Thursday, 25 September 2008

Second Thoughts on the A900

The Alpha A900 was released two weeks ago and turned out much as expected. The build is a step up from the A700, the viewfinder is superb at 100% and x74 magnification, and the effective incorporation of SteadyShot with the 36mm x 24mm sensor has silenced the naysayers. Due to unrepresentative JPEG output, the true image quality of the 24.6MP sensor has been overlooked unfortunately. The forte of the A900 is high resolution at low ISO, something which seems to be forgotten by the (partisan) critics. Suitable development of the RAW files have shown that image quality is comparable with the A700 at the per-pixel level, unsurprising given the similar pixel pitch and presumably similar pixel architecture and readout. Downsizing to a half or a quarter image size seems to be give acceptable results up to ISO3200. There is not doubt it will be an effective photographic tool for its intended use.

However, for my own personal use I shall wait. It is not that the A900 is not good enough, it is that the A700 (which I have) satisfies my needs so well. For single shot performance, 12MP is sufficient for most of my needs. For ultra-high resolution panoramics, stitching several 12MP shots serves me well, though having twice the resolution would halve the number of required shots. I can only hope that Sony will offer a new model which complements the A900, one which would be optimised for lower light. The different features I would ask for are:

  • ~16MP 36mm x 24mm sensor and column-ADC with slow-scan low-noise readout
  • In-built flash for wireless flash control
  • Auto-exposure metering with non-AF lenses
  • Extended exposure bracketing (7 exposures at 1EV steps)

I do not need live-view or video recording but their inclusion would be an added bonus as long as it did not compromise photography. The A900 viewfinder and 5fps would be welcome though. The greatest barrier for me to upgrade to the A900 is the compulsion to get the ZA 16-35mm and ZA 24-70mm lenses to make the most of the high resolution sensor. There only so many organs I can sell :-).

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