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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sony A700

Things are changing fast in the DSLR world again. The recent announcement by Sony of the new A700 DSLR brings with it many implications, not just for Sony, but for other manufacturers.

There are several major points of interest with the new A700. The A700's new 12MP CMOS sensor would seem to be the same one used in the new Nikon D300, or at least very similar. This can only bode well for Sony as its new flagship will be on the top of the pile sensor -wise. It will be interesting to see which camera makes the best use of this sensor, the Sony A700 or the Nikon D300. Sony has the advantage of being the manufacturer, so you would think they would be able to get the most out of their own product, but on the other hand, Nikon has more experience in the DSLR realm and tweaking DSLR's to get maximum output from the sensors. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

The new A700 is quite an up-date to the Konica Minolta 7D and is basically a semi-pro featured camera. The A700 features an all new auto focus system with 11 wide area cross focus sensors, "including a center dual cross sensor comprised of two horizontal and two vertical line sensors for exceptional AF precision. An F2.8 line sensor leverages the brightness of fast aperture lenses for even greater precision." Sony claims "that extraordinary focusing speed has been realized through improved algorithms and a high-torque focusing drive motor." I can't wait to see some initial tests and user reports in the field to see how this new AF system fairs. On paper, it sounds good. Let's hope it holds up in real-world shooting!

The all new image stabilization in the new A700 is claiming to deliver up to four stops. If this pans out, it could be the best body-based IS system yet, which can only help sales. Testing and user reports of the A100 suggested that its IS system didn't quite live up to it's claims so hopefully Sony has made some improvements here.

The A700 also seems to share a new 3" 922,000 pixel LCD with the Nikon D300. The raves of how good it is on the D300 make this a welcome feature on the A700, not to mention futher adding to it's saleability (is that a word?). Dual storage formats (memory stick duo and compact flash) are another high-end feature that can only help the A700's sales. Additionally, claims of faster focussing, a new high speed shutter, an optical pentaprism in the viewfinder, an aluminum chasis and magnesium body, and enviromental sealing all add up to a very impressively featured DSLR.

Overall, the A700 looks great on paper. It's 7D predeccessor had a few bugs, but it would appear Sony has done a thorough over-haul with the A700. The only thing that appears to be missing is LiveView, which has debatable usefulness anyways. Regardless, the A700 can only make Canon, Nikon, and Pentax sit up and take note. The feature set on the A700 continues the on-going pressure on manufactureres to bring more to the table in their DSLR's, which can only be better for the consumer.

P.S. One caveat of note... after looking at the list prices on the Sony lenses, they appear to be a little over-priced. Here in Canada for example, Henry's currently lists the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR at $2049.99. The Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS is currently listed at $2199.99 (although that may be a sale as the listing claims you save $400). The Sony 70-200 f2.8 is currently listed at $2599.99. Not only is the Sony significantly more expensive than the Canon or Nikon equivalents of this lens, it has no reason to be. The Canon and Nikon lenses feature IS and VR in the lens, thus contributing to their high price tag. The Sony obviously does not, as the IS is based in the body, so why is it so high priced? One would think the advantage of the Sony system would be high quality lenses at a better price due to the fact that the added cost of IS isn't a factor. I think Sony needs to look at it's pricing if it wants to be competitive here as I see no reason why this lens should be so high priced.