Author Topic: Alpha 200 review  (Read 4648 times)

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Offline starbase1

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Alpha 200 review
« on: May 03, 2009, 07:02:45 PM »
OK, I have had the camera for a couple of weekends now, and I think I have got to grips with it. So here's what I currently think of my new camera.

I'm not going to do anything in depth, thereare plenty of reviews like that out there. And to give you a bit of background, it's my first DLSR and my previous camera was a Fuji superzoom,the S9600. My main reasons for upgrading were that I wanted access to RAW files, and access to other lenses. My main area of interest is panoramics, and I'm mainly using a Sigma 10-20mm lens.

I took my old and new cameras outside by side for a direct comparison.

Things I like a lot, in no particular order:
  • Solid construction
  • Very clear bright viewfinder.
  • Sigma lens is VERY impressive.
  • The camera is superb at shooting into the light, even if the sun is within the field of view.
  • Colours are deep and very good. Minimal adjustment is normally needed in Photoshop.
  • Exposures are consistent and give great results on sky, (important for panoramas).
  • The battery life is insanely good - they say 750 shots, but if you are not using flash, that's a serious underestimate.

Things I like:
  • Nice firm 'clunk' when taking a photo!
  • Info display is very clear and easy to read, even in bright sunlight.
  • Raw+JPG options are handy.
  • The camera knows if it's portrait or landscape, and so does my software that reads the image later.
  • Anti dust system seems very effective.
  • Raw files have thumbnails on Windows.
  • Very fast taking JPG's only.
  • The built in flash has surprisingly good and even coverage.

Things I dislike a bit.
  • With lenses, it all gets (unavoidably) very heavy and bulky.
  • 'Auto' setting option forgets function settings.
  • More expensive Compact Flash storage used, instead of SD cards. (What is it with Sony and formats? I guess I should be happy they didn't start another new one...)
  • RAW + JPG can only do 2 photos before you have to wait and slow right down for the buffer to clear.
  • No live image display on the rear.

Things I dislike a lot:
  • Autofocus is almost worthless, I only got consistent results once I switched to fully manual focus.

Just to expand a bit - I can't overstate how good it is for skies, my panorama software is now consistently getting automatic control points on clouds, and the colour is consistent to the point where there is no banding in sky colour most of the time,even with no exposure lock!

Panoramas will often unavoidably have a VERY wide range of lighting conditions to handle, and to get a good image throughout is now massively easier.

The only point that really winds me up is the focus - initially I was not giving it enough time, and not checking of it had acheived a good focus, but even after thes, when I was more careful, it frequently struggled, which is a royal pain when you are trying to work rapidly around, before lighting changes or clouds move. I was much happier once I manually set it close to infinity, and left it there. Shame that
there isn't the option to use hyperfocal distance, and leave it at that...

Maybe I was spoilt with my Fuji - I think I can honestly say it ALWAYS got a good focus on auto, even on really tricky things like a tiny aeroplane in a clear blue sky. You can forget handing this camera to a stranger to take a photo of you and your partner.

But overall I am very pleased - it is definitely exceding my best hopes in the panorama area, by a considerable margin.
 
Nick

Offline Noe

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2009, 07:18:53 PM »
Glad to read that you are happy with your camera. I think you were having some troubles early on - good to read you are getting a handle on your camera. I too am new to dslr's and I absollutely love my 350. I dont have time to shoot as much as I would like but when I do I love it. Could not be happier with my camera.

Offline alphaPDX

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2009, 01:57:20 AM »
I nearly bought the s9600, but waited for the next one with IS and a SuperCCD.  When that didn't work out I came back to SLRs, and the A200 was my choice too.  Sorry to hear of the focus troubles, that's somewhat surprising but perhaps more of an issue with the widest of lenses; I just picked up a 14mm Tamron and find its focus is inconsistent.
Have you tried the DRO settings with your shots yet, or are you processing the RAW shots to fine-tune?  Looking forward to some landscape images :)
Jim R: A200 + Minolta 50:1.7, 35-105, 100-200 + Sigma 17-70, 18-200

Offline starbase1

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2009, 06:40:12 AM »
DRO?

I'd be happy to post shots, but if I read the rules correctly, the size limits are rather severe, and panos don't look good small!
Nick

Offline doctorwho

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2009, 10:14:04 AM »
Nick,

Can't say I've had any problems with AF on either A200 or A300. What have you set it at? Wide area or spot? I generally use centre point, and then recompose.

Compactflash has been the more "professional" card standard for many years, being more solid, and less loseable than sd/xd etc. Sony is actually being more consistent, using CF, than say Canon, where the memory cards used depends on the body bought.

Carl

Offline Faldrax

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2009, 10:28:31 AM »
Glad to hear you are enjoying the A200 - I have had mine for 9 months or so now and am very pleased with it (but that doesn't stop me wishing I could afford an A700 or A900...)

My widest lens is the CZ 16-80 and have never noticed any problems with focussing at 16mm, but it may be an issue as you move wider.

Have you tried using different focus settings - you have Single, Continuous and Auto for focus mode, and also control of which focus points are used - I have found that using just the centre focus point and recomposing works best for me, but it may be worth experimenting with.

What CF cards are you using? I ask as if you are using a 'slow' card this may be the reason you can only get 2 shots off before you have buffer issues. I have found the SanDisk Extreme III cards to be good (I have 2 4Mb cards), and rarely have buffer issues.

Lack of live view is the 'sacrifice' with the A200 over the A300 / A350, but I believe the OVF is actually better on the A200 (a side effect of the live view implementation). Most of the time I prefer to use the OVF so it's not too much of a problem for me.

Jonathan
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Offline a700 guy

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2009, 07:26:17 PM »
I have found the SanDisk Extreme III cards to be good (I have 2 4Mb cards), and rarely have buffer issues.

I'm also using the Extreme III cards. I have run into the buffer issue a few times, but only when shooting RAW+Jpeg and DRO+ in very low light conditions. I can get three of before it needs some crunching time.

Offline hopeless

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Re: a200 review (moving from a KM 5D)
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2009, 02:37:39 PM »
I bought an a200 a few weeks back as a replacement/backup for my slowly dying KM 5D. Interestingly, I disagree with a large section of your findings, based on my experience with the KM 5D (which I am still very very attached too). This wasn't really an upgrade for me, I just needed a camera I could rely on before Sony released, and I could afford, an a700 replacement (or mini a900).


Things I like a lot, in no particular order:
  • Solid construction
  • Very clear bright viewfinder.
  • The battery life is insanely good - they say 750 shots, but if you are not using flash, that's a serious underestimate.

  • Much more plasticy and toylike compared to the 5D. Grip is smaller and doesn't have the rubber thumb grip or (as) contoured finger grip
  • I like the eyepiece much more than the 5D's as it prevents bright light from entering your eye at the side but I don't consider the viewfinder particularly bright (i.e., no improvement over the 5D)
  • Battery life does seem quite good but the % display is the real improvement

Things I like:
  • Nice firm 'clunk' when taking a photo!
  • Info display is very clear and easy to read, even in bright sunlight.
  • Anti dust system seems very effective.
  • The built in flash has surprisingly good and even coverage.

  • I hate the new shutter sound! Sure, it's better for wildlife but I adored the loud slap that the 5D made. Now I sound like any other Nikon/Canon clone
  • The display is impossible to read outdoors -- good enough for the settings but impossible for reviewing photos. Somehow they used a different coating to the 5D which is more reflective and holds on to grease/dirt more :(
  • Can't say I can test this but I have noticed dust, right from the start, at f/16 onwards so it's not infallible
  • Why oh why did they need to make a button to popup the flash? Flicking it up with my finger could be done without taking my eye away from the viewfinder!


Things I dislike a bit.
  • With lenses, it all gets (unavoidably) very heavy and bulky.
  • More expensive Compact Flash storage used, instead of SD cards. (What is it with Sony and formats? I guess I should be happy they didn't start another new one...)
  • No live image display on the rear.

  • Noticeably lighter than the 5D, but then the grip is smaller so heavy lenses aren't as confortable
  • CompactFlash storage is the only mobile storage I actually trust. Roughly the same price as SD cards but incredibly tough. I've dropped them, stood on them, covered them in mud and put them through the washing machine (all unintentionally) and they are still completely flawlessly usable.
  • I can happily live without LiveView considering the poor performance of the display outdoors


Things I dislike a lot:
  • Autofocus is almost worthless, I only got consistent results once I switched to fully manual focus.

  • Autofocus seems very accurate and quick. A noticeable improvement over the 5D

Overall I am actually quite pleased with the a200, and the extra resolution makes a big difference, but the ergonomics generally suck. I wish I could take out the a200 internals and stick it in my 5D's body! And, why oh why did they make all the buttons smaller and flatter!!  I really hope that the rest of the Sony range is less about aesthetics and more about being a photographer's workhorse.
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Offline keith_h

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Re: Alpha 200 review
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2009, 11:28:27 PM »
I also have the 5D and a200 and found a bit of anti scratch film fixed the outdoor visibility and smearing of the rear screen. As for the AF focus, it works just fine but requires more technique than if you were using a P&S. Read ther manual, understand what all the modes are and how they work and then choose the best one for each situation.

Like most I use the center focus for most things and manually focus for landscapes. What would make this cam better is the 5D's DMF mode. I miss it on the a200.
Keith
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a200 | 16-105 | KM5D | 100-300 | 100/2.8