Home Buyer's Guide Cameras SLRs Over $2,000 Sony Alpha DSLR-A900
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1. SteadyShot: Sony’s approach to image stabilization is to build it in to the camera body instead of the lenses. That way, you always have stabilization. 2. Smart Preview: Though the A900 lacks a Live View mode, the Intelligent Preview mode presents the photographer with a RAW capture on the LCD screen for setting optimum exposure, white balance, aperture and shutter speed. 3. Multimedia Compatibility: Two card slots allow you to use both CompactFlash (including new high-speed UDMA CompactFlash), as well as Sony’s MemoryStick media.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A900

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: List Price: $2,699 (body only)

Sony’s DSLR-A900 brought the Alpha series of D-SLRs into full-frame territory, with an industry-leading 24.6-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and Dual BIONZ processing. For photographers without strong brand loyalty from years of shooting with 35mm SLRs and lenses, the A900 is a strong contender as a full-frame system to buy into, particularly since Sony manufactures the same sensor for the Nikon D3x, which is priced at upwards of $5,000 more.

In addition to 12-bit A/D conversion, the A900’s Exmor CMOS sensor also performs analog A/D conversion at the chip level, which then is performed again digitally for dual-noise reduction. Sony claims that processing on-chip helps to quicken image processing with minimal loss in image sharpness. Image sharpness in high-ISO shots also can be tailored via setting in-camera noise reduction to high, standard, low and off, the latter if users prefer to fix image noise in post. Switching the system off also provides faster shooting by saving image-processing times.

SteadyShot image stabilization is built into the camera, compensating for between 2.5 to 4 stops of camera shake. Sony is the only company to offer in-camera image stabilization in a full-frame D-SLR, saving photographers money in the long run, thanks to reduced lens costs, and also providing image stabilization to current compatible lens owners.

AUTOFOCUS: The AF system uses nine wide-area sensors with 10 assist points for help in tracking moving subjects.

100% COVERAGE: The A900 features a bright glass-pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage of the scene. The viewfinder also offers 0.74x magnification.

DUAL MEMORY: A dual memory card slot, one for CompactFlash and another for Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick media, gives you recording options.

WIRELESS FLASH: When combined with the versatile HVL-F28AM flash, the A900 can control multi-flash off-camera setups in up to three different flash groups, including ratio balance for setting power levels.
The Dynamic Range Optimizer boosts exposure sensitivity for capturing details in shadows and highlights. The camera offers a Standard mode, an Advanced Auto mode for five levels of correction and a DRO Advanced Bracketing mode for automatically taking three shots at varying levels with one shutter click.

Photographers can select to shoot in cRAW for saving on file size, and the camera also offers a variety of JPEG resolutions from which to choose. The menu on the A900 is easy to use, and frequently used settings are especially simple to access via the Quick Navi interface. The body is solid and weather-resistant, and includes anti-dust vibration on the sensor and a static-free anti-dust coating on the camera’s filter.

The A900 offers Minolta Maxxum lens owners a full-frame digital solution with Maxxum-mount compatibility. The camera automatically adapts to compatible APS-C-sized lenses, including the wide variety of available Alpha-mount lenses that continues to expand.

STANDOUT FEATURE: The A900 delivers very fast continuous 5 fps image capture for up to 13 RAW frames. Shooting speed becomes all the more impressive with image files this large.
VERDICT: The current megapixel leader in its class by just a hair (see the D3x), the A900 packs a lot of resolution and most of the features found in top-tier D-SLRs (with the exception of Live View) into an affordably priced package.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A850
Just announced in late August, Sony has come under the $2,000 mark for full-frame D-SLRs by releasing the A850 ($1,999). It achieved this remarkable feat by taking the A900, now more than a year old, and compromising just a little. The continuous frame rate drops from 5 fps in the A900 to 3 fps in the A850, and the 100% coverage of the A900’s viewfinder has been reduced to 98%. The A850 also makes optional the remote control for wireless control of the shutter, menu access and other features, whereas the A900 includes it as part of the purchase. All said and done, the A850 offers everything else that the A900 does, including the 24.6-megapixel sensor, SteadyShot image stabilization, the Quick Navi interface and the rest—at $700 less.

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