Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Nature photographers now have six models from which to choose at widely varying prices. These cameras are about more than just a larger image sensor.
Sony’s first full-frame model, the A900 features a Sony-produced, 24.6-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor in a rugged, no-nonsense pro body for just under $3,000 (Sony calls it 24.6 megapixels; the images actually measure 6048x4032 pixels, or 24.386 megapixels—in any event, that’s a lot of pixels).
As one would expect from a 24-megapixel camera, image quality is excellent at the lower ISO settings. Dual Sony Bionz image processors contribute to both image quality and operating speed. AF performance was good with the Zeiss 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 zoom provided with our test camera, but we couldn’t evaluate super-tele AF performance for want of a long lens.
Probably the simplest full-frame D-SLR to use, the A900 offers straightforward controls and intuitive operation. The bright pentaprism viewfinder shows 100 percent of the actual image area for accurate framing. The 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor is excellent. Slots for CompactFlash cards and Sony Memory Stick Duo/PRO media are provided.
Sony’s five-step Advanced Dynamic Range Optimizer is quite effective with high-contrast scenes, and the 40-segment honeycomb metering performed very well in our test camera.
The A900 is the only full-frame D-SLR with built-in image stabilization. Canon and Nikon offer lenses with stabilization (Canon IS models, Nikon VR models), but you need those lenses to get stabilization. Sony’s SteadyShot INSIDE sensor-shift system works with all lenses; the drawback is that it stabilizes only the recorded image, not what you see in the viewfinder. But it’s still a great feature, providing sharper handheld shots at all focal lengths. The A900 also includes a mechanism that shakes dust off the image sensor—a vital feature for a full-frame D-SLR.
The A900 is the only current full-frame D-SLR that doesn’t provide Live View shooting. It does provide an Intelligent Preview feature, however, which lets you check the effects of exposure value, shutter speed, aperture, white balance and Dynamic Range Optimizer before you take a shot. Estimated Street Price: $2,999. Contact: Sony, www.sonystyle.com.
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