The Sony a850 is a pro-spec, stripped-down version of the Sony a900. As the most affordable full-frame DSLR to the market, does the Sony Alpha a850 really open full-frame shooting to the masses? The What Digital Camera Sony Alpha DSLR-a850 review finds out...
The a900’s doppelganger, an inspection of the a850 doesn’t reveal any cosmetic differences for the simple fact that there aren’t any to be had.
To be clear, as there are no revelations here, the a850’s body dimensions, size, shape, layout and menu systems are identical to the a900.
Despite speculation of changes to internal processing, an interview with Sony confirmed that, again, there are no changes here either. The bottom line is that the a850 will produce superb, like-for-like full-frame images, just like the a900. Now that can be no bad thing.
There’s an air of elegant simplicity about the a850. It’s tank-like build is reassuring and the button layout commands ease of use. I’m also particularly fond of the SteadyShot ‘on/off’ switch to the rear – not only does this compare to high-end lenses with a similar control, albeit without the through-the-viewfinder benefit, it also takes the faff out of menu digging. Ideal when switching from tripod to handheld shooting.
The top-panel display has an on/off light for darker scenarios, so you’ll always be able to see what you’re doing both on-camera and in the viewfinder.
Surrounding this panel are four quick-access buttons to adjust exposure compensation, drive mode, white balance and ISO – the foundations of further control at your fingertips.
In fact the only real mishap of button-placement is the Preview Button to the bottom right of the lens base to the front of the camera – this feels awkward to press, and becomes a finger-bending struggle to utilise with ease.
As a pro-spec camera expect serious, gimmick-free use. While the a850 doesn’t provide live view or movie modes, or a pop-up flash, this isn’t always going to be at the top of a pro’s ‘want list’. In place, of course, you do get a hugely resolute 24.6MP full-frame sensor and what feels like a resounding pro camera considering the price-point.