Sony DSLR-Alpha 100K
At a Glance
Sony alpha DSLR-A100 Digital SLR Camera
Offers features such as continuous autofocus and dust-removal, though its image stabilization lags behind lens-based systems.
Sony's DSLR-Alpha 100K--or Alpha 100--is a full-featured, 10.2-megapixel digital SLR with built-in shake reduction technology.
Built with technology acquired from now-defunct Konica/Minolta, Sony's first digital SLR sports Minolta's signature Maxxum lens mount (which Sony has renamed "AlphaMount"), making it compatible with a multitude of legacy Minolta lenses. The company has also announced 19 new Sony lenses (many of them based on existing Minolta lenses).
Priced at $1000 (as of November 6, 2006) for the body plus an 18mm-to-70mm lens, the Alpha 100 sits at the high end of the entry-level market. Its all-plastic body and smooth finish feel sturdy and creak-free. Though the Alpha 100 is small for an SLR, it is lightweight and comfortable to hold.
The Alpha 100 packs a full set of features, including priority modes, full manual, program modes, and scene modes. In lieu of a dedicated status LCD screen, the camera relies on its main 2.5-inch LCD monitor; if you place your eye on the viewfinder while the screen is on, the screen immediately shuts off, powering up again when you remove your eye from the viewfinder. As on most entry-level SLRs, you adjust features via a combination of buttons and simple menus on the camera's main LCD screen. The Alpha 100's scheme is as straightforward and easy to use as that of any of its competitors.
The features you'd expect in an SLR are here: ISO speeds of 100 to 1600, easy access to exposure compensation, a program shift feature, and Raw format support. In addition, the Alpha 100 offers a continuous autofocus mode that constantly refocuses as you move the camera--as long as you are looking through the viewfinder. In a rapidly changing environment, this feature improves the camera's likelihood of being in focus when you're ready to shoot. The Alpha 100's autofocus produces strange clunking and grinding noises while in use; so if you value silent operation, this Sony may not be the right camera for you.
The Alpha 100 has a sensor-based stabilization system, which Sony claims yields 3.5 stops of stabilization. I found the number of stops to be closer to 1.5 or 2--not as impressive as on cameras with lens-based stabilization. The stabilization system also functions as a dust-removal system, but the dust-removal cycle runs only when you power the camera off, for faster startup times.
The camera delivered speedy boot-up and wake-from-sleep times, plus very low shutter lag. Its drive mode was speedy, too, capturing 3 frames per second for six frames when shooting Raw images, and letting us shoot unlimited JPEG images until our card filled up.
For storage Sony wisely opted to use CompactFlash technology, rather than its own MemoryStick. Owners of MemoryStick Duos can buy a CompactFlash adapter that will enable them to use their current media in the camera.
The Alpha 100 delivered high image quality overall. In shots taken at ISO 100 to 400, image quality was very good--comparable to that of other entry-level SLRs. At ISO 800 to 1600, however, the Alpha 100 got noisy.
The Sony DSLR-Alpha 100K is a very good but somewhat pricey camera. Despite feeling clunkier than its competitors, it delivers good image quality and a full feature set, plus some nice extras such as image stabilization.