The 12.25-megapixel Sony Alpha A700 is the second digital SLR the Japanese electronics giant has launched and is aimed at the serious enthusiast.
Even with Sony’s claims about the new sensor taken into account, noise control pretty impressive. At ISO 100 and 200 the images are silky smooth – as might be expected. Noise is barely visible at ISO 400 and 800 either, and only if you look closely into shadow areas.
At ISO 1600, noise is just about visible, but on a par with that of around ISO 800 on an average DSLR. From there, the camera goes into boosted ISO, and even here the lack of noise is remarkable. Yes there’s chroma noise, but it’s very well controlled, and the images lose very little sharpness – a typical side effect of over-eager noise reduction.
A 12MP chip should theoretically produce sharper images, as detail is more tightly recorded on the individual pixels. This is certainly the case with the A700, especially when used with the excellent Carl Zeiss 16-80mm lens.
On a slightly less positive note, the SuperSteadyShot is not always effective. On average it produces good results, but there are times when even at 1/60sec there’s still signs of camera shake. This is more prevalent when shooting continuously.
Tone And Contrast
The sensor mostly performs well. High-contrast scenes such as low afternoon sun can cause some highlight burn out, but that can be expected that with most mediums. On the other hand, the sensor manages to retain good shadow detail, and with careful exposure, most subjects can be recorded faithfully. The Dynamic Range Optimiser is there for trickier subjects, such as bright skies, and the improved version in the A700 knocks spots off the Sony A100’s. We like the natural look of images, compared to Nikon’s D-Lighting system which can look forced.
Colour And White Balance
With a full set of clear colour modes, there are endless choices to customise your camera, and colour reproduction from the Sony is very good in Raw and JPEG mode. White Balance occasionally needs a tweak, which is not unusual, if you’re a real stickler. The option to control colour using the Kelvin scale, or manually, or via tint controls, will fix most problems. Or shoot Raw and make post-processing corrections.