Digital Cameras Guide

Sony DSLR-A100W review

First Looks: Sony DSLR-A100W

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Rise of a Legend

This article is also contributed by Andrew Chan

Rise of a Legend

There are several noteworthy products that Sony is launching this year and of the lot, the two most anticipated products are the upcoming Playstation 3 (PS3) with Blu-ray and α100 DSLR that was recently launched. Already an established player in compact digital cameras, the new α100 marks Sony's first foray into the DSLR market. Targeted at the beginners, the α100 is the result of collaboration between Sony and Konica Minolta DSLR division, which Sony had acquired earlier this year.

The specifications of the α100 are very similar to the Dynax 5D, the last of its kind from Konica Minolta before they exited the DSLR business, and on the surface, the α100 is looking like a beefed up and glorified version of the former. On that notion, the big question then is whether the collaborative effort of Sony and Konica Minolta is good enough to compete against market stalwarts like Canon and Nikon in the DSLR business; and that's what we intend to check out with Sony's landmark entry.

Construct and Accessibility

Holding the α100 immediately returns a good sense of build quality, even if it is a little small in size for confident handling. At the top of the camera are two control dials with the one on the right programmed with preset shooting modes comprising of Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports action, Sunset and Night view/portrait, an auto mode, and one of the usual P, A, S, M manual shooting modes. The left dial on the other hand provides access to key shot parameters such as white balance, focus, flash and etc.

Unlike some of models from competing brands, the α100 does not have separate dials to control shutter and aperture. Instead, users would have to press and hold the "+/-" button followed by the command dial to adjust aperture size, which is a similar operation on Canon's 350D as well. The command dial by default is configured for quick shutter speed changes.

Creating a Legend

Like the discontinued Dynax 5D, the α100 also uses the same Konica Minolta A-type bayonet lens mount, making it compatible with current and old Minolta, and Konica Minolta lenses. Where image sensor is concerned, the α100 uses a 10.2-megapixel APS-C sized (23.6 x 15.8 mm) CCD sensor as opposed to the CMOS unit installed in its R1 prosumer camera. In fact, the sensor is the same kind used by Nikon's high-end D200 DSLR, which means on paper it should be a considerably competent imaging device.

Taking a macro view of resolution to price ratio, the 10.2-megapixel α100 is probably the most affordable entry-level DSLR with the highest image resolution compared to the 8.0-megapixel Canon 350D and 6.0-megapixel Nikon D70s.

In a nod towards quick and easy maintenance, the CCD sensor of the α100 was given an anti-dust coating. This translates to a sensor that's more resilient to dust settlement than conventional sensors, hence minimizing maintenance frequency. Even if dust somehow manages to settle in, the anti-dust vibration system of the α100, which is similar to Olympus' Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF), will swiftly dislodge dust particles from the face of the sensor, thereby keeping photographs free from artifact contaminations.

Strangely, the A100's anti-dust vibration system only executes when the camera is switched off, which is not just a stark contrast to the version found in the Olympus SSWF that activates when the camera is turned on but also defies common logic of shaking off dust particles prior to shooting.