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DSLR and other system camera discussion The place on DPNow.com for discussing Digital Single Lens Reflex camera issues and up and coming mirrorless or SLT system cameras.

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Old 11-04-09
Chris Chris is offline
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Alpha 900 impressions

Well the ergonomics seemed good, the camera responsive, the viewfinder took me back to 35mm days. Got the camera and vertical grip for a very nice price, so took the plunge and bought the Alpha 900.

First impressions are that it is a reasonably chunky camera that fits my hands well. Although quite heavy, it is easy to hold and the vertical grip extends the side of the camera to the heel of the hand, so it never gets to feel heavy.

Transferring over from the Minolta 7D has been an easy task with similar logic to most controls. I tend to shoot in RAW with everything switched to off anyway, so not a lot to learn.

In use the autofocus is very fast and accurate. Metering seems to very slightly underexpose in multisegment mode and there is room to bump up the exposure by +.3 - +.7EV in many situations without losing the highlights. Talking of which, the camera handles dynamic ranges that would leave the old 7D with blocked up shadow or blown highlights with ease.

Image quality is as expected really. The big sensor / big pixel count means lenses have to be up to the task. When they are, the results are stunning and hold detail to pretty large print sizes. I have already done a couple of big prints and I was surprised at just how far they would scale up. 36x24" is looking a lot like a nice quality MF neg in terms of detail, but without the grain. I have not printed larger than that in film, but a big inkjet poster looked pretty stunning at 60" wide and stood close scrutiny. Image noise was a worry, but it needn't have been. I run the camera at ISO100 most of the time, where noise is virtually non existent. Up to ISO400 it is still not an issue in most images of normal print size. Only when you get up to 800 and beyond does there start to be problems. Against this, the stunning resolution is worth the effort of keeping the ISO low.

My lenses are a bit of a mixed bag. When I bought my 7D at Focus on Imaging 4 years ago, I bought nearly all full frame lenses in preparation for the day that Minolta made a full frame camera. OK, it turned out to be Sony instead, but there is obviously much Minolta DNA in the machine. My old Minolta 17-35D is proving highly capable and is pleasantly surprising in its clarity and colours.

The Minolta 28-75 f2.8D is also proving useful. At the wide end it needs stopping down a lot to get sharp, but once up to around 35mm and onward, the lens is very good from f4.5 and very classy indeed at f8.

The Minolta 100 - 300 APO D is OK at the short end, but seems average higher up the zoom range, again needing small apertures to come sharp.

The 100mm Macro is stunning, as expected, and the 500mm AF Reflex copes OK, just about up to the scrutiny of the high pixel count.

All in all then, a very satisfactory camera. I will probably invest in the Sony Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 soon, and maybe the 70-300G. I will wait a little for the currency markets to sort themselves out and may indulge in a Sigma 12-24 for the wide end, giving me a nice portable lens setup.

So far, so good, a hazy day on the Suffolk coast courtesy of the 17-35D and A900:

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Old 11-04-09
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Ian Ian is offline
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Re: Alpha 900 impressions

Hi Chris, thanks for sharing this with us

When I got to know the Alpha 900 at the UK launch event in Edinburgh I was certainly impressed. Sony has done a great job with the exterior detailing and the A900 must have the most complete set of external controls, many of which are replicated on the battery grip, of any DSLR. It's nice to use and commendably quiet for a large DSLR.

I think you have confirmed some of my concerns, though. The lens range is a hotch-potch of very old designs and some more up to date ones and many of the older ones aren't up to the challenge that this camera lays down. I also think Sony needs to convert to in-lens AF motors as fast as possible as the body-controlled system is noisy and unrefined. The AF sensor system is not as advanced as this camera deserves, either.

I also saw a lot of noise from ISO 400 and upwards, though the sheer number of pixels will hide some the effects.



I really like the new HVL-F58AM

Ian
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Old 11-04-09
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Re: Alpha 900 impressions

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Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Hi Chris, thanks for sharing this with us

When I got to know the Alpha 900 at the UK launch event in Edinburgh I was certainly impressed. Sony has done a great job with the exterior detailing and the A900 must have the most complete set of external controls, many of which are replicated on the battery grip, of any DSLR. It's nice to use and commendably quiet for a large DSLR.
I originally went to the 7D for its ergonomics and lack of menu driven options and the Sony is similarly easy to operate. Sound wise it sort of reminds me of the Bronica rnage, but quieter. The twin movement mirror is the cause of this I think. Shutter noise is near non existent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
I think you have confirmed some of my concerns, though. The lens range is a hotch-potch of very old designs and some more up to date ones and many of the older ones aren't up to the challenge that this camera lays down. I also think Sony needs to convert to in-lens AF motors as fast as possible as the body-controlled system is noisy and unrefined. The AF sensor system is not as advanced as this camera deserves, either.

I also saw a lot of noise from ISO 400 and upwards, though the sheer number of pixels will hide some the effects.
A little harsh on the lens assessment IMO. The sensor needs a good lens to get the best from it and the older Minolta designs are as good as the similarly priced items from the other manufacturers. The only really weak one in my line up is the Minolta 24-85, but it is very old and very well used and has developed a bit of a wobbly front tube. Other than this, all the lenses will make good 36" prints. It is only when you go much larger that things don't gel and for most 35mm users, prints that big were not on the agenda anyway. The 17-35 and 28-75 can both make 60" prints. The advantage of going to the new Zeiss is that the sweet spot extends over a wider range of apertures. Focus noise could be less, but it never bothers me.

Image noise is not really an issue in terms of graininess, but it does show as discolouration in some tonal shaded areas. For example shooting at ISO800, a white globe illuminated from above should in theory go from white to dark grey to black as the light goes into shadow. What happens at high ISO is that the noise, being predominantly chroma, stains the shadow dark grey areas brown. This is not the first Sony product to do this, the old prosumer models were doing it at ISO80. However, up to ISO400 (and above with many subjects) it is not an issue.

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I really like the new HVL-F58AM
I am tempted but my old Sunpak PZ5000 gives me a 54GN output and runs just fine in manual mode.

Chris
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