Note: This review appears in the Digital SLRs Group Test in PC Authority Magazine. For the full feature, read the December issue of PC Authority.
When Sony entered the DSLR market with its excellent Alpha A100, it was trying to bludgeon the established competition to death on value. The A200 continues that tradition with a combination of features and price that’s little short of terrifying.
The new models look less utilitarian than the chunky old A100. The body is larger than the EOS 1000D and D40, with an overall weight that’s noticeably but not terribly higher.
For a camera below $800, the A200 leaves out remarkably few features. Its 10 megapixels dwarf the six on offer from its nearest price competitor, the Nikon D40. There’s also impressive nine-point autofocus (the D40 offers only three), and Sony’s very effective Super SteadyShot integrated image stabilisation.
There’s more beyond the headline features, too, with spot metering and exposure bracketing, two features that might not sway the first-time DSLR buyer but become useful as you become more photographically adventurous. The latter feature is missing from the Nikon D40; the Canon EOS 1000D lacks both. ISO sensitivity goes up to ISO 3200, although here the budget shows its limits: results are too noisy to be useful except for web-sized images.
The kit lens is better than some, too. While Canon, Nikon and most of the rest offer 18-55mm lenses as standard, Sony gives you an 18-70mm model, and build quality is arguably better, too. It even comes with a small lens hood to cut down on flare – an accessory you’ll pay $50 or so for if you buy separately. It’s not as sharp as Nikon or Canon’s kit lenses, but there’s relatively little in it.
The only major feature the A200 lacks is a live-view mode, and the only omission a photography enthusiast might bemoan is the lack of a depth-of-field preview. If you’re planning on branching out into extra lenses, the Alpha system is at a disadvantage to the range of optics available for Canon and Nikon, but that’s changing and the extra focal-length range of the kit lens means it won’t become an issue too soon.
The price of the A200 is all the more amazing when you consider that it’s less than some digital compact cameras. And it’s a price that means the A200 simply must win this Labs.