live-view. While not having live-view may seem like a downer to many new users, any experienced photographer will tell you that the viewfinder always gives you a more accurate perception than live view. Besides, it's not such a high priority in value DSLR cameras as of now.
The A200 boasts a 10.2 megapixel resolution and Sony's BIONZ image processing engine. Considering it's Sony we're talking about here, they'd never consider supporting the standard SD card storage format. Instead the camera supports Compact Flash cards, which is more commonly used in higher-end DSLR cameras. If you're wondering why Sony didn't go with their pet Memory Stick format, you do get an adapter (sold separately), that will add Memory Stick Duo support to the camera.
Though most people would rather not shoot over ISO 800, the A200 supports a maximum sensitivity level of ISO 3200, for those really crucial moments. As you can see from out test below (click on the image for the 1:1 sized result), the ISO 3200 shots may seem a bit duller in colors, and filled with digital noise, the images are still quite usable to a good extent, especially for smaller-sized prints.
__STARTQUOTE__One odd thing I noticed about the camera was its tendency to keep switching back to autofocus every time I restarted the camera. This was in spite of the switch being physically set to manual focus.__ENDQUOTE__The model we received for review bundled with an 18mm-70-mm lens, which is a better deal than the standard 18mm-55mm fare that other companies seem to go with. The A200 features a Super SteadyShot image stabilization system in the camera's body itself, as compared to some of its rivals who'd rather put the mechanism in their lenses instead. The IS, however can only be used with the compatible lenses.
One odd thing I noticed about the camera was its tendency to keep switching back to autofocus every time I restarted the camera. This was in spite of the switch being physically set to manual focus. I'm not sure if this was the case with only the piece we got for review, but needless to say it's a pretty serious glitch.
The colors were great on the A200. It kept things natural as far as possible, which isjust the way I like it in my DSLR cameras. It worked perfectly well with all the tricky colors like reds, oranges and greens, without losing out on any precious detail.
Speaking of details, I found the images in my tests to be a bit on the softer side, which would tend to blur out some of the finer details (evident in all the test images posted here). Of course this could be easily fixed in post-processing, but still, the finer image you get from the camera, the better it works for you in post-processing as well.
When shooting the image below using the Night preset of the camera, it boosted the sensitivity to ISO 800 and use a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds. I took a second shot using ISO 400 sensitivity and setting the shutter speed to 4 seconds, and as you can see below (click on the images for full res), the difference between the two is not too much. I can safely say that you can use the Night mode under low light conditions without worrying about major image deterioration.
While the camera does do some good work with images, its speeds leave a bit to be desired. It takes a little over a second to start up and around 2 seconds to shut down. While these speeds are excellent on a consumer compact, it's not on a camera of this caliber. The shooting speeds are a little less than 3 frames per second in burst mode without flash.
The battery life was very impressive at around 700 shots on a single charge (with and without flash).
The Rs. 27,999 MRP of the A200 is certainly a very tempting deal, but these days you have a pretty good variety of consumer DSLR cameras available in the same range. The camera definitely has some great things going for it, but it certainly does have some drawbacks as well, especially in its design.
The previous model A100, was a very consumer-friendly DSLR camera for its time, and tat was one of the biggest things going for it. But now the category has evolved and just about every other camera manufacturer is offering an easy-to-use DSLR model at an attractive price point. So if you're in the market for a new DSLR, I would suggest you check out the offerings from other manufacturers as well before making your buying decision.
131 x 99 x 71 mm
|Storage||Compact Flash card|
|LCD Type||2.7", 230,000 px|
|View Finder||Optical / Live View|
|Effective Pixels||10.2 Megapixels|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200|
|Shutter Speed||30-1/4000 sec|
|Format||RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG|
|White Balance||6 positions plus manual and kelvin|
|Flash||Auto, Red-Eye, Slow, Red-Eye Slow, Rear curtain, wireless|
|Self Timer||Yes, 2 or 10 sec|