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2006.07.24

After recent announcements, the Sony Alpha A100 is nearly here. Actually, people in Japan and Europe have already reported obtaining some at retail stores. In Canada and the US, major stores are taking pre-orders and expect the A100 to arrive shortly.

This camera has been eagerly awaited, by some as a continuation of the Konica-Minolta legacy and by others as the beginning of Sony DSLR cameras. High-end Minolta lenses in my closet have been waiting for a high-resolution digital SLR to liberate their potential. Personally, I was hoping that the Sony Alpha would be that camera.

Sony Alpha

As the first Alpha, the A100 became:

  • The lowest-cost 10 megapixels DSLR at roughly half the price of a Nikon D200.
  • The only DSLR with stabilization built-in to the body in production, until the 6 megapixels Pentax K100 shows up.
  • One of a few digital cameras with dust reduction features, all other ones being from Olympus.
  • The only camera available to support over 16 million Minolta and Konica-Minolta AF lenses in circulation.
  • The first DSLR marketed by Sony with the support for specially designed Carl-Zeiss autofocus lenses.
  • The sole camera in production to have an eye-start sensor.

In terms of construction, the A100 appears very similar to the highly acclaimed Konica-Minolta Maxxum 5D. Ergonomics and body design are very similar. Even the menu system is still recognizably Minolta. For that, many Konica-Minolta owners, and Sony skeptics, were pleasantly relieved. Another relief was that Sony kept the Compact-Flash interface and did not force people down the expensive and low-capacity Memory Stick road.

The main disappointment, for those waiting to replace a Konica-Minolta legacy camera, like the Maxxum 7D, is that the A100 is based on the lower-end KM model. With that in mind, people feel that Sony could have done better. After all, if they advanced the 5D into the A100, they could have advanced the 7D equally well to produce a better camera.

Of course, the A100 has yet to prove itself. It may turn out a superb camera, but for many it lacks features of the superb Konica-Minolta Maxxum 7D. Ergonomically, the A100 is missing a second control wheel and a panoply of external controls to rapidly change common settings. Functionally, the A100 is prominently missing an ISO 3200 mode. It does boast some interesting advances though, such as eye-start autofocus, unlimited continuous shooting and dust reduction. Needless to say, it is an interesting dilema wether to get an A100, wait for the next Sony Alpha or trade a collection of legacy lenses to move to another brand. Now, if only the Pentax K100 had a 10 megapixels sensor and used Compact Flash memory…

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