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Sony Alpha 700 | Digital Camera Review | Adjustments
Sony can boost on many years of experience with their image stabilization system so it is not surprising to find the Super SteadyShot system in the new Sony A700. The system works slightly different than the stabilization technique used in Sony's camcorders. The Super SteadyShot system of the Sony Alpha 700 is quite advanced and works, in short, by means of moving the sensor that corrects camera jitter. It means that Sony uses an image stabilizer that is integrated in the body of the camera. One big advantage of this method is that lenses do not have to be equipped separately with this technique. Sony claims that the stabilization has a margin of 2.5 to 4 stops and that this is an improvement compared to the Alpha 100, thanks to the improved BIONZ processor.
Sony Alpha 700 | Digital Camera Sony Alpha 700 | Digital Camera
Sony Alpha 700 - Super SteadyShot system
At first I liked the idea of incorporating such an image stabilization system in the housing. However, the effectiveness is the highest at small focal lengths and less effective when using for example a 400mm telephoto lens. In this case a built-in stabilizer in the lens will always win from the built-in version in the body. Besides that I prefer to see the stabilizer at work in the viewfinder. The system of the Sony A700 does not allow this. There is an indicator in the viewfinder more or less simulating the effect of the stabilizer. At least one thing is clear: with the aid of the Super SteadyShot you can capture sharp handheld pictures with the Sony A700, even at slow shutter speeds.

Sony A700 wide angle lens - Lens distortion
Although I also used the DT 16-80 mm F3.5-4.5 ZA Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*-zoom lens during this review for picture taking; my starting point is the Sony SAL-16105 DT 16-105mm lens, delivered in the Sony Alpha 700 kit. Distortion at wide angle pictures is obvious, and seems more present than average. Besides that we also see, although less than in wide angle, some distortion in the telephoto area. It is not surprising because we talk about a large range. And keeping in mind that this is a relatively cheap kit lens, distortion is not an issue. Something else is the chromatic aberration appearing in wide angle as well as in tele. More so in the corners of a picture and slightly lessening towards the centre of the picture. Mind you, it is a common thing to occur with lenses with a larger than average zoom range. Again, not worth arguing about.

Sony A700 DSLR camera - JPEG & RAW photos
The Sony Alpha 700 is a quite enhanced and complete digital SLR camera which we also find in the choice of the file format. In addition to RAW/cRAW formats, naturally JPEG is available. Some time ago it was still the extremely serious photographer using RAW format but nowadays we see a huge increase of its popularity and it is used on a large scale. It is a fact that one should see with his own eyes how the formats hold up. This is also the case with the Sony Alpha 700. It is still astonishing to see the amount of detail in RAW format and how much less detail remains after conversing in-camera to the ready-made JPEG format. You can ask yourself if Sony did not overdo the internal camera processing of the picture. In my opinion as an Alpha 700 photographer, I would bid farewell to JPEG straight away!

Sony Alpha 700 digital SLR - Detailed pictures
For me personally the difference in quality between RAW and JPEG is not a problem. Since my 'discovery' of the value of RAW, I do no longer use any other file format. Still; I can imagine that not everybody is prepared to convert for hours but just wants the same high quality on his card immediately. And that is not the case with the Sony Alpha 700. If you go through the trouble of photographing in RAW and converting through Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) for instance and then take the next step to sharpen the image in Photoshop with care, the end result will be an excellent quality picture with considerable detail. If you compare it with a similar picture in JPEG (Extra Fine Compression), you will soon decide to give up on JPEG! I have to add that Sony's Alpha 700 is not the only one showing such a vast difference between JPEG and RAW. But I find it too obvious not to mention it.

Sony DSLR-700 camera - Color rendering
Color rendering on the Sony DSLR-A700 is excellent. Colour saturation is beautiful and never exaggerated. On the contrary; colour rendering is very natural and this shows to the fullest when taking portraits. Even with the standard setting delivering such beautiful results as far as colour rendering is concerned, the Alpha 700 still offers to adjust the saturation in precise small steps through the menu of the camera. In practice I hardly ever used it, but of course this is a matter of personal taste.
Sony Alpha 700 digital SLR - 6400 ISO value
Sony has dared to offer extreme high ISO with the introduction of the Alpha 700. Where the Alpha 100 stopped at ISO 1600, the Sony A700 exceeds its predecessor largely with 6400 ISO. These specifications look great on paper, but the question is, are these high ISO's useful in practice? To cut a long story short: yes and no. The ISO range up and including 800 ISO shows a fine noise/signal ratio and in fact 1600 ISO is the limit at which noise plays a role but still preserves detail. Even ISO 3200 will get away with it if there are not too many shady segments on the picture, but 6400 ISO is an emergency measure. Although the subject is recognizable, noise is very much present and you cannot say you took a quality picture. You can only say: I took the picture. A fact that might still be of priceless value.

Sony A700 SLR camera - ISO noise reduction
The Sony A 700 DSLR camera offers a large amount of settings such as various noise reduction settings. The high ISO noise reduction is standard set to average but also offers a less heavy and a heavier noise reduction. The heavy noise reduction does not leave any detail visible in the picture so I do not recommend this setting. If I would have to use the noise reduction of the Sony A700 I would select the less heavy one so detail is captured and visible in the picture. Mind you, this option can also be deactivated. During and after the testing period I keep getting the feeling that the Sony Alpha 700 is capable of a lot more than it standard shows. You really have to get to know the camera, take many pictures and find a way of treating it so the high quality will become available.

Sony Alpha A700 - Dynamic Range Optimization
One remarkable setting of the Sony A700 is the so-called Dynamic Range Optimization or short: DRO. This setting can be activated through the menu of the camera or it can be programmed to the quick button next to the LCD monitor. We discovered this function for the first time on the Sony A100 and it has a surplus value. The DRO of the Sony Alpha 700 is improved and enhanced with setting possibilities. I must say that the value of such a function should not be underestimated. I have made some pictures with and without activating DRO, standard DRO is set to active on the Alpha 700, and in many situations I preferred the picture that had been optimized with DRO technique to the one that had not. In particular DRO+ and DRO advanced with 5 levels of settings contributed positively to the picture.

Sony Alpha digital SLR - Camera handling
The Sony A700 is a camera that you need to spend time with and put effort into. This time is not needed to know how to operate it because the Sony Alpha 700 is a piece of cake to handle. No, it is more the fact that trying to reach the highest quality you should know how the camera handles its settings and how the camera handles issues like noise, compression, JPEG conversion etc. The camera should not be compared with the Alpha 100. Too much has been improved and renewed to call it a small update. The Sony Alpha 700 is a DSLR camera that will confidently throw itself into the battle to conquer the so much desired market share in the heavily wanted segment of the semi-pro digital SLR market.
Sony Alpha 700 Sony Alpha 700
   
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